The "Don't Be A Sucker" Video From The 1940s Has Chilling Advice About Fascism That Applies Right Now
In light of the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia on Saturday, a video about fascism from the 1940s has started circulating around the internet, as it contains advice and insights that, sadly, are all too relevant today.
The film in question, Don't Be A Sucker, was produced by the United States government in 1943, when the U.S. was at war with fascist regimes in Germany and Italy. The clip that's been making the rounds lately depicts a fascist leader attempting to really support in America, and shows how and why they might succeed in doing so.
"I happen to know the facts, my friends," the unnamed fascist in the film says while preaching to a crowd of onlookers. "I'm just an average American — but I'm an American American, and some of the things I see in this country of ours make my blood boil! I see people who are foreigners with money. I see Negroes holding jobs that belong to me and you. I ask you: If we allow this thing to go on, what's going to become of us real Americans?"
As the rant continues, a white bystander watching the speech tells his skeptical friend that the speech "makes pretty good sense to me." He changes his tune moments later, however, when the fascist begins denouncing Freemasons.
"Masons?" he asks. "What's wrong with Masons? I'm a Mason. Hey, that fellow is talking about me!" At that point, the man's friend explains to him that fascists will often try to divide a country's people by stoking racial or religions animosity between them, the goal being to splinter the opposition and prevent any serious antifascist movement from taking hold.
They used prejudice as a practical weapon to cripple the nation.
It's no surprise that the 70-year-old film is resonating in 2017. Although many of the details are different — Freemasonry isn't exactly the source of much political controversy these days — the broad strokes of the fictional fascist's speech bear an uncanny resemblance to much of Donald Trump's rhetoric, both before and after he was elected.
The character's constant broadsides against foreigners brings to mind Trump's own appeals to racism, such as his claim that Mexican immigrants coming to the U.S. are "bringing drugs, they're bringing crime, they're rapists." The fascist's claim that immigrants are taking American jobs is one Trump has also made rather explicitly, and like the fictional fascist, Trump has regularly aimed to stoke fear as a means of gaining support.
The advice that the film's protagonist offers to his wayward friend also feels very applicable to 2017. He explains:
[The German Nazi Party] knew that they were not strong enough to conquer a unified country. So they split Germany into small groups. They used prejudice as a practical weapon to cripple the nation. Of course, that was not easy to do. They had to work hard to do it. You see, we human beings are not born with prejudices. Always, they are made for us. Made by someone who wants something. Remember this when you hear this kind of talk. Someone's going to get something out of it — and it isn't going to be you.
The entire 17-minute-long film, which was updated in 1947, can be streamed at the Internet Archive.