Yesterday we discussed the parallels in antisemitic rhetoric between President Trump and President Nixon. Since so much has been made of President Trump’s purported racism, a political history here in Florida is in order. At least a twentieth-century history.
In 1916, Sidney Catts was elected Governor of Florida after being denied the Democratic nomination in a recount. Catts secured the nomination of the Prohibition Party and was elected. Catts talked extensively about political & bureaucratic reform and married that rhetoric with overt racism.
Here is an excerpt from Catts inauguration speech:
“Your triumph is no less in this good hour in beautiful Florida, for you have withstood the onslaughts of the county and state political rings, the corporations, the railroads, the fierce opposition of the press and organization of the negro voters of this state against you and the power of the Roman Catholic hierarchy against you. Yet over all of these the common people of Florida, the everyday cracker people have triumphed.”
Read more for a political history in Florida…here:
How to cover the rise of a political leader who’s left a paper trail of anti-constitutionalism, racism and the encouragement of violence? Does the press take the position that its subject acts outside the norms of society? Or does it take the position that someone who wins a fair election is by definition “normal,” because his leadership reflects the will of the people?
These are the questions that confronted the U.S. press after the ascendance of fascist leaders in Italy and Germany in the 1920s and 1930s.
The Saturday Evening Post even serialized Il Duce’s autobiography in 1928. Acknowledging that the new “Fascisti movement” was a bit “rough in its methods,” papers ranging from the New York Tribune to the Cleveland Plain Dealer to the Chicago Tribune credited it with saving Italy from the far left and revitalizing its economy. From their perspective, the post-WWI surge of anti-capitalism in Europe was a vastly worse threat than Fascism.
Ironically, while the media acknowledged that Fascism was a new “experiment,” papers like The New York Times commonly credited it with returning turbulent Italy to what it called “normalcy.”
Mussolini’s success in Italy normalized Hitler’s success in the eyes of the American press who, in the late 1920s and early 1930s, routinely called him “the German Mussolini.” Given Mussolini’s positive press reception in that period, it was a good place from which to start. Hitler also had the advantage that his Nazi party enjoyed stunning leaps at the polls from the mid ‘20’s to early ‘30’s, going from a fringe party to winning a dominant share of parliamentary seats in free elections in 1932.
But the main way that the press defanged Hitler was by portraying him as something of a joke. He was a “nonsensical” screecher of “wild words” whose appearance, according to Newsweek, “suggests Charlie Chaplin.” His “countenance is a caricature.” He was as “voluble” as he was “insecure,” stated Cosmopolitan.
When Hitler’s party won influence in Parliament, and even after he was made chancellor of Germany in 1933 – about a year and a half before seizing dictatorial power – many American press outlets judged that he would either be outplayed by more traditional politicians or that he would have to become more moderate. Sure, he had a following, but his followers were “impressionable voters” duped by “radical doctrines and quack remedies,” claimed the Washington Post. Now that Hitler actually had to operate within a government the “sober” politicians would “submerge” this movement, according to The New York Times and Christian Science Monitor. A “keen sense of dramatic instinct” was not enough. When it came to time to govern, his lack of “gravity” and “profundity of thought” would be exposed.
In fact, The New York Times wrote after Hitler’s appointment to the chancellorship that success would only “let him expose to the German public his own futility.” Journalists wondered whether Hitler now regretted leaving the rally for the cabinet meeting, where he would have to assume some responsibility.
Yes, the American press tended to condemn Hitler’s well-documented anti-Semitism in the early 1930s. But there were plenty of exceptions. Some papers downplayed reports of violence against Germany’s Jewish citizens as propaganda like that which proliferated during the foregoing World War. Many, even those who categorically condemned the violence, repeatedly declared it to be at an end, showing a tendency to look for a return to normalcy.
Journalists were aware that they could only criticize the German regime so much and maintain their access. When a CBS broadcaster’s son was beaten up by brownshirts for not saluting the Führer, he didn’t report it. When the Chicago Daily News’ Edgar Mowrer wrote that Germany was becoming “an insane asylum” in 1933, the Germans pressured the State Department to rein in American reporters. Allen Dulles, who eventually became director of the CIA, told Mowrer he was “taking the German situation too seriously.” Mowrer’s publisher then transferred him out of Germany in fear of his life.
By the later 1930s, most U.S. journalists realized their mistake in underestimating Hitler or failing to imagine just how bad things could get. (Though there remained infamous exceptions, like Douglas Chandler, who wrote a loving paean to “Changing Berlin” for National Geographic in 1937.) Dorothy Thompson, who judged Hitler a man of “startling insignificance” in 1928, realized her mistake by mid-decade when she, like Mowrer, began raising the alarm.
“No people ever recognize their dictator in advance,” she reflected in 1935. “He never stands for election on the platform of dictatorship. He always represents himself as the instrument [of] the Incorporated National Will.” Applying the lesson to the U.S., she wrote, “When our dictator turns up you can depend on it that he will be one of the boys, and he will stand for everything traditionally American.”
Seven people were stabbed, with some injured critically, during clashes between rallying neo-Nazis and counter-protesters at the Capitol in Sacramento on Sunday, authorities said.
The white nationalists and skinheads, clad in black, began to arrive a little before noon Sunday for their planned march on the state Capitol grounds. They were met by hundreds of protesters toting signs that denounced “Nazi scum.”
Violence began almost immediately, authorities and witnesses said, and by the time the clashes ended 20 minutes later, at least seven people had been stabbed, nine were hospitalized and many more suffered bruises, scrapes and cuts.
“They attacked each other without hesitation,” said counter-protester Chandra Zafra, 50, a member of the Mexica Movement nonprofit. “It was a war zone.”
For much of the afternoon, the historic domed Capitol was locked down, with staffers and tourists inside. Police swarmed the park-like grounds, but by Sunday evening there had still been no arrests.
The community gathers for a vigil in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, August 7, 2012, following the killings of six worshippers at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin.John Gress/Reuters
March 28, 2015
Displayed with permission from Newsweek
Hate crimes against Arab Americans, Sikhs and Hindus will be more closely monitored by the FBI and the Department of Justice, reports NBC. Although the bureau announced its plan to track such crimes in 2013, it has only just completed an overhaul of its Crime Data Collection Guidelines and Training Manual. The new measures include gathering data that will be tracked in the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Hate Crime Statistics Program. Also, the FBI’s training manual will be offered as a resource to help local law enforcement officers recognize and report hate crimes. The manual includes a section that will aid authorities in determining whether a hate crime is anti-Hindu, anti-Muslim, anti-Sikh or anti-Arab, according to MSNBC; violence against Sikhs is often classified incorrectly as “anti-Islamic.”
On Thursday, Jasit Singh, executive director of the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF), said in a statement that “Sikh, Muslim, Hindu, South Asian, and Arab Americans have disproportionately faced senseless violence motivated by hate in recent years. We look forward to continuing our work with the FBI to ensure law enforcement is addressing the Sikh community’s needs.”
Advocacy groups for years have lobbied the DOJ and FBI to begin identifying and hopefully preventing hate crimes, an effort that has gained the backing of more than 140 members of Congress. Ami Bera, an Indian-American congressman from California, said on Wednesday that tracking these hate crimes is crucial “to confronting hatred and increasing public awareness about the crimes committed against often-targeted people. This is a big win for these communities, and a huge win for justice.”
As Newsweek reported in December, the FBI’s annual Hate Crime Statistics showed a notable drop in reported hate crimes from 2012 to 2013; however, a vast majority have been said to go unreported.
“Today we all stand together to show that hate has no place in America” Singh said in a press conference earlier this week. “An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us, and only together will we address the root of this hate.”
#MuslimsLivesMatter has been trending on Twitter since the possible hate crime murder of three young Muslims students in North Carolina. At first main stream media was pre-occupied with news of Brian Williams’ suspension and Jon Stewart’s resignation. Twitter outrage took off and as of this writing over 1 million tweets have gone out over the #ChapelHillShooting hashtag. According to Democracy Now police are saying the murders were possibly over a parking dispute but the father of one of the victims is claiming it was actually a hate crime. http://ow.ly/J7oGH
So what is a hate crime? The U.S. Department of Justice defines hate crime as “the violence of intolerance and bigotry, intended to hurt and intimidate someone because of their race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, or disability.” http://www.ncpc.org/topics/hate-crime
The man who turned himself in to Chapel Hill police and has been charged with first degree murder had previously posted on social media comments that were anti-religion. He’d also had previous encounters with the people who were shot on Tuesday.
Obviously, this is complex and confusing situation. Time will tell whether this was indeed a hate crime or just another dispute that went out of control. But, in the meantime, we all need to be aware of how people of different races, ethnicities, national origins, religions, sexual orientations, or disabilities are being portrayed in our media. We also need to carefully examine the differences in how people are being covered in our media. When does a killer go from being insane to a thug or a terrorist?