is beginning a commemorative series of articles in view of the fact that people on this planet don't really seem to be remembering what they swore they would 'never forget'. History is repeating, it is happening NOW, and the beginnings are before our very eyes. Consider these articles our warning to humanity. We hope it doesn't fall on deaf ears.
never again
Alfred Hitchcock was an artist. He understood the language of film like few others have or do - how to communicate on a visceral, emotional level with imagery and sound - and it shows in his psychological thrillers, like Psycho, The Birds, and Vertigo, among countless others. But he also made a film most people haven't heard about. In 1945 he was commissioned to assist in a documentary film utilizing footage taken by British, American and Russian cameramen/soldiers of the liberated concentration camps stretching across Europe in the wake of World War II. Hitchcock himself only ended up working on the film for a month, helping with the visual presentation of the footage and refusing payment, before various delays cropped up, studio executives axed the project, changed its focus, got a new director (Billy Wilder), and eventually released a shortened, totally different version entitled Death Mills.

On January 26, HBO will air a new documentary, Night Will Fall, telling the story of the original film, which sat unseen in an archive for decades, and its restoration. FRONTLINE first broadcast a restored version of the film, Memory of the Camps, in 1985. You can watch it below. (It is also available on PBS's website.)

The original purpose of the film was to show people the horrors of Nazi Germany, "as a document, to serve our collective memory". In other words, to never forget. To see the absolute horror of which 'humanity' is capable, and hopefully to learn the lesson so that it might not happen again. "Never again!" is the slogan that most immediately comes to mind when I think of the Holocaust, and it is a good sentiment, if only we would open our eyes and ears, in order to truly see what it will take to prevent another atrocity on this scale. But we can't. We are on the same road to destruction. It will happen again, and humanity won't see it coming. Well, very few will see it, and their voices will count for nothing. There were those who saw what was coming before World War II, and they were ignored, ridiculed, arrested, or killed.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Watch the film first.

Did you watch it? What emotions did it stir up in you? How are such atrocities even possible? What can possibly inspire humans to treat other humans so callously, to engage in mass murder, torture, mass imprisonment, dehumanization, with such abject cruelty and indifference? This is where we're headed, and I can't help but shake my head and feel the anger and sadness rise up within me as I watch the world blindly stumble into another Holocaust.

Never again. Right away we run up against the first roadblock in actually fulfilling that ideal. Because the first thing most people think of when remembering the Holocaust is that it was exclusively Jews who were slaughtered. And despite the widespread moral condemnation and outrage over the Israelis' treatment of the Palestinians, there is no great epidemic of anti-Semitism, and no second 'Jewish Holocaust' is in sight. But most people probably forget the political dissidents, Gypsies, Poles, Soviet POWs and civilians, and mentally and physically disabled individuals, who were treated just as brutally. So when it comes to thinking about the possibility of a second Holocaust, 'never again' tends to mean the world should never again see a mass extermination of Jews, which is to miss the point almost entirely.

But let's say the Nazis did exclusively target Jews. Even then, it wouldn't make a difference. In fact, that should probably make the moral even more obvious. The Jews were collectively blamed, demonized, punished and murdered because they were seen as an insidious threat, an internal and external enemy against which every German should fight. The "Jewish problem" needed a "solution". Just read the vicious propaganda that was catapulted at the German people in service of this meme: SOTT Exclusive: Breaking news! Reichstag torched, culprit caught! Muslim plot for world domination uncovered!

No doubt many Germans agreed with the lie that "the Jews", as a collective, were a real problem: ethnocentric, tribal, a nation unto themselves with divided or questionable loyalties, and with aspirations to world domination. And so they agreed to a solution, closing their eyes to what was left unsaid: that the solution was unspeakably horrific. As some Fox News commentators would put it, people do "nasty things in the dark" after a terrorist attack, and the security services are one institution where we "don't need sunlight". In other words, solve the problem, just don't tell us how you do it.

And even if there was any truth in what the Nazis were saying about Jews, that still would not justify the 'solution'. The point should be totally obvious to any human being with an iota of common sense: the Nazis collectively blamed, demonized, punished and murdered an entire group of people (among other groups of people). They carried out a program that can only be called mass extermination. They rounded people up, deprived them of their human rights, starved them, beat them, tortured them, experimented on them, and killed them. It doesn't matter which group they did it to. The point is that it can happen in any context, to any group.

As Mark Twain reportedly quipped (probably apocryphally), "History doesn't repeat, but it does rhyme." Holocausts are a type, the Jewish Holocaust was just one specific instance of that type. And given that humans are still humans, we will tend to do the things humans have always done, like killing each other in large quantities. Never again. A nice sentiment, but not very realistic.

And yet, who wouldn't agree with the idea? Ask any person on the street if they'd like to see another Holocaust, and chances are they'll say "Hell no!" The problem isn't really that people actively want or accept such a scenario. It's that they don't seem to understand how things progress to that 'point of no return'. They don't see the dynamics that lead to a Holocaust, and what part they play in that process.

In fact, we are seeing these very dynamics play out right now, in so-called Western nations, of all places. Only it's not the Jews being targeted. This time, it's Muslims that are 'the problem': there are too many of them, immigration is out of control, they refuse to assimilate and integrate, they are terrorists, their religion is inherently violent, they are planning world domination, world enslavement, world conversion, and they'll kill anyone who gets in their way. Just read my article on the Reichstag Fire to see the similarities between how the German press portrayed Jews and how our Western media present Muslims today. And read the quotations in this piece by Ali Abunimah. Here's a selection:
In almost every case where a name is provided, those arrested would appear to be of North African ancestry - suggesting that France's crackdown is quite targeted.
... I have yet to see cases of people being charged or jailed for anti-Muslim or other kinds of racist or bigoted comments under the "defending terrorism" law.
"It's the Muslims who bring the shit to France these days."
"It has powerfully contributed to popularizing, among 'left-wing' opinion, the idea that Islam is a major 'problem' in French society. That belittling Muslims is no longer the sole privilege of the extreme right, but a 'right to offend' which is sanctified by secularism, the Republic, by 'co-existence.'"
"Commentators in France and elsewhere have taken the recent terrorist attacks in Paris as an occasion to reflect more broadly about Muslims in France."
"Many read the attacks as a sign of French Muslims' refusal to integrate. They've asked whether Muslims can be fully secular and expressed doubt as to whether one can be both Muslim and French."
Just replace 'Muslim' with 'Jew', 'Europe' with 'Germany', and transport yourself back in time 80 years to get the idea.

So how does this happen? And how will it lead to another Holocaust? It's impossible to grok without understanding some basic psychology, which is why Andrew Lobaczewski devoted the first chapter of his book on the hows and whys of totalitarianism, Political Ponerology, to the subject. But if you want something a bit 'lighter' than Lobaczewski's book, it wouldn't hurt to start with a book like David McRaney's You Are Not So Smart.

McRaney's book focuses on dozens of cognitive biases, logical fallacies, and mental heuristics that we humans regularly use in order to get through the day without curling up in a ball of anguish at the realization that we are dumber than we think, easily manipulated, have no idea why we do the things we do or like the things we like, persist in destructive and unhelpful behaviors, make totally irrational decisions, and so on. I want to focus on just a small selection:

Priming: Your behavior is constantly being nudged in certain directions by ideas suggested to your adaptive unconscious. Simply reading certain words can affect your behavior (e.g., 'business'-oriented words cause people to be more selfish when prompted to split money between themselves and another), but it could be anything: images, sounds, smells, facial expressions. Just think of the constant media bombardment you receive on a daily basis from the news, the TV, movies, radio. Think of the words, and the way they're presented: terrorism, evil, jihad, al-Qaeda, ISIS, Islamic, Muslim. These words have all acquired an emotional content that is designed to affect you on the emotional level.

Availability heuristic: People react more rapidly and intensely to information that is commonly available, taking individual examples as representative of the whole even when statistics suggest otherwise. Anything that is unfamiliar is much harder to believe or make sense of. For example, it's easier to recall famous names than ones you've never heard of; it's easier to remember words that start with 'r' than words in which 'r' is the fourth letter. It's just easier to operate based on common, repeated, readily-available information. So it's no surprise that people tend to believe outright lies when they're presented over and over again in the mainstream media without any reasonable counter-arguments, or racial stereotypes, or emotionally-laden perspectives on certain hot topics. It's why a media monopoly is so important to those in power. They determine what information is 'available' to the consciousness of the people they wish to control, and they are able to prime those people at the same time. So it's no wonder people think of Muslims when they hear the word 'terrorism', even though - based on those same official reports the media uses to spin a completely different picture - only 2% of terrorist attacks in Europe over the last 5 years were carried out by Muslims.

Normalcy bias: When the spaghetti hits the fan, people don't just spring into action. They tend to freeze and carry on as if nothing out of the ordinary happened, even if flames are flaring, body parts flying, and people are dying all around them. It happens in any disaster situation: hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, airplane accidents, fires, etc. You basically reassure yourself that things aren't as bad as you think. You have no context with which to judge or predict the severity of something new that you haven't prepared for. So when politicians and pundits start a demonization campaign against a convenient group of people, it's easy to see each progressive step as 'normal', or not too big a deal, like the floodwater slowly rising. The first arrest is just a natural progression. You've already been primed with a suitable response based on the available media information. But it's like a boiling frog, or a severe flood. By the time it becomes too much, it's too late. You may have read about something similar in a book (e.g., a history of WWII), but you haven't really prepared for it. When it really comes, you don't even notice.

Confirmation bias: Your opinions are formed by constantly reinforcing them with data that agrees with your opinion and by ignoring other information. The availability of priming material in the media almost assures that you will therefore have opinions beneficial to the people who manufacture those opinions, and ignore information that counters them. It can even cause you to 'reinterpret' information that conflicts with your present beliefs.

Hindsight bias: Hindsight is 20/20. You probably 'saw it coming', even if you didn't. Or, you'd probably make the same decision 5 years ago that you made today, even if you really wouldn't have. Even if you would have never justified something you saw as wrong or 'too much' 15 years ago (e.g., racist policies and rhetoric), thanks to a motley of biases and shortcuts, you'll tend to rewrite your past so that you always had the same view you have now. By following the herd (see conformity, below), you retroactively conform your past self to your present. Otherwise you'd be a hypocrite, and no one wants to be a hypocrite. So even if you've waxed poetic about "never again" in the past, you'll probably also go along with the racist hysteria that will lead to another Holocaust. You always knew those Muslims would be a problem - just look at all the examples in the media (availability heuristic). It doesn't help that the media presents this very narrative: they warned you, and here's the cherry-picked data proving they were right!

Confabulation: You tend to totally bullshit yourself and others about why you do the things you do. When presented with 4 identical sets of stockings and asked to rate them according to quality, you'll come up with something - this one just feels nicer! look at the weave on this pair! - and you'll believe it. So, let's say you're taking to the streets, chanting "je suis Charlie" and calling for someone to take care of this Muslim problem. Do you know why? Probably not. You'll probably give a reason, though: immigration, terrorism, freedom of speech. But the truth is, you don't really know; those are simply the options made available to you and endlessly reinforced by media and social pressures. You're being manipulated and you don't even know it.

Bystander effect: When the first real atrocity happens, you'll be the first to stand up, right? Unlikely. The more people there are to witness an injustice, or a person in need, the less likely anyone will intervene and help. People either assume someone else will take care of the problem, or they're too fearful to do anything because they know there might be consequences. And when the right response - the good response - is presented as socially unacceptable by the media and power structures (or, on the other hand, when the evil response is presented as a moral/social imperative), that creates an environment where people do not exercise their will for good. They watch first as Muslims are insulted and marginalized, then demonized, then arrested for vague statements, then herded into camps or prisons, or killed in the streets. Then they do the same thing to political dissidents, and to people who stand up for their principles, and to anyone else who gets in their way. Then - who knows? - they come for you.

Conformity: Think you're a beautiful and unique snowflake? Sure, just like all the other beautiful and unique snowflakes. Everyone conforms, and they tend to conform to the will of people they see as authorities (e.g., the Milgram experiment). There's nothing wrong with conformity per se. If everyone conformed to the ideals of individuals like RFK, MLK, Dag Hammarskjold, John Lennon, or even Vladimir Putin, the world would undoubtedly be a better place. The problem is the nature of the authority. You may be more likely than not to give another person a lethal electric shock because a person in a lab coat is telling you that you have to, but who the hell orders people to give other people deadly electric shocks in the first place?! The same people who would demonize, oppress, imprison and murder an entire population simply because it is in their interest to do so. There's a word for them: psychopaths.

That's another cognitive bias that McRaney doesn't mention: we tend to think everyone is like us and wouldn't do the things we wouldn't dream of doing ourselves. In reality, some people are psychopaths, and many others are character-disturbed; not only do they torture, slander, lie and murder on a whim, they also enjoy doing it. They also tend to rise to positions of power, as Lobaczewski describes in his book, and they are the ones who give 'fascism', 'totalitarianism', and political evil in general its particular flavor and features. Again, just watch Hitchcock's film above to get the idea.

This is the reality that psychopaths 'create' by manipulating us to bring it about for them. It's what comes naturally to them. But they know that ordinary humans don't have the same 'inclinations'. So they manipulate us. They're aware of all our foibles and biases, and like experimenters in a lab, they poke and prod, getting us to do what they want us to do. It's what the Nazis did to the Germans. It's what always happens. And the people form their opinions based on the approved media vectors, screaming for a 'solution' to the 'problem' that has been entirely manufactured by the psychopaths in power for the express purpose of bringing about the 'solution'. And the people convince themselves that they are doing so for good reasons: economic prosperity, social unity, freedom of speech, human rights, democracy. But they aren't. They're doing exactly what the psychopaths in power want them to do.

We - western civilization - are going in the same direction, and for much the same reasons. People are being led into this trap just as the Germans were, and the result will be the same. The British, French, Germans, and more have turned into what they once professed to detest. Their leaders have gone over to the dark side. If there's any consolation, it's that people tend to wake up to reality after several years of brutal oppression. Or they're invaded and defeated by a foreign power. And we all know what happens when that happens. This is what such leaders have coming:

Lobaczewski writes:
[W]hat happens if [a network of psychopaths] achieves power in leadership positions with international exposure? This can happen... Goaded by their character, such people thirst for just that even though it would conflict with their own life interest.... They do not understand that a catastrophe [will] ensue. Germs are not aware that they will be burned alive or buried deep in the ground along with the human body whose death they are causing.
Without an awareness of their own cognitive biases, people continue to get what they've been getting their whole lives. They make the same mistakes, they lie to themselves, they come up with excuses, they 'edit' their personal narratives to be more attractive or smarter than they actually are. And they continue to act mechanically, at the direction of forces they do not even know exist. And humanity as a whole suffers. We repeat the same mistakes. We stumble into disaster. We don't see it coming. And then we look back and wonder how we got into the mess in the first place. It's not that difficult, and we'll have no one to blame but ourselves when it happens again. And it is happening. Now.