As entertainment a while back, I used to tell the story of World War One. It was great fun at parties. I’d get rolling during work lunches at bougie little lunch places, and half of the establishment would be staring balefully at our table around the time I cut loose with my sixth “fuckheads”. Because World War One had a LOT of fuckheads.
Although the tale of everyone in Europe marching in lockstep to chaos is an interesting story, the ending isn’t, really. More of an inevitability – Germany’s failure to win naval superiority meant a choking naval blockade that threatened to starve German cities, four years of annihilation-scale trench warfare caused Germany to run short of men to throw in the meat grinder, and even with winning the Eastern Front conclusively thanks to Russia’s collapse into revolution, British tanks and newly-arrived American divisions meant that the German army could not survive.
And it didn’t. The collapse, when it finally came, was swift. The Meuse-Argonne offensive of September 1918 shattered the German Army militarily. The Austrians, for their part, always the weakest link of the Central Powers, had broken the back of their army trying to force the Alpine passes into Italy and failing, and were the first to surrender in October.
The German Navy, which to this point had spent much of the last half of the war in port rather than meet the overwhelming firepower of the Royal Navy, at this time decided it was time to make an honorable last sally at the enemy. Rather than die gloriously for Kaiser and country, the German sailors revolted. The revolution spread quickly throughout the starving, defeated cities of Germany, and the Kaiser fled the country. The fighting in what was now the German Revolution continued for another year, but World War One was over.
Those are the facts. They’re fairly indisputable. They happened in full view of everyone concerned; a great many of the decision makers were quite open in what they did and why.
Except they were disputed, only a decade later. German right wingers, some of which wanted to bring back the disgraced Kaiser, others who wanted a more modern, Italian-style “fascist” state, had to explain why Germany collapsed, instead of beating the entire Western alliance through tenacity and elan.
They blamed the Jews. And the intellectuals. And the workers. And the communists. All of these people stabbed the noble German soldier in the back, while he was fighting for Kaiser and country. If not for the treasonous rabble who betrayed Germany, the war would have been won, the Great Depression would not have happened, and the misery imposed as punishment by the Versailles Treaty (the final act of “fuckheadedness” of World War 1) would instead have been visited on Germany’s enemies.
It didn’t matter that this was all in the recent, living memory of everyone involved. It didn’t matter that even a cursory glance at what happened explains quite sufficiently that Germany could not have won the war, by any means.
It didn’t matter, because the lies were more seductive than the reality. It told people what they wanted to hear. They didn’t want to be the losers of the Great War, they wanted to be the victims of the Stab In The Back.
A poll that came out today showed that 50% of Republicans believe Donald Trump will be inaugurated for a second term as President next month.