Don't Be a Sucker
- Publication date
- Public Domain
- Digitizing sponsor
- U.S. War Department
Like The House I Live In, this film warns that Americans will lose their country if they let themselves be turned into "suckers" by the forces of fanaticism and hatred. This thesis is rendered more powerful by the ever-present example of Nazi Germany, whose capsule history is dramatized as part of this film. There's a great deal of good sense in this film and more than a bit of wartime populism: "Let's not think about 'we' and 'they.' Let's think about 'us'!"]
It's interesting to think of this film in the light of Cold War anti-Communist politics, which really came into their own in the year this film was made. Were the witch-hunting politicians and citizens of the late Forties and early Fifties protecting the people, or were they themselves acting like "suckers?"
Ken Smith sez: Everyone has something that can be taken away, explains the narrator of this film, and so does average everyman "sucker" Mike -- he stands to lose "America."
Mike watches idly while a street corner soapbox orator rants against Negroes, "alien foreigners" and Catholics. Mike thinks this is pretty agreeable, until the rabble-rouser adds "freemasons" to his list. Hey, wait a second, Mike says, I'm a freemason. Over wanders an elderly man with a Hungarian accent (so he says) who proceeds to set dizzy Mike straight.
The Hungarian reminds Mike that Germany was "a nation of suckers" who allowed "crazy people; stupid fanatics" to use prejudice to "cripple the nation." "We must guard everyone's liberties, or we can lose our own," he declares. "Let's not be suckers! Let's be selfish about it; let's not think about 'we' and 'they'. Let's think about 'us'!"
Good direction and an obviously decent budget make this film very watchable, and it's interesting to hear the old man appeal to our "good, hard, common sense" in that Bugs Bunny/blue-collar worker colloquial slang that was the accepted voice of Average Joe in postwar America. "America is minorities," the old man proclaims, "and that means you and me!" This populist New Deal view would disappear as quickly as evil German references in the Republican 1950s.
- Closed captioning
- United States
- Run time
Subject: A corny film with some very important ideas.
This is how we're manipulated. These days it seems to be about illegal immigrants, politics, sex, and the like. Although the film has the dramatic and corny feel of film from that era, it still speaks some powerful truths.
If you're having difficulty talking to someone about something you both care about, or you're having difficulty understanding the point that someone is trying to argue, set aside the sound bites. Set aside your frustrations, your emotions. Be calm. Listen. Think. Try to find common ground, then work from there. We all have at least one thing in common: We're all living, breathing human beings. I promise that we all have much more in common than just that, but it's a starting point.
You also need to know when to quit. Not everyone wants an honest discussion.
People who are telling you who your enemies are probably aren't your friend. Why listen to them?
"Somebody's going to get something out of it, and it isn't going to be you." Who is going to gain from you being angry and frustrated? Is being so mad helping you at all? Or is it helping the people telling you who the "bad guys" are?
Subject: Liberals take you as a “Sucker”
Subject: 2017 Trump
Subject: Absolutely Relevant In The "Error" Of Trump
Subject: Still applies today
It is not propaganda. To the contrary, the movie teaches how to recognize and reject propaganda, as was used by the Nazis to promote to bigotry and intimidation. It shows how prejudice can be used to divide the population to gain power. Far more significantly, it then shows how such tactics are defanged by friendly persuasion; that protection of liberty is a unifying and practical way to live peacefully (thanks to the Hungarian Professor).
To counter errors in some of the previous reviews: The Nazis did indeed persecute Freemasons. They were one of Hitler's primary scapegoats in Mein Kampf. Within a few months of him becoming Chancellor, all German Masonic Lodges were disbanded, their property confiscated, and their members prohibited from public service. Hitler understood that "on the level" meetings held in secret was a way for Jews to overcome prejudice and counter their loss of civil rights. Thus, Lodges provided connections that enabled the disparate groups to unite, which as the movie points out, was a threat to Nazi domination. Masons were sent to concentration camps as political prisoners. It is estimated that between 80,000 and 200,000 Masons were targeted and killed during the war.
More information at
Subject: Fine example of post-war American propaganda.
The film's hypothesis, that Nazism gained power by breaking down much of society into little pieces, whithered on the spot and rendered inert by their criticism, assumes that every group attacked by the Nazis could not work with other outcast groups to form an opposition. There is nothing particularly true about the idea. It is basically ahistorical, a myth invented by the filmmakers to suit their incidental agenda.
In fact, claiming to be the alternative to both the socialists and the nationalists, the Nazis tried to put together a package of (sometimes inconsistent) promises to appeal to a large swath of German society and unite them behind a single upstart party in a most unlikely way. They vilified certain minorities and played to popular prejudices NOT because the minorities were capable of strong opposition (this was only true of the Catholic Church), but merely to exploit a preexisting list of a common enemies that would tend to unify the country by scapegoating the corrupting "others" lurking within Germany society. After the humiliation of Versailles and economic cataclysm, the German People needed scapegoats to recover their pride. Hitler saw this and used this.
This film, however, paints a different picture to serve its message that everyone is a minority and that America's strength is in diversity and further that (and this is the only powerful and mature notion in the film) tolerance is in everybody's self-interest.
What really bears remembering is that this film was produced by literally the same propagandists who spooled miles and miles of preposterously racist and dehumanizing anti-Japanese films. Same brainwashing, new ideological flavor of the moment. This film's main value today is in seeing how it was calculated to manipulate the viewer through cheap appeals to prejudice and fear.
Subject: Did They Listen?
and using the history of Nazi Germany as the object lesson for what can happen if prejudice is left unchecked. I suspect this kind of film would have excited Joe McCarthy's suspicions---perhaps it did. What's sad is the realization that many of the Tea Partiers of today and other right-wing extremists would probably find this film to be dangerous and subversive--witness their common references to our "Kenyen" president...
Subject: Very timely - Paul Craig Roberts interview with Thom Hartman
Subject: Another film about the responsibilities of citizenship
Mr. Smith Goes To Washington
Enemy Of The State
What are your favorites?
Subject: Excellent film showing the spread of prejudisim,
Subject: The Secret Connection btw Prejudice & Fascism
In the end, we are told, "This film will not be shown to the general public without permission from the War Department," indicating that the U.S. government felt this information should only be given out on a need-to-know basis FOR SOME REASON.
An important film to see if you're interested in waking yourself up out of "the matrix," haha.
Subject: It's a poorly put together movie with good intentions
As hard as it is to believe Freemasons were persecuted by Nazi's as were the Boy Scouts.
granted Hitler never had them killed in mass but Masons were seen as Jew Sympathizers and Nazi's hated the Scouts because they fought back in Poland.
I think masonicinfo.com is the source of my info.
Subject: What's "old" is "new" again.
Do you know anyone who still supports an official lie long after it's totally discredited ?
Sigh....here's a nice little movie that time hasn't rendered a relic of the past...it's message is as timeless as todays headlines. Perhaps a few will find rationality after a viewing of it here....we can certainly pray that they do.
Sure, you can quibble with some details, but the thesis is right on the nose, and the wise old Hungarian man gives a top-notch performance.
Beat Bush in '04!
I was very suprised to see the final screen, where the movie said it was produced by the War Office and not to be shown to the general public. Based on this, I take this film not to be a relic of New Deal liberalism, but to be part of Harry Truman's efforts to desegregate the armed forces, which was as ahead of its time as this film. This makes sense, because a film like this would not have been tolerated in the segregated south, and would have been rejected by anti-semites (a very mainstream point of view even for the educated). The unusual perspective of this film makes it a fascinating attack on mid-century attitudes on the eve of civil rights and the cold war.
Subject: Oh No! Freemasons!
Subject: Not as flawed as M.com suggests
Subject: Unity, Nazi Germany and Suckers
So far so good, the movie describes Nazi Germany in a distorted view:
1. The Nazis were a minority, which took the power by dividing the rest (majority) of the people.
2. The Catholic Church is seen as prosecuted as well as the Jews (for example!).
First, one can say that the Nazis haven't been a minority seducing everybody (or dividing all people). The majority of the people went along with the nazis! They did nothing, they participated! They are fully blamable for also being Nazis.
The second is that the Catholic church was not that affected by the Government, they even sacrificed the weapons of the military (political power often goes along with considering religous elements).
Nice film to see how people are being manipulated with right arguments, as well as changed historical facts.