On the Subtlety of Monsters
We have to talk about Nazism - because our times do indeed echo an earlier totalitarian era.
Dr. Naomi Wolf is a bestselling author, columnist, and professor; she is a graduate of Yale University and received a doctorate from Oxford. She is cofounder and CEO of DailyClout.io, a successful civic tech company.
Reprinted with permission from NaomiWolf.substack.com.
This is Part 2 of a 3-Part-Series. Stay tuned for Part 3 in our pages. See Part I: Here.
My first post in this three-part series, about how the evil that surrounds us has manifested, was about the elite global technocrat class and their distance from the people whose lives they may crush; I noted too their lack of belief in, or loyalty to, the nation-state. Added to this toxic mix, I argued, is the certainty of this class of people that they know best about your life.
I made the case in that essay that surrounding us now was a metaphysical, seemingly a Satanic, level of evil.
I am seeking to explain in this series of essays, how otherwise nice people — and indeed Western people, who grew up with post-Enlightenment norms about human rights and the rule of law — can be doing evil now, with whole hearts.
I am asking how they can be suppressing the respiration of children intentionally; how they can be consigning friends and colleagues to eat in the street like outcasts, or sending cops to arrest a woman and terrify a nine-year-old child, whose crimes were that they tried to visit the Museum of Natural History in New York without “papers”?
How could “nice” people in the humane West, can put on the agenda in Washington State just recently, plans to detain those exposed to a “contagious disease” in forcible quarantine, without charge or trial, and dependent on a court order and good behavior to get out?
All of this is happening right now in America -- in the land of people who, since the Civil Rights Act of 1964, have had the principle of equality governing human relations as a matter of law; a nation that had passed laws against the abuse of or corporal punishment of children in public schools in the 1970s in virtually every state; and a people who have been raised in a culture of freedom and civility compared with lawless or totalitarian regimes, that led them, for the most part, to be, on the scale of decency to cruelty, until two years ago, very decent people.
How could good people be going along with this?
There are lessons from history that we have to learn, or re-learn, and quickly.
Some leaders and commentators (including myself) have passionately and publicly been comparing these years, 2020-2022, in the West and in Australia, to the early years of Nazi leadership. Though we face criticism for doing so, I won’t be silenced about this. The similarities must urgently be addressed.
People need to reread their Nazi history. They are getting it wrong in demanding, ‘How dare you compare?”
While the popular imagination of the Nazi era is familiar with deaths camps, and think of them when Nazi policy is invoked, the fact is that many years led up to that horror. Germany invaded Poland in 1939. The extermination camps were established years into the Nazi drama: 1941. Dr Josef Mengele, “The Angel of Death,” began his medical experiments in Auschwitz after 1943.
No one sensible is talking about comparing what we are living through now to those years and those horrors.
Rather, the vivid similarities between our moment in the West since 2020, and the earliest years of Nazi Germany’s civil society policies, are to the years 1931-33, when so many vicious norms and policies were set in place. But these were often culturally or professionally policed, rather than being policed by camp patrols. That’s the point that better-informed analysts of these similarities, are making.
That is to say, during these years, mass societal cruelty, and a two-tier society itself that perpetuated this cruelty, was built up and policed, as like today, by polite civil society institutions tasked with snarling and baring its teeth.
Casual, escalating cruelty, a culture of degradation of the “othered,” and a two-tier society, were built up in those years certainly at the behest of Nazi social policy. But the construction of a world of evil out of what had been a modern civil society, if a fragile one, was also endorsed and even policed by doctors, by medical associations, by journalists, by famous composers and filmmakers, by universities; by neighbors, by teachers, by shopkeepers — for years before the death camp guards were tasked with their own far more heinous cruelty.
Amos Elon’s poignant history, The Pity of it All: A History of Jews in Germany, 1743-1933, reveals how many Jewish civil society leaders warned about the imperceptible shifts day by day in the direction of evil. In 1931, street violence was directed against Jewish storefronts, and led to smashed-in windows. In other contexts, Jews were beaten upon leaving synagogues. Commentator Theodor Wolff warned, “This simply cannot continue. All decent people, irrespective of party, must form a common front […]”
So one might say today.
But….but decent people did not do so then; and Wolff’s call to action was to no avail. Elon calls these years “these last spasms of freedom.” [Elon, 387].
Wolff’s publisher told him to “tone down his warnings in the interest of advertising and circulation.” [Elon, 388] As today, those issuing alarms were suppressed and censored.
As today, emergency laws then were the benchmarks that would allow democracy to collapse. “Hitler wanted full powers like Mussolini’s in Italy,” writes Elon. “He knew exactly what was needed to turn a government into a ‘legal’ dictatorship: emergency powers under Article 48.” [Elon, 389].
See if you notice any echoes here. Currently, forty-seven US states are operating with emergency measures, which suspend or bypass normal legislative checks and balances, including New York, the state in which I am writing. Under emergency measures, pretty much anything can be done.
The fact that people don’t seem to understand that most of the country is living under emergency measures, is what is stunning about our current moment. This is why I keep saying these days that the coup d’etat has already taken place in America. By definition, when you are living under emergency measures, you no longer have a functioning democracy.
In Germany, to move back in time, the demonically intelligent incrementalism of Nazi policy continued. In 1933, the year Adolph Hitler was appointed Chancellor of a new cabinet, Hitler gave his word that “the Nazis would remain a minority in any future cabinet.” [Elon, 391]. Even in 1933, though, some prominent Jews still believed that “nothing can happen to us.” [Elon 391].
But “Theodor Wolff was one of the few who warned that Hitler’s appointment was merely the first stage of a coup d’etat in installments.[Italics mine][…] Wolff predicted that ‘a cabinet whose members have been proclaiming for weeks and months that salvation — by which they mean their own — is at hand, in the form of a coup d’etat, a breach of the constitution, the elimination of the Reichstag, the muzzling of the opposition, and in unbridled dictatorial rule…will do everything in its power to intimidate and silence its opponents.’” [Elon 391].
“For millions of Berliners,” writes Elon, “nothing seemed to have changed at first […] Few seemed aware of the watershed they had just passed” [Elon 391].
“Few seemed aware...”
Let me just summarize where we are right now in America, as well as in the West, in case you have gotten too used to it to see it clearly. I warned in The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot, that democracies usually do not die with a cinematic scene of goose-stepping Brownshirts suddenly in the streets. They tend to die, rather, just as Elon described — incrementally, day by day, collapsing grotesquely in some areas of society and in regards to some institutions, even as other aspects of society and other institutions look and feel, at least superficially, exactly the same as they did before.
Just because the settings are familiar to us now, does not mean that a 1931-like reality, if not yet a 1933-like reality, isn’t upon us.
In this country, citizens are being forced to take their second or third experimental gene-therapy injection, in order to go back to school or to keep their jobs as truckers crossing borders, or as solders and sailors and military pilots and hospital workers. Millions of other workers just narrowly escaped this coercion; and millions have not escaped this coercive experiment, in effect, upon them, in parts of Europe.
Minors are being forced to submit to this experimental gene therapy simply to keep playing high school basketball or tennis.
Thousands of adverse events are being recorded in VAERS, including deaths shortly after vaccination, but the forcing of injections continues despite their having no effect on transmission, and against all existing laws.
Voices of opposition to tyrannical overreach are being censored en masse; payment processors are declining to process funds of entities offering medical therapeutics. “The View,” that formerly cozy group of gals, just called for the censorship of podcaster Joe Rogan. Musician Neil Young also called for music streaming service Spotify to censor Rogan’s “misinformation.” Calls for censorship of opposition voices echo across the internet. Dissident platforms such as Parler have been deplatformed from their hosting services or from their payment processors, a digital version of boycotting businesses.
Leaders are calling for one group of citizens to be denied health care; in some areas of Canada, leaders have told grocers that it is optional to allow this group to buy food. Children in Canada are being told, “No mask, no voice.” Children as young as two are subjected in New York, by a smiling new Governor, a woman, to facial coverings that restrict their breathing, and that impair their ability to acquire language, bond with other children, and to recognize and express emotions.
Certain citizens, set apart as “other,” falsely called infectious and positioned as “unclean,” may not enter buildings or restaurants in New York, in Washington D.C., in San Francisco, in Los Angeles. Everyone is being asked to hate and resent them, and irrationally to blame them for the nation’s predicament.
People are asked to join a cult and offer up their bodies; if they don’t, they are ostracized and denied social life and professional advancement.
Small businesses, restaurants and movies theaters; small hotels and venues, small real estate holdings, entire livelihoods, are being crushed by arbitrary dicta, by the unrestrained powers of Boards of Health and the CDC to crush whole sectors, and thus to destroy, or in effect to transfer, entire classes of assets from one targeted group into the hands of another group: to institutional investors, or shall we say, to allies of the current oligarchs.
In Washington State, as noted above, proposals were put forward — similar to those that have been enacted in Australia and elsewhere — to detain Americans, and turn the Boards of Health into entities with police powers; to establish militias, in effect, in the service of unelected, unaccountable Boards of Health. US “fact-checkers” claimed that this was not true, but it was true.
Reports are proliferating of the unvaccinated treated abusively in hospitals, and therapeutics have, it is becoming clear, been withheld via government agencies’ pressure, from an entire population, leading to countless avoidable deaths. A class of therapeutics, monoclonal antibodies, have just been withdrawn by the FDA from ill people’s access. Medical entities such as the formerly respected Mayo Clinic are being sued because they are refusing treatment to a dying man, for which his wife is begging.
What do you call all of this, if not an early Nazi-like set of practices?
In the early years of Nazi policy, as Robert Proctor’s magisterial 1990 Racial Hygiene: Medicine Under the Nazis points out, it was doctors who were tasked by the State, and given special status and authority, with singling out “life unworthy of life” and elaborating racially-based policies that separated the “clean” and privileged, from the “unclean,” or “degenerate,” and restricted.
In 1933, doctors began to sterilize the unfit. As Michael A Grodin, MD, Erin L Miller, BA, and Jonathan Miller, MA, point out, in “The Nazi Physicians as Leaders in Eugenics and ‘Euthanasia’: Lessons for Today”:
A series of recurrent themes arose in Nazi medicine as physicians undertook the mission of cleansing the State: the devaluation and dehumanization of segments of the community, medicalization of social and political problems, training of physicians to identify with the political goals of the government, fear of consequences of refusing to cooperate with civil authority, bureaucratization of the medical role, and the lack of concern for medical ethics and human rights.
Half of Germany’s physicians joined the Nazi party.
“The devaluing and dehumanization of segments of the community”….
Proctor shows how medical associations embraced the rise in the status and authority of physicians, and how, then as now, “public health” was the anodyne label under which the early structure of emerging horrors was erected. He shows how doctors led the way.
The author even addresses the “health pass” that was established by Nazi public health policy, a pass that separated those who could participate fully in Nazi society, from those who were singled out for deprivation and disgust.
Proctor tracks how eugenics allowed for increasing arguments, similar to those being resuscitated today, that “useless eaters” or the “unfit” do not deserve food, or are a burden on public resources, and should not be a drag on hospitals, or receive medical care.
Proctor shows what a short slide it was from public health officials identifying “life unworthy of life”, these “useless eaters”, to the same officials using the language of “hygiene” and public safety, to set up the first Nazi euthanasia programs — programs targeting those who were identified as “less than,” or in some way impaired.
Then as now, anodyne language, whether around “public health” or “racial hygiene”, as in the 1930s, or around “public health,” “safety” and “harm reduction,” as today, concealed then, and now conceals, the true nature of what should be a visible, nauseating, daily-spreading evil.
Historians such as Proctor have argued that public health glosses, the invocation of medical authority, and compartmentalization and bureaucratization, permitted evil in the early Nazi past to flourish, in spite of its taking root in what was still supposed to have been a modern civil society.
I’d argue that the same exact things in similar guises, cloaked in similar language, are recurring today.
If we don’t wake up and see exactly where we stand, and read back in history quickly about a demonic time that overtly mirrors and in many ways foreshadows where we are — then most of us will be fools, even as some of us are already monsters.
If we don’t forcibly and immediately call out monsters where we see them — where they walk among us — whether they wear nice earrings and sit demurely at the helm of the CDC, or whether they gather in white coats, in all their authority, at the Mayo Clinic, standing between a dying man and his desperate wife — we will fail forever to deserve the blessing of the Constitution, and of the rule of law, that are supposed to be our heritage.
And no doubt, the next chapter will surely be for us, as it was for others in the past, darker still.