On 11 August hundreds of white nationalists, neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan members marched in Virginia’s Charlottesville carrying torches and yelling slogans “white lives matter” and “blood and soil”. The protest to “take America back” turned violent as white supremacists clashed with counterdemonstrators and a car ploughed into a crowd of anti-racist and anti-fascist demonstrators. After the incident, an old anti-racist, anti-hatred film has once again gone viral on social media.
Tens of thousands of people rediscovered—and promptly shared and retweeted—a clip from Don’t Be a Sucker, a short propaganda film made by the U.S. War Department in 1943, with the majority using a title “share this video if you've heard language like this recently.”
In 1947, the U.S. War Department released "Don't Be a Sucker" to illustrate how Americans could lose their country if they give power to hatred. Almost 75 years after it was first shown, Don’t Be a Sucker lives again as a public object in a new and strange context.
Part of the film
The short film depicts the rise of Nazism in Germany and how political propaganda is similarly used in the United States to recruit Nazi sympathizers from the ranks of American racists.
The viral clip from the film begins as a red-faced man brandishes a pamphlet and addresses a crowd: “I see negroes holding jobs that belong to me and you. Now I ask you, if we allow this thing to go on, what’s going to happen to us real Americans?” He proceeds to blame blacks, Catholics, Freemasons, and immigrants for the nation’s ills.
“I’ve heard this kind of talk before, but I never expected to hear it in America,” says an older man with an Eastern European accent.
He introduces himself to a younger man next to him: “I was born in Hungary but now I am an American citizen. And I have seen what this kind of talk can do—I saw it in Berlin. I was a professor at the university. I heard the same words we have heard today.”
“But I was a fool then,” he continues. “I thought Nazis were crazy people, stupid fanatics. Unfortunately it was not so. They knew they were not strong enough to conquer a unified country, so they split Germany into small groups. They used prejudice as a practical weapon to cripple the nation.” There ends the clip.