Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Artist Discrimination - still today?

In the 1930s, the Nazis crafted an atmosphere of loathing and intolerance for the Jewish community through propaganda. In so doing, they sought to sanctify their persecution and persuade the German people to accept their crimes against Jewish people as right and proper. The success of that propaganda campaign was exceeded only by the infamy of the acts the government sought to justify.

A prominent component of the Nazis’ propaganda campaign was its sustained, relentless effort to isolate and ostracize Jewish art and Jewish artists.

Today, some German government officials have attempted to boycott, to blacklist and even to censor artists who are Scientologists and films and concerts which feature Scientologists solely because of their religion. Concerts have been disrupted and cancelled. Scientologists such as jazz great Chick Corea have been barred from performing. The folk group Golden Bough has been refused the right to perform concerts in Germany because they are Scientologists. Local newspapers have fanned the fires of intolerance by joining governmental and political party calls for boycotts and blackballing.

Some German politicians have tried to boycott the movie Mission: Impossible because the lead actor, Tom Cruise, is a Scientologist. Federal Member of Parliament Renate Rennebach tried to even block distribution of the movie Phenomenon because it stars John Travolta, also a Scientologist.

While these politicians’ frenzied outbursts of censorship drew a backlash from the US and other countries, they also revealed the true depths of their prejudice, and how low certain German bureaucrats are willing to stoop to express their hate-tinged fanaticism.

Another misuse of art-as a weapon of propaganda-has also resurfaced in today’s Germany. The religious intolerance that fueled efforts to deprive Scientologists of their artistic freedom also creeps to the surface in depictions of Scientologists as insects, bats, octopuses and assorted vermin. Those images are disturbing beyond the disrespect that is so transparent in them. They are disturbing because they are nearly identical to those the Nazis used to degrade the Jewish people in the 1930s in the pages of Der Stuermer and other hate publications.

In the view of one eminent Holocaust scholar and professor of history in the United States, "many of the attacks and representations of Scientology bear more than a slight resemblance to the misuse of art during the Third Reich in the anti-Semitic campaigns against the Jews."

Since 1993, the United States State Department, the United Nations, the Helsinki Commission, U.S. Congressmen and Senators, religious scholars and historians have cited Germany for human rights abuses against Scientologists.

Why are German officials discriminating against Scientologists? There is no legitimate reason, just as there was none for the persecution of the Jewish people. And, let us not forget, Germany has no tradition of religious freedom as does the United States.

German officials have refused every request to engage in dialogue to resolve the discrimination occurring in their country.

"Never again" must not be an idle slogan. It must be a promise we keep. True, no one has been killed or hauled off to death camps. But history has taught us that we would be at fault if we stood by and did not point out the alarming similarities between the 1930s and today. German officials protesting these comparisons should stop recreating the past and they will remind no one of it.

Germany Then and Now

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