Tucker Carlson’s views on Russia reflect Hitler-era propaganda

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The social media technology that gives us access to what people think around the world allows us to see in real time the dangers of the unchecked spread of propaganda and lies, including the false allegations of 2020 election fraud. that have undermined confidence in our democracy and caused many to act violently. Recency bias, in which we favor recent events over historical events, may lead us to believe that the dangers of misinformation are new, but the story of Henry Ford, who mass-produced hate as he mass-produced the automobile, is an example of such a danger of over 100 years ago.

Recency bias can lead us to believe that the dangers of misinformation are new.

Ford, the iconic industrialist of American business and commerce, did not invent the automobile, but through his innovative production reforms became one of the richest men in the world. My father worked in the auto industry in Detroit, and I remember frequent class trips to the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village where Ford was always hailed as a hero. But his harmful ideas about Jews were ugly and would have inspired Hitler, the world’s most notorious genocidal monster.

As Russia continues its unprovoked attack on a democratic Ukraine, this is an opportunity to remember that the propaganda and lies emerging in the United States can embolden dictators abroad. In this case, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian public television used clips of former President Donald Trump, Fox News host Tucker Carlson and other Americans to justify their efforts and convince Russians of justice for their dastardly cause. These clips include retired Army Colonel Doug Macgregor telling Carlson, “What’s happening now is the battle in eastern Ukraine is really almost over, all the Ukrainian troops there- stockings have been largely surrounded and cut off…and if they don’t surrender within the next 24 hours, I suspect the Russians will eventually wipe them out. The game is over.”

Ford grew up in rural Michigan when the state had one of the largest Ku Klux Klan memberships in the country and, consequently, a large number of people with racial and religious prejudices. He was convinced early on of the fiction that the Jewish people were dangerous and that Jewish bankers ruled the world and were responsible for the ills of society. Not only was Ford an outspoken anti-Semite and anti-intellectualist, but he also rejected the study of history because, as he put it: “The story is more or less superimposed.”

With his immense wealth and worldwide fame, he began to share his anti-Semitic views, largely through The Dearborn Independenta weekly he bought in 1918 and later turned into a national media that transmitted its venom on the Jews. At its peak, The Dearborn Independent had nearly one million subscribers. Ford also published The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a fabricated text describing a Jewish effort for world domination, and The International Jewa set of four volumes of anti-Semitic pamphlets.

His attacks on the Jewish people not only accompanied a rise in anti-Jewish animosity nationwide, but they were also noticed by Hitler. In Hitler’s manifesto “Mein Kampf”, Ford is the only American mentioned with admirationand Hitler considered Ford one of his heroes (he reportedly said, “I consider Henry Ford my inspiration”). Hitler kept a picture of Ford on the wall behind his desk for many yearsand Ford accepted the highest medal Nazi Germany could award to a foreigner, German Eagle Grand Crossin 1938, after fascism took control of Germany and four months after the German annexation of Austria.

History has taught us that the lies told here and the hatred spread at home not only harms our own country, but like a deadly virus, it spreads around the world. Yes, we have to stand up for democracy around the world, especially in this tragic time in Ukraine and push back against dictators, but we also have to deal with the attacks on truth and democracy here in America. As we saw with Ford and fascism a century ago, not only do we have to make sure there are consequences for those directly responsible for the destruction, but we also have to hold accountable those who sow the seeds of anti-democratic movements that raise the worst of the world.

Yes, America has exported a lot of good to the world, but there have been times when it has exported the worst of us. And this story is not a bunk.

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