FF142 - Jakob the Liar

pre-roll announcement

A: Hey, it is the hosts of Friendly Fire here, telling you to vote, and specifically who to vote for. We have seen enough films on Friendly Fire to know what a "country descending into" type of genre gives you. We would very much like the story of these United States not to turn into that.

J: Boy you said it, Adam! Whether you consider yourself to be a real leftist who isn't going to vote for Biden because the Democrats and the Republicans are just two sides of the same coin, or whether you are a red-blooded American Second Amendment fan who doesn't want to lose their freedoms and feels like they should vote for Donald Trump just to own the libs, we want to encourage you as listeners of Friendly Fire to join with us in voting for Joe Biden, the right down the middle American candidate who isn't going to drive our republic into civil war…

B: … and actually has a shot at winning!

J: Yeah, don't vote for the Green Party here, please. And don't vote for Trump!

B: The election is November 3rd. Make a plan! Make sure you vote early if you have that option where you are, or by mail to stay safe if you have that option where you are! Make sure you get your ballot in the mail earlier than Election Day! Give it plenty of time to get there and be safe!

A: If you have thoughts about this pre-roll, you can email those comments to xes.nietsneknufxam|flesruoykcufog#xes.nietsneknufxam|flesruoykcufog.

B: Thank you!

Intro by John Roderick

It can feel at times like World War II and Hitler and the Holocaust all happened in a distant and almost unreal past. Partly that is because it happened on the other side of the color film line. But we are still living in Hitler's time, and I don't mean in the sense that some new trend in fascism reminds us of the Nazis. I mean: There are countless people still alive in their 80s and 90s who met Hitler, shook his hand.

Günther Schwägermann was in the Führerbunker and walked with Göbbels and his wife up the stairs after they killed all their kids, and there is some confusion as to whether he is not still alive as of this recording. He is 105 if that is the case and he isn't dead in a barrel somewhere, but living memory still encompasses Hitler and the Holocaust. You and I are potentially only one degree of separation from that handshake.

The Holocaust has been through a lot since the end of the war. It took a while, a long while, for the world at large to truly acknowledge it, but once it sank in, once its scale and scope became widely known, it was an irresistible muse for writers and artists and politicians and polemicists.

The incomprehensible but fully comprehendible mechanization of death in a setting resembling a factory making bathroom tile was a topic of study that was too pungent to just take at face value, to ripe not to be appropriated, but thankfully, until recently, too grotesque to use openly as a metaphor, that is until vulgarity became our only shared language and the dumbest tweeters among us began equating the mundane with the infamous.

Back in 1999 the war was only over 54 years prior. The world then was full of veterans in their early 70s, the same age Boomers are now, and although 1000 times less obnoxious than even the best Boomers, they were perhaps more complicit in the greater crimes of our age. The late 1990s were when Boomers tried to reconcile with the Greatest Generation by staging a kind of Huck Finn funeral, bedecked with B-17 flybys and Saving Privates Ryan and Tom Brokaw books, and the old geezers got to be stoic and slightly cross one last time.

But those were also peak "Let's re-examine the Holocaust" days since it was still possible to bump into survivors at the supermarket, depending on where you shopped, and every state college academic and New Republic essayist wanted a crack at a hot take that would reiterate what we insisted was true: that "Never again!"

Even Robin Williams thought he could add to our shared understanding of it by pretending to be Jewish in a farcical ghetto with a rubber chicken dressed as a message of hope, but by 1999 there wasn't anything new left to say about it. Why do we say it is unspeakable? We can speak about it! It is not unfathomable! We can fathom it! It is not an aberration even, not caused by some impossibly rare and unduplicated circumstances, the like of which we will never see again.

It was just a large scale abattoir network staffed by compliant workers, only mildly indoctrinated and trained in basic procedures and with cruelty and viciousness only in the regular amounts that you might find in a typical commuter. The enterprise seemed like a mostly understandable, albeit regrettable, necessary evil. If you just accepted a few patiently explained rationalizations that were no crazier than the antivax or Bugaloo manifestoes, way saner-sounding than even the most rational flat-Earthers, and practically circumspect relative to the mainstreameous QAnon moms.

No, there is nothing about it that exceeds what we all know humans to be capable of. Nothing surprising even, except maybe that it didn't happen sooner. It is all knowable and regular behavior for humans to bring death to one another en masse, to gnaw on corpses and matter-of-factly flay our neighbors fueled by the narcissism of minor difference.

The hardest thing to grasp in our present moment is that this kind of holocaust isn't even inextricable from the Jews. The next time it happens, it will be some other people and the methods will be more efficient and the results easier to hide. Is it even happening right now in China or Myanmar? Well, yeah, it is! At least I presume it is. We have gotten better at hiding it from ourselves. "I will burn that bridge when I get to it!" On today's Friendly Fire: Jakob the Liar.

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