The Nazi film The Eternal Jew likened Jews to rats crawling out of the sewer intent on spreading disease, poisoning wells, undermining German racial stock, and conspiring to take over the world. The images were so over the top that even the Nazis balked at showing the film to the general population, for fear of arousing pity rather than dread and disgust, restricting its viewing to SS Death Head Units and the like.
Propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels figured that they could get the same message across masked as entertainment, targeting the general public, not just in Germany but in German-occupied Europe. The result was Jud SÃ¼ss, the most expensive German feature film to date, released the same year as The Eternal Jew, 1940. Set in 18th-century Wurttemberg, based on a book by the German-Jewish author Lion Feuchtwanger (albeit unrecognizable in its Nazi iteration), Jud SÃ¼ss was a rich Jew who pimped for the Duke of Wurttemberg and helped finance his wars, all the while plotting the ruin of the dukedom by forcing the indebted duke to open the gates to Stuttgart’s ghettoized Jewry. In the end, thanks to the timely resurgence of das gesunde Volksempfinden — race-conscious, “healthy popular feeling” — Jud SÃ¼ss is hanged and Wurttemberg’s future secured.
Substitute "Russian" for "Jew" and we have an updated version of The Eternal Jew in its Jud SÃ¼ss guise, i.e. brokered for mass appeal. Russia is the specter haunting the U.S. for at least a century, starting with the Russian Revolution (we sent troops to fight in the ensuing civil war), through the Cold War, to today’s Russiagate. Led by the New York Times and MSNBC, there is no end to Russia-bashing pumped out by the daily news cycle, accusing the Russians and the octopus-like Putin of multiple crimes in which election hacking morphs into the modern equivalent of poisoning the wells, shredding the democratic fabric we are told makes America the envy of the world; democratic, that is, if you discount the Electoral College, gerrymandering, a two-party system in which both parties are in the pockets of corporations, electronic voting machines subject to manipulation, and other undemocratic machinations designed to inhibit the vote.
This is not the place to retail every twist and turn of Russiagate. In truth, Russian meddling—conceding it exists—can’t hold a candle to our own. We consistently stage coups (e.g., the Ukraine); listen in on the conversations of world leaders, including our allies; interfere with elections worldwide (including Russia’s in 1996); invade countries at will; and place missiles on Russia’s western border in contravention of promises made by the elder Bush to Gorbachev.
We’re treading on dangerous ground. Demonization led to the murder of millions of Jews and other dehumanized beings, including 20 million Russians. Demonization — for what else to call this incessant Russia-bashing? — is never a good thing. And what, really, do we stand to gain by Russiagate? The fall-out may be disastrous.