“The Politics of Hate” is a documentary by director Michael Perlman that documents the last 100 years of hate in the USA and the interconnection between the American and European far right movements, supported by the Russian government.
The film features Christian Picciolini, a former leader of the American Nazi and White Supremacist Movement, who went on to form the organization Life After Hate; Mark Potok, Senior Fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center; and Menhaz Afridi, a Muslim-American woman who serves as an advisor to the U.S. Holocaust Museum and as Director of the Holocaust, Genocide and Interfaith Center at Manhattan College.
The film shows startling similarities between today and the 1920s and 30s. According to Potok, Henry Ford was a fan of Hitler and an anti-Semite who had a newspaper in the 1920s that was the Breitbart News of its time, spreading untruths and propaganda. Hitler republished it in German and awarded Ford the highest medal that the German government had for foreigners.
Hitler saw Ford as the leader of the Fascist movement in the U.S., and there was a great deal of anti-Semitism here at that time. During the early part of Hitler’s power, for example, 20,000 Americans attended a pro-German rally in Madison Square Garden.
In the film, we see footage from the 20s through the 60s, including segments of Hitler’s speeches, gruesome images from concentration camps, and disturbing film from the civil rights movement.
Picciolini talks about how he was drawn into the Nazi movement and formed a white supremacist band that was aimed at inciting violence. It was when he had a child that he began to rethink his ideology, as he didn’t want to bring up his son in that atmosphere of hate. Now, he speaks out against white supremacist groups around the world.
As Potok discusses the resurgence of these groups today, he explains that the servers of two major white supremacist groups went down after President Obama’s first inauguration due to the high numbers of people who visited them in reaction to the election of a black man. “What he represented was the browning of America,” according to Potok, which sent many white people into a panic.
Picciolini talks about how today’s white supremacist groups have rebranded themselves to seem more benign in order to draw politicians and others into their ranks. David Duke advised them to get out of their hoods and into suits and ties. This rebranding then allows them to spread misinformation and cause people to think their lives are threatened by Jews, minorities, and immigrants. President Trump has retweeted these groups or leaders within them, adding more fuel to the fire.
Footage of the Charlottesville, Virginia protest in August 2017, in which the neo-Nazi groups screamed and chanted “Jews will not replace us,” is interspersed with footage of Trump saying that the group consisted of some very fine people. It’s also striking and disturbing to hear that the majority of voices heard in alt-right rallies throughout the world are male, while the majority of voices heard in the rallies opposing the alt-right are female. With so many clips shown in succession in the film, it’s impossible not to notice this.
The film also discusses Nazi and anti-immigration organizations that have gained power throughout Europe and in Asia. One such leader went so far as to say that they’re ready to “open the ovens,” as immigrants and non-white people become easy scapegoats for society’s problems.
The film is chilling in its parallels between Hitler’s time and today, but we’re left with hopeful images of groups like Life After Hate that are working to educate people in an effort to prevent hate groups from increasing their numbers.
If you can handle some of the images, this is an important documentary to see and share. “The Politics of Hate” is currently available on iTunes and Amazon Prime.