Propaganda disguised, sometimes believably, as actual news. Age-old religious teachings being transformed into the dogma of political cults. And now, historical facts being discarded and replaced with alternate chronicles of humanity’s past. Such is the nature of information warfare now being waged by political hucksters, hoaxers, and hustlers on a global scale. Never before have the basics of primary, secondary, and collegiate education been more important in guarding against the whimsical fantasies and alternate realities of politicians like Donald Trump, Jair Bolsonaro, Narendra Modi, Boris Johnson, and others in their mold.
One of the most ridiculous contentions of the extreme right is that Adolf Hitler and his National Socialists, or Nazis, were left-wingers. These confabulators of history would have the world believe that Hitler and Franklin Delano Roosevelt were engaged in a war between leftist leaders and that Italy’s Benito Mussolini and Imperial Japan’s Hideki Tojo were mere leftist allies of Hitler.
In April 2019, after having paid a visit to Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial and museum in Jerusalem, Brazil’s off-kilter President Bolsonaro confidently declared “there is no doubt” that Nazism was a leftist movement. Bolsonaro is not the only Brazilian leader to utter such inaccuracies about history. Brazilian Foreign Minister Ernesto Araujo is also on record as stating that Nazis represented a leftist political viewpoint. Both Bolsonaro and Araujo assume that because the word “socialist” was contained in the official title of the Nazi Party in Germany–the “National Socialist German Workers’ Party”–that means the Nazis were leftwing socialists.
Using the “logic” of Bolsonaro’s and Araujo’s political party, the Social Liberal Party (PSL) of Brazil, one should believe that the party consists of socialist-inclined liberals. In fact, that PSL is a neo-fascist party championed by Bolsonaro, someone who said the following about Hitler: “He was a great strategist: annihilated his enemies as everyone does when at war; I would have enlisted in Hitler’s army.” Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro understood what Bolsonaro represents when, during his state of the nation speech in Caracas in January 2019, said, “Over there we’ve got Brazil in the hands of a fascist–Bolsonaro is a Hitler of the modern era!”
Bolsonaro and Araujo are unfazed by the fact that Nazis and their allies in Europe and Asia were committed fascists who were intent on stamping out socialism and communism around the world. They and their fascist ilk in Brazil, the United States, and elsewhere are ignorant of the basics of history and political science. In the United States, far-right pundits like Dinesh D’Souza – fully pardoned by Trump in 2018 for his previous criminal conviction for campaign finance law violations–and Jonah Goldberg, have erroneously argued that Nazis were leftists. Bolsonaro, a champion of the fascist and murderous military dictatorship that ruled Brazil with an iron fist between 1964 and 1985, was not a dictatorship. In Bolsonaro’s warped mind, as well as those of his supporters, up is down, Nazis were and remain leftists, and military dictatorships are democracies.
In 1944, President Roosevelt pointed out the fact that the Republicans of his era were using the “big lie” propaganda tactics refined in and practiced by the Nazi German leadership. FDR said, “The opposition has imported the propaganda technique invented by the dictators abroad. Remember a number of years ago, there was book, “Mein Kampf,” written by Hitler himself. The technique was all set out in Hitler’s book and was copied by all the aggressors of Italy and Japan. According to that technique, you should never use a small falsehood; always a big one, for its very fantastic nature would make it more credible, if only you keep repeating it over and over and over again.”