August 14, 2017

Watch: The U.S. War Department made a Short Film in 1943 that’s Going Viral after Charlottesville.

For elephant’s full coverage, and photos, and video, and quotes: here


“I’ve heard this kind of talk before, but I never expected to hear it in America.”

“Don’t be a Sucker” was produced by the U.S. War Department in 1943 to warn Americans not to fall for fascist rhetoric.

Back then, it would have been shown in cinemas, but today, in light of in the light of Charlottesville and the cauldron of hate and division in America that’s long been bubbling—now boiling over, thanks to the president himself who knowingly stirred it up to further his own campaign—it is going viral on the small screen.

The echoes of its message, more than 70 years on, are even more chilling than ever. Because this has all happened before. And we should know better.

It’s really a clip from the original 17-minute long short film that’s trending. In it, an older man with an Eastern European accent warns a young American man about the dangers of the hate-filled speech another “average American” man on a soapbox podium is giving.

“I was born in Hungary, but now I am an American citizen. And I have seen what this kind of talk can do—I saw it in Berlin. I was a professor at the university. I heard the same words we have heard today.”

“But I was a fool then,” he continues. “I thought Nazis were crazy people, stupid fanatics. Unfortunately it was not so. They knew they were not strong enough to conquer a unified country, so they split Germany into small groups. They used prejudice as a practical weapon to cripple the nation.”

The viral clip ends shortly after. But in the full film, which you can see in the U.S. War Department archives, here, he goes on:

“We must never let that happen to us or to our country. We must never let ourselves be divided by race or color or religion, because in this country we all belong to minority groups…

Your right to belong to these minorities is a precious thing. You have a right to be what you are and say what you think because here we have personal freedom. We have liberty. And these are not just fancy words. This is a practical and priceless way of living. But we must work it. We must guard everyone’s liberties. Or we can lose our own.

If we allow any minority to lose its freedom by persecution or by prejudice, we are threatening our own freedom. And this is not simply an idea. This is good, hard common sense.

You see, here in America, it’s not a question whether we tolerate minorities—America is minorities. And that means you and me. So let’s not be suckers. We must not allow the freedom or dignity of any man to be threatened by any act or word. Let’s be selfish about it. Let’s forget about ‘we’ and ‘they. Let’s think about us.”

These words sink deep into my own South African heart because I am a product of a similarly pioneering, marauding, violent, beautiful, heroic, tragic, chequered, but proud nation. A nation of minorities, of conflict, and contradiction, but a nation all the same. Though, if we cannot learn to see ourselves as such—as “us”—then we will be our own demise, as nations, and as a species.

And we will have no excuse for it. Because we saw it coming.


Top comments via reddit:

kyle2143 “That was pretty long, but an interesting video to watch. More powerful than the 2 minute clip in the original post, I especially liked the quote, “When that first minority lost out, everybody lost out.”

Whenever I come across a video or anything where the author tries to persuade the audience, especially something that is blatantly propaganda, I always try to find whatever objectionable bias that is hidden behind it. Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but I can’t think of anything here. (Except maybe that first scene where a guy get’s mugged because he cheated on his wife, not sure why that was in this video)”

kva19 “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me

— MARTIN NIEMÖLLER (1892-1984)


I mean… that’s the whole point of what he said. He was fine with them rounding up others he disagreed with and he learned his lesson when they turned on him.

It’s not a wise statement from a brilliant man, it’s a stunning realisation by a man who made a terrible mistake giving in to his hatred. A clergyman, no less.

What will the order be this time?


First they came for the Nazis, and I did not speak out – Because I was not a Nazi.

The they came for the weeaboos, and I did not speak out – Because I was not a weeaboo.

Then they came for the crossfitters, and I did not speak out – Because I was not a crossfitter, or I would have told you.

They they came for me–and the crossfitter was still there to tell everyone about crossfit, so he spoke for me.

Now I do crossfit. And I’m a vegan. They never came for the vegans either, so I’m double safe I think. Overall, this whole thing has been a net improvement.”

HMS–Thunderchild This is stated to be from 1943 but brings up Normandy and D-Day?

Mako109 That’s… a good point, and a little concerning. I wonder if there’s an explanation?

Edit: Forgot to add; According to my research, this film was released in 1943 originally, then re-released in 1947. If I were to be… non-conspiratorial about it, perhaps those references to D-Day and Normandy were added in the 1947 version, which is definitely most likely the version we see?


Gus_Tar It was actually released in 1947. 

EightEx These words should always be remembered, lest we repeat the mistakes of history. Next time It may not be Germany, next time it may not be Jews, next time, it could be you.

Fake_William_Shatner I read this in the 1940’s radio voice.


Relephant reads:

An old Fable to inspire Hope (& Action) in the light of Charlottesville.

Racism comes by Executive Order.


Author/Editor: Khara-Jade Warren
Image: U.S. War Department archives

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