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Posts Tagged ‘Fascism

“Those who control the past control the future”*…

 

Lindberg

 

Matt Seaton, editor of the New York Review of Books Daily, recounts his investigation into what might seem a small issue– the wording of a photo caption…

The photograph above appeared with Sarah Churchwell’s June 22 article for the Daily, “American Fascism: It Has Happened Here.” It shows Senator Burton K. Wheeler, former aviator Charles Lindbergh, and novelist and newspaper columnist Kathleen Norris at a rally in New York’s Madison Square Garden of the isolationist America First Committee (at right, mostly cropped out in this use, is also the pacifist minister and socialist Norman Thomas). Per the information from Getty Images with this photo, one of several similar images, our original caption in the piece read thus: Senator Burton K. Wheeler, Charles Lindbergh, and novelist Kathleen Norris giving the Nazi salute at an America First Committee rally, New York, October 30, 1941. (As can still be viewed via the Wayback Machine.)

A few days after publication, I received an email from a biographer of Wheeler that insisted the senator was not giving a Nazi salute; it was, he wrote, a “Bellamy salute,” a patriotic gesture to the American flag widely used at pledge of allegiance ceremonies. We should certainly correct our caption, I was told, since it was an unmerited slur against Wheeler, who was no fascist or anti-Semite.

We do, it is true, occasionally find errors of fact with captions from Getty—hardly surprising for one of the world’s most comprehensive photo archives, with some 200 million “assets.” If we have good reason to believe there is an error, we communicate that to Getty staff; they review our report, make their own assessment, and, if need be, correct the caption.

On this occasion, however, I was not persuaded of an error. While I could see that Wheeler’s gesture appeared half-hearted and not very Nazi, Lindbergh’s salute looked full-on fash to me.

But what of this Bellamy business?

The Bellamy salute is named for Francis Bellamy, a minister who, in 1892, wrote the American Pledge of Allegiance. A socialist and internationalist, he hoped that his original wording would be adopted by all nations (the words “of the United States of America” were added after “Flag” only in 1923; and “under God” was later added after “one nation,” during the Eisenhower administration, the better to ward off godless Communists). Bellamy also described the physical gesture to accompany the pledge-taking; hence the Bellamy salute.

A quick search of Getty stock for flag salutes from the first half of the twentieth century revealed plenty of images of mainly young people saluting the flag with either a conventional military salute (crooked arm, hand to the forehead) or the also-familiar hand-on-heart; only a few showed Bellamy salutes, from around the turn of the century, with the straight, outstretched arm, though also generally with the palm open, not facing downward. So I advised the biographer that he should take up the issue directly with Getty, rather than with us. And I said the same when, a few days later, I received a similar remonstration from another teacher and author, who also happened to be a great-grandson of Burton K. Wheeler.

A couple of weeks later, I heard back from the Wheeler biographer, notifying me that Getty had agreed to amend its caption. I checked the new wording, which was now uncommonly long and detailed for an archive photo, with the following sentence added: “They are giving the Bellamy Salute, which was replaced by the hand-over-heart salute the following year, because of concerns about its similarity to the Nazi ,or fascist salute, used in Italy and Germany.” Well, I wasn’t going to quibble over a misplaced comma, and I did update the caption in Churchwell’s—by removing any statement about what kind of salute this was.

But I was perturbed: I felt that Getty had accepted too readily the lobbying of one person (or possibly two, if the Wheeler relative was also a party to the effort), and I worried that the scenario in the photograph—which seemed, on its face, dubious and equivocal at best—had been declared far too affirmatively in one direction…

And so Mr. Seaton went to work… what he learned is both historically important and painfully timely: Saluting the Flag.

* George Orwell, 1984

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As we face history, we might (or might not) send birthday greetings to Henry Ford; he was born on this date in 1863.  Founder of the Ford Motor Company, he was a chief developer of the assembly line technique of mass production.  By creating the first automobile that middle-class Americans could afford, he converted the automobile from an expensive curiosity into an accessible conveyance that profoundly impacted the landscape of the 20th century.

Ford was also a fellow-traveler of Lindbergh, a ferocious anti-Semite who used his  newspaper, The Dearborn Independent, to publish the fabricated The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and a series of his own essays that were subsequently collected into a book, The International Jew, which Ford distributed in English, and had translated into German (where the subtitle “the World’s Foremost Problem” was added)– where it became a powerful influence on the development of Nazi thought.  Indeed, Ford is the only American mentioned favorably in Mein Kampf.

220px-Henry_ford_1919 source

 

“The illustrations in children’s books are the first paintings most children see”*…

 

American student Barbara Donahue (then Barbara Finlay) lived in Italy between August 1937 and March 1938, when she was 7 and 8 years old. She attended a Catholic school, the Istituto Vittoria Colonna, in Milan. There, she was issued these small soft-covered government-produced student notebooks, decorated with colorful, dramatic illustrations…

Barbara Finlay’s Italian education came at the tail end of a complicated 20-year project meant to teach loyalty to the Fascist regime in the country’s schools. Bill Donahue asked his mother to remember the curriculum she encountered. “It was all indoctrination published by the government,” Barbara told him. (He recorded her memories and sent them to me in an email.)

The textbooks said that Italy should have Ethiopia and that Mussolini was bringing prosperity back to Italy, developing farmland, building roads, and getting the trains to run on time. In one of the notebooks, there were two kids side by side. One is doing something patriotic [she can’t remember what], the other isn’t. You’re supposed to figure out which one is better. It isn’t too hard…

More illustrations from the notebooks, and more of the backstory, at “Illustrated Propaganda for Elementary-School Students in Mussolini’s Italy.”

* Anthony Browne

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As we note that the current presidential campaign is the first political experience that many children are having, we might recall that, while across the U.S. many are wearing green in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, it is also “Italian Unification Day”– the anniversary of the proclamation, in 1861, of the Kingdom of Italy. The “Risorgimento” had begun in 1815, and continued until 1871 (when Rome, which was named Italy’s capital in 1861, though it wasn’t then yet part of the Kingdom, finally entered); but in late 1860, Cavour and Garibaldi made a deal to join North and South, and to name Victor Emmanuel II as king– which was enough for the (new) Parliament to make its proclamation.

Induno’s “Proclamation of the Kingdom of Italy and the first Italian Parliament,” 1861

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Written by LW

March 17, 2016 at 1:01 am

“TWO AND TWO MAKES FIVE”*…

 

George Orwell and Aldous Huxley

In October of 1949, a few months after the release of George Orwell‘s dystopian masterpiece, 1984, he received a letter from fellow author (and Orwell’s French tutor at Eton) Aldous Huxley — who had, 17 years earlier, published his own grim vision of society’s future, Brave New World.  What begins as a letter of praise becomes a comparison of the two novels– and an explanation of why Huxley believes his own, earlier work to be the more realistic prediction…

Wrightwood. Cal.
21 October, 1949

Dear Mr. Orwell,

It was very kind of you to tell your publishers to send me a copy of your book. It arrived as I was in the midst of a piece of work that required much reading and consulting of references; and since poor sight makes it necessary for me to ration my reading, I had to wait a long time before being able to embark on Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Agreeing with all that the critics have written of it, I need not tell you, yet once more, how fine and how profoundly important the book is. May I speak instead of the thing with which the book deals — the ultimate revolution? The first hints of a philosophy of the ultimate revolution — the revolution which lies beyond politics and economics, and which aims at total subversion of the individual’s psychology and physiology — are to be found in the Marquis de Sade, who regarded himself as the continuator, the consummator, of Robespierre and Babeuf. The philosophy of the ruling minority in Nineteen Eighty-Four is a sadism which has been carried to its logical conclusion by going beyond sex and denying it. Whether in actual fact the policy of the boot-on-the-face can go on indefinitely seems doubtful. My own belief is that the ruling oligarchy will find less arduous and wasteful ways of governing and of satisfying its lust for power, and these ways will resemble those which I described in Brave New World. I have had occasion recently to look into the history of animal magnetism and hypnotism, and have been greatly struck by the way in which, for a hundred and fifty years, the world has refused to take serious cognizance of the discoveries of Mesmer, Braid, Esdaile, and the rest.

Partly because of the prevailing materialism and partly because of prevailing respectability, nineteenth-century philosophers and men of science were not willing to investigate the odder facts of psychology for practical men, such as politicians, soldiers and policemen, to apply in the field of government. Thanks to the voluntary ignorance of our fathers, the advent of the ultimate revolution was delayed for five or six generations. Another lucky accident was Freud’s inability to hypnotize successfully and his consequent disparagement of hypnotism. This delayed the general application of hypnotism to psychiatry for at least forty years. But now psycho-analysis is being combined with hypnosis; and hypnosis has been made easy and indefinitely extensible through the use of barbiturates, which induce a hypnoid and suggestible state in even the most recalcitrant subjects.

Within the next generation I believe that the world’s rulers will discover that infant conditioning and narco-hypnosis are more efficient, as instruments of government, than clubs and prisons, and that the lust for power can be just as completely satisfied by suggesting people into loving their servitude as by flogging and kicking them into obedience. In other words, I feel that the nightmare of Nineteen Eighty-Four is destined to modulate into the nightmare of a world having more resemblance to that which I imagined in Brave New World. The change will be brought about as a result of a felt need for increased efficiency. Meanwhile, of course, there may be a large scale biological and atomic war — in which case we shall have nightmares of other and scarcely imaginable kinds.

Thank you once again for the book.

Yours sincerely,

Aldous Huxley

Source: Letters of Aldous Huxley, (via Letters of Note); image: George Orwell (via) & Aldous Huxley (via).

* George Orwell, 1984

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As we reach for the Soma, we might recall that it was on this date in 1919 that Benito Mussolini reformed the Milan fascio (literally, “bundle” or Sheaf”; here, a small political party) as the Fasci Italiani di Combattimento (Italian Combat Party).  Its 200 members, answering Mussolini’s call for men “ruthless and energetic enough to make a clean sweep,” were the seed from which the Italian Fascist Movement grew.

The platform of Fasci italiani di combattimento, as published in Il Popolo d’Italia in 1919

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Mussolini a few years later, in his self-proclaimed role as Il Duce (The Leader).

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Written by LW

March 23, 2015 at 1:01 am

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