Some newspapers welcomed Hitler. Now, some welcome a new hatred.
The Harvard Crimson — the nation’s oldest, continuously published college newspaper at the nation’s most prestigious college — has embraced BDS, the “boycott, divest, sanctions” anti-Israel movement.
What does this say about newspapers and history? How kindly — make that, unkindly — has history treated newspapers that could not transcend the grip of the mood of their time? Like a journalistic kleptomaniac, the Crimson cannot grab indiscriminately enough from a similar, disastrous journalistic judgement of the 1930s.
How has the venerable The New York Times fared as history looks back at the Holocaust? How have the Daily News — and William Randolph Hearst’s 28 American newspapers, and others — fared?
Hard though it may be to believe today, The New York Times treated the Holocaust as a minor news event, tucking small stories into the back pages.
Doubly hard though it may be to believe today, the Daily News and many other papers all but welcomed the rise of Hitler! It’s all laid out in a new book, The Newspaper Axis: Six Press Barons Who Enabled Hitler, by Kathryn S. Olmstead (Yale University Press).
Try this, from the Daily News, after Kristallnacht (1938):
“. . . plenty of people just now are exercising their right to dislike the Jews.”
Try this, from Britain’s Daily Mail, which, in 1933, wrote that Hitler had “given Germany a new soul,” and this:
“By what force has this land been lifted from a despondent, discouraged, disregarded condition to its old place in the front rank of the Great Powers? HITLER. That is the whole answer.”
Read that carefully: It turns a negative into a positive; it turns a blatant racist development into a positive force of history.
That, in a nutshell, is precisely the configuration of the boycott, divest, sanctions movement — just in reverse. BDS turns a positive into a negative.
BDS turns a reborn Jewish state, whose Arab population on both sides of the 1967 Israeli border (the “Green Line”) has flourished by comparison to surrounding Arab populations in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Egypt, into a blatantly racist development.
We see how that approach worked out for the Daily News, Chicago Tribune, Washington Times-Herald, Hearst’s 28 newspapers; and Britain’s Daily Mail and Daily Express. Emotion trumped fact. Delusion trumped discomfort. Indifference to the enemy’s violence stoked danger — as in this headline from the Daily Express, Sept. 30, 1938:
“The Daily Express declares that Britain will not be involved in a European war this year, or next year either.”
Here is how the Daily Express’ dangerous prediction, blinded to reality, translates in 2022 for the Middle East:
BDS, in legitimating baseless hatred and isolation of Israel, emboldens those itching to destroy Israel.
• Hamas in Gaza, for example, has shown no hesitancy in launching missiles against Israeli civilians and triggering wars in the Middle East.
• Iran, for another example, is itching to develop a nuclear weapon to threaten — or use against — Israel and other, Sunni Muslim enemies.
• Residents in Jenin, for example, passed out candies to kids and sang and danced upon learning that a Jenin resident murdered three Israelis and left 16 Israeli children orphaned on May 5.
Here is how the Daily Express’ blinders translate in 2022 for the United States:
BDS, in legitimating baseless hatred of Israel, exacerbates polarization by poisoning public discourse, and smoothes the way for some demented minds to commit terrorist acts against American Jews. Pittsburgh. Poway. Colleyville.
Expect to hear the exact opposite from BDS advocates. Expect to hear that BDS generates peace and justice. How did that work out for the same bent of mind in 1939? Try this headline from Aug. 1, 1939 in Britain’s Daily Mail:
“REICH UNREADY: Peril of War in ‘39 Grows Less.”
Hitler invaded Poland exactly one month later, starting WW II.
The Harvard Crimson is now in the grip of the same type of go-with-the-wind zeitgeist, the same indifference to a violent political ideology —this time, the violence of the regnant and repugnant Palestinian extremists.
The Crimson’s thinking, which disfigured some of the press in the pre-WW II Hitler era, sows the seeds of its own disgrace.
We just hope it doesn’t take another round of wars in the Middle East to verify the point.
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