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Totalitarianism By ‘Hundreds Of Little Steps’

Signs in shop windows were part of how the Nazis prepared the German people for the Holocaust (Photo by Visual Studies Workshop/Getty Images)

From a German who lived through Nazism:

“But the one great shocking occasion, when tens or hundreds or thousands will join with you, never comes. That’s the difficulty. If the last and worst act of the whole regime had come immediately after the first and smallest, thousands, yes, millions would have been sufficiently shocked — if, let us say, the gassing of the Jews in ’43 had come immediately after the ‘German Firm’ stickers on the windows of non-Jewish shops in ’33. But of course this isn’t the way it happens. In between come all the hundreds of little steps, some of them imperceptible, each of them preparing you not to be shocked by the next. Step C is not so much worse than Step B, and, if you did not make a stand at Step B, why should you at Step C? And so on to Step D.

“And one day, too late, your principles, if you were ever sensible of them, all rush in upon you. The burden of self-deception has grown too heavy, and some minor incident, in my case my little boy, hardly more than a baby, saying ‘Jew swine,’ collapses it all at once, and you see that everything, everything, has changed and changed completely under your nose. The world you live in—your nation, your people—is not the world you were born in at all. The forms are all there, all untouched, all reassuring, the houses, the shops, the jobs, the mealtimes, the visits, the concerts, the cinema, the holidays. But the spirit, which you never noticed because you made the lifelong mistake of identifying it with the forms, is changed. Now you live in a world of hate and fear, and the people who hate and fear do not even know it themselves; when everyone is transformed, no one is transformed. Now you live in a system which rules without responsibility even to God. The system itself could not have intended this in the beginning, but in order to sustain itself it was compelled to go all the way.”

Milton Mayer, “They thought they were free: the Germans, 1933-1945” (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2017 [1955])

I got this via a reader who sent me this link from Steve Perisho.

An advance reader of Live Not By Lies (<– pre-order via that link) wrote over the weekend:

I am a deacon in [deleted] Church, and I received an advanced digital copy of your book. I just wanted to let you know how much of an inspiring and challenging read it was. It reminded me that I have a lot of work to do spiritually (by the Grace of God!) to prepare for the long fight ahead.
Thank you for all the work that you do, your blog has been indispensable in keeping me sane the past couple of months. I can’t tell you how many conservative Christian friends that I grew up with have gone off the deep end on this wokeness stuff. I don’t mean that they’re just anti-Trump or are just to the left of me politically. I mean intensely “anti-racist” to the point where, by reading their Facebook posts, I don’t even recognize them anymore. They almost sound possessed. It’s terrifying and heartbreaking at the same time.
Keep up the good fight! Please pray for me.
Is this happening to you too? I mean, are you noticing your friends behaving in extreme, hard-to-explain ways? A few of you regular commenters here have indicated in your comments on various threads that this is happening in your lives.
One of my sources for Live Not By Lies, an immigrant to America from a Soviet bloc nation, wrote me recently to lament what has happened to one of his American-born children, now in college. He said that a lifetime of growing up in his household, listening to his stories about his communist childhood, had done no good. She is now as militantly woke as any other kid raised in prosperous suburban Blue America; he said that he would not be surprised if she one day denounced him to the authorities, as young people in his native country were encouraged to do to their parents under communism.
Do not forget what the political scientist Zach Goldberg found when he did a Lexis/Nexis database dive on the media’s use of certain key words and concepts. Read the whole thing here. Excerpts:

For the last seven years, the media have been marinating the public mind in these concepts. How did this all of a sudden start happening around 2013? Why did it take off like a rocketship across the media? In between come all the hundreds of little steps, some of them imperceptible, each of them preparing you not to be shocked by the next…

 

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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