Reagan proclaimed that the world was on the precipice of “a new era in human history,” one that would bring “peace and freedom for all.” Communism was crumbling, just as fascism had before it.
Liberal democracies would soon encircle the globe, thanks to the innovations of Silicon Valley.
Roosevelt’s cabinet sought advice from a group of intellectuals calling themselves the Committee for National Morale.
The Committee had been founded in the summer of 1940 by a historian of Persian art named Arthur Upham Pope, who brought together a number of America’s leading thinkers, including the anthropologists Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson, psychologists Gordon Allport and Kurt Lewin, and journalists Edmond Taylor and Ladislas Farago.
In the years before the Second World War, Americans were mystified as to how Germany, one of the most sophisticated nations in Europe, had tumbled down the dark hole of National Socialism.
Today we’d likely blame Hitler’s rise on the economic chaos and political infighting of the Weimar era. When Hitler spoke to row upon row of Nazi soldiers at torch-lit rallies, the radio broadcast his voice into every German home. They are living in a Nazi dream and not in the reality of the world.
Members of the Committee joined many American intellectuals in subscribing to the views of the anthropologist Franz Boas, who believed that cultures shape the personalities of their members in predictable ways.
Germans, they thought, tended toward rigidity and an affection for authority, hence Hitler’s famously bureaucratic Nazi regime was a natural extension of the German character.
Thousands of American fascists banded together in groups with names like the Silver Legion of America and the Crusader White Shirts.
The Amerikadeutscher Volksbund, a 25,000-member pro-Nazi organization commonly known as the Bund, ran a summer camp on Long Island called Camp Siegfried, where young men marched in Nazi-style uniforms as their friends and families cheered.