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Patriot lessons from a watery grave

By Susan Harris

The uncrowned king of conservatism, Rush Limbaugh, made this observation on his Jan. 14 radio show:

“… the way to understand what’s happening in the media, inside the beltway … is to understand the objective. (It is) the elimination of any effective conservative opposition. And that goes for the Republican establishment too, the Democrat Party naturally, and it is Obama’s modus operandi.”

Elaborating on the viciously successful attacks by progressives, and a desperately needed yet woefully lacking unity among conservatives, he said:

“Look at how many conservatives are demonized … their character, their credibility. When they launch assaults on (pick your favorite conservative anywhere, elected or in the media), the rest of the conservative establishment usually does not defend that person. They join in the criticism, or they express sorrow … and concern and agree something needs to be done about what that person said … because they are trying to curry favor with the critics. … They figure if they join in they will show themselves to be smarter than the average dumb conservative, and therefore more appreciated by the critics on the left. … The most often result is that people distance themselves from the conservative under attack, lest it descend and touch them.”

If you substitute “Jew(s)” for “conservative(s)” in either of those quotes, it’s eye-opening. That should be a required test for any society: Whenever you can substitute any word with “Jew” and have a statement still read logically, it doesn’t make your society fascist, but it does measure where you stand on the freedom scale.

While many shun making any comparisons to the 20th century fight against fascism, I think every generation should make constant comparisons – as a litmus test to gauge their own society against the worst possible scenario. Conservatives back away from it because the progressive propaganda machine is always the first one slamming the answer buzzer and claiming it as their own, as when Bob Schieffer recently said, “… surely defeating the Nazis was a much more formidable task than taking on the gun lobby.” Progressive propaganda is so far advanced they nearly always anticipate what conservatives will say – immediately characterizing conservatives the way conservatives should be characterizing progressives. Thus, lying progressives always win the propaganda race while honest conservatives are still loading into the starting gate.

Today’s conservatives are so comfortable believing they have the unseen power of the silent majority that they deliver their opposing views in a lackadaisical manner that makes BBC and NPR sound like passionate news broadcasts. Most conservative talking heads from CNN to Fox News are too afraid even to speak animatedly, lest they be ostracized as crazy by both friends and foes, or featured as the idiot-of-the-day by the Southern Poverty Law Center or Right Wing Watch. They desperately want to seem moderate and rational to an opposition that seeks to destroy them, not realizing it’s futile. In trying to appease their opponents, they fail their fellow conservatives and their country.

For a young nation, it wasn’t that long ago that 1,500 police officers stood guard to quell mounting violence both in and outside Madison Square Garden during a 20,000-strong Nazi rally. Anti-Nazis were refused permission to picket the event. In 1939, unsung American hero Isadore Greenbaum, a 26-year-old hotel worker from Brooklyn, took a nearly suicidal leap onto the stage in a valiant attempt to stop German-American Bund leader Fritz Kuhn’s anti-Semitic tirade. After being beaten by a half dozen storm troopers and his clothes shredded, Greenbaum was rewarded with a charge of disorderly conduct and fined $100. We need the passion of Isadore Greenbaum today, but we’re afraid to say it for fear of inciting violence – that is the overwhelming irony that stifles the conservative movement today. Meanwhile progressives build their base by successfully portraying themselves as the “Tank Man” of Tiananmen Square – confronting the evil tea party instead of the Chinese military.

In her book, “Leslie Howard: The Lost Actor,” author Estel Esforgen reconstructs a pre-World War II world of loud and intimidating pro-fascists in America and Great Britain; when Neville Chamberlain wasn’t the fop of history books declaring “peace in our time,” but a powerful, proactive supporter of German ambitions via his policies of appeasement. She examines a small group of patriots in both countries who mobilized into action after Hitler came to power in 1933. Laying their egos aside, they united against one evil force. Sadly, they were at odds with leaders in politics, film and radio, many of whom had anti-Semitic feelings, others who were Jewish and treading carefully in unknown territory. Only after Winston Churchill had assumed the Prime Ministership was it safe for the small group of patriots to go public. Within this volatile atmosphere, British actor Leslie Howard worked as one of the first celebrity anti-Nazi propagandists, both behind the scenes and publicly, warning the world of fascism through broadcasts and appearances on both sides of the Atlantic. His efforts culminated in “Pimpernel Smith,” a film he financed, produced, directed and starred in. Released in 1941, it remains some of the most brilliant cinematic mocking of Nazi ideology.

On the broadcast “Britain Speaks,” Howard implored America to enter the fight as he described the plight of the British people and the danger posed to Western civilization. Later, he described war-torn Britain and life in bomb shelters. He discussed his view of “propaganda,” a word that still has negative connotations today thanks to the Nazis and later George Orwell’s “1984.” Merriam-Webster defines “propaganda,” for the purposes of this article, as:

“The spreading of ideas, information or rumor for the purpose of helping or injuring an institution, a cause or a person or

“Ideas, facts, or allegations spread deliberately to further one’s cause or to damage an opposing cause.”

Howard felt the need to defend his broadcasts from being labeled propaganda. He observed that the British people “are not, by nature, very good at it. They take the view that … constant proclamation of the virtue of any idea is tiresome and defeats its own object. Our enemies, on the other hand, believe profoundly in propaganda and have organized it to a unique degree. …” In the end he concludes, “to hell with whether what I say is propaganda or not!” Ultimately, he reasoned it was fine if his broadcasts were labeled “British propaganda,” but they were “different than Goebbels’ propaganda.”

At the request of the British Council, Howard flew to Spain and Portugal to promote the Allied cause. His return flight to England was shot down by the Nazis over the Bay of Biscay, which remains his watery grave. Few of his fans knew that he was of Hungarian-Jewish ancestry.

Woven in between the story of Howard’s forgotten wartime propaganda are important lessons for conservatives today: Firstly: To hell with whether they say it’s propaganda or not; whoever controls the conversation wins the war. Secondly: Propaganda is not a bad word when it means spreading the truth; but it must be keenly organized, passionately delivered and faster than the opposition. Lastly: Distancing yourself from fellow conservatives to save your own hide will only result in no one being left to speak for you.

Susan D. Harris is a freelance conservative writer located in Upstate New York. Her work has appeared in American Thinker, The Blaze, and she’s a contributor to The Right Side Blog.