Prequel: An American Fight Against Fascism
“Maddow's research reflects the danger inherent in an authoritarian state. She introduces readers to the people, some of whom are well-known, who found Adolf Hitler to be a profound thinker and one to follow.”
It isn't often that a nonfiction book comes along that is by turns gripping, frightening, and enlightening. Prequel, however, is one of those books.
Let's face it, one does not usually associate fascism with the United States. In Prequel, however, Rachel Maddow presents a thoroughly researched historical perspective of the rise of U.S. based fascism. What is particularly disconcerting is how the language used by the apologists for Naziism and fascism in the 1930s is again being heard in the country in 2023.
The United States has often been referred to as a great experiment—one that allows the people to have a say in how the country is governed. This is anathema to right-wing authoritarians. For authoritarians thrive on total control of the people they wish to subjugate.
Maddow's research reflects the danger inherent in an authoritarian state. She introduces readers to the people, some of whom are well-known, who found Adolf Hitler to be a profound thinker and one to follow. In the 1920s and 1930s the fascist sycophants ranged from wealthy dilettantes to members of Congress to the fully repugnant Catholic priest, Father Charles Coughlin. And many in the United States took the bait and swallowed it hook, line, and sinker.
There was and continues to be an antisemitic undercurrent in American life, the country's politics, and in the media. Dictators need scapegoats—people to blame—to establish themselves as saviors. And throughout history the go-to group has always been the Jews. That is apparent in the narrative Maddow weaves in her book. She pulls no punches in describing the tactics used to propel fascist ideas to the general public. In doing so, readers learn of the vast sums Nazi Germany spent in the United States to support their agents because Hitler and his ilk believed converting America to National Socialism would serve to further their goal of world domination.
It's important to know that there were forces afoot in the U.S. opposing the likes of Charles Coughlin, and George Viereck who collaborated with U.S. Senator Ernest Lundeen (and his lovely wife, Norma). Maddow identifies some of the Americans, like Eric Sevareid, Leon Lewis, John C. Metcalfe, and Senate staffers Harriet Johnson and Phyliss Posivio, who opposed the fascists in their midst.
Given the current state of affairs in the United States, this book is an essential read for anyone who values the great democratic experiment under which Americans enjoy freedoms only dreamed of in many countries. It is often said that history repeats itself —there's a reason for “old sayings” because they reflect truth. History is repeating itself in 21st century America and the country must not be lulled into inertia and become oblivious to the malevolent forces threatening democracy.
Rachel Maddow provides the impetus for readers to learn more. Prequel is an introduction to the threat facing the United States. It's the background explaining what happened 80 years ago and providing the insight into what everyone who is paying attention is experiencing today. Everyone knows the U.S. isn't perfect, but it's the effort that makes it worth pursuing and protecting. Reading this book, sharing it with others, and talking about the threat is the best way to ensure that the American experience continues. Because democracy and this Republic is fragile and once lost will never be regained. And that is why Maddow's book is an essential read for everyone.
Prequel has all the tension and page-turning excitement of a thriller, bordering on horror, with the sobering realization that it is real, its current events reflected in a little known and talked about aspect of U.S. history.