Veith, Gene Edward. Modern Fascism: The Threat to the Judeo-Christian Worldview. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1993.
Chapter 9, “‘The People’s Culture’ Fascism and the Mass Mind” pp. 145-160
Veith considers the mass mind in the current culture, strongly influenced by mass media. We note that this book was written before the internet explosion took place. Access to highly visual media was increasing, a factor in a move to more emotive responses as opposed to the slower and more logically organized responses we normally find to print media (Veith 1993, 146). Veith finds that the fascist worldview is based on speech and images, which are more immediate. This stands in contrast to the written word, which the fascists saw as more transcendent (Veith 1993, 146). Banning and burning of books was popular among fascists as well as among the educated elite through the 20th century (Veith 1993, 147). Deconstruction of ideas can have the same result, as it effectively moves a piece of literature out of the public view.
In contrast to the banning and burning of books, Veith observes that the Nazis produced over 1300 films and embraced the visual arts, when used for their purposes (Veith 1993, 147). However, in contrast to the Nazis, our current culture is far more image-centered. Veith observes the very talk of a politician’s “image” is a radical departure from the content-based discussions which took place through the 19th century (Veith 1993, 148). The fascists of the 1930s managed to use images and experiences, rather than factual arguments, to unify and motivate the public. Mass media has the capacity to create and sustain a mass culture, with people thinking and acting the same way as each other (Veith 1993, 149). Veith acknowledges that some thinkers see this in positive terms, others as a social ill.
Regardless of the view of mass media culture as good or bad, artists and thinkers have uniformly understood that high art needs to give way to popular art (Veith 1993, 150). The masses need art and culture they can approach. The Nazis divided art into “artificial” (the high art) and “genuine” (popular art). It was the popular and folk art that could be embraced by all. Veith sees a similar popularization of art and literature in the late 20th century United States (Veith 1993, 150). The way to this has been led by the artistic and academic institutions where traditional and other “high art” is deconstructed. Veith adduces examples of “aesthetic quality” being made a means of oppressing females and minorities, of elevation of literature that was “marginalized,” and the use of popular imagery such as Warhol’s soup cans (Veith 1993, 151).
A culture of violence is common in mass movements. This was certainly the goal of Nazi propaganda. Veith observes the violence of movies in popular culture, where it was formerly mainly present in the avant-garde (Veith 1993, 152). In many films the plot matters little, but the value is found in the violence. The composition also, rather than focusing on the hero, tends to use the villain’s perspective and bring actions once left off camera into sharp focus (Veith 1993, 153). Veith also notes the communal experience of the rock concert and the forceful musical style and lyrics found in some popular rock. He ties the skinhead culture to the kind of violent music typically used, as well as to the neo-Nazi sympathies of many artists (Veith 1993, 154). One wonders what Veith would think of current ganster rap culture.
Veith considers the Nazi opinions that American society would shortly crumble (Veith 1993, 155). The Nazis assumed America would decline because of their indifference to the environment and their obsession with comfort and pleasure. However, Veith observes that our individualism can resist collectivism and that an integrated “melting pot” society is resistant to racial unrest (Veith 1993, 156). Unfortunately, as politics become more dependent on propaganda and images, these protections can fall apart. Utilitarian and existential philosophies fight against the transcendence which has protected us. Religion which is focused on transcendent principles is a bastion against fascism, but when it shifts its focus to experience and emotionalism it can become an entryway for fascism (Veith 1993, 157). One open door Veith sees to a disruption of the West is a cobination of feminism and fascism (Veith 1993, 158). Racial and sexual equality actively fights against fascism, but Veith sees many neofascist groups on the rise, sowing dissension. He can envision a society in which the elements of fascism would exist apart from the violence. There have been relatively peaceful nationalist socialistic societies which have survived as long as they are not large (Veith 1993, 159). However, socialism almost always falls into the more violent patterns. Veith sees this as an imminent danger to Western Civilization. Ultimately the safeguard is built of transcendent values.