Anti-Fascist PSAs Are Relevant Again

Seventy-plus years after World War II, anti-Nazi propaganda is back in style.

An edited snippet of an old War Department PSA entitled Don't Be A Sucker has been doing the rounds on Twitter lately, and it provides some sobering historical context for the environment that now exists in America. The film, produced in 1943 and re-released in 1947, was made as a piece of wartime propaganda, but it's propaganda with a pretty much unassailable message. Fascism, it says, must be identified and stopped quickly, or it can take hold in America (and by extension, anywhere) just as it did in Weimar Germany.

Many of you will have seen excerpts on social media, but here's the whole thing, as digitised by AV Geeks, with its full (slightly dated) "don't be a sucker" wraparound story and a potted history of the rise and fall of the Nazi Party:

If anything, the film ends on too positive a note, with the crowd's skepticism suggesting that such demagoguery could never take hold in the United States. As the actions of Donald Trump and the past weekend's disgusting white nationalist rally have demonstrated (certainly to those who didn't know it already), the Nazi brand of racism and xenophobia is alive and well in the United States. The targets may not be Catholics and Freemasons nowadays, but the hatred is just as strong. People of colour and other minorities have known this for years, but it's coming out into the mainstream spotlight in a frightening way, largely thanks to emboldening words from the White House.

Today, America's suckers aren't just falling for the direct hatred espoused by the guy in Don't Be A Sucker, although Trump's rhetoric has approached it on many occasions. There's a subtler, yet just as dangerous, form of American fascism that comes from the dog-whistle language, the normalised anti-immigrant sentiment, and the Republican party's lack of action against Trump (for all the lip service they pay to the contrary). Trump's America isn't Hitler's Germany - not yet - but it has created an environment where neo-Nazis march openly, hate crimes are bragged about on Facebook, and where false equivalences are drawn between white supremacists and those who protest them.

Every new step taken by American Nazis, the KKK, and the "alt-right" is a test to see what the Republican (and broader American) government and population will put up with. Each time law enforcement is soft on Nazis where they'd brutalise Black Lives Matter, each non-condemnation by the President, each time ethnofascists show their face in public without it being punched, and yes, every time you tweet "2017" in resignation, opens the Overton window a little wider. And the sad truth is that these people make up a vocal segment of the government's base right now.

Fascism and hatred must be identified, shamed, and punished. They take hold through apathy and inaction; the only valid response is to crush them. Now is the time for all Americans - and honestly, especially white Americans - to link arms with the groups that Donald Trump, his base, and his neo-Nazi goons would have you reject. Protest, donate, offer emotional support - do whatever you can. Because your government ain't doing shit.