What the Communists taught me

How the language of propaganda is related then and now

From my Writing Room
Copyright © 2022 by Uwe Bahr

Fifty years ago, in socialist East Germany (German Democratic Republic, GDR), I and others were drilled into believing that only fools do not believe in communism. Once or twice I also heard the phrase, “Only a communist is a good person.”

Always pray nicely. So far, hundreds of abuse cases have come to light that the Southern Baptist Convention tried to cover up for decades. The number of unreported cases is probably much higher.

In a slight variation and a few decades later, I heard the following pithy phrase in a Florida church that made my ears ring: “Only a Christian is a good person.” What a merciful, Christian assessment for all those who dare to think differently. I left the institution of totalitarian opinion at the same moment these words were spoken, because I had heard all this before in my life.

Deriving from such experience, when we replace the words “communism” with “God” and “communist” with “Christian” in the first paragraph of this article, we should not be too dumbfounded to discover certain similarities.

The propaganda is comparable in each case, because there is no credible contrast between good and evil here. If you look at the history of Christianity objectively, you can hardly avoid the realization of the role the church has always played in the oppression and extermination of entire peoples in the name of their God. Not even the misdeeds of the churches from today’s time should be mentioned here – starting with the Catholic Church up to the Baptist sect and thousands of cases of sexual abuse. In general, communism lags behind Christianity in the crimes committed only because it did not have 2,000 years in its infamy to cause similar damage on humanity as was inflicted under the Christian cross. Mendacity, however, differs in nothing.

For myself, I come to the impossible conclusion that I am in some way indebted to the Communists. For anyone who has been exposed to their propaganda and, moreover, has not only resisted but rejected its effects, is inevitably endowed with the instinct to smell any form of propaganda from a hundred miles away for the rest of his life.

The absolute majority of people in what was then East Germany (often incorrectly referred to in the U.S. as “communist East Germany”) had a similar experience. Otherwise, a peaceful revolution like that of 1989, with hundreds of thousands of demonstrators every Monday on the streets of East Berlin and Leipzig under the eyes of snipers posted on rooftops, would not have been possible. We were sick and tired of listening to the demented socialist propaganda any longer. Needless to say, a revolution like the one in 1989 cannot be carried out with people who are on the side of the power apparatus. The tireless protests swept away the communist rulers, which would not have been possible without the tacit restraint of the Soviet occupation forces. During the workers’ uprising of 1953, which had already brought the GDR to the brink of the abyss, things looked quite different.

Experience from history should teach:

One’s own life and the independent, free thinking associated with it are too precious a personal good to let it be influenced by unscrupulous impostors – whether from religion or politics. They are easily recognized by their use of language. For such propagandists want nothing else than to bring about the unity opinion, which in the end finds no more contradiction, and all this for only one purpose: Allowing only what they and no one else think is right in the (profitable) interest of the few over the many. Nothing is more dangerous for a society than that.

It sounds like a bad staircase joke: Much of what I can observe in America today reminds me of the old GDR – with the only difference being that in the USA the danger does not come from socialism, but from the extreme opposite, namely real existing neoliberalism. Every encyclopedia explains what that is and what it stands for.

Worldview of a Local Yokel

From my Writing Room

Copyright © 2020 by Uwe Bahr

If churches tell people how to vote, then these churches should be taxed. They invest in the stock market from their sheep’s tithing and own property worth more than 600 billion free of tax. At the same time, Joe Schmo toiling for Walmart has to pay his share into the coffers, thereby subsidizing the heavenly phrase mongers and their Sunday morning story time. According to a study from the University of Tampa, poverty in the United States could be eliminated if religious institutions would not be granted a pass on taxes.

“The only way to make any real money in this world was to start a religion.” L. Ron Hubbard, Founder of the Church of Scientology

In the countryside of Guns and God, where church comrades Jim Bob and Joe Bob happily shoot through their neighborhood and a widespread mentality seems out of step with realness, one will wonder no longer how things could change for the better. In lockstep with such obvious backwardness and a meticulously fostered system of “good old boys”-connections, serves a local newspaper in the scenic north Georgia mountains. The provincial paper, distinguished by its perpetual dullness, was capable of publishing the reader’s letter of an alleged Reverend, whose name I do not even want to cite on my blog.

On pages 4 and 5 in the paper’s October 14, 2020 edition, the presumed minister jabbers about a topic he in his perfected bigotry obviously never heard much more about than through dull propaganda widely distributed in the United States. His assertions culminate in the sentence that America is – quote – “on the verge of becoming a socialistic state, which is clearly the work of the great deceiver Satan.” End quote.

I wonder how much time this scriptural genius has spent with lunatic conspiracy ideologists to utter such nonsense. At this juncture, I could go through his absolute baseless gibberish about Socialism line by line and confute him, factually accompanied by verifiable historic facts and first-hand experience. Instead, I would like to refer the reader to my various writings on this blog site.

Apart from that – and probably more importantly – is the rationale that a Reverend as a religious servant should never convert himself publicly into a political ideologist. But that’s exactly what this man does, for he not only uses a poor language in a baseless and repulsive propagandistic style, but rather makes his intention abundantly clear: namely, suggesting to his readers not to vote for the Democratic candidate because the consequence would be nothing but Socialism. This, Mr. Reverend, is not only shameful in attitude and false in itself – it also incapacitates you as your boss’ servant, always in service, whose public rhetoric consequently should be separated from his political bias.1 For what you did, you should change your job.

I am more inclined at this point to express my incredulous astonishment about how in the world, in the United States of America and in the 21st century, a newspaper can publish such horrendous, ultimate mischief without at least labeling a customized warning notice, especially when the personified existence of Satan is mentioned2. This has nothing to do anymore with freedom of speech, but rather with the journalistic obligation to exercise diligence. Or do the protagonists of this newspaper assume that their own children will get educated by being exposed to such ultimate stupidity?

1 And therefore again comes George Carlin’s quotation in mind: “I don’t know how you feel, but I’m pretty sick of church people. You know what they ought to do with churches? Tax them. If holy people are so interested in politics, government, and public policy, let them pay the price of admission like everybody else.”

2 I am aware of Satan’s central character in the Bible, although the unforgettable, genuine Lutheran Pastor Thoms in his religious instructions never mentioned this horrible figure toward us children. The spook probably would have scared the hell out of us. – I had encounters with Satan in a more appropriate place – in the book of fairytales sent in 1969 over the Iron Curtain by my aunt in West-Germany. It is still on my book shelf.