Racist Propaganda and Landmines

Nazi salutes CharlottesvilleThere have long been efforts to ban landmines, primarily for the simple reason that they persist long after the war has ended, when they can blow up and injure innocent people who had nothing to do with the war that led to the creation of the minefield.

Why am I mentioning this at a moment when you’d expect me to be blogging about the Nazi marches in Charlottesville? Because propaganda does the same thing as landmines.

A case in point: The Nazis made efforts to spread their virulent anti-Jewish views to potential allies, including in the Middle East. (If you’re not familiar with this, Jeffrey Herf’s brief article “Hate Radio” will provide an introduction, and then his book Nazi Propaganda for the Arab World, as well as others such as Jihad and Jew-Hatred, can provide still more info if that isn’t enough). They took European claims of Jewish conspiracies and promulgated them, and anyone who has heard a radical Muslim talk about Jews will have heard such claims, and probably will have noticed the similarity.

The Nazis planted ideological landmines in the Middle East, and they are continuing to go off today. The Arabs who embrace those ideas are feeling the impact of weaponized ideas which aimed at turning them into allies of Germany. WWII is long since over, and most Germans today repudiate the views that led to the Holocaust. But the places where those memes were sown continue to be impacted by them, and in turn others are harmed as well. Planting hatred is every bit as dangerous as planting physical landmines – and perhaps more so.

Hopefully you can see the ironies as we consider the conspiracies about Jews voiced by the Nazis in Charlottesville. One of them, Matt Heimbach, turns out to be from here in Indiana. He apparently converted some years ago to (and then was excommunicated from) the Antiochene Orthodox Church, which was brought to the United States by Arab immigrants, another irony. Heimbach expresses the idea that a white genocide is on the horizon, and that he is simply acting to defend his white race. This, of course, is a stance that leads to immigration policies that would keep out the people that brought the faith that Heimbach chose to embrace.

Heimbach and others like him are giving voice to propaganda that includes elements created centuries ago, which were promulgated by our nation’s enemies, and which now flourish not only among Nazis, Klansmen, and other white supremacists, but also among Muslims – whom the former are eager to keep out of “their” country. While some Americans tend to think of Neo-Nazis in the United States as influenced by German Nazism, in fact the direction of influence is the reverse: German racists were influenced by the example of the American South decades before Hitler began his rise to power, and this influenced Hitler and his Nazis.

It is not just propaganda that behaves and causes damage like a landmine. Hatred itself is a landmine. The seeds were sown in the past – sometimes centuries ago, but they have sprouted and spread more recently and then found fertile soil in which to lay dormant until they are watered and invited to find nourishment in the light of the sun once again. The same kind of hatred was used to justify enslavement, then segregation, then discrimination, to say nothing of war against the United States. And on it goes, sometimes taking new forms, but with a clear continuity that can be traced across the years.

Trumps-America-Nazis-in-CharlottesvilleThere is, however, one big difference between landmines and hateful propaganda. Landmines, when they blow up, kill other people. Propaganda and hate, when they sprout, will certainly damage the soul, the mind, and the morals of those in which these things take root.

But typically it is others whose lives are lost, who are killed as a result of the “explosion” of hatred “going off.” Another irony in this post is that the same hate-inspired lies about Jews and others can be seen motivating terrorism on the part of both white Nazis and Islamic jihadists. And yet despite embracing the same old propaganda, each will view the other as dangerous, not realizing that it is precisely because of the same sort of virulent propaganda that they view one another in this manner. They will demonize and resist one another precisely because of what they share in common!

And so let’s be sure to notice the sources of the lies that continue to be spouted, and the heritage of the viewpoints and organizations that are becoming more vocal and violent. Even before there was the Nazi party in Germany, there was the Ku Klux Klan. It was founded by people who lost a war that aimed to preserve slavery and destroy the United States in order to do it. They engaged in acts of terrorism. That is what they stand for.

And so don’t believe anyone who sides with these terrorists and yet who claims to be trying to keep the nation safe from terrorists. They may hate other terrorists. But the legacy of the KKK, as of the Nazis when they came along later and looked with admiration at America’s Klan as a model, has always been to achieve their ends through terror.

And then, as now, those who represent love – including but not limited to Christians – must stand against these forces of darkness.

But we must do so in a way that doesn’t fall into the same trap, or step on the same landmine of fear and hate. Acts of hate against the haters, acts of terror purportedly in the interest of ending terrorism but in fact only interested in keeping “us” “safe” from those terrorists, will not end terrorism, but will either foster it in the enemy, or cause it to take root in ourselves, and perhaps both.

And so the minefield will continue to persist and damage if we do that.

Only learning to love in a way that stands against evil while refusing to embrace its terms and methods of conflict can ever clear the minefield – or should I say, the mindfield? – in which hate and propaganda take root.

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  • http://timebottle.weebly.com/ Beau Quilter

    The rise of racist terrorism is fomented when our leaders refuse to acknowledge it, as Trump did when he repeatedly emphasized the “many sides” he claimed were responsible for the Charlottesville violence. Trump continues to refrain from calling out white supremacism, making it easy to believe that Trump is grasping onto the support and future votes of white supremacists. He may find it politically expedient to criticize white supremacists in the next week (or not), but he’s already missed the important window of opportunity, focusing instead, as usual, on himself.

    On a related note, one of the greatest tragedies of World War II is how many refugees attempted to escape from Nazi Germany, only to be turned away and refused VISA’s by the countries in which they sought asylum (the U.S. was one of the worst offenders). Nations who turn a blind eye on the plight of refugees are complicit in their suffering. Trump is continuing this tradition of racist cruelty and plenty of Americans are granting him the power to do it.

    • Otto T. Goat

      Trump was correct to condemn the Antifa violence at Charlottesville. Why is it so hard for Democrats to do so?

      • http://timebottle.weebly.com/ Beau Quilter

        Never heard of anyone calling themselves Antifa, and I never heard Trump mention the name. The KKK and the Neo Nazis on the other hand were out in full force waving their flags and shouting racial epithets.

        Seriously – have we really reached the point where you’re afraid to call out actual, flaunted racism?

        • Otto T. Goat

          Antifa is a violent left wing group that hates free speech and white people. They were assaulting people at the the Chancellorsville rally, something they’ve done in cities across America.

          • http://timebottle.weebly.com/ Beau Quilter

            I’m afraid that inventing a fake enemy won’t obscure the vision of swastikas and confederate flags parading down the streets with tiki torches.

          • Otto T. Goat

            I’m not inventing anything. You’re excusing violence against people exercising First Amendment rights.

          • http://timebottle.weebly.com/ Beau Quilter

            Otto, I did a little research, and I’m going to offer an apology. Mea Culpa. Antifa are not a fake enemy. They are real and should be stopped. But violence was committed on both sides in Charlottesville, and my guess is that you and I belong to neither side.

            I say we stop associating Antifa with left and white supremacists with the right. Violence and hate speech are evil whoever practices them. If we take their battles on as our own, we play right into their hands.

            There’s no reason American can’t oppose both racism and violent opposition to free speech. Let’s not let the thugs call the shots.

  • Josh Hauck

    Following the metaphor, I guess one of history’s greatest landmines would be the “Curse of Ham”. Originally written as a smear on the Canaanites, it became an attack of Africans and a justification for slavery. It still pops up today, making it -what – a 3000 year old landmine?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      Great example!

  • Joe Wallack

    It’s good to see liberal Christianity acknowledge Muslim/Arab/Palestinian terrorism against Israel since it has not received the attention it deserves among liberals. The most favored demonization against Israel is comparing it to Nazis as your article indicates but ironically it is actually much easier to demonize Palestinians as Naziish than it is Israelis. See http://thenewporphyry.blogspot.com/2016/06/the-israeliarab-conflict-who-is-easier.html . Another common characteristic of Haters is that they are often guilty of what they accuse others of. One of Hitler’s main criticisms of Jews is that they supposedly guarded their race by fanatically prohibiting intermarriage. Likewise the main accusation of Palestinians and the Arabs and Muslims who support them, is that Israel is Apartheid. Once again though it is the Muslims/Arabs/Palestinians who are guilty of what they accuse Israel of. Just don’t let Neil Godfrey see this article.