Friendly Fascism and the Theft of Liberty | The Rocco De Leo Show

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The great joy of studying history is the ability to tell the future. Perhaps a cliché your history teacher told you before making you remember a bunch of dates in a time period way too long ago and in a place way too far away. That’s why two historical periods stand out the most to me, as an American.  The first is the Revolutionary War and the second is World War 2 (particularly Nazi Germany). One Teaches me where we come from and how to keep it( the constitution), while the other teaches how we can lose it all in a short period of time.

Liberty is a fragile thing.  Today, as in the past, the masses watch liberty erode on a daily basis. Hayek points it out greatly in the Road to Serfdom:

“What had been achieved [freedom] had come to be regarded as a secure and imperishable possession, acquired once and for all”.  The eyes of the people became fixed on the new demands, the rapid satisfaction of which seemed to be barred by the adherence to the old principles, It became more and more widely accepted that the further advance could be expected not along the old lines within the general framework which had made past progress possible, but only by a complete remodeling of society. It was no longer a question of adding to or improving the existing machinery but of completely scrapping and replacing it.  And the hope of the new generation came to be centered on something completely new interest in an understanding of the functioning of the existing society rapidly declined and with the decline of the understanding of the way in which the free system worked awareness of what depended on the existence also decreased.”

Many in America today think it’s guaranteed freedom forever.  The irony is that she has already given up so much freedom.  The left has been the traditional theft of liberty.  “Protecting” us from each other with regulation after regulation.  The nanny state of the left tells us not to drink too much Soda, make too much smog from driving cars, and to stop hating each other because of differences. They have “protected” us so much that we seem to have the largest divide among races, sexual orientation, and gender identity in our history.  I still see a ton of smog and we are all getting fatter and racial tensions are worse now even after 8 years of Americas first black president. This “protection” isn’t just from the left. Whether it’s in reaction to the left’s overbearing control of everything or just a dressed up version of progressivism from the right, theft of liberty is and will come from the right as well.  An overbearing Nationalist fever is starting to heat up.  The republicans vow to “repeal” and “replace” Obama care instead of “repeal only”, the lack of the use of the phrase “Free Markets”, and the strong man Executive in President Trump (I’d argue that Obama was the first of the strong man executives and Trump’s election is a direct reaction to that), or all threats to liberty from the right.

I recently finished Defying Hitler, in which we are given a ground level glimpse of the transformation of Germany into the eventual Nazi state. It’s so easy for us in 2017 America to look back at 1933 Germany like it’s an alien planet. If tyranny were a live being, it would love for us assume that late 1920s Germans were so different from Americans. That Germany was basically a different planet and the evil of the Nazi regime was born in an instant.  Cartoon evil is not real evil.  Even Adolf Hitler wore diapers and cried out for his mother as a little boy. I am in no way trying to make Hitler or any other evil dictator look better than he actually was.  I believe that we actually de-humanize figures like Stalin, Hitler, and Mussolini through the passage of time and the watering down of history.

Why do we do this?

I believe its simply easier to understand. The human tendency to look the atrocities of Nazi Germany and convince ourselves it won’t ever happen again is powerful. It’s a happier “disney” flavored world. The problem is that the more we dehumanize a Hitler figure and write off Nazi Germany as a “one-off” the more likely we are to let it happen again. Perhaps right here in a America. If Hitler was really something different from the rest of us, then all we have to do to protect liberty is not elect a crazy madman with a funny mustache. Simple enough with the perspective of time, but how do we, living in reality see the damage coming. Of course we on the right were convinced that Obama was Karl Marx and those on the left have deemed Trump the reincarnation of Hitler himself. We both may be right. Thank God we have the constitution.

To be sure, I am not suggesting there is a direct comparison with 1933 Germany and 2017 America.  That would make this easier to write, but that also would be terrible. The challenge of studying history, is pulling out the nuances, removing ones own bias, and trying to see some similarities. Not an easy task. Haffner writes in Defying Hitler perhaps the most profound statement that I have not read anywhere else on Nazi Germany:

Now something strange happened — and with this I believe I am about to reveal one of the most fundamental political events of our time, something that was not reported in any newspaper: by and large that invitation was declined. It was not what was wanted… a whole generation was, it seemed, at a loss as to how to cope with the offer of an unfettered private life.

a generation of young Germans had become accustomed to having the entire content of their lives delivered gratis, so to speak, by the public sphere, all the raw material for their deeper emotions, for love and hate, joy and sorrow, but also all their sensations and thrills — accompanied though they might be by poverty, hunger, death, chaos, and peril. Now that these deliveries suddenly ceased, people were left helpless, impoverished, robbed, and disappointed. They had never learned to live from within themselves, how to make an ordinary private life great, beautiful, and worthwhile, how to enjoy it and make it interesting. So they regarded the end of the political tension and the return of private liberty not as a gift, but as a deprivation. They were bored, their minds strayed to silly thoughts, and they began to sulk. In the end they waited eagerly for the first disturbance, the first setback or incident, so that they could put this period of peace behind them and set out on some new collective adventure. To be precise (the occasion demands precision, because in my opinion it provides the key to the contemporary period of history): it was not the entire generation of young Germans. Not every single individual reacted in this fashion. There were some who learned during this period, belatedly and a little clumsily, as it were, how to live. They began to enjoy their own lives, weaned themselves from the cheap intoxication of the sports of war and revolution, and started to develop their own personalities. It was at this time that, invisibly and unnoticed, the Germans divided into those who later became Nazis and those who would remain non-Nazis.

You don’t have to be a cultural anthropologist to see some glaring similarities to modern day America. Five minutes on Facebook and the next section will knock the wind right out your sails.  But first lets look at this point Haffner just shared. Many of the German youth coming from World War 1 and into the 1920s were so used to the toils of strife.  Having some battle in one form or another to fight. Perhaps its was the universal sense of being “screwed over”, or the intense hyperinflation they experience that basically through responsibility out the window. Remember, the value of their money shrank exponentially that they just lived day by day.  That may sound gut wrenching to us today with our 401ks, mortgages, and white picket fences. but they grew accustomed to the strange “freedom” that came along with it. When things started calming down, many didn’t want to play by the rules of normal life viz a vi responsibility. They didn’t want to let go of the constant battles, and leave the fight behind. For them, life was easier and more predictable, even though it was a bad life, it was what they knew. It was ALL the knew.

Here today we see some similarities to modern America. Not exacts and maybe my comparison shines a light on my own biases, but to deny any comparison is simply ignorant. Whether we see a growing welfare state, angry college students demanding state sponsored quality of life guarantees, racial politics, and now gender and sexual orientation politics, everyone has a fight. To be fair, sometimes there is a fight to be fought, but on what grounds? What’s the end game? So much more to unpack their…on a different day….

Haffner goes on to describe what could just as easy be a monday morning on Facebook in 2017:

It was strange to observe how the behavior of each side reinforced that of the other: the savage impudence that gradually made it possible for the unpleasant little apostle of hate to assume the proportions of a demon; the bafflement of his tamers, who always realized just too late exactly what it was he was up to — namely, when he capped it with something even more outrageous and monstrous; then, also, the hypnotic trance into which his public fell, succumbing with less and less resistance to the glamour of depravity and the ecstasy of evil.

Besides, he promised everything to everybody, which naturally brought him a vast, loose army of followers and voters from among the ignorant, the disappointed, and the dispossessed. That, however, was not decisive. Beyond demagogy and the details of his election manifesto, he made two promises with obvious honesty: the revival of the great war game of 1914 to 1918 and a repetition of the triumphal anarchic looting of 1923.

This brings me back to Hayek in the Chapter “The Abandoned Road” in The Road to Serfdom. 

Freedom——success—time to ponder other things——we should fix xyz—fix with govt control!! 

Except here it wasn’t global warming it was hatred for anything not German and later not Ayrian and not Nazi.

Remember this comes from a lack of understanding where freedom comes from and that it is fragile. I read, write, and speak so much about freedom, and the absolute necessity to understand the where, what, and how of freedom. This reigns just as true with its polar opposite. Tyranny, despotism, totalitarianism, or whatever you want to call it has a similar story to freedom. These things aren’t disney characters and props. The good isn’t always a pretty princess with singing birds, and the bad isn’t always an ugly witch wearing an “evil” label. Sometimes the evil character is the princess doing what she thinks is good for whatever reason (ideology, experience, ignorance, fear, insert any human emotion), and sometimes the evil witch is actually doing better things for the world than he/she intends (I’ll leave this for another post but imagine how much stability Iraq might have today with Sadam Hussein in charge… evil for sure—too many tangents though to include in this post). Another example; remember the when we armed the Afghanis in the 1980s against the Soviet Union? Again not a perfect analogy, but Afghanistan later became the home to many 9/11 terrorists who are clearly classified as evil.

What are we to do about this?  I can scream from the mountain tops to everyone to please start reading books and questioning what’s happening.  Especially question your side. Every day I see a series of witty or dim witty memes that are supposed to shut up both sides of the political spectrum. Recently I saw one that simply compares saving the life of an unborn child (represented by a picture of a very small fetus that barely looks human) and on the other side a heartbreaking picture of a little boy refugee crying with a life jacket on.  The caption reads “if this life matters (the fetus) but not this one (the refugee)” “then stopping saying your concerns are religious”.  So of course in an instant everyone on the “evil” right who oppose abortion and “obviously” hate all refugees and want them all to drown on life boats immediately see the light.  I’m not sure whether the evil right wingers decide to give up the abortion fight and admit that in fact no life actually matters and they all can die, or if all evil right wingers immediately open the country to an unfiltered flow of unvetted refugees.  Would that lead to an end of abortions?  This kind of rhetoric just alienates people more. Someone feels witty and someone, for a minute or two feels stupid.  Yep…that strategy always wins people over. Another one says:

“I find it odd how the Bible is super relevant if you have to bake a cake for some gays but not if some desperate people need your help”

Again, super witty.  Someone feels smart, and someone feels stupid. But in the end, the people who need help are only pawns in everyday American’s “feeling” like they are helping, but instead are only making friends on Facebook feel stupid.

To be balanced, I see a ton of videos of morons setting Berkley on fire, or some the lead protestor in Portland turning out to be a sex offender. The tons of ironic videos of the women’s march cursing, and Madonna threatening to blow up the White House, are examples.  I see a lot of memes about illegal immigration from both sides of the political fence. Take a look at the comments from Haffner again about how people acted toward each other as the Nazis took over:

It was strange to observe how the behavior of each side reinforced that of the other: the savage impudence that gradually made it possible for the unpleasant little apostle of hate to assume the proportions of a demon; the bafflement of his tamers, who always realized just too late exactly what it was he was up to — namely, when he capped it with something even more outrageous and monstrous; then, also, the hypnotic trance into which his public fell, succumbing with less and less resistance to the glamour of depravity and the ecstasy of evil.

Besides, he promised everything to everybody, which naturally brought him a vast, loose army of followers and voters from among the ignorant, the disappointed, and the dispossessed. That, however, was not decisive. Beyond demagogy and the details of his election manifesto, he made two promises with obvious honesty: the revival of the great war game of 1914 to 1918 and a repetition of the triumphal anarchic looting of 1923.

While we play our little Facebook Friend Fascism, the people, the victims of all sorts of issues aren’t helped by a funny and witting meme. While we fight amongst ourselves, we take our eyes off the real threats to liberty. A  3 line meme comparing baking a cake for gays and refugees, or welfare benefits and trickle down economics does not educate anyone on the deeply complex details of all these things that are vital to our continued liberty. There are certainly areas for real disagreement. But disagree from a point of knowledge and understanding. I can’t imagine John Maynard Keynes hiring a hitman to take out FA Hayek. Today, disagreement itself is a kin to hatred and evil.  And that, makes evil very happy.

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