Democracy is not as solid as we usually take for granted, reason has not defeated barbarism forever, coexistence is fragile. The hatred that is always encouraged from above seeps downwards, so that a mass ready for insurrection is nurtured. Among the mob that stormed the Capitol last Wednesday, many noticed the extravagant guy adorned with fur and horns, but fewer noticed the visible motto on his chest, printed on his black sweatshirt, of another of the seditious: “Campo de Auschwitz. Work will set you free ”. The motto that received the victims of the Holocaust.
It is difficult to understand the deep roots of anti-Semitism, beyond the label of the « deicide » people that Romanized Christianity put, beyond the religious intolerance of the Middle Ages, beyond the hostile nationalism with minorities that emerged from the 19th century. Hitler did not invent this prejudice even if he pushed it to the limit. It’s hard to understand, but anti-Semitism is still there, desecrating graves, attacking synagogues or spreading hoaxes on the networks. In the US, in Europe, in Germany itself. The monster takes new forms, and targets new collectives as scapegoats, but it appears again and again.
What is disturbing about The Plot Against America (on HBO) is not the exercise in alternative history, it is not imagining an America complacent with Hitler, clinging to neutrality and leaving Europeans at the feet of the Nazis in the 1940s . No, the terrible thing is seeing how easily hatred against minorities can spread. You don’t need an overtly fascist or supremacist leader: just legitimize extremist ideas, make some gestures, say they are good people, or « very special people. » It is enough that he let the fans do it without taking responsibility at any time for their actions. This is how Lindbergh, the aviation hero of incendiary rhetoric, real character, who reaches the White House in fiction.
David Simon, the creator of The Wire, adapted as a miniseries the novel by Philip Roth, who played himself the protagonist: a Jewish boy from Newark, perfectly integrated into his environment, who does not understand why they suddenly begin to point to him as different. The narration is faithful to the book, not like The Man in the High Castle, the other uchrony of triumphant Nazis (on Amazon Prime Video) with which the comparison is inevitable. What in The Conspiracy is almost all intimacy, the vision of the awakening of the antisemitic monster from the eyes of an ordinary and anguished family, in The Man the novel by Philip K. Dick overflows to spread as a successful science fiction fantasy but without further ado message. Roth’s novel predates Trump’s 2004 novel, but the series premiered last year, and Simon subtly emphasizes the parallels between his country’s blackest past and his country’s darkest present.
What we read in Roth’s book and what we see in Simons’ series is not an impossible past, but just any time. We have heard those poisonous messages, we continue to hear them. In The Plot Against America we learn that we can all be Jews in some way. That the spark can be ignited anytime, anywhere. Any January 6, without going any further.
All premiere and return dates, in the Fifth Season series calendar
More series recommendations and all the television news, in the EL PAÍS Television newsletter. Subscribe for free.