In an exclusive excerpt from her new book, Prequel, Rachel Maddow dives deep into a forgotten history of a Nazi campaign waged on the streets of America — and the fifth column that could have cost the Allies the war. It’s a chapter of history that is especially relevant today
BY RACHEL MADDOW
MSNBC host Rachel Maddow‘s new book, “Prequel,” delves into the dangerous rise of fascism here in the United States in the Thirties and Forties. Picking up the story from her hit podcast “Ultra,” Maddow explores the forgotten history of what amounted to a fifth column on the home front. The book is essential reading in our perilous political moment. As Maddow recently told “Rolling Stone”: “Trump is saying immigrants are ‘poisoning the blood’ of America. He’s saying my political opponents are ‘vermin.’ He’s saying, I want my critics in the media and the former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff put on trial for treason — the punishment for which he then reminds us, explicitly, is death. He wants, according to ‘Washington Post’ reporting, to invoke the Insurrection Act to be able to use the military against civilians on Day One. It’s as inflammatory as anything he’s ever said in the past. And he’s sketching this out as the grounds on which he wants to be running for the Republican nomination, and for the presidency. This is the territory that we’re in.”
In this exclusive excerpt from the book, Maddow tells the story of a poet and bon vivant turned agent of the fatherland and his shockingly effective Nazi propaganda campaign executed from Manhattan’s Riverside Drive. The parallels to today are bone-chilling. “Prequel” is a revealing account of exactly how it can happen here, and just how close we came to the brink just 80 years ago.
The House of the Vampire arrived in 1907, with a pinch of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, a dash of Swinburne, and a major crush on Oscar Wilde. Two of the novella’s main characters, Jack and Ernest, were named after the split-personality lead character in Wilde’s play The Importance of Being Earnest. In The House of the Vampire, the hero, Reginald Clarke, is a handsome middle-aged boulevardier, bon vivant, and night prowler. Clarke is also a magnet for impressionable and gifted young males, often ones with fetchingly long eyelashes, and always with “subtler, more sympathetic, more feminine” ways than the general run of men. The book’s twenty-two-year-old author, George Sylvester Viereck (he went by Sylvester, which sounded more continental), was himself a pillow-lipped and self-professed sensualist who said he worshipped Wilde as one of his three life models, alongside Napoleon and Christ. “Wilde is splendid,” he wrote. “I admire, nay I love him. He is so deliciously unhealthy, so beautifully morbid. I love all things evil! I love the splendor of decay, the foul beauty of corruption.” Sylvester, at age seventeen, had struck up an apparently romantic friendship with Wilde’s most notorious paramour, Lord Alfred Douglas. Young Viereck also loved to show off the framed violet he said he had plucked from Wilde’s grave.
The House of the Vampire is seen today by precisely no one as the world’s greatest gay vampire
fiction, but it does have the distinction of being the world’s first known publication in that now ample oeuvre. Viereck’s hero vampire, Reginald, swaggers through the book seducing younger men, gently tugging them away from the unerringly difficult or hag-like women who otherwise seek their attentions. “A tremendous force trembled in his very fingertips,” Viereck wrote of Reginald. “He was like a gigantic dynamo, charged with the might of ten thousand magnetic storms.” In Viereck’s voluptuous, pretentious, deeply stupid romp, Reginald is seeking not blood — like Bram Stoker’s original vampire — but something more rarefied. He squeezes from his prey every drop of literary, musical, and aesthetic juice they possess, “absorbing from life the elements essential to artistic completion,” as the hero explains. By the novel’s close, everybody is drained but vampire Reginald.
“In every age there have been great men — and they became great by absorbing the work of other men,” Viereck wrote of his first novel. “My vampire is the Overman of Nietzsche. He is justified in the pilfering of other men’s brains.”
Viereck loosed his genre-pioneering book on the world in 1907 with considerable hopes. “You’ve heard of the ‘great American novel’?” Viereck wrote to one critic. “Well, I’ve written it.”
The critics did not agree.
“The style of the book was quite impossible,” wrote one, “keyed from the first word to the last in the highest pitch of emotion.” Still, though, the book did sell some copies, and it even had its own brief run on the stage, in an adaptation by a man who later co-wrote the screenplay for The Wizard of Oz.
VIERECK HAD BEEN born in Munich and immigrated to America with his parents in 1896, when he was eleven years old. He had always been drawn to the memory and the landscape of his birthplace. There was mystery and intrigue in Sylvester’s family history in Germany, including unproved claims to royal lineage. Viereck’s father, Louis, was rumored to be the issue of a brief affair between a famous stage actress in the Prussian royal court and Kaiser Wilhelm I. The kaiser, if he was indeed the father, was in no position to acknowledge this son, and he never did.
Royalty or not, Louis ended up a Marxist, joining the anti-monarch Socialist Party in Germany, and possibly getting involved in a plot to assassinate the kaiser. This tale seems a tad on the nose, in the Oedipal sense, but it is true that Louis was run out of Berlin and then Munich and then all of Germany, on account of his Marxist proclivities. He landed in New York, but not exactly on his feet. Sylvester’s father never found much success in the New World. He organized German Americans in support of the presidential candidates William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt, wrote a forgotten monograph on German-language instruction in American schools, and gave the occasional lecture on German culture and society. For his young son, rife as he was with artistic gifts and a robust, unerring self-confidence in those gifts, Louis was a distant and feckless father. While Louis eventually ended up putting his tail between his legs and going back to Berlin to finish out his days giving lectures, this time about American culture and society, Sylvester, naturalized citizen of the United States, decided to stay put in New York, an electrified city in an up-and-coming country — a place with a trajectory matched to his own arcing ambition.
By the time he was in his mid-twenties (the commercial and critical flop of The House of the Vampire notwithstanding), Viereck was recognized as a rising star in American literature. He had published a volume of well-regarded poems. Whispers that he was maybe the grandson of Kaiser Wilhelm I were probably good for sales, and also for contributing to the almost inexplicably fawning publicity he had a knack for attracting. He was “the most widely discussed literary man in the United States today,” one glossy middlebrow magazine wrote of Viereck, “unanimously accused of being a genius.”
Whatever his gifts in the realm of literature, poetry, or self-promotion, where Viereck truly distinguished himself was as an advocate to the American public for his beloved fatherland, a cause that he took on with crusading passion at the advent of World War I. When a German U-boat torpedoed a New York-bound passenger liner in May 1915, drowning 1,200 civilians, including 124 Americans, Viereck defended Germany for doing it. “The facts absolutely justify the action of the Germans if the Lusitania was, indeed, torpedoed by a German submarine,” Viereck wrote in a statement to reporters. “Legally and morally there is no basis for any protests on the part of the United States. The Lusitania was a British ship. British ships have been instructed by the admiralty to ram submarines and to take active measures against the enemy. Hence every British ship must be considered in light of a warship.” Germany “means business,” Viereck explained to his fellow Americans, and “does not bluff.” It was, to say the least, an unpopular stand in a country enraged by the loss of civilian life on that torpedoed ocean liner.
Just weeks later, Viereck found himself at the center of an even more concentrated fury. While squiring a visiting German official around Manhattan, Viereck managed to leave behind a briefcase full of secret documents on the Sixth Avenue elevated train. The satchel was quickly grabbed by a federal agent who had been tailing them. Its contents were ferried to Washington and then — with the Wilson administration’s quiet blessing — leaked to the New York World, which released them in installments as a bombshell exposé of Germany’s designs on America. The documents in the left-behind briefcase — as showcased in the pages of the World — showed vast financial transfers by the German government into a long list of private U.S. bank accounts and detailed discussions among German officials about their efforts to keep American public opinion aligned against the United States joining the world war, to hamper our ability to help our allies, and to generally mess with us in the meantime. The documents showed that Viereck was not just a high-profile pro-German U.S. citizen; he was a paid agent of the German government, which was handsomely bankrolling all his publishing efforts.
After an ensuing furor, Viereck moved to change the name of his pretentious, well-funded, pro-German magazine from The Fatherland to the much more corn-fed-sounding Viereck’s American Weekly. But the damage was done. The documents from the Sixth Avenue El showed that the German government was spending $2 million per week (in 1915 dollars; nearly $60 million a week today) on propaganda and espionage efforts targeting the United States. They also revealed German government discussions about serious sabotage plans, including using straw buyers to secretly purchase U.S. munitions factories and military supplies to prevent that materiel from being provided to our allies fighting Germany in the war.
It was a pain for the Germans to have this all exposed, and a pain for Viereck personally, particularly after the United States finally joined the war effort in 1917. Viereck had been living with his wife’s family in sleepy Mount Vernon, New York, until an angry mob descended on the house and forced him out into the night. He decided he would wait out the conclusion of the war in New York City, where it was easier to blend into the crowd. But he never really did manage to regain the small purchase he had acquired on the American literary scene.
There’s a cracking letter in the files of former President Teddy Roosevelt from around this time in which Roosevelt tells Viereck that if he’s so much more supportive of Germany than of the United States, then perhaps Viereck is being a bad citizen of both, so maybe he should renounce his American citizenship, piss off back to Germany, and join the German army, which would at least make him useful to one of the two countries. Viereck did no such thing, but you can tell from the letter how much Roosevelt enjoyed telling him to do it. (He leads off by telling Viereck he has “mental shortcomings” and is “unutterably base,” and by the end he is just hollering at him to get out: “You are not a good citizen here. But neither are you a good citizen of Germany. You should go home.”) Roosevelt also endorsed a move to eject Viereck from the roster of the Poetry Society of America — perish the thought.
After World War I, as he neared his forties and came to realize he was unlikely to ever scale the tiers of fame he desired, Viereck began, vampirically one could say, to cultivate relations with more celebrated men. He shuttled between Europe and America, seeking out famous statesmen, soldiers, doctors, scientists, businessmen, and writers, then persuading them to sit for interviews. “To me the men to whom I have talked and whose thoughts I record are flashes of the great World Brain,” he wrote in a collection of these personality profiles. “Some are incandescent in their intensity; in others the divine flame burns more dimly. Their colours are more varied than the spectrum. I am the spectroscope that reveals the stuff of which they are made, or, translating colour into sound, I am the trumpet through which they convey their message.”
His first big get was Kaiser Wilhelm II, who was living in exile in Holland after his defeat in the massively deadly, epic war he had started. “In view of your years-long manly struggle for truth and right, I feel no hesitation in authorizing you to publish the impressions you gathered at Doorn as the guest of His Majesty,” the kaiser’s aide wrote to Viereck. “I do this the more willingly because I know the communications entrusted to you by his majesty will be made use of by yourself in a manner calculated to promote the true, just interests of Germany.”
Viereck became an annual visitor to Doorn and a trusted mouthpiece of the kaiser, who often greeted him, Viereck’s own son remembered, as “mon cousin.” Viereck seemed proud to be able to help the fallen, mostly despised, mostly insane German monarch make sense of why exactly God had abandoned him, the divinely chosen leader of a great nation, in his pursuit of a Christian empire in Europe. The kaiser settled on the shortcomings of the German people as the problem. “We refused in the end to face all risks in preserving faith,” Wilhelm II told Viereck. “The German people performed miracles of endurance, but, at the last, they failed. We should have fought to the very last carrot, the very last man, the very last round of munitions. The odds against us, toward the end, were twenty to one. We could still have prevailed, with complete faith in God. We should have trusted in God, not in human logic.”
Viereck ended up getting a remarkable number of Great Men to sit down and talk politics, economics, faith, sex, psychology, and general worldview: Henry Ford, Nikola Tesla, Benito Mussolini, Albert Einstein, the military and political generals of the late war. I am not a journalist, he would tell them, I am a poet. Viereck was “80 percent clever and strong minded, and 20 percent an impenetrable blockhead,” the playwright George Bernard Shaw said of him. “He generally brings the 20 percent to bear on me.”
But it was Dr. Sigmund Freud who seemed to understand his interviewer best, according to an exchange Viereck recorded. “Our [psychological] complexes are the sources of our weakness,” Freud said to Viereck. “They are also often the source of strength.”
“I wonder what my complexes are?” Viereck asked.
Freud gently reminded him that a serious assessment could take two or three years of real work, but the father of psychoanalysis did have a quick take on George Sylvester Viereck. “You have sought, year after year, the outstanding figures of your generation, invariably men older than yourself.”
“It is part of my work,” Viereck reminded Herr Doktor.
“But it is also your preference,” Freud replied. “The great man is a symbol. Your search is the search of your heart. You are seeking the great man to take the place of the father. It is part of your father complex.”
George Sylvester Viereck did finally settle on — and worship — a particular father figure. The man was five years his junior, an Austrian plebeian whose rise in the kaiser’s military ranks during the war topped out low at the rank of corporal. When Viereck met him for an interview in 1923, the man had virtually nothing to say about his past and refused to be photographed for the article Viereck was writing. He appeared more poet than politician, Viereck wishfully noted, and sipped tea or cordials with the polish of a “high brow.” But when the thirty-four-year-old housepainter and wannabe messiah shouted the beauties of his new political movement — National Socialism — his listener felt an almost physical heat. “His voice filled the room,” Viereck wrote, and “cords” on his “forehead stood out threateningly.” His eyes flashed “something of the Blonde Beast of Nietzsche.” Like a gigantic dynamo, the journalist-poet might have been thinking, charged with the might of ten thousand magnetic storms. The first words Viereck wrote of the man would prove prophetic: “Adolf Hitler must be handled with care. He is a human explosive.”
Hitler was already a divisive figure in his native land, but Viereck suggested the rising pol was welcomed even by his countrymen who were shy to say so. “There is no one in Germany who does not recognize the importance of his emblem, the ‘Hakenkreuz,’ the ancient swastika, sometimes standing by itself and sometimes superimposed on a cross or a shield, a mystic symbol of militant Germanism,” wrote Viereck. He drew applause across the social strata, Viereck claimed. “He overcomes them with his eloquence. He storms their reserve with his passion.” Hitler spoke to Viereck of the unfairness of the Treaty of Versailles, which settled World War I and clipped the kaiser’s drive for empire, hemming Germany into newer, narrower borders. He then turned to the communist doctrine that now ruled Russia. “The Peace Treaty and Bolshevism are two heads of one monster,” Hitler insisted. “We must decapitate both.” Decapitating Bolshevism, in Hitler’s calculus, required ridding Germany of the “alien in their midst” — the Jews. When Viereck suggested to the younger man that perhaps his sweeping antisemitism might displace many great artists, scientists, manufacturers, and generally esteemed citizens, Hitler disagreed: “The fact that a man is decent is no reason why we should not eliminate him.”
In the face of that ominous forecast, Viereck remained neutral on Hitler’s politics, but not on his personality: “If he lives, Hitler, for better or for worse, is sure to make history.”
Almost ten years later, as Hitler was about to ascend to the chancellorship of Germany, Viereck recycled his interview for the popular U.S. magazine Liberty (“America’s Best Read Weekly”), with added touches on Germany’s need for physically healthy citizens, for the re-expansion of its territories, and, above all, for an arousal of the national spirit, the national pride, the national might. When Hitler’s army began to storm across Europe in 1939 and 1940, Viereck was all in. Finally, a Germany that seemed prepared to “fight to the very last carrot.” Viereck was quick to warn his fellow Americans of the futility of challenging the führer’s military machine. Viereck had gazed into Hitler’s “magnetic blue eyes,” he would write. He deemed it unwise for the United States to test the man’s resolve.
THE FÜHRER’S PORTRAIT now held pride of place in Viereck’s home office on Riverside Drive in New York City. Of the three dozen photographs of famous acquaintances — including Albert Einstein, Theodore Roosevelt, George Bernard Shaw, Marshal Foch, and Kaiser Wilhelm II — Hitler’s was the largest. Hitler, by Viereck’s lights, was first in the pantheon of the Great Nietzschean Overmen. “There must be a great crop of oysters before one pearl is born. Millions of flowers grow in the garden to achieve one matchless rose, and billions of men must be born to produce one superman like Goethe, Napoleon, Da Vinci or Hitler,” Viereck said, later adding that Hitler “out-Napoleons Napoleon.”
By 1940, Viereck had become what he so wanted to be: a reliable servant to his father figure from the fatherland. After his incompetent but earnest try at it in World War I, now in the second war the long-ago poet had positioned himself as the mastermind of one of Hitler’s crucial plans for America; he was the center wheel of a propaganda campaign, funded by the German government and its agents in the United States. “Propaganda helped us to power,” Joseph Goebbels announced at the Nazi Party congress in 1936. “Propaganda kept us in power. Propaganda will help us conquer the world.”
Hitler explained the plan in typically blunt terms: “Our strategy is to destroy the enemy from within, to conquer him through himself.” Viereck had literally written a book on the subject in 1930 (dedicated to Dr. Sigmund Freud of all people), assessing the weakness of the kaiser’s propaganda campaign in America during the first great war. “We were pikers,” Viereck claimed to have been told by one downhearted German officer. “What was a million dollars compared to the stake for which we were playing? For centuries to come, the German people will have to pay for our stinginess We lacked the vision, the authority, and the inexhaustible funds of the Allies.” Viereck specifically castigated his German paymasters for the debacle of the suitcase full of secret documents that he and his visitor left behind on a subway train, as if that were an expenses problem and not just his own sheer idiocy. “If the German Government had provided [the visiting official] with an automobile or a bodyguard, this disaster would have been averted. Governments, reckless in some matters, are at times prodigiously stingy.”
But that was last time around. The lead-up to this next world war would be different: lessons learned, no expense to be spared. Nazi Germany poured money and manpower into dividing the American polity, hoping to keep the United States and its arsenal of democracy out of the war in Europe. “America for Americans,” as Hitler said in an interview widely published in the United States in 1940, “and Europe for the Europeans.” His government blanketed America with isolationist and antisemitic literature. According to records discovered after the war was over, the German Foreign Office rained down on Americans more than 1 million leaflets and postcards, about 2.5 million pamphlets and magazines, and 135,000 books just in the single summer of 1941. The Nazis’ Special War Fund expended seemingly endless resources in the effort. When the German embassy was ordered shuttered by President Franklin D. Roosevelt that same summer, the embassy vault still held more than $3.5 million — about $75 million today — in cash.
A good chunk of the German money devoted to this effort passed through the hands of George Sylvester Viereck, who used it to try to exploit a key weakness he had discerned in the American political system. “The more I study the record of foreign propaganda in the United States, the more I am surprised by the long patience of the American Government,” he wrote. “While the law requires that the ownership of a newspaper must be fully disclosed, there was nothing to prevent the German government or an individual German from making a present of several million dollars to an American sympathizer; nor was there anything to prevent the sympathizer from making his money talk — for Germany! There is no safeguard which the law can create which human ingenuity cannot circumvent.”
Viereck and other Nazi agents doled out cash to myriad publications in the United States, whose editors and publishers then helped the Germans consolidate a mailing list of friendlies and potential friendlies that may have reached into the millions. The Foreign Office in Berlin also funded Nazi shortwave radio stations around the United States, all with the same messaging, which would be nutted up succinctly by one American prosecutor after the war: “The United States is internally corrupt. There is political and economic injustice, war profiteering, plutocratic exploitation, Communist sedition, Jewish conspiracy, and spiritual decay within the United States.” American foreign policy was “selfish, bullying … and predatory.” President Roosevelt was a “warmonger and a liar, unscrupulous, responsible for suffering, and a pawn of Jews, Communists, and Plutocrats.” The German army possessed all the strength it needed for victory in Europe. America and Great Britain were sadly lacking in men, material, and morale, and certain to kneel to Germany. The United States, like the rest of the world, was “menaced” by communists and Jews.
That German propaganda campaign, by ground and by air, was facilitated by a cadre of American troops. There was Lawrence Dennis, proud to be known as “the intellectual godfather of American fascism”; his mentee Philip Johnson, later a celebrated modern architect; William Dudley Pelley, who, after founding the Nazi wannabe Silver Shirts, dreamed of being America’s own Hitler; the raging white supremacist and antisemite George Deatherage, who vowed that “religion that does not stay within the accepted bounds of Christian morality shall be suppressed.” There was also James True, who had professed his admiration for the book burners in Nazified Austria because “filthy books have been published by the hundreds, under the guise of science or ‘liberalism’ for the debauchery of youth. Quite naturally the first move of the Aryans was to destroy this mental poison. Soon, we predict, we shall have similar book burnings in this country.” There was also the handsome brawler Joe McWilliams, who set out to organize angry young men into fascist street-fighting cells. McWilliams called for “an America free of Roosevelt, free of kikes, free of Republicans and free of the Democratic Party which are only the stooges of the Jews. We want in America the same methods and same system that Hitler inaugurated in Germany.”
Viereck’s homegrown American conspirators and ideological allies also included the exalted, conspiracy-minded U.S. Army general George Van Horn Moseley, the wildly popular antisemite radio preacher Father Charles Coughlin, American businessmen like Henry Ford, and, more unnerving, at least two dozen sitting members of Congress. Congressmen and senators used the special privileges of government office to aid and abet Viereck and the Nazi cause; they colluded with Viereck to produce and distribute more than three million separate pieces of pro-German mailings. Many of these tracts were written by Viereck himself or by the Hitler government in Berlin, and then published in America under the bylines of the willing congressmen.
IN THE YEARS leading up to the U.S. entry into World War II, the American government, American institutions, American democracy itself, was under attack from enemies without and within. The great American fight against fascism that we have inherited as a cornerstone in our country’s moral foundation is a fight that didn’t happen only overseas in the 1940s. Americans fought on both sides of that divide here at home, too, and their stories will curl your hair. They may also bolster your confidence in our ability to win our modern iterations of those same recurring fights, not to mention the future rounds, too, when this inevitably comes up again on civilization’s big democracy chore wheel.
The fight here at home in the 1930s and 1940s is a story of American politics at the edge: a violent, ultra-right authoritarian movement, weirdly infatuated with foreign dictatorships, with detailed plans to overthrow the U.S. government, and even with former American military officers who stood ready to lead. Their most audacious plan called for mounting hundreds of simultaneous armed attacks on U.S. government targets in the immediate aftermath of FDR’s likely reelection in 1940. Their attacks would spark chaos and panic, they hoped, and galvanize and radicalize anti-Roosevelt Americans, culminating in an armed takeover of the U.S. government and the installation of something much more like a fascist dictatorship. And as far-fetched as that sounds, these belligerents were doing a lot more than flapping their lips. They had started stealing from federal armories, and had made their plans to raid them, with confederates on the inside ready to help. They had bought weapons by the hundreds and thousands and started building and stockpiling bombs. The even more incendiary fact was that these would-be insurrectionists enjoyed an astonishing amount of support from federal elected officials who proved willing and able to use their share of American political power to defend the extremists, to derail the Justice Department’s efforts to thwart or punish them, and to shield themselves from potential criminal liability when they were found out. In the lead-up to World War II, the U.S. Congress was rife with treachery, deceit, and almost unfathomable actions on the part of people who had sworn to defend the Constitution but who instead got themselves implicated in a plot to end it.
We can look back now, at a distance of more than eighty years, and see that all those American fascists (along with their lies and disinformation, their Hitler love, their white supremacist antisemitic derangement) ended up splintered on a rocky embankment. But in the moment, the lead-up to World War II in America was a much more close-run affair than we want to remember. It was a fast ride through churning and dangerous political rapids, and it wasn’t clear at the time exactly who and what were going to survive the journey. A lot of powerful figures in Congress, in the media, in law enforcement, in religious leadership, were bailing hard to keep the fascist boat afloat.
CALCULATED EFFORTS TO undermine democracy, to foment a coup, to spread disinformation across the country, to overturn elections by force of arms with members of Congress helping and running interference — all these things add up to a terrible episode for a country like ours to live through, but they are not unprecedented. Our current American struggle along these lines, it turns out, has a prequel. And it turns out that the most interesting part of that story is about the Americans — mostly forgotten today — who picked up the slack in this fight against our domestic authoritarians and fascists and heavily armed right-wing militias. People like federal prosecutors William Power Maloney and O. John Rogge; federal lawmen such as Leon G. Turrou and Peter Wacks; Leon Lewis, a Jewish veteran of World War I who ran a dangerous undercover spy operation inside the dens of American Nazis; brave informants like Charles Slocombe, John C. Metcalfe, and Denis Healy, who all took real physical risks; journalists like Dillard Stokes, Arthur Derounian, and the cub reporter Arnold Sevareid; a direct-mail advertising consultant turned daring citizen investigator, Henry Hoke. These mostly unremembered Americans stood up and challenged both the fascists and the political figures who were running a protection racket for them. They were not necessarily the people you might expect to be on the front lines, but there they were, standing fast. They won. And they left stories to tell — incredible stories — about how they did it.
Excerpted from Prequel, by Rachel Maddow. Copyright © 2023 by Rachel Maddow. Excerpted by permission of Crown. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.