“No people ever recognize their dictator in advance. He never stands for election on the platform of dictatorship. He always represents himself as the instrument [of] the Incorporated National Will. When our dictator turns up you can depend on it that he will be one of the boys, and he will stand for everything traditionally American.” Dorothy Thompson, 1928.
Mrs. Thompson is wrong about one thing. In smelling out dictators, in truth, it is not that hard. To start with, any politician that declares the press an “enemy of the people” exhibits the skunk-like smell of a dictator or an authoritarian who is maneuvering to become one. 100% of the time.
Let me say that again, any politician who attempts to deride the legitimate efforts of the press to regulate his behavior is a wanna-be dictator. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. ALWAYS. FULL STOP.
The first salvo that almost every dictator of the 20th Century has fired to secure their power was to diminish and then restrict the free press.
However, more importantly, the really GOOD dictators did it in such a way as to be nearly unnoticeable at first. Thus, when people speak of John McCain being anti-Trump… I point to the fact that, thus far he’s voted in lockstep with the so-called president… what he says is a smokescreen designed to confuse you…it’s how he votes that matters. He’s a Janus, an Iago, a backstabber. He is ultimately attempting to distract, with his comments, the citizens away from the fact that he also supports in his actions, the coming dictatorship.
So why don’t we go ahead and knock El Duce and that damned Corporal out of the way…
Mussolini, in 1923 established his “High Commission” for the press, appointing Alfredo Rocco as the “Keeper of the Seals” for the commission. At no point did Mussolini say “We’re going to restrict the press!” Never, not once. What he did was establish a law, loosely worded indicating that there would be no censorship of the press …except…and that except is always important… for “any activity contrary to the national interest and faithfulness to the Fatherland.” Journalists were expected to present a “solid bloc,” committed to the fascisti cause. Any story antithetical to El Duce or fascism was buried. Any editor who did not toe the line was attacked and removed. Eventually, the Italian press was self-policing, run by party loyalists, appointed by the Ordine dei Giornalisti (the blandly named, the Association of Journalists was a division of the Fascistis). Mussolini himself oversaw any banning or seizures of publications. Italy under El Duce is a prime example of what happens when the press gets its news pre-approved directly from the government and is not allowed to question those approvals without being accused of being anti-fascist. Journalists became servile to the government.
Interestingly, unlike 45, Mussolini didn’t have a problem with being satirized (maybe he didn’t have “small hands”) and the satirical press, such as Marc’Aurelio seemed to have mostly free reign to from 1924 to about 1938 (though not perfectly free reign – it did suffer several judicial seizures, but eventually was selling as many as 300,000 copies a week!). Marc’Aurelio published many caricatures of Mussolini. I’m disappointed, there doesn’t seem to be a readily available archive of Marc’Aurelio caricatures online, and what I can find is in Italian and mi Italiano es mediocre’. Maybe next time I’m in Rome, I’ll hit a library and see if I can find something. Anyway, about 1938 the Magazine turned party-line and stopped producing anti-fascist satire and started producing anti-Semitic material. Probably because Mussolini and Hitler were about to enter into a very important agreement known as the Pact of Steel and El Duce decided to reign this dog in.
Mussolini gave the IMPRESSION of a free press while maintaining tight control over it by forcing out those editors and papers that did not fall in lock step with the Fascisti movement.
O.K., that’s Mussolini, who I, as a military historian argue is much more similar to the so-called president than everyone’s favorite Austrian Artist…except, maybe not.
While the American press had a relationship with Mussolini that bordered on admiration, much of the American press despised Adolf Hitler. Newsweek argued that he was a “nonsensical” screecher of “wild words” whose appearance “suggests Charlie Chaplin.” (There were reasons for this; Chaplin was Hitler’s favorite entertainer – at least until the release of “The Great Dictator.”) Cosmopolitan (which, you have to realize, was a SERIOUS magazine at the time, not the fluff it is today)wrote; that his “countenance is a caricature.” He was as “voluble” as he was “insecure,” (sound familiar) In fact, many American press outlets judged that he would either be outplayed by more traditional politicians or that he would have to become more moderate. They declared his followers “impressionable voters” duped by “radical doctrines and quack remedies,” Does THAT sound familiar? If you’ve been paying attention, it should.
See that quote at the start by Dorothy Thompson? Mrs. Thompson was the first foreign journalist ejected from Germany by Adolph Hitler. Why? Because she wrote disparaging news articles about the violence and “widespread terror” of Nazi Germany. Her initial article, in which she greatly underestimates Hitler, has become a collector’s piece. I want one.
Anyway, the only way Hitler could really control the American press was by expelling it, which, if the journalists didn’t step in line, he did. But the German press, that was another ball of wax.
When Hitler took power in 1933, the Nazi party controlled only about 150 of Germany’s 4,700 or so papers. Even so, fearing imprisonment or death, reputable journalists also began to flee the country in large numbers, quite smart on their part. German non-Jewish newspaper owners replaced them in part with ill-trained and inexperienced amateurs loyal to the Nazi Party, as well as with skilled and veteran journalists prepared to collaborate with the regime in order to maintain and even enhance their careers.
Step 1; July 14, 1933, ban all other political parties. That takes care of about 1/3rd of the of the papers and allowed the Nazis to seize the printing presses and equipment of Communist and Social Democratic Party papers and turn them directly over to the National Socialist propaganda machine.
Step 2: Deploy the propaganda machine to stir fears of a “communist uprising” (Muslims, Immigrants, and them nasty liberal) and then create laws that eradicate civil liberties and democracy. Hmmm, how many executive orders has 45 issued thus far?
Step 3: Using holding companies, establish your own press that appears to be independent of the party. Do I REALLY need to go into this??? REALLY???
Step 4: Use violence to force the independent press to self-censor in favor of the party line. The Münchener Post was a socialist newspaper in Munich from 1888-1933 (See that year there? Guess what’s about to happen). Münchener Post closely followed Hitler and his party, exposing their crimes, internal intrigues, and scandals. Hitler called the paper “The poison kitchen.” But guess which paper was the first to expose “the final solution?” The DAY AFTER Hitler took over the Chancellorship, SA troopers entered the paper, arrested the editors and reporters. They didn’t seize the presses though, they burned the building down as an example. Martin Gruber, Erhard Auer, Edmund Goldschagg, and Julius Zerfaß were all sent to Dachau. Julius Zerfaß was the only one to survive, escaping and fleeing to Switzerland. I’m not sure if anyone has compiled a list of journalists simply murdered on the streets of Nazi Germany.
I’m not sure if anyone has compiled a list of journalists and writers killed in the concentration camps, or simply murdered on the streets of Nazi Germany.
But here’s a few:
|Name||Cause of death|
|Anne Frank||typhus at Bergen-Belsen|
|Helga Deen||gas chamber at Sobibór|
|Hélène Berr||died in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp|
|Pierre-André Gastalla||killed in action|
|Anton de Kom||Unknown|
|Clementine Krämer||died at Theresienstadt|
|Petr Ginz||gas chamber at Auschwitz|
|Walter Hasenclever||suicide to avoid deportation|
|Libertas Schulze-Boysen||executed at Plötzensee Prison|
|David Vogel||tuberculosis at Neuengamme concentration camp|
|Milena Jesenská||kidney failure|
|Felix Fechenbach||executed during the deportation to Dachau|
|Carl von Ossietzky||tuberculosis|
|Erich Knauf||beheaded at Brandenburg-Görden Prison|
|Jura Soyfer||typhus at Buchenwald|
|Walter Benjamin||suicide at Portbou to avoid deportation|
|Wilhelm Eduard Schmid||accidental victim of the Night of the Long Knives|
|Friedrich Münzer||enteritis at Theresienstadt|
|Karel Destovnik||killed in battle as resistance fighter|
|Miklós Radnóti||shot into a mass grave near the village of Abda|
|Benjamin Fondane||gas chamber at Auschwitz|
|Robert Desnos||typhoid – Theresienstadt concentration camp|
|Willi Münzenberg||murdered at Oranienburg concentration camp|
|Julius Fučík||hanged at Plötzensee Prison|
|Yitzhak Katzenelson||gas chamber at Auschwitz|
|Lidia Zamenhof||gas chamber at Treblinka|
|Karel Poláček||gas chamber at Auschwitz|
|Guy de Larigaudie||killed in action during the Fall of France|
|Régis Messac||died in Groß-Rosen or Dora concentration camp|
|Jakob van Hoddis||gas chamber at Sobibór|
|Jochen Klepper||suicide in Berlin|
|Bruno Schulz||shot in Drohobycz Ghetto|
|Selma Meerbaum-Eisinger||typhus at Mikhailovska labor camp in rural Ukraine|
|Irène Némirovsky||gas chamber at Auschwitz|
|Else Ury||gas chamber at Auschwitz|
|Else Feldmann||gas chamber at Sobibór|
|Egon Friedell||suicide to avoid deportation|
|Erich Mühsam||executed at Plötzensee Prison|
|Paul Nizan||killed in action during the Fall of France|
|Antoine de Saint-Exupéry||killed in action on a reconnaissance flight, July 1944|
|Antal Szerb||beaten to death in a concentration camp in Balf|
|Jacques Decour||executed by firing squad|
|Jean Prévost||killed in action 1944|
|Mordechai Gebirtig||shot in Krakow Ghetto|
|Mildred Harnack||beheaded at Plötzensee Prison|
|Simon Dubnow||killed at the Riga ghetto during the Rumbula massacre|
|Marc Bloch||tortured and shot by Gestapo at Saint-Didier-de-Formans|
|Valentin Feldman||executed by firing squad|
|Jean Gosset||died in Neuengamme concentration camp|
|Georges Politzer||executed by firing squad|
|Boris Vildé||executed by firing squad|
|Walter Benjamin||suicide at Portbou to avoid deportation|
Step 5: Aryanize. Assume control of Jewish-owned publishing companies. Establish racial laws that ensure that only “racially pure” editors and journalists are allowed to work.
Step 6: Pass laws (decrees from the Propaganda Ministry really) that prevent the publication of anything “calculated to weaken the strength of the Reich abroad or at home.”
SO, that’s the two big fish, right?
The other big one, of course, is Joseph Stalin and his contemporaries. Well, in the Wider Purge (1933), 2,000 writers, intellectuals, and artists were imprisoned and 1,500 died in prisons and concentration camps, that’s just in the USSR proper, not counting Mongolia, Xinjiang, or racially motivated purges.
For faks sake, the Meteorological Office was purged in the USSR for REPORTING weather that damaged crops… I don’t even know what to say about that except that Uncle Joe was a fucking nutburger.
We could spend the next week on Joseph Stalin; suffice to say that in 1937-38 the NKVD detained 1,548,366 persons, and shot 681,692. Given just how much political fog that the USSR generated, such that even “official” reports are suspect, the real numbers are probably TWICE that.
But before the purge, the Soviet of People’s Commissars and Vladimir Lenin issued the “Decree on the Press” (October 27, 1917). This decree essentially outlawed newspapers that published views opposed to the October Revolution.
Stalin issued a decree on Aug 11, 1930, that created a pyramidal scheme for the press in the USSR, all information flowed from the top-level party papers down to the community papers. The structure went to the 15 Soviets, then to cities and towns, all the way down to factory papers. With ALL information coming from either Pravda or Izvestia.
BUT, I’m going to put the USSR aside for the moment as an extreme case, very extreme, BIGLY extreme even. The Soviets didn’t even try to hide the fact that they were controlling information down the pipe, they were proud of it even. Which puts them as an outlier in the data because MOST authoritarians want everyone to think that they are loved by the people. Does THAT sound familiar?
How about a few of the smaller ones?
Pol Pot? Malcolm Caldwell and John Dewhirst, butchered.
Idi Amin? Had arrested and murdered 5 anti-establishment journalists since 1995. Between 20-30 since 1979.
Saddam Hussein? Imprisoned 118 journalists in 1998 alone. He even ordered the execution of British journalist Farzad Bazoft in 1990 as an attempt to humiliate the Brits; “I say we execute him in Ramadan, and this will be punishment for Margaret Thatcher.”
This list goes on and on and on and on…. Pick a dictator… he’s suppressed the press, usually first by attacking its veracity.
Suppressing a free press is the HALLMARK of dictatorship. There is no such thing as a free press in an authoritarian society. NONE. Oh sure, there was an extensive underground news system in both Italy and Germany, and I suspect any other place where the fourth and fifth estate is suppressed. However, they aren’t really free, are they?
The founding fathers knew the dangers of a repressed press. They spoke against it time and time again; there is a reason the FIRST Amendment addresses the issue;
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
First Amendment, Bill of Rights.
“The liberty of the press is essential to the security of freedom in a state: it ought not, therefore, to be restrained in this commonwealth.”
John Adams, Samual Adams, James Bowdoin (1780)
Art. XVI Constition of the Commonwealth of Mass.
See those words, I sincerely wish that our founders had adopted those words to the First Amendment; it would put speech and expression on par with the Right to Bear arms. The liberty of the press is ESSENTIAL to the SECURITY OF FREEDOM. No greater truth has been spoken because the press is the FIRST WEAPON in the war against tyranny. This fact has been recognized time and again by our courts.
“…[T]he press serves and was designed to serve as a powerful antidote to any abuses of power by governmental officials [emph. added] and as a constitutionally chosen means for keeping officials elected by the people responsible to all the people whom they were selected to serve. Suppression of the right of the press to praise or criticize governmental agents and to clamor and contend for or against change, which is all that this editorial did, muzzles one of the very agencies the Framers of our Constitution thoughtfully and deliberately selected to improve our society and keep it free.”
“…a constitutionally chosen means…” Read those words again.
“…a constitutionally chosen means…” And again,
“…a constitutionally chosen means…“, and again,
“…A CONSTITUTIONALLY CHOSEN MEANS…”
The press is “…a constitutionally chosen means…” to prevent the government from becoming tyrants. Any government that attempts to remove or suppress this constitutionally chosen means of regulation of their behavior is trying to destroy that very same Constitution.
THUS, ANY GOVERNMENT THAT ATTEMPTS TO REPRESS THE PRESS IS AN ENEMY OF THE CONSTITUTION.
Hannah Arendt, the author of “On Revolution”, a seminal book on the nature of war that is a compliment to Clausewitz’s “On War,” said in an interview in 1974;
“The moment we no longer have a free press, anything can happen. What makes it possible for a totalitarian or any other dictatorship to rule is that people are not informed; how can you have an opinion if you are not informed? If everybody always lies to you, the consequence is not that you believe the lies, but rather that nobody believes anything any longer.”
“The press is your enemy,” Richard Nixon. Remember what Nixon was doing?
NOW, is there bullshit fake press out there? Of course there is. Both the founding fathers and numerous great intellectuals have addressed that as well;
“[T]he only plausible argument heretofore used for restraining the just freedom of the press, “that it was necessary to prevent the daily abuse of it,” will entirely lose it’s force, when it is shewn (by a seasonable exertion of the laws) that the press cannot be abused to any bad purpose, without incurring a suitable punishment: whereas it never can be used to any good one, when under the control of an inspector. So true will it be found, that to censure the licentiousness, is to maintain the liberty, of the press.”
William Blackstone, (Commentaries on the Laws of England, 1765-1769), Book the Fourth: Of Public Wrongs, page 151-152. (Side note: If you don’t know who William Blackstone is, then you probably don’t have the education necessary to comment on matters of law and government).
“Some degree of abuse is inseparable from the proper use of every thing, and in no instance is this more true than in that of the press. It has accordingly been decided by the practice of the States, that it is better to leave a few of its noxious branches to their luxuriant growth, than, by pruning them away, to injure the vigour of those yielding the proper fruits. And can the wisdom of this policy be doubted by any who reflect that to the press alone, chequered as it is with abuses, the world is indebted for all the triumphs which have been gained by reason and humanity over error and oppression; who reflect that to the same beneficent source the United States owe much of the lights which conducted them to the ranks of a free and independent nation, and which have improved their political system into a shape so auspicious to their happiness?”
James Madison, Report of 1800
But this White House, in an attempt to curtail criticism and to put a leash on the main stream press, is currently surrounding itself with the fake press claiming they are real. You cannot sell me a shit sandwich and call it peanut butter. The so-called president and his fascist handler Bannon, and his stooge Spicer, as well as others, are looking for self-censoring sycophants who will toe the party line and are punishing those of the press who aren’t simply kissing 45’s ample ass, or sucking his tiny hands. However, the So-Called president calling the press the “enemy of the people” – if that does not offend you, then I suggest that you are not patriot, but merely yet another of those sycophants and an enemy of democracy. Given that it’s VLADIMIR LENIN who coined the term, I have to wonder when 45’s going to try to outlaw all political parties except the GOP – or is he going to move straight to France’s policies during the Terrors and quote Robespierre in saying that the nation “owes nothing to the Enemies of the People (in this case, the press) but death.”
When that happens, and I believe it is coming, this country will fall from the precipice upon which it sits today and into a civil war that will make the War Between the States seem like a squabble at a family picnic.
This administraiton’s behavior towards the press, but only towards press that is critical of them, is a the greatest threat to democracy that has ever occurred in my lifetime.
There is a very, very simple solution. HE MUST GO.