Quoting Hitler an example of the shift on the right

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Last week, an Indiana chapter of Moms for Liberty, a nonprofit organization that advocates for “parental rights” in education, ended up apologizing and condemning Adolf Hitler after previously using a quote from the racist and anti-Semitic Nazi leader in its newsletter.

“We condemn Adolf Hitler’s actions and his dark place in human history,” read a statement from chapter chair Paige Miller on the cover of the revised newsletter. “We should not have quoted him in our newsletter and express our deepest apology.”

The group was recently labeled as an extremist group by the Southern Poverty Law Center in its annual 2022 Year in Hate and Extremism report. The initial version of the newsletter included the quote, “He alone, who OWNS the youth, GAINS the future,” and cited Hitler. While the origin of the quote is not entirely known, it has been attributed in numerous historical texts to a 1935 rally speech by the Nazi leader.

Perversely going on the defensive, the national chapter of Moms for Liberty denounced the Indianapolis Star – the local paper that first reported the story – as engaging in “intentional dishonesty,” even while issuing a statement themselves that condemned the chapter’s decision to quote Hitler.

Tina Descovich and Tiffany Justice. co-founders of the organization, responded in a statement “They should not have quoted Hitler. Period, Parents are passionate about protecting future generations from tyranny, but Hitler did not need to be quoted to make that point.”

Gee, you think? Well, thanks for coming to such a reasonable conclusion.

Of course they should not have used commentary from one of the most odious, despicable, and abominable human beings in history. But the truth is Moms for Liberty is hardly an aberration.

There has always been a segment of Americans – primary white – who have, whether overtly or covertly, harbored rabid levels of hostility and hatred toward individuals they view and perceive as “the other.” These men and women were largely forced to discuss and reaffirm their racist and bigoted viewpoints with like-minded individuals. For much of our recent history, their outpourings were confined to secret conferences, white supremacist communications, underground newsletters, obscure far-right magazines and radio programs and in more recent decades, the darkest, racially-sordid corners of the web.

After their disastrous and humiliating defeat in 1964, the right-wing segment of the Republican Party, who by this time had wrestled control of the party away from the more moderate Stanton/Rockefeller wing, was emotionally and psychologically shell shocked by such a devastating loss, and thus determined to have their collective voices and ideas represented on the national stage.

Over the past several decades, the conservative right has been successful in amassing a cottage industry of right-wing pundits, radio and network hosts, think tanks, magazines, journalists, clergy and other political tools. These forces have been very astute at playing on the fears, resentments, hatreds, fragilities and insecurities that have rankled the psyches of their audience.

Embodied with the perennial dual forces of patience and determination, they have reached within striking distance of being able to claim “mission accomplished.” It has become an alarming, disturbing and distressing state of affairs. Those of us who are committed to a progressive, inclusive society that respects the rights of all American citizens must combat and respond to such vile and fascist-oriented politics progressively, proactively, and with fearless ferocity.

Copyright 2023 Elwood Watson, distributed by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate

Elwood Watson is a professor of history, Black studies, and gender and sexuality studies at East Tennessee State University. He is also an author and public speaker.