Radicalized Youth

It is foolish to believe that dangerous mass movements 'can’t happen here'



With apologies for being prescriptive, I recommend that you watch the two-part documentary on the Hitler Youth movement, Hitler-Jugend. Its impact is terrifying, and it uses color footage that most of us have never seen before. But the important thing is that it demonstrates unforgettably the power and the naivety of young people when their trust is abused and perverted by corrupt and evil adults. The membership of the Hitler Youth grew from about 30,000 in 1929 to more than nine million in just ten years. Eventually its boys were being sent as cannon fodder to replenish the devastated battalions on the Western Front and elsewhere, where their ruthless and often cruel fanaticism horrified even hardened Wehrmacht troops.

The temptation to use dramatic and exaggerated hyperbole in political discourse is well known and should be resisted. Reagan, Thatcher, and John Howard were not Nazis, and it is equally absurd to dismiss left leaders such as Bernie Sanders, Jeremy Corbyn, or Daniel Andrews as Leninists. No good is served by exaggeration, even if some of our leaders make some of us very angry. We need a sense of proportion: unbridled and immoderate abuse effectively trivializes the far more brutal tyrannies of Hitler and Stalin.

But it’s a slippery slope from minor to major transgressions, and we all agree in theory that absolute power corrupts absolutely. None of today’s western democracies can be seriously likened to the horror regimes of the mid-twentieth century by anyone who has the slightest knowledge of the facts. But that said, it would be foolish indeed to say, as some do, that full-blown Nazism “can’t happen here.” Have you ever heard someone say that Hitler rose to power because the German people are gullible and easily led? I have, many times, and I think it’s dangerous nonsense. Please God it won’t ever happen here, but it could happen in any human community – if the conditions are favorable to it.

Under any such tyranny children suffer most, for their inexperienced hearts are readily open to persuasion and their whole lives can be ruined by early radicalization. Hitler quickly learned to put the innocence of German children to work.

We are skating on thin ice. Here are some worrying trends in modern western societies:

– Adults are increasingly shirking their responsibilities as leaders and educators, passing the buck to schools, yet not supporting the schools when hard disciplinary decisions have to be made. Indeed discipline is a very unpopular word.

– Systematic history teaching has almost disappeared from schools, having been replaced by a gormless sort of “social studies” curriculum. Children are profoundly ignorant of current events and the background to them. Fanaticism thrives on ignorance.

– Children’s views are being taken too seriously by adults who woo them by pandering to their opinions, however ill informed. Witness movements to lower the voting age to 16, and the eagerness with which world leaders fell over themselves to give an audience to Greta Thunberg!

– The mushrooming of demands for sexual re-assignment, and the willing acquiescence of adults in allowing minors to undergo radical therapies is being extended in some jurisdictions to give pre-pubescent children the authority to make decisions in defiance of pastoral and parental advice.

The great weakness of adults who have lost their moral compass, who are drifting in a world that is losing all sense of objective truth, exposes us to considerable danger. There are few signs that the danger is easing. We desperately need more and more people of courage to buck the trend, people who have the hardihood to laugh in the face of the cowardly “Twittersphere” and shrug off its calumnies.


David Daintree was President of Campion College (Australia’s only Catholic liberal arts college) from 2008 to 2012. In 2013 he founded and is now Director of the Christopher Dawson Centre for Cultural Studies, under the patronage of the Archbishop of Hobart.

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