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Are friends electric?” inquired Gary Numan in 1981, but it was roughly seven decades earlier that Dr. Albert Abrams began trying to convince the world that electricity was indeed its friend. His credentials were in doubt, however, and his methods were surely batshit.

Abrams’ treatments were based on a fuzzy principle he dubbed “Electronic Reactions of Abrams,” which he claimed to embed in numerous expensive medical devices he rented and sold. Now rightly recognized as one of the foremost medical mountebanks of the 20th century, the quack knowingly fooled enough of the pubic and his colleagues, newly enamored as they were with radio and other electronic devices proliferating throughout the country, to be taken seriously in some quarters, even “playing” Carnegie Hall in 1922.

A March 31, 1923 Brooklyn Daily Eagle article heralded a supposedly superior new blood test developed by Abrams, in which the pseudo-pill bag used his “Dynomizer” to diagnose and treat by sending out “electronic vibrations” from blood droplets to patients thousands of miles away wearing electrodes on their foreheads. It was every bit as lunatic as it sounds.

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“We’ll be living in machines next!” exclaimed the headline in a 1935 edition of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, which ended up being more correct than the editor who composed it could have known. 

Society in 2017 is well on its way to becoming a quantified surveillance machine, our brains glued to our phones and consciousnesses stored in the cloud, but eight decades ago, the newspaper used the line to tout the pre-fab, fully furnished wonder known as the American Motohome, a modernist abode that could be built in six days. It was all very high-tech at the time, aimed at providing comfort and diminishing toil, delivered replete with built-in air “refrigeration,” heating, electric refrigerator, and a radio, with rooms that were “buttoned” together and could be rearranged as the owners desired. The kitchen was even stocked with food prior to move-in date. The Motohome didn’t, however, have wheels since it wasn’t actually a motor home.

The model’s christening was such a big deal that the Wanamaker department store in Manhattan invited President Roosevelt’s mother to tear the cellophane from the showroom example it constructed inside its auditorium. “I dedicate this home to the women of America,” she said. 

Despite the hoopla, the house was a flop, the Edsel of edifices, as cookie-cutter homes didn’t appeal to American tastes, especially since the future was not cheap with a $5,500 price tag for the larger version, not exactly affordable for most Depression Era families. Even after World War II, when the country’s economy was humming again, pre-fab only found pockets of success in the U.S., while the vanquished in Japan embraced the idea, needing to quickly shelter the survivors of a devastating defeat.•

Slavery was the ultimate expression of fascism in America, but the nation has flirted with totalitarian political and racial oppression numerous times since, with U.S. businessmen of the 1930s wistfully admiring the “discipline” of the workforces in German and Italy and heated Hitler-friendly rallies being conducted at Madison Square Garden before and even after World War II.

The Long Island hamlet of Yaphank became a hotbed of the German-American Bund in the pre-war period, with a “Siegfried Special” railroad train regularly delivering New Yorkers with Nazi sympathies to the town’s “Camp Siegfried.” It was allegedly a pilgrimage of ethnic pride, but the truth was far darker. Even worse than the sight of Nazi salutes and streets named for Hitler and Goebbels was the summer youth camp that existed to indoctrinate German-American children into anti-Semitism. Unsurprisingly, since evil begets only more of the same, it was later learned that the camp was rife with sexual abuse, with children being routinely raped by counselors, who hoped to “breed more Aryans.”

It was, however, far from a unique phenomenon in America of that time. From the March 27, 1938 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

This week, as the Russiagate noose tightened around Donald Trump’s neck, he met with Vladimir Putin in Vietnam.

Kim Jong-un said I’m an “old lunatic,” Vlad. You don’t think I’m old, do you?

With that blouse on, Don, you look as young as a schoolgirl.

Somebody call my name?

 

• In his wonderfully Hitchensesque hit job on black-market kidney dealer Carter Page, Rick Wilson also tees off on dissolute Hitlerite Steve Bannon: “A man better suited to promoting bumfights than grand strategy.”

• CRISPR mail-order kits are the beginning of our decentralized biotech future. It’s worth remembering Freeman Dyson warned a decade ago that the games could be “messy and potentially dangerous.”

• It’s not nearly their worst outrage, but the way these Pepe pigs and Russian trolls have used nihilism to advance their racist, autocratic agenda is maddening. Nihilism isn’t good as an operating system, but it can be a useful bug to disrupt the machine.

• Stephen Galloway of the Hollywood Reporter, who wrote the most shockingly amoral take of the Nate Parker rape controversy last year, is now very worried about the Weinstein Effect. Strange priorities.

• Harvey Weinstein was able to afford David Boies, former Mossad officers and numerous international security agencies when trying to undermine, cajole and intimidate victims and journalists determined to go public about his sexual harassment and abuse, as Ronan Farrow reports.

• In Ross Andersen’s wonderfully written Atlantic account of his trek to China’s premier SETI setup, which looks like a caved-in Apple campus dotted with oil rigs and is the “the world’s most sensitive telescope,” the author visits with novelist Liu Cixin and revisits the populous state’s scientific history. 

• One of the few trips Timothy Leary never got to take, except posthumously, was a trek to outer space. In 1976, during his “comeback tour” after stays in 29 jails and a retirement of sorts, Leary dreamed of leaving it all behind—way behind.

Zam EIC Laura Michet thinks the robotization of writing may be slowed because, as armies of Facebook friends and tweeters have proven, “people find writing pleasant and will do it for free.”

• Old Print Article: The Lost Cause was a systematic plan by the vanquished of the Civil War to win the postbellum information war via revisionist media—statuary, textbooks, etc. In 1915, sculptor Gutzon Borglum was asked to create a KKK-friendly Stone Mountain monument.

• This week’s Afflictor keyphrase searches: Jennifer Doudna, Otto and George, etc.

“A pictorial comparison of the sculpted horsemen on Stone Mountain and the Flatiron Building.”

 

Stone Mountain may as well have been Ground Zero for the Lost Cause, the systematic plan of the vanquished of the Civil War, led by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, to win the postbellum information war via a variety of revisionist media—statuary, textbooks, etc. In a break from the universal truism, the losers were allowed to write history, which is how Robert E. Lee was reinvented as an “honorable man” and violent treason perplexingly came to be known as a “noble effort.” This propaganda’s reverberations continue to this day, with White House Chief of Staff John Kelly recently giving voice to this dangerous distortion. 

The mammoth Confederate monument carved into Georgia rock was originally begun by sculptor Gutzon Borglum, who was approached in 1915 by the OD of the C to fashion an unprecedented, larger-than-life tribute to the half-slave side of the American heritage. Make no mistake about what drove the endeavor: The initial model included a Ku Klux Klan altar, no surprise since the terrorist group was among the main financial backers of the vast artwork. Borglum was no doubt hired in part because of his great skill, but his deep nativist streak and KKK sympathies were also likely another reason for the offer and his acceptance of it. 

World War One delayed the project and it wasn’t until 1923 that Borglum broke stone. The notoriously difficult artist did not have a good relationship with his bosses, however, and eventually left the project, with his early carvings (Lee’s head, mostly) removed from the mountain. The process was subsequently begun anew by Henry Augustus Lukeman. All was not lost, however: The sculptor had learned much from the aborted Stone Mountain assignment and utilized these new methods and tools in his most famous work, Mount Rushmore, which he carved from 1927 until his death in 1941.

A story on the monument in the February 3, 1924 Brooklyn Daily Eagle, which is shockingly generous to the traitorous South:

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The last picture of Hitler alive.

U.S. Intelligence renderings from 1944 of how Hitler may have looked in disguise.

Adolf Hitler committed suicide by gun 72 years ago, but evil never really dies. In fact, it often returns in a variation on an old theme, with new villains picking up the torch—even if it’s made from tiki the next time around.

I quipped in the aftermath of last November’s Presidential election that America was trying to retroactively lose World War II and the Cold War, so taken was Trump and much of the right with neo-Nazis and Putin’s poisoners. The winner of those revived battles still remains in doubt a year later.

Hitler left such a jagged wound on the globe by the end of WWII that some among the Allies couldn’t wrap their heads around the demise of such an outsize heinous figure. Did he escape to Japan on a submarine? Was he spirited away to Sweden? Could some other machinations have helped him avoid ignominious death in the Führerbunke?

From the September 9, 1945 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

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The first live media coverage of an American Presidential inauguration occurred in 1845 when James Polk’s swearing-in process was reported on in real-time by Samuel Morse, who brought his telegraphic equipment to Washington D.C. From the Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

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From to Rev. Ike to Dr. Phil to President Trump, America has embraced mountebanks of many types, from religion to medicine to politics, asking only that they be skilled at satisfying our hunger to turn every last thing in the country into entertainment.

Norman Vincent Peale, a pastor and peddler of positivity, fit somewhere into that paradigm, offering a malleable feel-good philosophy that encouraged personal fulfillment rather than self-sacrifice, a faith that was a forerunner of the type of prosperity gospel favored by mansionaires like the Osteens. It’s no wonder Donald Trump worshiped so devoutly at his altar. In fact, Peale presided over the serial groom’s first nuptials.

Oddly, the pastor spent the pre-WWII era worried that a demagogic faux populist would be elevated to the Oval Office, not realizing, of course, that one of his future parishioners would come closest to filling the bill. Despite his fear of American Fascism, it’s no sure thing that Peale would have been aghast at Trump’s ascent. The religious leader himself was known for some bigoted views and was deeply offended by the New Deal and any social programs aimed at mitigating the suffering of desperate Depression-ites. Was he so pliant that he could have twisted himself into a Trump supporter? No way of knowing, but he certainly played an important role, willingly or not, in the development of the Worst American™.

A concise rendering of the Trump-Peale connection by Michael Kruse of Poitico:

He was born into a house that Norman Vincent Peale helped build.

Peale’s cheery, simple tips allowed Trump’s father to alleviate his anxieties and mitigate the effects of his innately awkward, dour disposition. Emboldened, Fred Trump banked hundreds of millions of dollars building single-family houses and then immense apartment buildings in New York’s outer boroughs. Peale appealed to the elder Trump, too, because both men embraced conservative, right-wing, us-versus-them politics—an important but often forgotten portion of Peale’s M.O.

A generation down, Peale appealed to Donald Trump because Trump idolized his father, and because what Fred Trump drilled into his most eager, most ambitious, most like-minded son—be a killer; be a king; be a winner, not a loser—is what made that son so receptive to the teachings of Peale. Born in 1946, Donald Trump’s childhood was spent in a house with white columns and nine bathrooms and a live-in maid and chauffeur in Jamaica Estates, Queens. Sometimes, when it rained or snowed, he did his paper route from the back of his father’s limousine.

Peale, known as “God’s salesman,” reached the peak of his influence in the heart of Trump’s childhood, preaching in the 1950s to millions of people on Sundays at Marble Collegiate Church on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan as well as through a syndicated newspaper column, radio and television shows, his Guidepostsmagazine and a spate of books that were self-help trailblazers—first and foremost, of course, The Power of Positive Thinking, his defining work and wild bestseller that came out in 1952. It offered chapters such as “Believe in Yourself,” “Expect the Best and Get It” and “I Don’t Believe in Defeat.” “Whenever a negative thought concerning your personal powers comes to mind, deliberately voice a positive thought,” he wrote. “Actually,” Peale once said, “it is an affront to God when you have a low opinion of yourself.”

Peale was far from universally popular. One psychiatrist dubbed The Power of Positive Thinking “saccharine terrorism.” And during the 1952 presidential campaign, the Democratic nominee made his feelings plain. “Speaking as a Christian,” the brainy Adlai Stevenson said at a Baptist convention in Texas, “I would like to say that I find the Apostle Paul appealing and the Apostle Peale appalling.” But Peale permanently altered the way many Americans worship. His was a precursor to the prosperity gospel espoused today by, say, the toothy Joel Osteen. “By repeatedly equating business acumen with piety, uncertainty with religious doubt, and personal and cultural failure with godlessness, Peale and his admirers helped to redefine religious Americans as socially superior winners,” Northwestern University English professor Christopher Lane wrote in his 2016 book, Surge of Piety: Norman Vincent Peale and the Remaking of American Religious Life.

What Peale peddled was “a certain positive, feel-good religiosity that demands nothing of you and rewards you with worldly riches and success,” said Princeton University historian Kevin Kruse, the author of One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America. “It’s a self-help gospel … the name-it-and-claim-it gospel.”

A pair of articles follow from 1935 editions of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle in which Peale warned of the rise of an American Mussolini.

From May 27, 1935:

From March 11, 1935:

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“If there had been no music, I would have gone to the madhouse like Nijinsky,” Henry Miller wrote in the 1930s, speaking of the nonpareil Russian ballet dancer and choreographer Vaslav Nijinsky, who was considered by leaps and bounds the greatest performer of his kind in the world. The Russian was laid low early in his life and career by schizophrenia, which some ignorant newspaper articles of the day said had been brought on by dancing or his practice of self-hypnosis. The illness made it impossible for him to perform for the last three decades of his life, as his steadfast wife, Romola, shepherded him from clinic to clinic in search of a cure, with none forthcoming.

Two Brooklyn Daily Eagle reports follow, one concerning a show of Nijinsky’s drawings (the second image above is one of the masks he drew), and the other about his death in London in 1950.

From February 7, 1932:

From April 9, 1950:

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There’s no more towering figure in American annals than Harriet Tubman, who was so bravely and rigorously stationed on the right side of history that she became history, and it’s an outrage that those far her inferior—and that includes pretty much all of us—are open to reneging on plans to place her likeness on U.S. currency. To be fine with slave owners being on dollars and coins but not a former slave who became a liberator is the very definition of white supremacy.

In the last years before her death in 1913, when Tubman had given absolutely everything for the cause, she was left financially destitute and was rescued from poverty by funds raised through women’s clubs and charities she herself began. An article from the June 1, 1911 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

From the April 17, 1863 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

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An audacious, overconfident bigot who twisted radio tubes into a grotesque pulpit, Father Charles Coughlin was a 1930s menace in America, but at least he was never President. 

The Catholic priest, a Michigan immigrant via Canada, became a wildly famous demagogue when he combined a flair for the nouveau mass media of radio, populist impulses and deep-seated bigotry, which attracted tens of millions of weekly listeners at his zenith as well as a sizable number of vocal detractors.

While the beginning of the decade saw him support Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the New Deal, Coughlin turned viciously on the President for not sharing his anti-Semitism, among other reasons. At different times, he blamed Jews for both capitalism (“money‐changers in Wall Street”) and communism, which would have kept a relatively small population awfully busy.

His addresses gradually adopted the tone of Hitler and Mussolini: “I take the road of Fascism,” he admitted in 1936. They were also marked by calls for isolationism and whispers of conspiracy theories, and were laced with suggestions of violence directed at “Jewish bankers.” His response to the horror of Kristallnacht was a bizarre case of “whataboutism,” arguing that the persecution of Jewish people was merely a reversal of suffering they’d caused. Unsurprisingly, his words encouraged acts of Nazi vandalism in America, with swastikas painted on the doors of Jewish homes by his supporters, often members of the Christian Front, which enjoyed the encouragement of Coughlin.

Vatican and U.S. government officials alike thought him a dangerous embarrassment, but the “radio priest” had the unwavering support of Bishop Michael Gallagher, the Detroit clergyman who was his direct superior (and a loyal Roosevelt voter). Coughlin was ultimately forced from the air in early 1940 by the church (Gallagher died in 1937) and FDR officials, who also worked to stem the mailing of his vile printed materials after America entered World War II. 

Soon before he was to broadcast for the final time, Coughlin made strange comments about a “sinister” plot against him, which were reported in an article from the January 29, 1940 Brooklyn Daily Eagle

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Anthony Fiala, right, with Theodore Roosevelt in Brazil in 1914.


Long before astronauts were chowing down of pilled and tubed food and Silicon Valley was taken with the idea of Soylent, Anthony Fiala, an American chemist and explorer who’d made his way to the Arctic and the Amazon, believed that beef-juice chewing gum and other odd deliveries of nutrition were the wave of the future, especially for wanderers like himself who didn’t have time to be foragers. From the July 8, 1928 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

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Benito Mussolini originally appeared to be a vulgar cartoon too outlandish to be feared, until it was too late, his entire country perverted into something awful before his murderous gaze. 

I thought particularly of his assault on the press when Sarah Huckabee Sanders spoke on behalf of the White House in urging ESPN to fire broadcaster Jemele Hill, for calling Trump, a white supremacist, a white supremacist. It’s clear by now that while Trump can degrade the office of the President, distort ideals and do serious harm to our democracy, he has zero chance of squashing the free press. That’s true for several reasons: his gross incompetence, the traditions and independence of our media (for all its many failings) and the decentralization of news, which, oddly, also abetted his rise.

Italy of the Thirties was a different place and time, however. In 1933, Mussolini ordered all Italian newspapers to push aside current events and dedicate their front pages to articles about Julius Caesar. The message was clear, that Mussolini was a latter-day Caesar and would rule with absolute authority. The odd decree was covered in an article in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle in September of that year. Another piece from the same publication, this one from 1937, spoke to the moribund state of the press 15 years after the Fascist’s rise. Tragically, that’s how things went, until the madman found himself, in 1945, hanging upside down from the business end of a meat hook attached to the roof of an Esso gas station.

From 1933:

From 1937:

From the November 29, 1910 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

Recently, the excellent Open Culture site tweeted the suicide note of George Eastman, the Kodak magnate who took his own life in 1932 with single bullet to the chest, despondent about the chronic pain of spinal stenosis and seemingly weary of a world of wealth, safaris, philanthropy and fame. The goodbye was brief:

To my friends

My work is done

Why wait?

GE

It was his invention of roll film in 1884 that brought photography to the masses and soon enough made motion pictures possible. The vast sums of money that followed allowed Eastman to become one of the leading benefactors of his era, and his life was unmarked by scandal until he sent some gathered friends out of a room he was occupying in his handsome Rochester home and carried out his shocking ending. The gun’s explosion caused them to scurry back where they found the inventor, now dead or dying, and his last written words. The lead story in the March 14, 1932 Brooklyn Daily Eagle told of his demise.

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When creating the wax faces that would make her world famous, Marie Tussaud did not work from memory. She reportedly was often aided in her work by decapitated heads.

When the Internet recently blew up over the relative pallor of the Beyoncé figure at Madame Tussauds New York, I reflected on the gruesome origins of the now-placid institution that caters to tourists in many major cities. The artist began her brilliant career in 1877, when she fashioned a likeness of Voltaire, but it was during the French Revolution when she nearly lost her life and created the work that would later allow her to gain great notoriety.

During the Reign of Terror, Tussaud was among the many targeted to literally lose their heads. Having lived in Versailles for many years while in the employ of the king and queen, she was imprisoned for being loyal to the crown and had her skull shaved in preparation for a visit to the guillotine. Freed from this terrible end by powerful friends, she utilized the wax art taught to her by her uncle to make the death mask into a political prop and, ultimately, a pop culture item. Among her grisly, lifelike creations of the executed were the sculpted crowns of her former employers King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette (third photo), which she reputedly created from their freshly severed heads which were hurriedly delivered to her studio. So the story goes, anyhow.

In the new century she moved to London with her work and established a museum that became as sensation, aided by a Punch magazine piece that dubbed it a “chamber of horrors” because she had begun creating life-size dioramas of ghastly crime and accident scenes. Her legacy continues nearly 170 years after her death, though now Tussauds artists work from photographs or have celebrities, heads still attached, pose for them.

A Brooklyn Daily Eagle article on June 22, 1912 recalled her strange life and career.

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Sometime after January 2008, an entertainer became obsessed with the President of the United States, determined to prove him invalid and unworthy, to destroy the legacy of someone far grander than himself. Politics was part of the impetus, but the mania seemed to have a far deeper source. A similar scenario played out more than 140 years earlier with far more lethal results when another entertainer, John Wilkes Booth, was overcome by a determination to kidnap or kill Abraham Lincoln, even directing angry dialogue at the President when he happened to attend a play in which his future assassin performed. “He does look pretty sharp at me, doesn’t he?” the President acknowledged. The thespian was a Confederate sympathizer, but his wild rage for Lincoln was driven by something beyond the question of abolition.

In the aftermath of the 1865 balcony tragedy, Booth fled and was slain by the gun of Union soldier Boston Corbett and interred in D.C. after an autopsy and the removal of several vertebrae and the fatal bullet. The body was subsequently relocated to a warehouse at the Washington Arsenal. Four years after he met with justice, the actor’s corpse was emancipated from government oversight and was allowed to be reburied in Baltimore by his family. A Brooklyn Daily Eagle reporter happened to be visiting with President Johnson in the White House when the transfer was made, allowing him to be eyewitness to the grim process and the state of the remains, which he said retained much of the departed’s “manly beauty.” An article in an 1877 edition of the paper recalled the undertaking.

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From the April 24, 1930 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

From the August 1930 Popular Science:

The reason Confederate statues stand in America are twofold.

Those erected in the aftermath of the Civil War were permitted, even endorsed, by Union politicians and periodicals as a means of appeasing the vanquished in a conflict that killed more Americans than any war before or since. It was, of course, bizarre reasoning, as the statuary became more than just participation trophies for traitors but also served as vestiges of slavery, states’ rights and supremacy for the conquered to cling to.

The more recent Confederate monuments in the U.S. are clearly meant to communicate white dominance. It’s questionable at best that they would have been allowed to exist at all were it not for the many similar tributes already dotting the nation. The original sin made possible the many even darker ones to follow.

Two excerpts follow.

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From “Some Thoughts on Public Memory” by Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo:

What is little discussed today is that the North and the South made a tacit bargain in the years after the Civil War to valorize Southern generals as a way to salve the sting of Southern defeat and provide a cultural and political basis for uniting the country with more than military force. That meant the abandonment of free blacks in the South after the mid-1870s. It is important to see this not only as the abandonment of the ex-slaves of the South. It is difficult, but necessary, to pull away the subsequent history to realize that it was entirely possible in the aftermath of the Civil War that the US would be condemned to perpetual warfare, insurrection and foreign intervention. But if the opposite, the United States that went on to become a global superpower, is what was gained it was gained at a terrible price and a price paid more or less solely by black citizens.

However one judges that past, knowing its full history leaves no reason or rationale for continue the valorization of Lee. He was a traitor and a traitor in a terrible cause. That is his only mark on American history. Whether he was a personally gentle man, nice to his pets or a good field general hardly matters.

Even this though leaves the full squalidness of Lee’s legacy not quite told. There is the Lee of the Civil War and then the mythic Lee of later decades. Today the battle over Lee’s legacy is mainly played out over the various statues depicting Lee which still stand across the South. The notional focus of this weekend’s tragic events in Charlottesville was a protest over plans to remove a Lee statue. But those statues don’t date to the Civil War or the years just after the Civil War. In most cases, they date to decades later.•

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A 1909 Brooklyn Daily Eagle letter to the editor from a Union veteran:

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According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the miscreant who publishes the Daily Stormer, the neo-Nazi website that spent the past day mocking Heather Heyer after she was tragically murdered by a white supremacist in Charlottesville, was known to smack his head on sidewalks and walls during his youth. It shows.

His site’s namesake, Der Stürmer, was published beginning in 1924 by Julius Streicher, a man so repellent that even other Nazis found him embarrassing. The newspaper was used to defame Jewish people in general and many Jews specifically, fanning the flames of intolerance into a full-blown conflagration. 

In the aftermath of the war, Nazis of note were rounded up by American G.I.s. For a few dozen who were brilliant in rocketry (most notably, Wernher von Braun), they had their ugly pasts whitewashed, were relocated to Alabama to begin in earnest the nascent U.S. space program and eventually were lauded as national heroes. Upon von Braun’s death in 1977, President Jimmy Carter called him a “man of bold vision” and said that “we will continue to profit from his example.” Few things can be more maddeningly unfair.

The rest met with a more appropriate end, Streicher included. The hatemonger was an experienced painter, so he decided to try to recreate himself as an artist unfamiliar with this Third Reich thing. He ended up hanging from the business end of a noose after he was captured by Nazi hunter Henry G. Plitt, a Jewish soldier who was among the first Americans to parachute into Normandy. An article about the mission to bring Streicher to justice from the January 11, 1946 Brooklyn Daily Eagle. 

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From the August 6, 1951 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

Yesterday was the 72nd anniversary of the United States dropping the “Little Boy” atom bomb on Hiroshima, and Wednesday will be the same for “Fat Man” razing Nagasaki, a horrifying turn of events that was best captured by John Hersey in a feat of journalism that might still rank as the greatest non-fiction writing ever.

Just imagine standing in Harry S. Truman’s shoes and being told a million people will die if the war continues but these newly developed bolts of Thor, which could abbreviate the fighting, would unleash destruction heretofore unknown to humankind.

At the time, so much about the weapon was a mystery to all but a few involved in its creation. The day after Hiroshima, rumors printed in newspapers suggested the bomb was the size of a golf ball or weighed 25 pounds (actual weight: 9,700 lbs.). You would think these questions and the devastation itself would be enough to occupy writers for years, but by September of the same year, some scribes were speculating about what else the Atomic Age would bring. Synthetic weather and interplanetary trade were named as potential upsides, with the latter potentially leading to fresh warfare with the inhabitants of Saturn.

An article from the September 17, 1945 Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

Apart from E.L. Doctorow, no one was able to conjure the late Harry Houdini, not even his widow.

But she certainly tried. A famed debunker of spiritualists, Houdini made a pact with his wife, Bess, that if the dead could speak to the living, he would deliver to her a special coded message from the beyond. Nobody but the two knew what the special message was. When a poorly received punch to the abdomen in 1926 made it impossible for the entertainer to escape death, his widow annually attempted to contact him through séance. No words were reportedly ever exchanged. The following are a couple of Brooklyn Daily Eagle articles about the wife’s attempts to continue the marital conversation.

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From April 24, 1936:

From February 12, 1943:

When I referred to Donald Trump as a “QVC quisling” the other day, I was making reference to a famous historical traitor, one so bad he joined Benedict Arnold in having his name become the most disgraceful sort of noun. I’m speaking, of course, of Vidkun Quisling, the Norwegian fascist who served, beginning in 1940, as Hitler’s pliant Prime Minister in Oslo. During his horrible reign, Quisling spoke in favor of the Final Solution, supported the German war effort in any way he could and tried to force Norway’s families to enroll their children in a Hitler Youth type of organization. These were just a few of the crimes against his country and humanity by the man who was said by some to have had a Narcissistic Personality Disorder. 

By the beginning of 1945, however, the Nazis were shit out of luck and could no longer supply Quisling with troops or support, and neither his government nor the turncoat himself would survive the year. An article about the “mini-Hitler” receiving his just desserts in an article in the October 24, 1945 Brooklyn Daily Eagle.


“For willfully betraying his country…”

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