The book, Travellers in the Third Reich by Julia Boyd, is full of first-hand accounts by way of diary notes, reports, articles, and reported conversations of ordinary travellers in Germany in the 1930s.
The author describes how the NSDAP used every trick on the propaganda book to blind foreign visitors to what was going on and to get the populace on board. The Party used torchlight processions, mass parades, control of the media, etc. backed up by the essential fascist tool of violence as a first resort.
Violence and antisemitism were hidden from visitors and thrust in the face of the populace. As an example, during the 1936 Berlin Olympics, antisemitic posters and signs were taken down, and then put up again after the games had finished.
Yet looking back, I cannot help but think that many people look for any excuse to behave badly. Just give them a justification. Just give them an idea onto which they can latch. Give them reason why an idea is more important than a life.
That was then. What I see now is that people are being whipped up with new tools in the propaganda armoury.
Observers say that the danger of social media and online news commenting is that the commenters can be annonymous.
That is not the danger of social media; it is the beauty of it.
People’s anger is being whipped up. They are being taught, trained, to see things as though the differences between them and those who think otherwise are separated by an unbridgeable divide.
They are being taught, trained, that there is no space in between for compromise, for unity, for community, for talking, for getting together.
The reason they are being trained is so that they become trainable.
So I was reading the book this morning, and then I read the news. I read that last night, Mark Field MP, Minister of State for Asia and the Pacific, MP for Cities of London & Westminster, attacked a climate protester who gatecrashed a dinner where the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, was speaking.
The BBC have a nice video of what happened, so there is no saying it was anything other than what it was. The MP attacked the protester, and it is clear that he did so because he thought it was OK to do so.
The protester was a woman, so he didn’t have to worry that a burly protester would floor him.
Field later apologised for ‘grabbing’ her (he didn’t grab her; he attacked her), and then made his situation worse by his patently untrue claim that he was worried the protester may have been armed.
What made his ‘instinctive grab’, his attack, on the woman seem to him to be OK and the thing to do?
I think one can make a good case for saying that thirty years ago, a little voice in his head would have restrained him. Not today. No one is immune from being trained, much less the people in the thick of it.