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April 10, 2009 11:26 AM   Subscribe

In Our Own Backyard: Resisting Nazi Propaganda In Southern California 1933 - 1945, a digital exhibition from the Oviatt Library at Cal State Northridge. "The Nazi Propaganda period, 1933 to 1945, chronicles a crucial twelve years in American history. This exhibit's story about the local threat to American ideals demonstrates how European events reached across the ocean and affected people in Southern California -- in our own backyard." Magazines, pamphlets, newspapers, stickers and more.

The site navigation, especially as pertains to the digital materials, leaves a good deal to be desired, but it's still a fascinating look at an aspect of the Depression era most people don't think about. [via, which is in itself one of the best link blogs out there, from (formerly?) Metafilter's Own™ plep ]
posted by dersins (33 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
Wow, swap "librul" for "Jew" and "communist" for "terrorist" on that sticker and you've got the rightwing propaganda of today.
posted by DU at 11:46 AM on April 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Thanks DU. That's sure to help a discussion of Nazi propaganda in Depression-era Southern California go well.
posted by dersins at 11:49 AM on April 10, 2009


I was thinking exactly the same thing as DU. You can't discuss Nazi propaganda without comparing it to its modern-day equivalents--the messaging and marketing is almost identical.
posted by mattdidthat at 11:56 AM on April 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Actually, I was going to say something along the lines of what DU said, only using the term "socialist". I don't think it's out of line to compare right-wing propagandists of today with the propagandists of the '30s. The conditions under which unhappy people to look for scapegoats certainly exist today.
posted by oneirodynia at 11:58 AM on April 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Hmm, I sliced an entire bit out of that sentence somehow:

The conditions under which unhappy people feel a need to look for scapegoats certainly exist today.
posted by oneirodynia at 12:00 PM on April 10, 2009


Don't be stupid
Be a smarty
Come and trash
Obama's party
posted by hal9k at 12:02 PM on April 10, 2009 [3 favorites]


I don't think it's out of line to compare right-wing propagandists of today with the propagandists of the '30s.

I can see the point of course (and frankly don't entirely disagree), but civil discourse is seldom aided by comparing those with whom one disagrees to Nazis. I'm just sayin'.
posted by dersins at 12:03 PM on April 10, 2009


I didn't go into the links even thinking about modern day. I just clicked on "sticker" and was like...whoa, flashback.

Also, the words "nazi" and "propaganda" and the swastika are so immediately negative now that I had a really hard time figuring out the "and more" link. I guess it's supposed to be pro-Nazi. But an octopus with nazi starred eyes doesn't really get that across anymore...
posted by DU at 12:24 PM on April 10, 2009


I can see the point of course (and frankly don't entirely disagree), but civil discourse is seldom aided by comparing those with whom one disagrees to Nazis. I'm just sayin'.

Uh, what? I saw DU's remark as being relevant to political language and scapegoating. I realize you're keeping a close watch on this because you posted a topic that has like a 67% likelihood of going all pear-shaped, but assuming that DU meant rightwingers are Nazis right off the bat is not exactly heading that off at the pass.
posted by oneirodynia at 12:30 PM on April 10, 2009


Also: Thanks for posting this, as 've just been reading about the rise of the KKK in Depression era Oakland. It's an interesting historic correlation.
posted by oneirodynia at 12:32 PM on April 10, 2009


We will undermine the morale of the people of America. . .. Once there is confusion and after we have succeeded in undermining the faith of the American people in their own government, a new group will take over; this will be the Christian-American group, and we will help them to assume power.
-- Rush Limbaugh, 2009
that was way to easy.
posted by klanawa at 12:40 PM on April 10, 2009


The Plot Against America
posted by acro at 12:51 PM on April 10, 2009


Tangential datapoint: I can't find any online references now, but I remember reading about some southern Californian skateboarders who got German World War I soldier outfits and decided to ride around dressed like German soldiers.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:55 PM on April 10, 2009


Well, there are a lot of similarities between Nazis and either US party on the surface, but it's hard to see them as anything but superficial. Germany in the late 19th century had a sort of shifting policy of hating the "other", sure, but this had more to do with silencing the opponents of German unification rather than any true acrimony towards a particular group. Germany as a state coalesced in 1870 or 1871 as the German Empire, although there were still holdouts for each of the principalities. (An aside: Deutschlandlied, the poem that would later become Germany's anthem, which is infamous for the line "Deutschland, Deutschland ueber alles, ueber alles in der Welt" was describing the idea that the states of Bavaria, Prussia, et. al. were better off united, similar to Franklin's cartoon motto "Join or Die".) Later, of course, this policy would slide into racial hatred, so it's definitely the start of something bad.

The policies that would put the Nazis into total power were a result of shortsighted policies stretching back to the Empire, ineffective and toadying leadership, and the crippling terms of the Versailles Treaty. The treaty especially, as it saddled Germany with virtually unlimited debt and gave Germany a national sense of true shame. This national shame was so deeply felt that it would take a real "international bully" to ever lift the country out of its malaise, and Hitler was just the man to fill that role. He restored German pride by restoring armies, by breaking clauses of the treaty left and right before he ever had a national government.

This is a lot of justification for my position, which, in short, is this: Any time somebody sincerely compares the Nazis to either American party, it's safe to dismiss their opinion.
posted by boo_radley at 1:02 PM on April 10, 2009 [3 favorites]


I guess it's supposed to be pro-Nazi. But an octopus with nazi starred eyes doesn't really get that across anymore...

Maybe this was a more common notion in that era, as there's a book entitled: The Nazi octopus in South America (by Hugo Fernandez Artucio, published in 1943). It seems the US was worried about Germany's influences spreading up from South America (for a bit more, see this Google Books excerpt).
posted by filthy light thief at 1:03 PM on April 10, 2009


When I was living in Southern California in the 70s I was approached by some Nazis who handed me a pamphlet entitled: Are You Tired of Being Called A Honky?
Now, no one ever had called me a honky, but these people were indeed honkies and their association with the group was the only reason anyone was using that term to describe them.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 1:20 PM on April 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


When I saw NIOBY I couldn't help but think of this.
posted by vanadium at 2:19 PM on April 10, 2009


Magazines.

Born down in a dead man's town
The first kick I took was when I hit the ground
You end up like a dog that's been beat too much
'Til you spend half your life just covering up

Jew in the U.S.A.
Jew in the U.S.A.
Jew in the U.S.A.
Jew in the U.S.A.
posted by cjets at 2:24 PM on April 10, 2009


Nazi, qua National Socialist German Worker's Party, doesn't compare more than superficially to either Republican or Democratic parties that we know today. But the Nazis were solidly anti-communist during this period, (and all periods, so far as they existed) and this was an attitude that found a lot of serious sympathy among a lot of Americans then. The American parties have drifted hither and yon over the last 200 years, and the wealth, size and comparatively young age, of our country has made the possibility of a movement as monolithic and effective as the Nazi nil. But it is a mistake to bundle up everything the Nazi said and did and stood for and send it off into the desert never to be seen again, as though we should not refer to it as we try to understand what is happening around us today.
posted by carping demon at 2:42 PM on April 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Any time somebody sincerely compares the Nazis to either American party, it's safe to dismiss their opinion."

You know who else used to ...uh... I got nothin'
posted by Smedleyman at 2:44 PM on April 10, 2009


Previous post on New York Nazis in the '30s.
posted by kirkaracha at 2:46 PM on April 10, 2009


Fascinating post, thanks. And I second acro's recommendation for the linked Philip Roth novel.

boo_radley: You seem to be missing the point that this is about American Nazis and sympathizers, who do not have the excuse of "shortsighted policies stretching back to the Empire, ineffective and toadying leadership, and the crippling terms of the Versailles Treaty" (to the extent that those can be considered an excuse for the Germans).

Also, where the hell is plep? Come back, plep!
posted by languagehat at 2:47 PM on April 10, 2009


boo_radley : Any time somebody sincerely compares the Nazis to either American party, it's safe to dismiss their opinion.

Normally I'd agree with you, but in this particular case, specifically in the context of the propaganda techniques used, I think there are some interesting and valid comparisons to be drawn.

There are some similarities between the modern "liberal", "socialist" stuff and the earlier pro-Nazi works, so much so that one almost has to admire the fact that the techniques from more than 70 years ago could still be fairly effectively deployed today.

The Nazis were a lot of bad things, but to their credit (and damnation for how they used it...) they were really very good at crafting a gut grabbing message.
posted by quin at 3:05 PM on April 10, 2009


languagehat, that's true. I got carried away with the comments here, and wound up addressing nothing about the linked material.

quin, Nazi techniques for propaganda do continue right down to this day, that's very true. In particular, the fact that the Nazis virtually never stopped campaigning was a huge break with tradition. Hitler was notable for flying all over Germany to appear personally in local rallies. A lot could be said for how Nazis worked to intertwine their politics with entertainment, too. The point that I was making is that people who make the comparison typically do so with the intent of comparing goals, not methods.
posted by boo_radley at 4:05 PM on April 10, 2009


I dunno, boo_radley... my german aunt, whose family has more stories about living under the Nazi regime than you could possibly dream of, whose sister WALKED back from the russian front after the front collapsed, along with about 30,000 other nurses & support staff, whose father was run out of town for not going along with the party line, whose family housed soldiers from FOUR different armies at one point or another, etc etc etc etc, has a lot to say about the awful similarities between certain current aspects of the far right wing of American politics and the shit that went down in Germany in the 1930's and 1940's.

Her opinions are pretty hard to dismiss, and I'm going to wager that it's most likely not safe to do so, either.

You want to tell me she doesn't know what she's talking about?
posted by Aquaman at 4:36 PM on April 10, 2009


Yikes, this explains things I've seen and some of the people I've met in Southern California. Thanks for this.
posted by peppito at 4:36 PM on April 10, 2009


In light of some of the backroom deals being made as our economy weakens, there are definite historical parallels between Nazi Germany policy and Bush/Obama policy with regards to corporatism and attacks on labor unions, both hallmarks of classical Fascism.

Then, Nazi Germany worked hand in hand with big business to rebuild the country's industrial production, while punishing labor unions with crimes against the state.

Now, we have our government bailing out the financial sector to the tune of trillions, mortgaging taxpayer indemnity to the benefit of big business, while using the economy as an excuse to further dismantle labor unions such as the UAW.

This is not to say that Bush and Obama are Nazis, but given the propaganda that comes out of CNBC, WSJ, FOX News regarding the evils of socialism and labor unions, it would be foolish to ignore the historical similarities and the classically Fascist aspects of these actions, as much as it is foolish to ignore the important role that propaganda — whether delivered by the state directly, or through its pseudo-private media outlets — plays in maintaining and concentrating control in fewer hands:

In their march to power in Germany, Italy, and Japan, the classic fascists were not stupid enough to concentrate on subverting democratic machinery alone. They aimed their main attack, rather, against the nongovernment organizations most active in using and improving that machinery; namely, the labor movement and the political parties rooted in it. [emph. added] In Germany, where these organizations seemed immensely powerful, many German leaders thought that even with Adolf Hitler as chancellor, fascism could make little headway. They underestimated the Nazis and their Big Business backers. "All at once," observed Karl Polanyi, the historian, "the tremendous industrial and political organizations of labor and other devoted upholders of constitutional freedom would melt away, and minute fascist forces would brush aside what seemed until then the overwhelming strength of democratic governments, parties and trade unions."

In most First World democracies a slow meltdown has already started. As I pointed out in "The Take-Off toward a New Corporate Society", conglomerate or transnational corporations expand beyond the scope of any labor unions yet invented. In the more narrow spheres where labor organization is well established, the unions have usually been absorbed into the Establishment's junior and contingent levels, often becoming instruments for disciplining workers. As the work force has become more educated, sophisticated, and professionalized, many labor leaders have become stuffy bureaucrats, unable to communicate with their members, and terrified at the thought of widespread worker participation in the conduct of union affairs. Some of them have been open practitioners of racism, sexism, and ageism. The media have done their bit by exaggerating the power of organized labor and the extent of labor union racketeering and corruption. The new class of conservative intellectuals, in turn, has launched devastating attacks on labor unions as interferences with the "free market" and as the real villains behind high prices and low productivity. All these factors have contributed to a major loosening of the ties between organized labor and the intellectuals, ties that are quickly replaced by grants, contracts, and favors from foundations and government agencies.

In the Third World countries of dependent fascism, antilabor activity has become much more blatant. There the response to trade unions is vigorous resort to the old-time methods used in Western Europe and America during the nineteenth century: armed union-busters, police and military intervention, machine guns, large-scale arrests, torture, even assassination. In countries like Argentina, Chile, Brazil, South Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, Zaire, and many others, these measures have proved decisive in attracting transnational investment and keeping wages down. They have also helped beat back the forces of socialism and communism in these countries.

Although First World establishments have generally supported (and often braintrusted) this kind of action in the Third World, I do not foresee them resorting to the same strategies at home. The logic of friendly fascism calls, rather, for a slow and gradual melting away of organized labor and its political influence.

At the outset of the 1980s, major steps in this direction are already under way in the United States. They are being worked out by an impressive array of in-house labor relations staffs in the larger corporations and of out-house consulting firms made up of superslick lawyers, personnel psychologists, and specialists in the conduct of anti-union campaigns. The efforts of these groups are backed up by sectoral, regional, and national trade associations, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the Business Roundtable, and a long series of "objective" studies commissioned either by these groups or the new "think tanks" of the Radical Right.

The heat for the meltdown is applied on four major fronts. First, the union-busters operate on the principle of containing labor organization to those places where unions already exist. This requires strenuous efforts to preserve a "union-free environment" in the South, in small towns, and among white-collar, technical, and migratory workers. When efforts are made to extend unionism into one of these areas, the union-busters come in to help the managers conduct psychological warfare. Often, the core of such a campaign is "the mobilization of supervisors as an anti-union organizing committee." Each supervisor may be asked to report back to a consultant, often daily, about the reactions of employees. There may be as many as twenty to twenty-five meetings with each employee during a union campaign. In one successful campaign at Saint Elizabeth's hospital outside of Boston, according to Debra Hauser, the methods used included the discriminatory suspension or firing of five union activists; surveillance, isolation, interrogation and harassment of other pro-union employees; and misrepresentation of the collective bargaining process by top management. "This resulted in the creation of an atmosphere of hysteria in the hospital."

A second front is the dissolution of unions already in operation. Construction companies have found that this can be done by "double-breasting"-that is, by dividing into two parts, one operating under an existing union contract and the other part employing nonunion labor. The unions themselves can be dissolved through "decertification," a legal process whereby the workers can oust a union that already represents them. Under the National Labor Relations Law, management cannot directly initiate a decertification petition. But managers have learned how to circumvent the law and have such petitions filed "spontaneously" by employees. They have also learned how to set the stage for deunionization by forcing unions out on strikes that turn out to be destructively costly to both the unions and their members.

The third front is labor legislation. In many states the business lobbies have obtained legislation which-under the label of "right-to-work" laws -make union shops or closed shops illegal. Nationally, they are trying to repeal the Davis-Bacon Act (which maintains prevailing union wage rates on government-sponsored construction) and impose greater restrictions on peaceful picketing.

...

This slow melting away of labor's organized force has not been a free lunch. It has cost money-lots of it.

But the consequences have also been large: a reduction in the relative power of organized labor vis-a-vis organized business. Anybody who thinks this reduction is felt only at the bargaining table would be making a serious error. Its consequences have been extremely widespread.

posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:44 PM on April 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Dennis Hopper says He's Alive.
posted by timsteil at 4:51 PM on April 10, 2009


DU's Law: As a political party gets compared to Nazis more and more often, the probability that the similarity will be glibly dismissed as an "overreaction" approaches unity.
posted by DU at 5:41 PM on April 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


via, which is in itself one of the best link blogs out there, from (formerly?) Metafilter's Own™ plep

Yeah, plep is awesome. It's too bad he doesn't hang around here much anymore.
posted by homunculus at 5:49 PM on April 10, 2009


Not "a political party", but any political party, DU. There have certainly been instances of Democrats or progressives calling prominent Republicans Nazis as well.
posted by boo_radley at 7:17 PM on April 10, 2009


Here are some free books for anti fascist research
posted by hortense at 7:17 PM on April 10, 2009


my german aunt, whose family has more stories about living under the Nazi regime than you could possibly dream of

Let me guess, do the stories involve extreme fortitude and noble resistance to the reigning powers?

whose sister WALKED back from the russian front after the front collapsed, along with about 30,000 other nurses & support staff, whose father was run out of town for not going along with the party line,

Check, and check! Funny, my family stories are also 90% heroes.

Certainly there would be a vested interest, for someone who was there, in establishing the ordinariness of the Nazi party's goals and rhetoric. The implication: "Who could have known?"

Her opinions are pretty hard to dismiss

I'm feeling okay, actually!
posted by palliser at 11:52 AM on April 11, 2009


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