This blog isn’t about the industry so if you only care about industry stuff you can pass on this. I’m currently working my way through the Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. It’s a monster book published 50 years ago when the events were still fresh in the authors mind. It’s a fabulous book, I speak passable German and I have visited that fascinating country many times. I have always been fascinated by WW2 (my parents lived through it and most of my uncles saw active service against Rommel and on D Day) so I have been fascinated by the detail and depth of this amazing book.
However, as the detail gets more intense I’m finding it increasingly disturbing. It’s all too easy in the politically charged world we inhabit to throw around ridiculous parallels, this guy is a socialist or that guy is a terrorist name calling is the common place of talk radio and has been for a while. This book was written just about when I was born…in a very different time, long before the kind of thought experiments and media saturation we all live with today. What I found truly disturbing are the parallels between the approaches employed by the Nazis in pre-war Europe and our modern political landscape. Obviously it’s not reasonable to compare the excesses of the third Reich to modern America (although we have seen similar mass murder and abridgement of human rights many times since the war around the world) rather it’s the poisonous thinking which was adopted wholesale by the Nazis to further their political goals which strikes a chord.
Here are a few examples: Science can and should be politicized, it the data doesn’t support your political position it must be wrong or fabricated and denied. I’d cite global warming, evolution and women’s health as just three current examples. The recent furor around the appalling Todd Atkin is just one example. That wasn’t him making (wrong) facts up that was him quoting a widely held ‘scientific’ opinion much touted by his peers on the right. There were a handful of crazy experiments around women and conception in super stressed conditions (the most notable conducted of course by Nazis in death camps) where women were scientifically terrified and then their fertility was assessed. I kid you not. The fact that this kind of evil pointless shallow science happened is awful…that it is still quoted and believed by many today is worse. I won’t waste your time by railing at the madness of creationism masquerading as intelligent design but I’m prepared to bet that if I took a poll of the fifty people physically nearest to me right now a good 20% of them would at least support the teaching of that crack-pot theory on the curriculum.
Watching coverage on the 24×7 news channels it becomes clearer every day that the reality of an issue shouldn’t get in the way of how it’s presented. If the facts don’t fit the agenda then change them, nobody will check and even if they do the story will have moved on by the time anyone finds out. I was raised in the UK where the political climate is significantly to the left of the US. I chose to live here so I guess I shouldn’t complain….but I move over here during Clinton I when the political discourse was altogether more civil.
As I continue to read this excellent book the echoes of that long gone age are striking and eerie. It doesn’t matter that you have no facts or that your facts are twisted, it doesn’t matter that your opinion goes against inherent moral principles. Average Germans manned the machines which nearly brought our civilization down. Average Germans scheduled the railways which took the Jews to the camps; average Germans lined the streets and waved. That happened in the memory of my parents, yet so few years later we watch as the same kind of calculated ignorance, pandering, deception and dissembling is becoming our political norm.
We know where this could end….and we have a really good book to serve as a tour guide.