Features Australia

Behind the mask

The authoritarian health lobby has murky roots in fascism

10 October 2020

9:00 AM

10 October 2020

9:00 AM

When President Trump emerged onto the balcony of the White House this week his detractors, convinced he is dragging the US into fascism, called it his ‘Mussolini’ moment. In reality, it was more ‘Merry Melodies’ or ‘Loony Toons,’ with Trump playing an irrepressible Roadrunner to his enemies’ Wile E. Coyote. For four years, Trump haters have set him one trap up after another and each has blown up in their faces, leaving him unscathed.

When Trump caught Covid his supporters joked that he was vulnerable — 74, male, moderately obese, low income and living in government housing. Yet they were not daunted, assuming that with effective treatment, most people recover. Not so the Left. The sewers of social media were awash with their wish that POTUS and FLOTUS would be cactus. They criticised Trump for using experimental therapies; hoping that he, like others, should get nothing more than an aspirin until he needed a ventilator. Their wagging fingers whipped up a gale force wind when he went for a short drive to wave to well-wishers. Anger turned to fury when he told people not to be afraid of Covid or let it dominate their lives because there were now great drugs available. By refusing to do the patriotic thing and die, Trump blew up the biggest lie of all — that the virus is untreatable, that experimental drugs are dangerous.

On Channel 10’s the Project, host Carrie Bickmore said Trump was ‘unhinged’ for telling people not to let Covid dominate their lives, which explains why she has not criticised Victoria’s record-breaking six month lockdown where she lives. On CNN, pundits said they were ‘literally overwhelmed.’ They decried the tweet as ‘heartless’, ‘cruel’, ‘outrageous’, ‘gross’, ‘horrible’, ‘distressing’, ‘destructive’, ‘disgraceful’, ‘insulting to every American who wears a mask’, ‘absurd’ and ‘so disrespectful’ that one commentator said he was not even sure if he could speak about it. Why the hysteria? One talking head let the cat out of the bag explaining, ‘Everyone should be afraid of Covid.’ At the heart of the Left’s response to the virus is Project Fear and with good reason. Without mortal terror, who would put up with the extraordinary abrogation of fundamental rights and freedoms that health authorities have demanded this year?

The left’s determination to brand Trump a fascist obscures their own authoritarian tendencies. The term ‘health fascism’ was coined in the 1980s in response to the predations of the nanny state ‘protecting’ people from the evils of smoking, but the link is not just rhetorical. In 1939, Dr Leonard Conti, the Reich health führer, established a ‘Bureau Against the Dangers of Alcohol and Tobacco.’ In 1942, Hitler put 100,000 reichsmark of his own money into the establishment of an Institute for the Struggle against the Dangers of Tobacco and was the star performer in anti-smoking propaganda. One campaign declared, ‘Brother national socialist, do you know that your Führer is against smoking and thinks that every German is responsible to the whole people for all his deeds and missions, and does not have the right to damage his body with drugs?’ Tobacco and alcohol were decried as ‘genetic poisons’ that would bring about the degeneration of the German people. Smoking was banned on public transport and in many workplaces. Mothers were exhorted to ‘absolutely avoid alcohol and nicotine during pregnancy and when nursing’ and ‘drink fruit juice.’ People were badgered to consume vegetables and wholemeal bread and to avoid fat. A military slogan asked, ‘Fighting power or whipped cream?’ The SS newspaper fretted that one might ‘think Greater Germany was only created so that this raving Philistine rabble can wolf whipped cream’ in the coffee houses of Vienna.

The eugenicist dream of creating a utopia of only healthy people was not confined to Nazi Germany. In the West, prior to World War II, many in the public health lobby openly supported eugenics. Marie Stopes, a feminist pioneer of birth control in the UK, was described by her biographer as ‘an elitist, an idealist, interested in creating a society in which only the best and beautiful should survive.’ Stopes attended the Nazi-sponsored ‘Congress for Population Science’ in Berlin in 1935 and was such an ardent admirer of Hitler that in August 1939 she sent him a copy of her book of love poems to be distributed in German birth control clinics. In 1942 she wrote in a poem that, ‘Catholics and Prussians, The Jews and the Russians, All are a curse, Or something worse…’ This hasn’t tarnished her image; an international network of family-planning clinics bears her name.

Margaret Sanger, another icon of the Left and a friend of Stopes who opened the first US birth control clinic, was a proponent of compulsory segregation or sterilisation of ’dysgenic groups’ such as the ‘profoundly retarded’ and proposed ‘permits for parenthood,’ issued by the state. She addressed a Ku Klux Klan meeting and put klansman Lothrop Stoddard on the board of her American Birth Control League, forerunner of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

Although the eugenics movement was dealt a fatal blow by the horrors of Nazi Germany, the authoritarian urge to control lifestyles did not go away and abrogating the right to smoke was never going to sate its appetite to control. Despite badging itself as ‘pro-choice’, the Left seeks to ban, or discourage through punitive taxation, a raft of things ordinary people enjoy; fast food, soft drinks, sugar, alcohol, even fossil fuels, since it claims climate change is a mortal threat to human (and planetary) health. Ironically, the right they vociferously defend is to abortion, a practice decried by Stopes and Sanger, yet conducted in the clinics they established. It rose to the top of the agenda last week with Trump’s nomination of pro-life Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, a move that provoked paroxysms of rage in the Left.

The edicts of the health lobby are rife with contradictions. In Australia, they insist on a ban on e-cigarettes which are 95 per cent safer than ordinary cigarettes. The lunacy reached new heights in the pandemic. In scenes reminiscent of Yes Minister, Covid hospitals were constructed with the explicit goal to not treat anyone — a target largely achieved. In Victoria, police arrest the innocent and refuse to sanction the guilty. Law-abiding citizens are subjected to house arrest, while prison inmates are set free.

The Left makes no attempt to conceal its hatred of Trump but he is just a cypher for their real target; the deplorables. As the US election enters its final weeks, the choice is stark; hope or fear, hide or fight, laugh or scold, life or lockdown. Behind its mask, the public health lobby is making an audacious bid for power, which, if it succeeds, it will use to more permanently muzzle Americans. And where the US goes, Australia usually follows.

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