Well, I did it. I finally read all of the Manheim translation of ” Mein Kampf ” – it was the English edition put out in the 60’s. It had lain untouched on my bookshelf for over half a century while I tried to decide why I bought it* and why I should read it.
Hard reading – Germanic phrasing in English makes for difficult sentences and this author was not a good writer to begin with. Hard reading as well when you see it veering into the most virulent hate-speech. And it was surprising how often it did veer. Of course Hitler hated Jews, Marxists, Bolsheviks, and black people – that’s a given – but it was somewhat diagnostic to see how often his worst thoughts would erupt in the middle of what might otherwise be a dry passage. There was only a thin barrier between his moods.
Also surprising…and grab your eyebrows before they disappear forever into your hairline in surprise – Hitler did tell the truth sometimes. Not about the rest of the world and the people he hated, but about the people who he wished to control. And he sometimes laid out his operational methods proudly – like a mechanic might roll out a tool kit – and announced exactly how each tool would be used…and upon whom. He had a devil’s grasp of propaganda. I was surprised to see him spell it all out.
Unfortunately this sort of noise sometimes echoes far after the gunshot that finally silenced him. The last few weeks on the social media platform Facebook have seen ” meme’s ” or ” shares ” drop through that embody a number of the propaganda principles that Hitler set out; the targeting of a declared enemy with ridicule, then with unalloyed hate, then with relentless use of the lowest abuse. Simple abuse that is simply repeated, with no let-up or debate. Hammering the hate into dim minds.
It was also interesting to see the memes use an admixture of simple sentiment with simple statements – uncontroversial in nature – and then a sly slipping in of the propaganda message or abusive remark. The people who read and then share these things on Facebook are the vehicles – not for the sentiments or simple statements – but for the propaganda abuse. And they probably don’t realise it. As they keep doing it, they are brought to agree to wilder and wilder things.
Hitler lied about a number of the events in his past within this book – the scholarly footnotes make this abundantly clear. Yet he grasped at as many real events as he could to promote his hate. And I am afraid I can see where some parts of the 1920’s were bound to serve that purpose. They could well have driven the German people to desperation…or preconditioned them to take the virulent infection of his speeches.
Unfortunately, I suspect many did not need much exposure to become just as deadly in their turn. In the end, I don’t think Hitler such a writer that would move normal people to abnormality. The ones he moved were in motion already…
Well, that’s the conclusion. It can go back on the shelf forever, along with the Protocols Of Zion and whatever other rubbish is thrown up from time to time. I won’t burn it because that is not what a thinking person does – but I will not bother with it again. It can go on the Untouchable List.
* Youthful foolishness.