Featured Post

New book available! David Kaiser, A Life in History

Mount Greylock Books LLC has published my autobiography as an historian,  A Life in History.   Long-time readers who want to find out how th...

Saturday, May 09, 2009

A Great Fear?

This week, hundreds of people will see this post because of an email that has been circulating fraudulently under my name. The main purpose of these commentaries, as regular readers know, is to use the past to gain perspectives upon the present. In the same way that a skilled physician or therapist can relate the patient before them in the office to cases from their previous experience, I have tried to find analogies to current events, confirming Thucydides's prediction that his work would be useful to those who wanted to understand the events of his day, "which, human nature being what it is," would recur, in much the same way, in the future. I have been doing this at least since I began teaching full-time 33 years ago, but the perspective that William Strauss and Neil Howe provided in the 1990s has made it a lot easier, by identifying the particular kind of era, or Turning as they put it, a nation is in at a given moment. That analysis will again come in handy today. I began writing these commentaries in the fall of 2004 and the first four year's worth are available now as a book, History Unfolding; Crisis and Rebirth in American Life, 2004-2008. To order it simply click on the appropriate link in the list of books at right.

The "event" which I shall take as my text today is a small one but, in its own way, significant: the very widespread circulation of an email on the current state of the nation, comparing President Obama to Adolf Hitler, which has been attributed in thousands--probably tens of thousands--of copies to myself. Based on the experience of the last couple of weeks (see below), I estimate that between one and two thousand new readers will be reading this post this week to find out who I am and if, indeed, I did write it. The answer, of course, is no--I didn't--even though it has probably made me more famous, certainly in a shorter period of time, than any of my six books at right. More importantly, I think this viral phenomenon is in its own way a significant historical event, precisely because it reflects the age that we are living in, and resembles similar occurrences that have convulsed other nations that were also in the midst of defining crises--such as France in 1789, when the French Revolution began.

I have in front of me a slim volume, The Great Fear of 1789, written by one of the greatest of French historians, Georges Lefebvre, who lived from 1874 to 1959. It recounts a series of extraordinary events in French towns, and especially in the countryside, during the summer of 1789. Late that spring, by royal proclamation, the three orders of French society, the nobles, clergy, and commoners, sent representatives to the first Estates-General called in 175 years, beginning the climactic phase of the first great crisis in modern French political life. The trigger for the crisis--like those experienced by Germany and the United States in the first years of the 1930s, and the one that we are entering now--was a financial panic (coupled with a bad harvest), but that was only half the story: all those nations had experienced other severe economic downturns without such transformative effects. What made them all so severe was the simultaneous death of the old order: the French Old Regime, whose decline was described by another Prophet, Tocqueville, in one of the greatest classics of western historical writing, The Old Regime and the French Revolution; the free-market capitalist system created by the Republicans after the Civil War, and restored to full vigor, after a Progressive interlude, in the 1920s; and the Weimar Republic, the successor to Imperial Germany, which had not been able to create vibrant new institutions in the midst of successive economic crises in the 1920s.

The death of an old order, like the death of a parent, is a traumatic and unnerving event. Things fall apart, the center cannot hold, and terror is abroad in the land. In 1789, as Lefebvre shows, the peasantry feared brigands, or bandits, who had customarily emerged to steal the harvest in times of famine. But as the Estates-General came into conflict with each other and with the King over the issue of whether they would become a National Assembly, voting together under rules that would give the common people a majority, they also feared a royal or aristocratic coup that would end their hopes--so ardently expressed in the instructions written for their deputies--for a new and more democratic order. Throughout the summer, rumors of national and local treachery spread like a fire around the countryside, and the common people, in town after town, acted pre-emptively. They formed their own militias like the American colonists in 1774-5; they seized the documents that entitled landlords to feudal dues, and burned them; they even burned down castles and drove their lords away. In this case the issues that concerned the peasantry--the conditions under which they worked their land and the future of the revolution--were real enough, but the nationwide conspiracy that drove them to action that summer was not. Anarchy did not immediately follow, and for two or three years it seemed possible that France might make a peaceful transition to a Constitutional monarchy. But in 1791 the King and Queen tried to flee the country, hoping to restore all their power with foreign help, in a year later they were overthrown, tried, sentenced, and eventually executed. Terror now became state policy, setting a precedent that repeated itself in various countries again and again for the next century and a half.

Thus, in Russia, the old order began its violent death in 1905, when failure in war provoked a first round of revolution and terrorism--one that was never really checked until the war. Moreover, as my friend and colleague William Fuller has shown in his recent book, The Foe Within, the upper reaches of Russian society were also transfixed by intrigue, accusations of fantastic conspiracy, and an almost total absence of civic virtue--phenomena that brought the Empire down in 1917 and brought the Bolsheviks to power with the help of the peasantry, which played a role similar to that that its French counterparts had in the 1790s. Russian readers of Fuller's book have commented on the troubling similarity between the conditions it describes and Russia today.

Fear, of course, was rampant in Germany and in the United States, the two countries most affected by the Depression from 1928 through 1932, as well--fear of hunger and starvation, and of anarchy, which was actually much more serious in Germany, where Socialist, Communist and Nazi militias were battling in the street, often with fatal consequences. Fear was the essence of Nazi propaganda, which painted Germany's wretched state as the more or less conscious work of Marxists and Jews. That, of course, was false. The biggest single cause of Germany's catastrophe was the previous world war, which the Germans had done so much to unleash, only to spend the entire decade of the 1920s denying their own responsibility. Fear and hatred had already led to the assassination of several moderate statesmen involved in the signature of the Versailles Treaty and agreements on reparations. Upon coming into power, Hitler seized upon the burning of the Reichstag to announce a nationwide Communist plot, suspend civil liberties and the Parliament, formally deputize the Nazi SA as law enforcement officials, and open lasrge concentration camps. The same pattern continued for the rest of the Third Reich.

Across the Atlantic, nothing so clearly illustrated the brilliance of Franklin Roosevelt's leadership than the most famous words of his inaugural address: "So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance." His weapon against it, then and for the next twelve incredible years, was to remind the American people of their basic values, bluntly to describe the enormous problems they faced, and then to explain simply and clearly how they would emerge. The President's sense of humor, his optimism, and most of all, perhaps, his evident joy at having been called to power at such a moment, carried most--though never all--of the country with him. Lincoln, in even darker times, had done much the same. (As always when I have to consult one of Roosevelt's texts, I am astonished by the range of issues he covered and their relevance to the present day. Who remembers these words from the inaugural:

Plenty is at our doorstep, but a generous use of it languishes in the very sight of the supply. Primarily this is because rulers of the exchange of mankind's goods have failed through their own stubbornness and their own incompetence, have admitted their failure, and have abdicated. Practices of the unscrupulous money changers stand indicted in the court of public opinion, rejected by the hearts and minds of men.

True they have tried, but their efforts have been cast in the pattern of an outworn tradition. Faced by failure of credit they have proposed only the lending of more money. Stripped of the lure of profit by which to induce our people to follow their false leadership, they have resorted to exhortations, pleading tearfully for restored confidence. They know only the rules of a generation of self-seekers. They have no vision, and when there is no vision the people perish.

The money changers have fled from their high seats in the temple of our civilization. We may now restore that temple to the ancient truths. The measure of the restoration lies in the extent to which we apply social values more noble than mere monetary profit.

Happiness lies not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort. The joy and moral stimulation of work no longer must be forgotten in the mad chase of evanescent profits. These dark days will be worth all they cost us if they teach us that our true destiny is not to be ministered unto but to minister to ourselves and to our fellow men.

All this, however, brings me to the notorious email that has been circulating, which can be read here. It is, alas, a typical product of a crisis age, which explains its extraordinary resonance around the country. That we are in a crisis is true--one that involves our financial and economic system, our educational system, and (although it has little specific to say here), our foreign policy. Yet its dreadful mistake--so characteristic of crisis literature--is to attribute all these ills to some deep, unnamed conspiracy apparently dedicated to the destruction of the United States. There is no such conspiracy: as I have argued here many times before, our own behavior, on a mass scale, has brought us to where we are today, just as it did in the late 1850s and the late 1920s. The deregulation of the economy and the speculative orgy that followed were begun by the Republican Party in the 1980s but with the exception of balancing the budget in the 1990s (an achievement immediately thrown away by George W. Bush), the Democrats have done little or nothing to halt it until now. We are facing a crisis abroad because our successes, from 1945 through 1989, have only persuaded us that we should be able to work our will anywhere on earth, even as our actual power shrinks. The need for different values is every bit as great now as it was when FDR spoke of it in March 1933--indeed, the failure of either President Obama or any other major politician to make such a declaration suggests that it is greater. The email's comments on our ills are 100% partisan and thus calculated to divide the American people still further. What is frightening is how much resonance such rants seem to have.

For the past few weeks that email, with my name on it, has been spreading, literally, like a flu virus. What is most astonishing is its nearly constant rate of infection, measured by the hits on this blog. For several years now hits have totaled between 150 and 200 on Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays--that is, in the wake of a new entry--declining steadily during the week to about 100 before a new entry appears. The figures for the last ten days are 456, 450, 367, 350, 404, 590, 559, 554, 499, and 502--more than 4500 hits, compared to a normal 1000, or 3500 new hits. But that 3500 can only be a fraction of the number of people who received the email, most of whom would not have taken the time to reach my blog. And to judge from the emails I (and my namesake at another university) have received, as well as the people who have reached me by phone, the vast majority of people who have received it agree with it.

Why? At bottom, I think, its popularity represents the fear which the death of our old order is naturally creating. Fear dominates the Drudge report and cable news as well--the coverage that a relatively minor flu outbreak has received is merely the last piece of evidence for that. Closer to home, of course, the email is popular because it is only marginally more inflammatory than the commentary Americans can hear or watch 24 hours a day on talk radio or Fox News. They too make no effort actually to understand our problems and how they might be solved, but simply spend all their time trying to exploit them for partisan advantage. Newspapers are dying for many reasons, but one is that the modern American newspaper stood for an ideal of objectivity in which very few Americans, sadly, still believe. The post-print media, actually, will resemble in many ways the media of the nineteenth century--far more outlets, but nearly all of them representative of one particular shade of opinoin, and with less attention, sadly, to the facts. But that may in turn give a great opportunity to political leadership that is willing to fill the vacuum with real data, if we can find such.
To those who have been brought here by an email that I did not write, may I say that we remain fellow citizens. Our country was founded by men who believed that human reason can make a better world. Let us not throw away that legacy by surrendering to terror, hatred, and other raw emotions. Let us work for an America where, once again, Democrats and Republicans can not only co-exist but work together. Such cooperation gave us every great national achievement from the 1930s through the 1960s, from the public works programs of the New Deal through our victory in the war, the GI Bill, Social Security, and the great civil rights acts. It can do great work again. Every year, as a Democrat teaching at the Naval College, I have one or two students who start out wondering how they will ever be able to work with someone like me. Within a few weeks, almost without exception, they have found that it doesn't hurt at all. That's because the class deals with the proper application of military force--a problem whose solution depends on using the facts, not on ideology. That is the spirit that we all need to try to spread.


Anansi said...

Have been a faithful reader for a long time and look forward to the weekend when I can read your latest post. Just want to say thank you.

ginstonic said...

So glad to have found this blog. I'm becoming a history fan.

GuruOfReason said...

Very nice blog entry. It really does seem like we are living in those times. The defining social conflict of our times seems to be the Wall Street vs. Main Street class conflict. Back in late March, people were really scared about the prospect of an explosion of domestic turmoil and unrest.

Keep them coming.

Anonymous said...

I read the email and, since I'm one who seeks the truth so I check the facts, I googled your name. I am a student of history as well. I understand why people are fearful. It seems to me that it is easy to blame talk radio and Fox news, however, what about the bitterness being spewed by the Democrats and their mouthpiece, most of the mainstream media? Even the President's spokesman, Robert Gibbs, makes snide comments about the Republicans and their "gulag". The Democratic Party and those who are buying their propaganda are happy to see this country divided. In their eyes honest dissent is abhorrent. They characterize the Republicans as the party of no...the Democrats are the party of "shut up".

Anonymous said...

You said: "Newspapers are dying for many reasons, but one is that the modern American newspaper stood for an ideal of objectivity in which very few Americans, sadly, still believe."
Newspapers are dying precisely because they have lost their objectivity. Americans want both sides of the story, but most newspapers today are biased toward liberal elite dogma. Those newspapers have driven Americans to other outlets that provide for balanced assessments (which are then perceived by the elite as biased)

Laura Hume said...

Hurrah for your commentary, Dr. Kaiser.

I am an academic at another university. My mother sent me "your" e-mail, and said essentially "See? Maybe you'll believe another historian since you don't believe the other stuff I send you." (That is the distillation of much more.)

I dutifully read through it, and was immediately appalled by the historical inaccuracies, the lack of rigorous logic and the hysterical tone. I thought to myself that no trained historian worthy of the title could have written this, so I decided to investigate. I must admit to heaving a deep sigh of relief when I found and read your blog.

You have a new fan for your blog, sir. I look forward to reading future posts.

chacha1 said...

Hello Dr. Kaiser, thank you for clarifying, I was sure that a real historian (i.e. not an ideologue or conspiracy theorist) could not have authored that horrible essay. I am glad that in verifying that, I found your blog. Peace to you!

BeckyW said...

Like Anynomous, I also recieved the email and googled to verify. I also have been a student of history and find that there is something more going on. For me, I have noticed a strain in my relationships with family and friends. I'm not a radical right winger, as someone who is self employed, you find out you have to keep your political views hidden.

My good friend, who watches Oprah everyday, has become belligerent with me when I question a policy or direction we are taking, like spending gobs of money, and national health care. I'm just being silly, she says, Obama is a good man who is taking care of us.

We are both white women. I am over 50, she is over 60. I have been married since 19, she never married.

Elaine at Lipstickdaily said...

Thank you for posting this. Like others, it was sent to me by with the implicit "see? he's credible!" I'm glad I found your blog. Very interesting.

Anonymous said...

I have been thinking about these types of emails and their appeals a bit as well. There are two parts of many of these that are particularly fascinating to me.

1. The willingness to lie. I wonder who wrote the original letter and decided to put Dr. Kaiser's name and full qualifications on the email? Under what ethical system is that acceptable?

2. The willingness to excuse the lie. Two of the anonymous posters below essentially justify the lie as OK. One argues that people need to turn to "balanced" sources of the news. The other argues that he is a student of history and that strong language by Democrats is somehow related to this.

Here is where I get stuck. Why, when confronted with the fact that this email is a "lie," is there no contrition? Most of the time, there is actually a defense of the position that was taken.

Any thoughts?

Donna Hildebrand said...

I, too, was sent the 'original' post by a well-meaning conservative friend. I told him, "You lost me at Obama/Hitler comparisons." It reminded me of the silly comparisons decades ago between Kissinger and the Anti-Christ! Ridiculous.
Thanks for the clarification...your comments were succinct and smart.

The writer said...

As one of those "who received an email" but also a student of history, thank you for bringing a clearer thought process to the maelstrom that seems to be growing (tea parties, memorial day protests, etc.) I hope you don't mind the way I got here, but I would like to continue reading your blog. Well done.

Anonymous said...

I didn't "google" the email but I did "google" your name and all I found was information on the Road to Dallas...certainly that would have been a likely place to write a disclaimer...nevertheless, whomever did write it spelled out exactly what is happening in America today..the fear mongers are the liberals and their leader, the tall man in the paper-suit. Everything he extolls is a "crises" and requires "immediate attention"...his inane concept of doctors and healthcare providers reducing their fees and service charges by 1.5% per year over the next 10 years in order to fund healthcare is ridiculous...why not have all of congress, including yourself, reduce your income over the next 10 years and eliminate all of the extraneous spending, i.e.,Pelosi's jet, BO's 2 jets, etc.....why not eliminate your own and congress's pension plans and healthcare benefits???? It's easy to spend other people's money but no one likes it when they are asked to spend their own..in 2010 we'll see just how well the American people accept BO's plans...

Anonymous said...

If there's fear in this country its because the liberals and leftists in BOTH parties have been steadily abandoning our Constitution and the principles established since the founding fathers penned the Declaration of independence. We no longer know who we are as a nation, or what we stand for. All we know is that there is some black robed judicial nazi standing by with a pen in hand to DICTATE it from the bench. The "old order" that all these people fear losing was the REPUBLICAN ORDER established in 1789, and the JUDEO-CHRISTIAN VALUES which informed it. Today everthing is dictated by the itch between people's legs and the scratch they get from a government HANDout.

I don't condone a fraudalent email being attributed to you. But neither do I think you have any CLUE as to what is driving the fear behind people's circulating it! The universities are a totally waste of money anymore. You don't TEACH you INDOCTRINATE.

Well I hope you're satisfied with your work. What a STUPID nation we've become, taught by STUPID professors.

David Bollinger said...

I have an infant blog on townhall called Back to the Source. I am an amateur historian, emphasis amateur. I recently wrote an article describing parallels in events between the 1930's and now, but urging calm. The blog is named as it is because I pride myself on tracking assertions back to the original source. Which is why I'm here. I got a copy of the "bad" article. I'll do my best to correct the record. Should you have a chance, visit me at davidbollinger.blogtownhall.com/

Anonymous said...

As I always tell them tin-foil hatters out there: "Make sure what you are saying is not one Google search away from being disproven!" ... and I am still proving that a layman such as me can use the internet for some truths.

Also, turned me on to your writing and I enjoy it. I may even get some of your books....

... hey, wait. This 'aint some publicity stunt is it? haha!

Anonymous said...

What a shock, you can't even trust the internet now days. Why can't Republicans focus on the three C (Cut taxes, Cut government ... military too, Create jobs) instead of lies, fear mongering and prejudice that pervades the party.

SGommesen said...

I wish you were the original author of that e-mail: the words there ARE more true than your rebuttal on your blog. You are blind -- there IS a conspiracy against America, because it was founded as a Christian nation and all enemies of Christ and His Christians are doing everything they can to destroy us. We are on the verge of disaster, if enough people keep silent about what's going on. This IS the absolutely worst president of the history of our nation, and I say that as respectfully as anyone can -- he is our leader, but he is leading us in the wrong direction. He has proven already that he does not believe in the Rights of the People, but will dictate whatever he wishes. Have you not heard in the news that anyone who is a law-abiding citizen, who wants to uphold the Constitution, is a Christian, Pro-life, Pro-marriage (between a man and a woman), Pro-gun, votes for a third party, and who wants to see this country succeed as our fore-fathers wanted it to, is now being named a terrorist? AND, to make it worse, the US is BEFRIENDING the very people who attacked our country on 9-11 (and are the REAL terrorists). Throw out the good, law abiding citizens and welcome those who want to destroy this country. I think they are succeeding.

Our financial problems are not the cause of all the chaos going on -- it is the result of a MUCH much bigger problem, which goes MUCH much deeper than most people are willing to look. What it really boils down to is what started back in the Garden of Eden, called SIN. People don't want to admit there's a God, much less be responsible to Him, so they have ignored Him. But what our country is going through is a spiritual battle at heart, good vs. evil, God vs. Satan. Don't believe me? Read Revelation, the last book in the Bible. I've read it so I know that in the end, in the end of all things, God WILL win. We will ALL have to answer to him. But until that time, here we are, in the last days. Everything that's happening in the US and around the world was prophesied to happen.

If you're such a great student of history, I would've thought you could figure some of this stuff out, but your world view is tainting the picture you see. And that won't be corrected until you are willing to admit there is a God to whom you are responsible and follow His ways and thinking. I will be praying for you.

Anonymous said...

Still you have not addressed the comparison between the National Socialism then and the national socialism now. Although thinking people do not take serious these silly, conspiracy-theory, emails that are so common these days, everyone of your persuasion is afraid to even discuss this breathtaking gov't intervention that is occurring. What you cite as "good" examples of gov't action (New Deal, etc.) would make the founding fathers spin in their grave. How any person that is supposed to be a student (much less a teacher) of history does not understand how this is the direct opposite of the Jeffersonian limited-gov't principles upon which this country was founded is sickening. So, although Obama is not Hitler, this dumbed-down populace will certainly be controlled by some sort of dictatorship before the end of this century.

SGommesen said...

Check this out:
then tell me there isn't a conspiracy against America!

Anonymous said...

I disagree with your characterization that the Republicans created the economic crisis with deregulation during the 80's. Reagan attempted to deregulate, however it was Clinton who repealed the Glass Steagall Act that allowed Citigroup and Travelers to merge and become a huge investment bank. Clinton also brought NAFTA into being, sending our jobs overseas. And it was Carter who enacted the CRA, the first instrument to encourage, actually blackmail, banks into making loans to less than credit worthy individuals and groups leading eventually to the mortgage crisis we see today. Otherwise I agree with you.

Antiquated Tory said...

There was a science fiction story I read ages ago, in IASFM I think, in which someone on the Internet meets a version of herself in a parallel universe. This universe is almost identical to ours but some historical details are different. For example, Ronald Reagan starred in Casablanca, but never became President.
All due respect to your far more likely "nationalism" explanation in the subsequent post, but I would prefer to think that, for example, when I read a blog comment that the Depression was worse in 1938 than in 1933, that person lives in a parallel universe where this was the case. It's certainly the most charitable explanation.

ginstonic said...

WOW, the comments are exploding on this blog. How fantastic. I hope this sharing does us all some good. I don't agree with all the opinions expressed here, (how could I, they are all over the place), but I would defend to the dealth your right to express them.
Thanks to all for speaking your mind and not attributing it to someone else.

Anonymous said...

Dr Kaiser: as I go back and reread the infamous email, I find some truth in many of the paragraphs. Some statements are statements of fact which can be backed up. Others are admittedly conclusions or beliefs. Yet the total message has, to me, more truths in it than falsehoods and I do not dismiss its message just because of it having a false authorship.

You talk of partisanship, yet make some of your own partisan remarks, so no one is "pure", no one devoid of some bias. In the end, this email has "resonance" because many find truth in much of what it describes. You do not have to believe Obama resembles Hitler to see many parallels and dangers in what is happening 5/18/2009 compared to the 30s.

Prosper and be safe said...

A nicely constructed piece, David - but you betray your own biases and ignorance of the facts by elevating FDR and Lincoln to high pedestals. (Check your facts, their use of thugs to suppress differing opinions or failure to follow the government-speak would have brought a smile to HItler's face.)

Interesting that you also single out Fox news - as if CNBC, ABC, CBS, NBC, and the New York Times along with a myriad of other "newspapers" did not spew their own brand of propaganda and unprincipled "opinions" and views. BTW, have you red the Huffington Post of late? No lack of facts there, eh? I am not a fan of Fox, nor any traditional news outlet. They sold their souls to the socialist devil a long time ago, along with flushing our constitution down the toilet.

Your sources, once you come into the current day, are as corrupt and bankrupt as the ones you attack in this epistle.

Yes, we are at a turning point. And it will get uglier, much uglier, as the Congress - which, BTW, is the branch that controls all spending and all budgets - a Democratic-controlled one - spends us into oblivion while the president ignores basic law and trashes the free market with arbitrary decisions and actions. All are acting now outside of the Constitution - and if there is any one thing that could indeed hold it all together, and keep us as common shared citizens, it is a return to the constitution and the laws that it lays down.

I am not aligned with either party - they are equally corrupt, top to bottom. But I am aligned against those who think they know better than the document which was given to us to keep our Republic. Now we are faced with demagoguery run wild - laced with lies and deceit from all corners. No one left to trust, no one anchored in principle, no one adhering to the constitution.

The stuff of revolutions. History may not repeat exactly, but it sure rhymes pretty good.

Anonymous said...

I found your take on talk radio and Fox News very interesting. For example, you claimed that they "make no effort actually to understand our problems and how they might be solved, but simply spend all their time trying to exploit them for partisan advantage."

Your gross accusation that these institutions make "no effort" to solve the problems they present, although clearly unfounded, effectively attacks their legitimacy, and your assertion that they "exploit" problems in order to gain "partisan advantage" successfully labels them as anything but an effective source for objective news focused solely on working towards building a better America.

I particularly like how you eliminate any reference to every other news broadcast network, although obviously you couldn't, for an attack on conservative news would lose considerable credibility when placed alongside the reality that the other news networks are also overrun with people working for "partisan advantage," except, luckily for them, their "partisan advantage"seems to be one with which you agree.

In actuality, your very claims against talk radio and Fox news reveal your own partisan motivations, and your attack against them exposes the manipulative attitude so prevalent in mainstream media in which liberal thought remains "objective" while conservative thought emerges from clear "partisan" motives.

Political manipulation at its best. Well done.

Mark59 said...

I received the bogus email from my brother-in-law. We are both Veterans but have very different political views. I knew after reading but a few lines... that this was either false or you were another extremist trying to unravel the fabric of our society. My wife found your blog and forwarded it to me. The subject line was the same as her brother's and I almost deleted it. I'm glad I did not! I know I will receive more of the bogus email. Now, I'm prepared to respond responsibly. Thank you for your rebutal, clarification and publication! This unchecked media of the Internet is key to the downfall of life as we know it. Critical thinking is declining. That's my fear! Where will it end? Will it end? People should be afraid. Not of our current administration, but the effort by so-called patriots, to undermine it!

Anonymous said...

I am glad so many are revealing that they beleive our situation in this country now paralells what happened during the years that Hitler was rising to power in what became Nazi Germany. I am proud that our United States of America military service men and women were able to defeat Hitler. I will bet that as a historian you are not the least concerned that President Obama has had so many records concerning his life and education sealed, beginning with his birth certificate.

Donald said...

So, I received the falsely attributed email and then the blog from the historian himself. I was ready to send the blog to all the email friends that I forwarded the first, thinking that I have done a dumb thing again, forwarding a falsehood.
But I took the trouble to not only read the blog of the real Historian, but more importantly, ALL the comments from some very correct thinking people, all I think good Americans as I think I am.
I have decided to forward the "disclaimer" to all my email friends but with the urging to read all the "comments". They are the most important part of this polemic.
I too think there is both truth and some opinion in the original article. Further, all the information is important for all Americans to evaluate and digest and to closly scrutinize all the comments.
I am glad I read all the material. I feel more enlightened. I will continue to digest all the information for some time to come.
Signed, Superdoc

Unknown said...

I read your comments about Americans being dumbed down and comparing our government to Hitler. Sometimes the simplest explanation for a person is the best and you Dr. Kaiser are a retard.

TremendousSlouch said...

To the person mentioning Glass-Steagall. You fail to mention that the bill was introduced by Phill "Mental-Recession" Gramm. But don't let that ruin your "freeper" screed, cause it's all about them "durty libruls"

Anonymous said...

Your bias for the Democratic party while demonizing the Republican party shows you are BLIND student of history. Trust me, there is big difference. If you were to remove your blind folds you would finally see the truth; the objective of both parties is to obliterate the Constitution and the freedom we Americans' take for granted.

The left criticized Bush for trampling the Constitution and rightly so. Obama comes along and makes Bush look like he was just merely clipping the corners of the Constitution with dull scissors. Where have the screaming Liberals gone who were so concerned about the Constitution?

There is no left. There is no right. The illusion that both parties promise to restore America to its greatness is just that, an illusion. An illusion tactfully used to distract people from realizing the real agenda; to change the political and social landscape of America forever.

The fact you cannot see this reduces your credibility to that of a grain of salt.

Dwight A said...

Reading these comments is ironic at best, frequently idiotic. While Dr. Kaiser's post is certainly imperfect, I believe it to be basically correct. But this post about partisan fear serves to become self-referential when the comments are integrated.

I am curious about peoples' acknowledgment of their own bias. Again and again, individuals claim that politicians are attempting to destroy the Constitution. How? There's nothing unconstitutional about national debt. Just because you THINK something is unconstitutional doesn't make it so.

I think it would benefit all of us participating in a history blog to read the historical facts--read the Constitutional Convention debates. Learn what the many people whose signatures are on the document actually intended the document to be. And realize, at last, the the document is not an end unto itself, but a means. After all, it even contains the means for its own alteration!

We need to recognize that EVERYTHING is being politicized, and, in the process, polarized. The Constitution itself is being used as a political weapon by the very people who claim absolute fealty to the political doctrine it supposedly contains. Well, I'm sorry, but the founders were neither Republican, Democrat, nor Libertarian. One of the great challenges of today is to cease to see things in terms of polarities and start searching for solutions regardless of the source.

In defense of the attacks on Fox News: while all of the major television news outlets are biased (which Kaiser admits to, btw), Fox News appears to be the only one formed solely for the purpose of generating propaganda. I deplore the way that MSNBC and CNN have evolved into manipulators--but Fox News is the bastard child of the Republican party and their beloved fear machine. But, in the defense of Republicans, I can stomach their ideals. It's the tactics that have come about in recent decades that I can't.

Anonymous said...

Having just read the post by Dr. Kaiser and, like others who have commented, ALL the comments, the last one by Dwight I find the most disturbing and the one that makes me reeeeeeally mad.

"Fox News appears to be the only one formed solely for the purpose of generating propaganda." What a JOKE!! The propaganda spewed by MSNBC and the likes of Keith Obermouth is like watching a Nazi propaganda broadcast. His hateful, jeering, condescending, nonsensical blather is repulsive and nauseating. Not to mention the other hosts and other liberal media broadcasters who fall adoringly at the feet of King Obama who appears to being near his deification.
Dr. Kaiser, you might think of yourself as an astute historian, but you have an agenda, a bias, and a skewed worldview demonstrated by the statement, "Our country was founded by men who believed that human reason can make a better world. Let us not throw away that legacy by surrendering to terror, hatred, and other raw emotions. Let us work for an America where, once again, Democrats and Republicans can not only co-exist but work together."

Our country was NOT founded by men who thought that "HUMAN REASON" could accomplish anything. Dr. Kaiser, these CHRISTIAN MEN with a clearly Christian worldview, believed that only God can make this a better world. How dare you distort the intent of these devout men, who after trying to use "HUMAN REASON" at many times during the birthing of this great nation, stopped and had prayer and Bible study for hours at a time and then continued to negotiate these founding documents. Add to that the fact that at something like 15 times during the American revolution, the congress called for days of Fasting and Prayer!! Now, how about correcting your FACTS and OPINIONS stated that these men thought that "HUMAN REASON" could make this a better nation?? Show at least on shred of decent and honest character and set the record straight. I dare you. Reference the letter of John Adams to his wife Abagail. These are documented FACTS not opinions like the ones you are falsely spewing in your seemingly scholarly blog.

Now as to your quote, "Let us not throw away that legacy by surrendering to terror, hatred, and other raw emotions." What do you do with statements by great patriots like, "Give me liberty or give me death"? Is that a raw emotion we should shun? Or what about this well documented, "raw emotional" statement by George Washington in his farewell address, "Of all the dispositions and habits, which lead to political prosperity, Religion and Morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of Men and Citizens. The mere Politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connexions with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked, Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths, which are the instruments of investigation in Courts of Justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition, that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect, that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle." Dr. Kaiser, you just got slapped in the face by George Washington!! So much for "human reason" leading us to be a better nation. That is a liberal pipe dream that has been around for decades and is now a worn out socialist mantra.
Get you facts straight and stop indoctrinating your students with revisionist thinking.
Better yet, try getting on your knees, ask God for mercy and maybe when you stand before him and give an answer as to what you did with his gift of Grace, the Lord Jesus Christ, you may then have and know salvation from the eternal judgment that awaits you if you don't.
Cliff Jones

Anonymous said...

Dr. Kaiser, Why did you remove my post? I guess the truth is too radical for you to handle. Come on, to a historian, a quote from George Washington's farewell address was just too much for you to handle? What are YOU afraid of? Is fear motivating your decisions? Try being a real truthful historian and put it back up so others can know the real truth instead of your revisionist, biased opinions.

Hoping you will return my post and let others know the truth.

Cliff Jones

Anonymous said...

Dr. Kaiser, My mistake. When I checked the blog a short time ago, my comment didn't appear on screen. After I posted my last comment, bingo, it reappeared. I am assuming it was some sort of technical problem. My apologies. Cliff Jones