NYT: On the turning away


Do not look away. The linked article is a new investigative report by the New York Times:

Outbreaks of scabies, shingles and chickenpox were spreading among the hundreds of children who were being held in cramped cells, agents said. The stench of the children’s dirty clothing was so strong it spread to the agents’ own clothing — people in town would scrunch their noses when they left work. The children cried constantly. One girl seemed likely enough to try to kill herself that the agents made her sleep on a cot in front of them, so they could watch her as they were processing new arrivals.

We don’t have to read this in the New York Times. We already know it. You know it. I know it. There was a time when this knowledge would have generated outrage. But after two years of outrage after outrage, now we are numb. That is the strategy.

We must not forget that what happened in Germany in the 1930s followed the same trajectory. Antisemitism wasn’t invented by Hitler. There was a long history of European antipathy to Jews. What Hitler did was harness that antipathy and make it the focus of the German discontent resulting from World War I. Hitler identified the Jews as the out group who had caused all of Germany’s problems. There was no historical basis for this, but Hitler found many who were willing to unleash their rage on them, regardless. They were not in the majority. The Nazi Party was never in the majority. But they made up for their minority in numbers with outrageous acts.

If you asked the average German if they thought it would be a good idea to kill all the Jews they would have recoiled in horror. But Hitler became more and more brazen, and the majority said nothing. They probably denied it at first, but as time passed they knew. It was right in front of them. By the time the situation was undeniable, those who might have stopped it earlier were in fear of the Nazi state. It was  too late.

The mass of ordinary Germans did know about the evolving terror of Hitler’s Holocaust, according to a new research study. They knew concentration camps were full of Jewish people who were stigmatised as sub-human and race-defilers. They knew that these, like other groups and minorities, were being killed out of hand.

They knew that Adolf Hitler had repeatedly forecast the extermination of every Jew on German soil. They knew these details because they had read about them. They knew because the camps and the measures which led up to them had been prominently and proudly reported step by step in thousands of officially-inspired German media articles and posters. 

We are on the same dangerous path. If you asked the average American today if they think it a good idea to brutalize children, they would recoil in horror. But it is happening in plain sight and with little resistance. It is not too late to stop it. It is not too late to stop the slide into autocracy. But it will be soon enough.


Hungry, Scared and Sick: Inside the Migrant Detention Center in Clint, Tex.

This story was a collaboration between The New York Times and The El Paso Times. CLINT, Tex. – Since the Border Patrol opened its station in Clint, Tex., in 2013, it was a fixture in this West Texas farm town.