A short, anti-Nazi film titled “Don’t Be A Sucker” has reemerged in the wake of last weekend’s deadly white supremacist rallies in Charlottesville.
Produced by the US war department in 1943 and released two years after the end of World War II, the film was a warning to Americans not to fall for fascist rhetoric — and to condemn it even if you’re not among those directly under attack.
The film opens with an agitated man handing out pamphlets and yelling to a crowd from a podium about the threat posed to “real Americans” by black people, “foreigners,” Catholics, and Free Masons.
“I see foreigners with money,” the man shouts. “I see negroes holding jobs that belong to me and you. Now I ask you, if we allow this thing to go on, what’s going to become of us real Americans?”
The clip was posted to Twitter on Saturday night by an anthropologist named Michael Oman-Reagan, who said the post-World War II film was made “to teach citizens how to avoid falling for people like Trump.” It had been retweeted over 122,000 times by Monday morning.
The rhetoric, which the film and World War II’s allied forces endeavoured to eliminate, is virtually indistinguishable from that of white supremacists and neo-Nazis today.
“America belongs to white men,” white supremacist Richard Spencer, who coined the term “alt-right” and helped organise the “Unite The Right” rally, told a crowd at Texas A&M University in December.
“Our people haven’t had a voice since 1860,” white supremacist Matthew Heimbach, who was slated to speak at the rally, said in 2013. “The system can’t be reformed, nor should we try to do so … We’ve tried every avenue to try to resolve the [race] issue.”
President Donald Trump frequently fanned the flames of xenophobia along the campaign trail, villifying immigrants and Muslims while proclaiming that “we’ve got to bring our country back.”
“They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists,” Trump said of Mexican immigrants when announcing his candidacy in June 2015. “And some, I assume, are good people.”
Months later, Trump called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”
In the film — which can be viewed in full in the War Department’s archives — an older man with a faint accent remarks to a fellow onlooker that he’s “heard this kind of talk before, but I never expected to hear it in America.”
“I don’t know, makes pretty good sense to me,” the onlooker replies, as he flips through a pamphlet.
The red-faced orator continues: “We’ll never be able to call this country our own until it’s a country without. Without what? Without negroes. Without alien foreigners. Without Catholics. Without Free Masons … these are your enemies. These are the people who are trying to take over our country. And it’s up to you and me to fight them.”
At the mention of “Free Masons,” the once-sympathetic onlooker turns indignant.
“What’s wrong with the Masons?” he asks. “I’m a Mason.”
The crowd ultimately turns on the pontificator, waving him off as they turn to walk away. But the man with the accent confronts the Mason.
“Before he said ‘Masons,’ you were ready to agree with him,” he says. “I have seen what this kind of talk can do. I have seen it in Berlin.”
Trump’s remarks about the protests in Charlottesville, on Friday — in which he denounced violence “on all sides” rather than explicitly condemning white supremacism — were celebrated by neo-Nazis, who praised the fact that the president “outright refused to disavow” the white nationalist rally and movement.
Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch was one of several Republicans to implicitly criticise Trump’s comments.
“We should call evil by its name,” Hatch tweeted. “My brother didn’t give his life fighting Hitler for Nazi ideas to go unchallenged here at home.”
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