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Gerald Early

The White Man's Burden

"What is America," Hitler once said to one of his seconds, "but millionaires, beauty queens, stupid records, and Hollywood?" It is an observation that has often been made about the United States, not quite accurate, but not without its merits. What Hitler disliked about the United States was not its ideology (I suppose he assumed it never had a self-respecting ideology worthy of a mature, "racially pure" people) but rather its popular culture, the great leveler of taste, tradition, and thought, the force that unraveled ideology by stating simplistically that what is popular is what is important.

This is made clear in many passages in Mein Kampf; for instance, when Hitler speaks of the destruction of the German working classes: "Day by day, in the theater and in the movies, in backstairs literature and the yellow press, [the bourgeoisie] see the poison poured into the people by bucketfuls, and then they are amazed at the low 'moral content,' the 'national indifference,' of the masses of the people." So Hitler saw the German working classes on the verge of the same abyss that had claimed the Americans: cheap popular culture, empty of anything but distraction and sensation, reducing life from the heroic exercise of the will and the fulfillment of historical destiny to an escape from boredom and lassitude.

In 1962, George Lincoln Rockwell, founder of the American Nazi Party, said in a speech at Carleton College, "In between the Nazis and the Communists is the great mass of non-fanatics, the TV watchers and the comic book readers." In between the two great warring ideologies was the wasteland of the uncommitted, the unaware, the uninvolved, the great masses sleepwalking through history, drugged by advertising (a field in which Rockwell once worked, which may explain his cynicism), frustrated by falsely generated and irrelevant desires, and satiated by cheap, useless consumer goods.

Rockwell, like Hitler, had a low regard for the taste of the masses. (At the height of his notoriety ...

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