The Nazis grew in power because you thought they were ridiculous decades ago

All the time I hear stories: “When I was young, back in the 1970s, the Nazis had a rally nearby, and no one showed up. They didn't even get any counterprotesters! Just three guys standing at a corner looking ridiculous.” Or the KKK, or any other hate group. There's a whole genre of this sort of story. The implication is always, “The only reason they're so powerful right now is because the intolerant left pays so much attention to them!”

If the people who told these stories had an ounce of self-reflection, they might wonder, “What happened after they looked ridiculous that day?” Maybe they didn't gain any supporters. Maybe they gained one or two. But if they didn't gain them at that rally, they gained them at another. And over the long haul, they grew in size, power, and sympathy. They were allowed to grow bit by bit by bit. And if they were ever challenged, they had liberals on standby to say, “I can't believe the intolerant left is being so intolerant! Nazis are a joke, ha ha ha.” So they conditioned American society to hate antifascists more than fascists, and they grew and they grew and they grew.

The Internet came along, and it made it easier and easier for the Nazis to organize, and the same refrain kept being used by liberals: “If we ignore them, they won't grow. We can just laugh at them. Ha ha ha, that Stormfront and its crazy opinions, amirite?” And only around the time the President himself was praising Nazis did Stormfront get deplatformed by major hosting providers, but don't you think that's a little too late?

Will these liberals ever spend a moment in self-reflection? No, most of them won't. That's the saddest part about it all. You still hear them telling the same stories of the good old days when everyone laughed at Nazis, failing to put it in the context of America's long march toward fascism. They could've stopped it back then, and they didn't. Now stopping it is much harder than it could have been, and isn't guaranteed at all. These are terrifying and uncertain times such as the world hasn't seen in 100 years.