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Two Collapses


In the late winter and early spring of 1945, as World War II ground to a halt in Europe, Nazi Germany was in the throes of collapse. In the West, Patton’s and Montgomery’s armies were flooding into the North German Plain. In the East, Stalin’s troops were crushing the Wehrmacht and closing in on Berlin. Carefully following all the developments was Germany’s Minister of Enlightenment, Hitler’s old colleague, Josef Goebbels. His diary for this period make for fascinating reading in how an insane ideologue struggles to the last minute, looking for hope against all evidence of hope, refusing to admit the obvious: that the end is near and that he had backed the wrong horse.

Goebbels believed that some miracle would save Germany: wonder super-weapons, or the collapse of Allied unity, or his bizarre Werwolf organization of partisan guerilla fighters that would fight behind enemy lines. But the shining star upon which Goebbels pinned all his hopes was his Führer. “Even in this crisis at the front, invariably and unswervingly [he] believes in his lucky star,” Goebbels wrote on March 27, barely a month before the final collapse. “He [Hitler] is still convinced that [the situation] justifies our having great hopes.”

Hopes, however great, proved fruitless. Hitler committed suicide in his bunker on April 30. The next day, as Russian troops took over Berlin, Goebbels killed himself, either by swallowing cyanide or shooting himself–we’ll probably never know. Shortly before, he had written a farewell letter to his stepson, Harald: “Do not let yourself be disconcerted by the worldwide clamor which will now begin. One day the lies will crumble away of themselves and truth will triumph once more.” Goebbels believed in the nobility of the nazi cause even as Russian shells exploded all around him. “We shall tower over all, clean and spotless…remain loyal to the very end to the Führer and his pure sacred cause.”

As in so many other instances, direct comparisons can be made between the collapse of the nazi regime and the stubborn refusal of its leading adherents to admit reality, and the impending collapse of the Trump regime here in America. No armed troops are closing in on the White House, but Special Counsel Robert Mueller is, flanked by Senate and House investigative committees. Trump and his collaborators–Pence, most of the Republicans in Congress, Steve Bannon and the entire White House communications staff, Fox News–are not hunkered down in a bunker, technically speaking; but they are isolated in a bubble of denial, rationalization, deflection and self-justification. As Goebbels did, they continue to believe that miracles will save the regime: Mueller will miraculously go away, or be discredited; the Congressional probes will turn up nothing; the American people will rally to Trump’s side despite his worsening polls; or, far more menacingly, a foreign crisis–perhaps a nuclear war–will sweep all other events aside, enabling Trump to tower triumphantly over the stage of History.

Alas, just as Goebbels retreated into fantasy in his final weeks, so too are the Trump supporters wallowing in delusion. Nowhere is their desperation more apparent than on Breitbart. That fake news site always has tried to occlude events unfavorable to Trump by stoking up racial, sexual and ethnic hatred and paranoia amongst its white followers, but as the legal and political threats to Trump and his family mount, Bannon’s propagandists are becoming ever more frantic. Their latest miracle weapon is Roy Moore, who everybody knows is toast; yesterday they had the effrontery to roll out Franklin Graham, of all people, to defend the pedophilic judge. The top story was another attack on Islam and the Koran, a meme guaranteed to whip Breitbart white “Christians” into drooling fury. Near the top of the feed was an assault on someone you probably never heard of: a feminist named Lena Dunham. Never mind her obscurity: she’s a “neo-Stalinist,” Breitbart says, lumping together two targets of contempt among those rural white southern bigots: women and Communism. Finally, of course, no Breitbart feed would be complete with its daily dose of racism, in this case Trump’s wacko attack on Marshawn Lynch.

Misogyny, racism, Islamophobia, rabid evangelical extremism: they’re all “miracle weapons” Bannon and his cohorts hope will stem the oncoming onslaught. None of it will work, of course, any more than Goebbels’ Werwolf squadrons, super-jet planes or guided missiles worked in halting the Allied advance. These are the last fevered imaginings of the rogue Trump regime. “People are going to jail,” a top Republican congressman–a member of the House Intelligence Committee–said. We don’t know the precise date the regime will fall. We don’t know if any Republicans will commit suicide. We do know that Bannon and his attack dogs, encouraged by Trump himself, will continue to drift and flail in the hallucination of their “pure, sacred cause.” Do they have a Werwolf organization waiting in the wings? Yes: Bannon believes his neo-nazi divisions, armed and loyal, will be the vanguard leading to victory. He’s insane, of course, but we should be cognizant that they’re out there, with their assault rifles and homemade bombs, ready to avenge their own Führer. Fortunately, the senior leadership of the United States Armed Forces has strongly hinted it will not collude with Trump in any illegal manner. We need not worry, then, about white supremacist insurrection: if they try, they’ll be stopped in the streets and dealt with appropriately.


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