Propaganda often presents a distressing fact and offers a solution. It works because many people are uncritical thinkers. They assume the fact is true and therefore support the corrective actions suggested. Propaganda is a mainstay in America today. But we were hardly the ones that invented it.

In the 1930s, the Nazis said that Jews were dirty, money-grubbing vermin, who were destroying the fabric of the German civilization, so they must be dealt with. The people agreed and cheered the destruction of this unpatriotic element.

Of course, the original assertion about the venality of Jews was false. However, in what has now become legend, Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels was purported to say (there was no evidence he actually did. But the point is still valid.)

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic, and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”

The American Office of Strategic Services (OSS — the precursor to the CIA) worked up a profile of Adolph Hitler in which they said

“His primary rules were: never allow the public to cool off; never admit a fault or wrong; never concede that there may be some good in your enemy; never leave room for alternatives; never accept blame; concentrate on one enemy at a time and blame him for everything that goes wrong; people will believe a big lie sooner than a little one, and if you repeat it frequently enough people will sooner or later believe it.”

In 21st-century America, conservatives have hammered home several big lies – including “gays have an agenda”, “liberals are communists”, “immigrants are criminals”, and “the election was stolen”.

Are conservatives the new Nazis? I hope not. But they use similar tactics. And their goal is fascism. Too much? I do not think so. German totalitarianism arose from democracy. In January 1933, Hitler, who never won a majority, used his 33% plurality to strong-arm the 85-year-old German President Paul von Hindenburg into naming him the Chancellor. In February, a fire damaged the Reichstag building. He persuaded Hindenburg to enact the ‘Reichstag Fire Decree, abolishing most civil liberties – including the right to speak, assemble, protest, and due process. Using voter intimidation, Hitler increased his vote share in that year’s election to 44%. He rammed the Enabling Act through a decimated Reichstag (he had outlawed much of the opposition), which placed all political power in the German cabinet and by extension, Hitler himself. The rest was bloody.

We smile knowingly at the inflated vote totals won by such “elected” rulers as Vladimir Putin and Saddam Hussein. But the lesson we should learn is that voting by itself does not equal democracy.

If you had asked Germans in 1933 what they thought Germany would be in 1945, few would have said a smoking ruin of a failed fascist state with half the country subsumed under a Soviet-controlled, totalitarian autocracy.

But that is how you decline from democracy to destruction in just over a decade. You start with the veneer of the rule of law. Then fix the elections to guarantee an outsized share of the vote. You prosecute your political opposition while flooding the country with propaganda. America today might be politically between the 1932 and 1933 elections in Germany. And the Republicans are laying down a thick layer of election-fraud propaganda and school-indoctrination disinformation.

Florida, led by wannabe strongman Ron DeSantis, is second to none in election-rigging. It is a megaphone warning of a gay/trans/black/socialist plot to corrupt American white youth. A plot to create footsoldiers for the Democratic war on ‘real Americans’, by destroying the country’s founding principles, the Constitution, religious freedom, and with Orwellian cynicism, democracy itself.

How bad is it? DeSantis vetoed the election map drawn by the Republican state legislature because it did not go far enough to disenfranchise Blacks. He proposed new maps that would give Republicans a 20-8 advantage in the Florida congressional delegation — up from the current 16-11 division.

Florida’s Department of Education (FDOE), nominally an apolitical department, is now a propaganda ministry extolling the Governor’s greatness. It is celebrating the bowdlerization of the state K-12 schools.  To this end, it released an announcement with the subtle-as-a-sledgehammer name “Florida Rejects Publishers’ Attempts to Indoctrinate Students”.  In highlighting the rejection of 41% of proposed textbooks the FDOE proudly announced,

“Florida has become a national leader in education under the vision and leadership of Governor DeSantis.”

And just in case you missed how great Florida and its Governor are, it included the following phrases,

“our nationally-recognized standards”

“a world-class education”

“Florida’s nationally-recognized education system”

“develop world-class education standards”

“high-quality, lawful and world-class instruction”

I appreciate tooting your own horn, but please. America’s education system is in the middle of the developed world’s pack. Florida’s education system is in the middle of the US state achievement standings. “World-class”, three times? “Nationally recognized”, twice? And “national leader”. Really?

The reasons FDOE gave for rejecting the textbooks included “references to Critical Race Theory (CRT) [not taught in K-12 schools], inclusions of Common Core [Common core sets goals. It does not write curricula], and the unsolicited addition of Social Emotional Learning (SEL) in mathematics [WTF?] (Bolded statements, my commentary.)

You know it is all bullshit. The FDOE provides no examples of how any rejected textbooks did anything the FDOE claims they did. I would be particularly interested in how a publisher shoehorned SEL into a math book. (Maybe something like: “Britney has 5 racist friends and 2 non-racist friends, what percent of her friends are bigots?”)

After the 2018 election, I felt America had dodged a bullet. There would be two more years of a disastrous presidency and then the American people would come to their senses. I was wrong — completely wrong. I did not understand the eagerness of conservative leaders to rip up the Constitution and abet law-breaking and insurrection. And I underestimated the willingness of many Americans to foreswear thinking and sign on to a disastrous future of fascism and decline.

Jesus wept.      

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This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.

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