The Recipe for Totalitarianism

This recent political era has seen a profound shift and popular appeal to parties of the far right. These parties and political groups include blatant fascist parties such as Bolsonaro’s in Brazil and the dictatorships of Putin’s Russia and Jinping’s China. Even the United States, with its two party system, has experienced a radical shift to the right by many of its Republican-party members.

Hate-filled rhetoric and divisive politics have permeated the mainstream political climate and may suggest the beginning of disturbing and destructive events to come. History has been witness to the disastrous consequences of far-right despotism: the Holocaust in Europe among genocides such as those in Armenia and Rwanda are the direct result of tyranny and fascism. Morality ceases to exist for the totalitarian leader as financial benefit, reputation, ego, and dominance become priority.

It is evident that educating the new generations plays a significant role in shaping the values of a country. More influential, however, is modern-day propaganda and the rampant spread of misinformation through social media and the dishonesty and mischaracterization of the news: this has reinvigorated extremists and neo-fascist groups. The reasons and circumstances that have led to the rise and election of modern day despots are the most fascinating. What are some of the main factors that have led to the spread of world nationalism and far-right extremism?

General Economic and Social Discontent

Situations of economic depression, defeat in war, or attempts for radical reform weaken the unity of a nation. Dissatisfaction among citizens is a recipe for conflict, as fear and chaos spread through a population with a wide range of divisive ideas driven by emotion rather than facts or reason; thus, these epiphanies act as the fuel that sparks political extremity and pave the way for an era of despotism. The German nation in the aftermath of the First World War is a prime example as Nazism yielded significant effects. The stock market crash of 1929 left many urban class Germans out on the street, starving and unemployed while having had their pride crushed into the bubbling cauldron that was World War One and the Treaty of Versailles. The civilians of course, sharing common resentment and feebility, turned desperately to a poisonous, yet seemingly empowering solution: Adolf Hitler.

Political Rhetoric

Political rhetoric is a classic device used by leaders worldwide to gain votes and the public’s favour. Oftentimes, this rhetoric is hyperbolic and infuses sentiments of not only national pride to empower the public, but instills fear to grow a base for radical ideas and policies. Tactics such as these are effective on their own, but are incontrovertibly successful when delivered to a vulnerable crowd. To expand on the previous example in early 20th century Germany, we must remember that Adolf Hitler was democratically elected. Hitler, despite his disgusting and skewed outlooks, was an excellent and brilliant public speaker; from his announcements in local bars in Bavaria to his formal speeches at the Reichstag, he managed to appeal to a majority of Democratically-minded audience. By exaggerating that Jews are the cause of all Germany’s issues and threatening civilians that Communism will conquer the world, he was able to construct his infamous Nazi party.

The Rampant Spread of Misinformation & Persuasive Media

Oftentimes, political rhetoric facilitates the spread of misinformation as the rhetoric itself is exaggerated to the extent where the facts presented become untrue. Overtime, as the message is repeated constantly in a convincing manner and the evidence aligns with the claim, the public is brainwashed into believing it; this is demonstrated by Hitler’s election.

Today, the media holds tremendous power over the human mind. The two same pieces of information can be presented with identical facts, events, etc., but be interpreted in various ways; this in effect, has become common practice in the Trump’s White House. Fox News and CNN have become characterized by their political affiliation hence their presentation of the same event overturns the concrete evidence and focuses solely on what would appeal to their audience. In addition, Mr. Trump not only discredits the media by calling them “fake news,” but he is also proven to be of the same sort: the United States President blatantly lied in his 2019 State of the Union address, giving the American public facts that were simply false regarding immigration and economics.

In 2019, we stand as living proof of a generation who is beyond significant: having witnessed the horrors of 20th century nationalism less than a century ago, we are now experiencing a renaissance of far right extremism. Our generation has been afforded the unique ability to learn from the mistakes of past history and apply them to the future of our political world. It is imperative that we recognize the symptoms of this disease in order to abate the epidemic’s exacerbation.

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