For most of his post-mortality existence, Adolf Hitler has been the man that most people wish never had existed at all. But in recent days he has proven to be not only quite useful but indispensable in public discourse, particularly on political matters. Want to express dislike for some political figure? Compare him to Hitler. Want to express distrust of some organization or group? Call them Nazis. Want to express dissatisfaction, outrage or concern over some policy or practice? Peg it as fascism. What started out as a novel rhetorical device to exaggerate the worst of qualities turned into standard practice and now has become an extremely overused smear tactic – and it’s almost never meant as hyperbole anymore.
The Hitler hysteria was cranked up a notch or two during the Bush years. It was not uncommon for people to liken George W. to Adolf, and even to say “the difference between Bush and Hitler is that Hitler was elected.” This was an exaggeration, but at least it had some degree of ideological basis: the Nazi party represented the ultimate (so far) in right-wing extremism, and Bush was certainly a right-wing extremist.
But the Hitlering that occurred then was nothing compared to the Hitlering that’s been going on since Obama has been in office. And this is more than an exaggeration; it’s cluelessly misdirected. Barack Obama is a bit on the conservative side at times, but he’s far from being a right-wing extremist, and nowhere in the same galaxy as the Nazis – who were, lest we forget, white supremacists. Which of course won’t prevent the Tea Partiers from continuing to put the trademark mustache on his portrait even as they denounce him as a black supremacist and a socialist/ communist.
(Brief history lesson: The Nazis and communists fought on opposite sides, and Hitler hated communists. And the Nazis did not come to dominate their country by enacting legislation, and certainly not by enacting health care reform. They did it by stirring up hatred, by convincing certain citizens that certain other citizens are the enemy, that THEY are evil and must be eliminated, THEY have caused all our problems, THEY have stolen our country and WE must take it back. Sound familiar?)
And yet the right-wingers all but wet themselves when someone on the other side of the aisle invokes the specter of Nazism, even faintly. Just recently, Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) sparked outrage by saying in comments about the smears against health care reform, “”They say it’s a government takeover of health care, a big lie, just like Goebbels.You say it enough, you repeat the lie, you repeat the lie, and eventually, people believe it.” You’ll note that he didn’t call anyone Hitler, or a Nazi or fascist. He merely pointed out, quite accurately as it turns out, that the big lie propagated about the HCR bill follows the tactic advocated by Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s chief propagandist.
But it had Republicanoids calling for his head. Over at fair and balanced Fox, fair and balanced Megyn Kelly indignantly insisted that her network was never guilty of such a thing. Which really makes you wonder: does anyone at Fox EVER watch its own programming? Nazi references at Fox are as thick as corpses at Auschwitz.
Take Glenn Beck. Please. During just his first 18 months at Fox, his program invoked the Third Reich no fewer than 642 times. He slapped the N-word on “liberals” and on the president, and on anyone who supported anything the president supported, for any offense ranging from wanting to tax the rich to being left-handed. (Just kidding about the latter. I think.) And while he’s the most advanced of Fox’s infections, he’s by no means the only one. Virtually all of them indulge in Hitlerism, and virtually any of them is shocked, shocked, when anyone on the other side does.
Take the Arizona immigration law. Please. Concocted for the alleged purpose of “protecting our borders” from illegal immigrants and buttressed by false claims that an influx of brown-skinned folk has sparked higher crime, it was pushed through by state Senator Russell Pearce, who has a long history of promoting white supremacy, and on at least one occasion made a public appearance with – and actually hugged – a leading official of the Neo-Nazi Party. (Just to be clear: those aren’t people that someone else has called Nazis. They’re people who call THEMSELVES Nazis.) Although he claims to be the author of the bill, Pearce was assisted (probably quite heavily, given his lack of facility with the English language. Hmmm… could he be an illegal himself?) by an organization called Federation for American Immigration Reform (Yes, that’s FAIR for short), which was founded by an unabashed white supremacist and funded by the Pioneer Fund, which has a history of supporting “eugenics movement” research that attempts to prove the superiority of Caucasians. Coincidentally, Arizona also has prohibited schools from teaching ethnic studies or courses that advocate the “overthrow” of the American government – which apparently is the same thing. (Or does that mean Tea Partiers? I’m confused) And it has barred teachers with “heavy” accents. But of course, there’s no racist intent behind any of this, and how dare you suggest such a thing, you bleeding heart librul.
Still, the bill does require (not allow, require) police to question anyone who looks like an illegal immigrant – i.e., anyone with dark skin. (When asked by a reporter what an illegal immigrant looks like, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer responded, “I do not know. I do not know what an illegal immigrant looks like. I can tell you that there are people in Arizona who assume they know what an illegal immigrant looks like.” Oh. Well, just as long as somebody assumes something.) So inevitably, someone would suggest that rounding up people because of their ethnicity is a bit, um. like what the Third Reich did. Upon which suggestion the Beckster went ballistic, asking “Are you out of your minds?” And then he went right back to his usual business of explaining how Obama’s plan to extend health care to all Americans is exactly the kind of thing Hitler did.
Perhaps the most side-splitting example of Beckian Hitlerism occurred when President Obama, in filling a Supreme Court vacancy, expressed the desire to appoint a justice with “empathy”. Despite the fact that many right-wingers have also praised that quality in a justice, Beck pounced upon it as a vile emblem of librulism, and pointed out that empathy leads to “bad decisions”, and it even fueled Hitler’s rise to power. Yep, there’s nothing like a gas chamber to demonstrate a little empathy.
Wherever Joseph Goebbels and the Der Fuhrer are right now, they must be taking fiendish delight in the enormous, invaluable contribution they have made to contemporary nutball propaganda.