Sometimes a book review is more than a book review.
That’s certainly true in the case of Michiko Kakutani’s [ht: ja] essay on the first volume of Volker Ullrich’s biography of Adolf Hitler. He implies but not never explicitly states the contemporary comparison.
Consider the following bulleted points (not in their original order):
•Hitler was often described as an egomaniac who “only loved himself” — a narcissist with a taste for self-dramatization and what Mr. Ullrich calls a “characteristic fondness for superlatives.”
•Hitler was known, among colleagues, for a “bottomless mendacity” that would later be magnified by a slick propaganda machine that used the latest technology (radio, gramophone records, film) to spread his message.
•Hitler was an effective orator and actor, Mr. Ullrich reminds readers, adept at assuming various masks and feeding off the energy of his audiences.
•Hitler increasingly presented himself in messianic terms, promising “to lead Germany to a new era of national greatness,” though he was typically vague about his actual plans.
•Hitler’s repertoire of topics, Mr. Ullrich notes, was limited, and reading his speeches in retrospect, “it seems amazing that he attracted larger and larger audiences” with “repeated mantralike phrases” consisting largely of “accusations, vows of revenge and promises for the future.”
•Hitler had a dark, Darwinian view of the world.
•Hitler’s rise was not inevitable
And perhaps most important:
•Hitler’s ascension was aided and abetted by the naïveté of domestic adversaries who failed to appreciate his ruthlessness and tenacity, and by foreign statesmen who believed they could control his aggression.
Not once does Kakutani mention the name of the politician, current presidential candidate of one of the two major political parties in the United States, who has also ascended “through demagoguery, showmanship and nativist appeals to the masses.”*
*If readers have any doubts about the veracity of Kakutani’s implied comparison, read this BBC [ht: ja] report about a recent rally in Florida.
“For 90 minutes on issue after issue, Hillary Clinton defended the terrible status quo,” he said. “We have to have dramatic change.” . . .
“Washington DC will soon come face-to-face with the righteous verdict of the American voter,” he said.
For the crowd in Melbourne, “soon” isn’t soon enough.