Have you seen the now-gone-viral 1940s United States War Department film Don’t Be a Sucker? If not, you should.
My wonderful cousin Diane posted a piece featuring clips of it to her timeline on Facebook recently, and I just had to have a look … not having read the book, as The Beatles might have sung, but because I was curious about perceptions of bigotry disseminated through the cinema in years past. Soon afterward, I opted to visit YouTube and watch the whole thing there.
My assessment: Everyone should do the same thing.
It’s classic propaganda but brilliantly generated. Oh, look: There’s actor Paul Lukas from The Lady Vanishes, and Felix Bressart from Ninotchka! That’s some cast for a short, government-funded movie explaining the evils of racism, isn’t it?
Well, it sure is, and that cast does wonders with the material. In the picture, which is only about 17 or so minutes long, a narrator urges viewers not be “suckers” and get hoodwinked into accepting the precepts of prejudice against other people who are different from us. The film showcases a man on a soapbox railing idiotically to a small crowd about “Negroes,” “foreigners,” and “Catholics” taking “Americans'” jobs. He doesn’t mention Jews, but we all know they’re part of the same collection of groups nincompoops such as this character love to hate. Two people who are listening talk to each other. One of them, a young man, begins to think the soapboxer is right … but then the latter no-goodnik mentions Freemasons as among those who should be shunned, and the man who originally thought the guy was solid begins to think twice about it, as he is a Freemason. Meanwhile, Paul Lukas’ character talks to the fellow about it and discusses his own heritage as a Hungarian-American who witnessed the same kind of bigotry in Nazi Germany against Jews, Catholics, political opponents and other people. We see reenactments of events showcasing the Nazis’ villainy, as well as war footage and other clips. Through it all, Lukas’ character cautions the young man about subscribing to such dangerous nonsense, which plays everyone for suckers and destroys from within. Bressart, by the way, makes a cameo as a teacher who is dragged away by some Nazi goons after rightly noting that theories of racial superiority are bogus and alluding to the inanity of anti-Semitism.
Here’s the film in its entirety, accessible via the link below, if you’d like to watch it yourself, which I recommend:
Apparently, this 70-year-old film is the talk of the Internet nowadays following the recent events in Charlottesville involving white supremacists, but the fact is that this well-made educational picture should’ve gotten its due years ago … and should’ve been watched by anyone who could view it. It’s terrific stuff, right up there with other anti-Nazi propaganda movies such as Alexander Nevsky in effectiveness. And the message is very important, perhaps even more so in an age where narrow-minded fools give themselves supposedly cleaned-up monikers such as “alt-right” in an effort to legitimize their hate-filled stupidity. There’s no hiding these jerks, however. They are, and always will be, racists.
That’s why Don’t Be a Sucker is so relevant in these last few months of 2017. In an age where neo-Nazi villains hone in on spots such as Murfreesboro in Tennessee to proclaim their hateful agendas, we must counter them with all the legal tools we’ve got … and that includes old solutions such as Don’t Be a Sucker, as well as new ones. Watch this flick, and you’ll understand just how powerful it is, and how strong an instrument it can be against prejudice. So far, the Internet has experienced just that.
Not too shabby for a creaky bit of propaganda from the age of the Greatest Generation.
Let’s face the reality here: Bigots have always been among us … since day one. Now, however, they’re returning to the open with newfound aggression, looking for fights, carrying torches, become instilled with misguided, hate-infused determination, aided in part by a political environment informed by the prejudice of our current administration. They’re marching again. They’re ranting, proclaiming their vile slogans. They’re targeting America.
Well, if Don’t Be a Sucker has anything to do with it, they ain’t gonna be successful. In a way, we can thank the World Wide Web for that. Yet most of all, we can thank this old film from the War Department warning Americans about the dangers of bigotry. An old film that instructs us not to hate, but to work together in unison with people of all faiths, races, cultures, and creeds, the way the best Americans do. The way the best people in the world do. The way everyone should do.
And if that ultimately happens, we know who’s going to lose. That’s why these white supremacist neo-Nazi types are getting so vocal all of a sudden. They’re scared they’re going to become marginalized, disenfranchised. They know they don’t have a freaking chance, despite the vicissitudes of the current political climate. Plus, with Don’t Be a Sucker on the rise, their foothold is softening in the peat. They’re on their way out; tolerance is coming in. They’re the suckers and always have been suckers. They’re being played by their own kind for fools.
Which is what Don’t Be a Sucker warned about … and why everyone should see it. Yep, even those “alt-right” imbeciles. They should see it, too.
Because the intelligence of a well-made propaganda film is nothing to sneeze at. And the message of Sucker sure as hell packs a sizable punch.
Please watch it when you can. You will be doing the right thing.