The tagline on the above photo is that it is an “armed protest” outside a Muslim civic center in Texas, it’s just one part of a broader series of incidents outlined in an article on Islamophobia written up in Vox. As readers of this blog know I’m always a cautious one to draw links between Nazism and other movements, mainly because so many use Nazis and Nazism as a quick “go to” for concepts of evil, violence, or reactionary politics by extreme right-wing factions. For me though reading about the current policies, including the sweeping series of new legislation going around various state governments outlawing “foreign law” for having any impact within their territories, and “protests” like the one above, smack of a similar mindset to early Nazi anti-Jewish activities.
This is a classic image from 1933, put up during the mostly symbolic one day national boycott of Jewish shops and businesses organized by the Nazi party shortly after Hitler became Chancellor. Historians debate how much impact it had on Germany’s economy, many German citizens simply ignored the boycott and shopped as normal, or deliberately sought out to patronize Jewish owned businesses as a form of protest. But it featured large numbers of armed, uniformed figures in the SA (the Nazi party’s semi-unofficial military army of the party) standing outside businesses that had been vandalized to discourage people from going in and shopping.
The Nazi boycott had a uniquely German feel to it, the storm troopers didn’t carry pistols or rifles, they wore snappy brown uniforms, and they used visual intimidation to complete their action. But I look at the photo at the top of this blog post and I cannot help but see a parallel, although the “protest” photo at the top carries a uniquely American outlook. But is armed men wearing jungle camouflage with an American flag that much of a difference than the Nazi storm troopers. Both are using symbols of recognized organization and power, and both are drawing links to traditional images of power. (The storm troopers wore the high boots used by the German military and their caps were modeled to look police or military in style. The same with the belts.) Some of the men in that “protest” shot could be considered to be using the imagery of the American military in making their stance.
What more deeply concerns me personally though is the legislative action being carried out by state governments. According to the Vox article a good percentage of Americans feel that being Muslim should disqualify an individual from the office of President. On 7 April 1933 the German government, under the control of the Nazi party, passed the “Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service” – a law that ended employment in the civil service for “non-Aryans” – Jews – employed by the German government.
My worry is could such a law be passed in the United States? I would like to think no, that such a thing could not happen in the United States, but I honestly wonder if some state governments might not pass a law like this on their own. Furthermore I wonder if the federal government would crush such laws or let them go as “state privilege.”
A final note, for those out there who see Donald Trump and wonder if his rallies and his supporters touch on some of the same efforts and concepts of the Nazi party, you don’t have to seek that far. The image above is a 1939 rally by the German American Bund, a genuine pro-Fascist Nazi party operating in the United States prior to World War II. The image above is from their high-point rally, when 20,000 people attended Madison Square Gardens to see their rally. I just post this because it shows how extremism, and even Fascism or its American equivalents, can wrap itself quite effectively in the flag of the United States.
Sources: Vox article on American Islamophobia, US Holocaust Museum entry on the Jewish Business Boycott of 1933, Wikipedia article on the Jewish Business Boycott of 1933, Wikipedia entry on the Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service of 1933,US Holocaust Museum entry on several early anti-Jewish Nazi laws, Wikipedia entry on the German American Bund, and finally a blog post entry on the German American Bund