Goebbels and the New American Terror

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What purpose did it serve for President-elect Joe Biden to liken Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Josh Hawley (R-MO) to Adolf Hitler’s top propagandist Joseph Goebbels?

In response to a question about the two Republican lawmakers following remarks on January 8, Biden said, “I was being reminded by a friend of mine…when we’re told [about] Goebbels and the great lie, you keep repeating the lie, repeating the lie.”

Although Biden’s comparison was imperfectly stated, it was clear enough to follow. He was saying that the lawmakers’ efforts to challenge the Electoral College votes from disputed states was a Nazi-like effort.

By speaking this way, Biden did many things at once. First, he whitewashed Goebbels’ barbaric crimes. Goebbels was the chief architect of totalitarianism in Nazi Germany and one of the lead architects of the Holocaust.

In his literary warning about the fragility of freedom and the allure of totalitarianism, 1984, George Orwell demonstrated that total control over a society is achieved through total control over the information its members can see.

Goebbels implemented this in Nazi Germany. As Hitler’s propagandist, Goebbels exerted total control over information. He ensured that Germans would view Hitler as their infallible savior. He conditioned them to view Jews as subhuman vermin, to be exterminated like cockroaches. And he made them believe that all Germans who didn’t accept what they were told were enemies of the people.

Goebbels achieved all of these things by blocking public access to accurate information while inundating the Germans with images and words that repeated and amplified his monstrous lies. Goebbels’ success in controlling information was the necessary precondition for all he and his comrades unleashed on Jews, and on humanity as a whole.

The second thing Biden did by comparing Hawley and Cruz to Goebbels was to whitewash the unspeakable crimes of Nazi Germany. After all, if merely questioning certain election returns is the moral equivalent of Goebbels’ “Big Lie,” then the Big Lie was actually no big deal.

The third thing Biden did by comparing Hawley and Cruz to Goebbels was set them up for what Orwell referred to as “un-personing”—or in today’s culture, “canceling.”

Obviously, if Cruz and Hawley are Goebbels, then all right-thinking people must work to silence them and remove them from positions of influence in the Senate and larger society.

As if on cue, shortly after Biden said what he did, Senate Democrats began debating whether to censure the lawmakers. Senate Republicans, for their part, began discussing the possibility of denying the two members cherished committee assignments. According to Senate officials, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is leaning toward denying the two their subcommittee chairmanships—thereby removing them from the line of seniority.

Outside the Senate chamber, major corporate donors also announced they will cease all political contributions to the two men, and to all 149 federal lawmakers who supported the efforts to challenge election returns from various states. Simon & Schuster canceled its contract to publish Hawley’s forthcoming book about the tyranny of Big Tech.

And this brings us to the fourth thing that Biden did by comparing the two senators to Hitler’s satanic propagandist. Whether one supports or opposes their decision to formally raise questions about the Electoral College vote count, the indisputable fact is that their actions were both legal and widely supported by their constituents. A Rasmussen poll released on January 6 found that 52 percent of politically unaffiliated Americans were less than fully confident about the integrity of the election results. The senators, and their colleagues in both houses who worked with them, noted that they had been flooded by requests from their constituents to question the returns from the states in question—Pennsylvania, Michigan, Georgia, Wisconsin, Arizona and Nevada.

Cruz and Hawley incited no riots. To the contrary, they tried to channel the concerns of voters the American way—through constitutional, peaceful deliberations in Congress. Cruz, for his part, denounced the January 6 riot in real time, referring to it as “a despicable act of terrorism.”

By conflating the constitutional, democratic behavior of the senators and their colleagues with Goebbels’ crimes, Biden accomplished a fifth goal. He demonized as Nazis these officials’ voters who had urged them to act—and by extension, threw under the bus the shockingly high percentage of Americans who questioned the election returns.

Of course, Biden’s statement wasn’t made in isolation. He spoke after TwitterFacebook and Instagram had banned Trump from their platforms and begun a purge of the accounts of his supporters—and as other major private sector actors openly called for the “un-personing” of Trump’s advisers and supporters.

Forbes Editor Randall Lane, for instance, announced he would destroy any business that hires Trump’s spokespeople. In his words, “Hire any of Trump’s fellow fabulists…and Forbes will assume that everything your company or firm talks about is a lie. …Want to ensure the world’s biggest business media approaches you as a potential funnel of disinformation? Then hire away!”

The Lincoln Project, an influence outfit run by former Republicans now serving Democrats by demonizing Republicans, announced it was working to have all Trump administration officials blacklisted.

“We are constructing a database of Trump officials and staff that will detail their roles in the Trump administration and track where they are now. …They will be held accountable and not allowed to pretend they were not involved,” the group tweeted.

Deutsche Bank and Signature Bank announced they were closing Trump’s accounts. Payment processors such as PayPal, Shopify and Stripe cut off the Trump campaign and Trump merchandising stores.

These actions are of a piece with earlier actions by financial giants like BlackRock, Goldman Sachs and others that announced last month they will require their clients to hire women and LGBT persons to their corporate boards, adopt approved green policies, and reveal their political contributions, lobbying contacts and trade association memberships as conditions for continuing to receive financial services.

All of these repressive statements and actions provided both the impetus for, and the legitimization of, the coordinated action taken last weekend by tech oligarchs GoogleApple and Amazon to destroy Parler, the free speech social media platform launched two years ago.

As law professor William Jacobson documented on his Legal Insurrection website, there is no evidence to support the tech giants’ implicit claim that Parler was in any way responsible for the Capitol Hill riot. Indeed, as Jacobson showed, it was Facebook, not Parler, that the organizers of the violent events had relied upon to mobilize their supporters.

The reason Google, Apple and Amazon destroyed Parler was not because it had done anything wrong. They destroyed Parler because it did everything right. For years, Big Tech oligarchs brushed off criticism that they operated as monopolies by insisting that everyone remains free to create platforms and compete with them. And as their viewpoint censorship of conservatives became more aggressive in recent years and reached new heights during the 2020 election, demand for alternatives continued to grow.

Parler wasn’t a Trump affiliate. It wasn’t a political instrument. It was simply a free speech platform. It was an alternative. And so it was destroyed. The social media users who wish to leave Twitter and Facebook now have no comparable alternative venue. So they are compelled to remain and live within the platforms’ increasingly repressive rules.

A sense of foreboding and fear now grips millions of Americans—and, indeed, conservatives worldwide. Unless something is done quickly by those who wield power to restore freedom, it is impossible to see a happy end to this story.

Originally published in Newsweek.com.

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