Hitler made sure the German youth was indoctrinated at school and in the Hitler Youth. His idea of a perfect Germany with perfect Germans was a country populated by blond-haired, blue-eyed people–the men strong and handsome, doing manly-man things like intimidating and killing the Untermenschen, starting with the Jews, and the women buxom and beautiful, keeping house and having as many perfect German babies as possible. For the purpose of this article I’ll focus on the men.
In a speech, Hitler laid out what he wanted German boys to be.
A violently active, dominating, intrepid, brutal youth—that is what I am after. Youth must be all those things. It must be indifferent to pain. There must be no weakness or tenderness in it. I want to see once more in its eyes the gleam of pride and independence of the beast of prey….I intend to have an athletic youth—that is the first and the chief thing….I will have no intellectual training. Knowledge is ruin to my young men.
Violent, dominating, fearless, brutal, proud, athletic. No weakness and definitely no bookishness allowed.
In the past year in America, quite a few big shot public figures such as Fox’s Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly and film producer Harvey Weinstein have been outed as sexual predators and rapists who took advantage of their powerful positions to sexually abuse women without consequences for years. The #me too wave on social media right now is showing how many men and boys think that sexual assault and rape is okay, or okay under certain circumstances that they determine. Which brings me to toxic masculinity.
In this article, Harris O’Malley gives a good definition of toxic masculinity:
Toxic masculinity is a narrow and repressive description of manhood, designating manhood as defined by violence, sex, status and aggression. It’s the cultural ideal of manliness, where strength is everything while emotions are a weakness; where sex and brutality are yardsticks by which men are measured, while supposedly “feminine” traits – which can range from emotional vulnerability to simply not being hypersexual – are the means by which your status as “man” can be taken away.
Notice the similarities between this definition and Hitler’s ideal German boy and man? Toxic masculinity is a problem the world over, but among “Western” countries America stands out with regard to certain aspects of society that nurture and encourage toxic masculinity.
Anti-intellectualism has been a prominent element of American society from the beginning. Richard Hofstadter lays it all out in his book Anti-intellectualism in American Life. It’s reflected in American public schools, where the sports coaches are often placed on a pedestal and the sports department gets a whole lot more money than the arts. It’s reflected in school textbooks, that avoid “controversial” issues and don’t teach critical thinking skills. It was clear when people elected George W. Bush president because “he was the kind of guy they could have a beer with”. In the Trump era anti-intellectualism seems to have hit rock bottom. Apart from Trump and the three pebbles rolling around in his skull in the White House, most cabinet posts have been filled with folks who know nothing about the department they are now running. The top science position in the USDA is now held by a climate-change denying talk show host with not even a bachelor’s degree in science, and Trump’s pick for head of NASA is also a climate-change denier who doesn’t want “expansion of human knowledge” to be a NASA objective anymore.
To go back to American public schools for a moment, athleticism is obviously highly valued, and what is America’s favorite sport? Football. An aggressive sport where boys and men wear huge helmets and shoulder pads and ram into one another as hard as they can. Yeah, sure, I’m simplifying, but that’s what it looks like to my untrained eye. And in high schools and colleges around the country these guys are elevated to the status of young gods. They can get away with all but murder. Maybe even murder here and there. Almost every year there’s a scandal about some football players in high school or college who raped or sexually assaulted girls at a party and the school sweeping it under the rug because football is what it’s all about.
Dominance. Notice how in America it’s everyone’s goal to be a leader? How kids are always being praised for being a leader in the classroom or in a sport or in the Boy Scouts? The problem, of course, is that there can’t be all leaders. I think that that’s where a lot of the animosity and backstabbing originates in the American workplace; It’s always a competition to be the leader. A lot of men have a hard time following someone else’s lead, especially if that someone else is a woman, and they often won’t admit if they’re wrong or if they don’t know something, because those would be signs of weakness and they have to be avoided at all cost.
To say that Trump tends to dominate would be an understatement. He always has to be in the middle, at the front; when the World Trade Center towers collapsed in the terror attack of 9-11, he had to bring up on a radio show that Trump Tower was now the tallest building in lower Manhattan, etc. During the election campaign he worked himself to the top by making everyone else out to be weaker: low-energy Jeb, little Marco, etc. During the last debate with Hillary Clinton, he kept standing right behind her, looming over her, trying to intimidate her. At campaign rallies he called after protesters as they were being escorted out, that they should “go home to Mommy“.
Marco Rubio made a joke about Trump’s small hands at a speech somewhere, suggesting–nudge, nudge, wink, wink, know what I mean?–that his penis must be small as well, and the future president of the United States dignified that with an answer at the Republican debate: “I guarantee you there’s no problem, I guarantee it.”
So Trump felt he needed to defend his manhood in that debate, which brings us to hypersexuality. In Trump’s mind you’re probably not hypersexual if your penis is small, or if you’re low-energy. To demonstrate his hypersexuality he has to treat every woman and girl he sees as a sex object. He said he’d date Ivanka if she wasn’t his daughter. Even when he met two 14-year-old girls, he joked that he’d be dating them in a few years. He works very hard to present himself as this extremely virile, strong, powerful guy and it just makes him look childish, ridiculous and disgusting, except to other men who feel that same pathetic need to constantly seem virile, aggressive and strong.
I imagine it’s also Trump’s toxic masculinity that makes him admire dictators and autocrats so much. He would love to have their power. He wanted a military parade on Inauguration Day but that was denied, ostensibly because Pennsylvania Avenue wouldn’t be able to take the weight. He loves the KKK and the White Supremacists and the other militias because they love him, but also because they suffer from the same toxic masculinity. They speak the same language. As do the NRA and all the second-amendment folks. He refers to the Joint Chiefs of Staff as “my generals” and the military as “my military”. He would just love to play war games.
Waging war is the ultimate aggression. Preparing for war, being ready for war is another aspect of fascism. Hitler wanted his Hitler Youth to be vicious because he wanted to go to war and win this time. Of course starting a war is also a classic strategic move for failing American presidents. It worked for George W. Bush: the country united after 9-11 and approved of the invasion of Afghanistan to rout out Bin Laden, and the majority of Americans also approved of the invasion of Iraq, which was based on the false assumption that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.
America has always been involved in wars in some form or another; over the 241-year history of the United States, According to this timeline, America has only had 43 years of no involvement in any wars, the longest stretch being seven years between 1934 and 1941. The difference with America’s reasons for waging war and that of fascists is that fascists often see war as a chance for rebirth or rejuvenation of the country. Hitler used the Reichstag fire as an excuse for a permanent state of emergency, because Germany could be at war with Russia at any moment, or so he made Hindenburg believe. He used it as an opportunity to turn Germany into a fascist state.
If Trump or any fascist in America were to start a war, that in itself would be nothing new to Americans. I can see someone like Steve Bannon hoping for or planning a shock event that could lead to an increased state of emergency (we already have one since 9-11), which could then be the opportunity to completely dismantle American democracy. The reasons for war don’t have to be clear to the general population–that’s where nationalism and toxic masculinity come in. The president just needs to say all the right words and use all the right symbols, and the majority of the country will be ready to send “our heroes” off to “defend American freedom” again. But even Steve Bannon can’t control Trump. Trump is definitely spoiling for a war with North Korea, but he would not be able to withstand the temptation to use nuclear weapons. I seriously believe that he thinks it would be super cool to drop a nuclear bomb–it doesn’t matter where–just to see what it does, like a child pouring water over an ant hill. The inevitable use of nuclear weapons in a Trump war would mean not a fascist rebirth of America but the end of civilization.
The next post will be about suppression of dissent and indoctrination and propaganda.