Charlottesville, Nazis and Confederate Monuments: Myths, Lies, Absurdities and Insanities

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Another tragic demonstration of extremist lunacy. Another subsequent orgy of false equivalence and general stupidity. But this time was different. This time we had the acting president of the United States repeating and amplifying the deranged fringe media rhetoric. Here were some of the most notably absurd, delusional, hateful and downright idiotic reactions to Charlottesville:

1. “Both sides are to blame”

It’s inevitable that whenever a gaggle of right-wing miscreants get caught doing something unpleasant, their defenders will try to defend them by resorting to the “both sides” tactic. “Both sides are equally to blame”. The other side does it too. It’s a result of conflict from “many sides”.

This is never an encouraging bit of rhetorical legerdemain, but in this case it was especially chilling: the supposed leader of the free world declared — twice — that Nazis were morally equivalent to those taking a stand against them. Nazis, he insisted, weren’t all really Nazis or white supremacists, and included some “very fine people”.  As usual, he merely was brainlessly parroting his media enablers, who declared that the demonstrators had “a reason” to be there.  The White House Occupant also tried to defend the white supremacists by saying that they had a permit, and that “the other group didn’t”.  The former is irrelevant; the latter is a baldfaced lie. The counterprotesters did indeed have a permit of their own.

Coincidentally, the white supremacists who are rallying and stirring up violence around the country are the putative president’s most solid base, the main choir he is preaching to — the hardcore supporters who view him as their messiah who will lead them to their Promised Land of ivory purity. It was they, more than anyone, who praised his remarks about Charlottesville — while also praising the murderous driver and belittling and insulting Heather Heyer, the woman he killed. Very fine people, very fine.

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2. What about violence on the other side?

Hand in hand with bothsidesism, you have whataboutism. Like a schoolyard brat caught with his hand in the cookie jar, he often tries to deflect focus away from his culpability by accusing someone else of something.

What about the ‘alt-left’ that came charging at, as you say, the ‘alt-right?’ Do they have any semblance of guilt…. What about the fact they came charging with clubs in hands, swinging clubs?

Once again he’s just echoing unfounded rumors.  There’s been no evidence of any violence by counterprotesters, nothing more than using mace to defend themselves when they were surrounded, threatened and assaulted by the “very fine” Nazis — who were the only ones swinging clubs.  The Cult Of Trumpery, however, has been so desperate to pin blame for violence on the antifascists that they have circulated a fake photo of one of them assaulting a police officer.

3. The “alt-left”

Not only does the putative president parrot the loony ideas of the fringe media, he also uses their vocabulary. There is no such thing as the “alt-left”.  What exactly would an “alt-left” do, anyway? Gang up on people and try to give them healthcare?

“Alt-left” is a label made up by the “alt-right” to help advance a false equivalence.  And while “alt-right” is itself a label of questionable accuracy (which is to say, it’s a euphemism used to cover up fascism and white supremacy), it is at least a legitimate category because it was coined and self-applied by the right-wingers themselves. There is no comparable label, or coalition, on the left.

4. Greasing the slope

It’s a very common tactic, almost a knee-jerk reaction, for right-wing extremists to attach the term slippery slope to any action that doesn’t meet their seal of approval. They never seem to apply it to any situation where it’s actually appropriate — i.e., environmental plundering or the intrusion of religion into government — but they are ever eager to apply it to situations it doesn’t fit.

If we take down Confederate statues, say the putative president and his puppeteers, then it won’t be long before we’re taking down statues of Washington and Jefferson and Lincoln, and demolishing Mt. Rushmore. It doesn’t seem to occur to them that they’re comparing a group of historical figures who fought to establish, strengthen and protect the union to a group who fought to rip it apart.

The metaphor of a slippery slop works only if you are talking about a continuum of possible events along the same slope. Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln are on a totally different slope, and indeed an opposing slope, from Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. No, it still isn’t comparable just because Washington and Jefferson owned slaves; Lee and Jackson not only owned slaves, they waged a war against their own country to protect the very institution of slavery.

Most preposterously, some members of the punditocracy even suggested that maybe book burning will come next on the slope. Apparently, they’re blissfully unaware that Confederate monuments are being defended by neo-Nazis; and it was Nazis themselves who were among the most infamous book burners.

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4. Those beautiful statues

Another of the putative president’s tactics was to bemoan the destruction of such beautiful works of art as the Confederate monuments. But no monuments have actually been destroyed, nor is that the plan. The plan is to move them to museums, or somewhere besides the public forum.  Even the one that was torn down by citizens in North Carolina is currently stashed in a warehouse until someone figures out what else to do with it.

And the neo-Nazi mob that gathered in Charlottesville was not there to protect statues. It was there to take a stand for white supremacy — as its swastikas, Confederate flags and chants of “We won’t be replaced” and the like make clear.

Your putative president is obviously very concerned about the preservation of beautiful historical markers. So much so that he’s willing to erect one himself on his golf course, in commemoration of a battle that never occurred. Good thing he’s so adamantly opposed to “fake news”.

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5. Birds of a feather

Those folks in North Carolina were understandably upset about the Charlottesville incident. Even so, their angry reaction was in itself rather dumb. They should have been aware that the punditocracy is constantly on the lookout for any little event they can tout as proof that “liberals” are unruly scum. And guess what? That’s exactly what happened.

It was a different group in Durham, and a much smaller one — just 10 people appear to have participated in actually toppling the statue. But the punditocracy wasted no time in lumping them all together, and declaring that they were all representative of the violent and unsavory Left in general. But they didn’t stop there; they also lumped the protesters together with the Taliban, with the Khmer Rouge, with ISIS — with anyone who’s ever taken down a statue in any manner for any reason.

A few hours later, vandals spray-painted the Lincoln Memorial in Washington with graffiti. (So, Mr. President, was the Memorial equally to blame?)  As of this writing, there is no word on who the guilty party was, or whether they had any particular motive, or what their ideology was, if any, other than destructiveness. What we do know is that this was one of a spate of such vandal attacks that have occurred in DC over the past few months; and there appears to be no rhyme or reason to them.  They have targeted the Lincoln Memorial before, as well as the Washington Monument, the World War II Memorial, and the Smithsonian Institution. Messages have included “Jackie Shot JFK” and a reference to 9-11.

No matter. As far as the reactionaries were concerned, this latest attack on the Lincoln Memorial was obviously related to Durham and Charlottesville, and was more conclusive proof that them librulz are all a bunch of lawless thugs. It never seems to have occurred to any of them that Lincoln was about as far on the other side of the racism divide as you can get.

Needless to say, we’ve seen the same tactic after a gang of hooded, self-branded “anarchists” crashed a peaceful demonstration in Berkeley more recently. There’s a big difference between anarchist and antifascist — except in the brains of reactionaries.

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6. “Erasing history”

This is the most absurd spin of all, so naturally it’s the most frequently invoked. Eliminating Confederate statues, they say, is an effort by them librulz to erase history and rewrite it to their liking. As if statues are the way we encapsulate, preserve and transmit history. As some people have noted, you’d be very hard pressed to find a monument to Hitler anywhere in the world; yet virtually everyone everywhere in the world knows perfectly well who he was, what he did, and even what he looked like. Monuments do not exist as vessels of history, but as vessels of emotion. (More about that in a moment.)

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Newt Gingrich, whose neurons have not held up well under advancing age, even proclaimed:

And you have a great deal of people on the left who if they could destroy our entire memory of America, they would wipe it out and we would have no knowledge of what it meant to be an American.

There is no reason for you to be this stupid too. So here are two facts Mr. Gingrich is trying to ignore: it was the Confederacy that fought to wipe out “what it meant to be American”.  It is the people who defend the Confederacy who are trying to destroy the memory of what happened.

Far from erasing history, removing Confederate monuments is an effort to get history straight — to cease making heroes of men who fought against their own nation in the deadliest American war ever, for the cause of continuing the practice of brutally enslaving countless others. (And yes, the Civil War really was about slavery.)  And while it’s true that the Founding Fathers also declared war against their own country and were considered traitors, the cause could not have been more different: eliminating oppression as opposed to preserving it.

It doesn’t work to glibly say “heritage, not hate”, because the Confederate heritage is a heritage of hate. And it’s especially bizarre to hear Santayana’s maxim “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” spouted in defense of mobs displaying the swastika and the “heil Hitler” salute.

7. Butwhatabout Muslims?

“Okay, so the Confederates attacked the United States. But so have Muslims. So if we’re going to remove Confederate monuments, shouldn’t we also remove mosques?” That, in all seriousness, was an argument made by an Oklahoma lawmaker, and picked up by many of his kindred spirits on social media.

Have you ever heard anyone suggest the removal of churches because the Confederates were Christians? You’d probably never think of holding Christianity accountable because millions of traitors were Christians; so why would you hold Islam accountable because an infinitely smaller handful of terrorists have been Muslim? (Particularly when terrorist attacks are carried out more often by white Christians than anyone else.)

If, though, there were statues of Osama bin Laden on U.S. soil, it might not be a bad idea to remove them. But there aren’t any. Because Americans had the good sense not to erect any in the first place. There are, however, countless statues of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson — who killed far more Americans than bin Laden did.  So why the preferential treatment? Are we cutting them slack because they were Americans too? That says we consider it not only acceptable but heroic and honorable to commit mass slaughter and devastation against America if you’re American and a traitor to boot; and that doesn’t speak very highly of our values. Or are we cutting them slack because they were white Christians? I shouldn’t have to tell you what that says about us.

8. Defensive about offensiveness

Also making the rounds on social media was this little gem:

Ok, I can play “Lets Erase History” Erase Welfare, Food Stamps, Free Housing & College – that’s OFFENSIVE to those of us that WORK

You have to be impressed when anyone can compress so much nonsense into such a small space. We’ve already discussed the straw man of “erasing history”. It’s unclear what “free housing and college” is supposed to be referring to but this meme is evidently changing the subject by paying homage to a number of myths about public assistance (“welfare”).

For one thing, there’s the myth that Americans can be neatly divided into either working stiffs or welfare bums. In reality, most “welfare” recipients also work — including quite a few military families. Thus, it’s absurd to suggest that working people on the whole resent “welfare” recipients. There’s also the myth that funding these assistance programs significantly drains the pocket of the average American. In reality, if you earn 50,000 a year, you pay about 10 cents a day for “welfare” — as opposed to about $16.50 a day to support corporations.

The biggest red herring here, however, is the use of the word “offensive”. The official spin is that the whole reason people want to take down Confederate monuments is that they are “offensive” to African-Americans. And hey, so what if they are thereby reminded of the bondage and torture and persecution their forebears endured? They should just get over it like us white folk have done.

It’s probably true that these monuments stir some unpleasant feelings among many African-Americans, but that isn’t the main reason for taking them down. The big problem is not the reaction they provoke among some blacks, but the reaction they provoke among some whites. Monuments, as mentioned, are not erected for the purpose of preserving history. They are erected for the purpose of preserving and inciting emotion – generally pride, honor, duty, etc.

So what response do these monuments provoke in today’s white supremacists? Exactly the response they were designed to. And that’s the main reason they need to come down.

9. Confederate flag and rainbow flag

Meanwhile, back at the loony bin of fairandbalanced Fox “News”. Star Parker declared that the Confederate flag and the rainbow flag “represent the exact same thing”. Parker, by the way, is both a right-wing extremist and an African-American; as such, she’s a popular token black on outlets like Fox, much like the appropriately deranged fellow who keeps popping up at presidential rallies. You have to hand it to them for doing their part for racial equality by demonstrating that African-Americans can be just as dopey as anyone else if they put their minds to it.

10. Butwhatabout Black Lives Matter

Speaking of African-Americans, there’s been another popular thread among reactionaries in comparing the antifascists to Black Lives Matter. And the comparison is somewhat valid, but not in the way they intend. The antifascists are peaceful protesters, and so are those affiliated with Black Lives Matter — which, unlike the guy in the White House, denounces violence promptly and unequivocally.

11. False flag

It goes without saying that, as usual, the right-wing loony fringe media from which your putative president obtains his Real News went ballistic with the conspiracy theories.  The organizer of the Nazi demonstration was actually a “liberal” spy. It was all a setup by Democrats. Obama was behind it. Hillary was behind it. Black Lives Matter was behind it. Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe was behind it. Jews were behind it. Extraterrestrial lizard people were behind it. Etc., etc., etc.

12. What matters to the putative president

And of course in delivering his remarks about Charlottesville, the putative president made certain to emphasize what mattered to him most about the community: he owns a house and a winery there. And it is, naturally, the biggest and best winery in the whole fucking galaxy.

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Goliath Usually Wins

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The ancient folktale about a shepherd boy who defeats a ferocious, gigantic warrior has become one of the most widely known story types in the world. Not only was it incorporated into the Bible and imbued with religious significance, but it’s also filtered its way into the lore of other cultures, appearing in the guise of Jack and the Beanstalk, The Brave Little Tailor, and other tales.

The motif has become so deeply ingrained into the collective psyche that we’re constantly on the lookout for real-time parallels – and indeed we’ve even come to expect them.

Which might be why so many people were stunned and shocked by the 2016 presidential election. Donald Trump totally blindsided them. But he really shouldn’t have.

His fans no doubt would like to cast him in the role of David. But he qualified as an underdog only on two counts: he was behind in the polls, and he had no qualifications or experience relevant to the position. But in every other way, he was about as Goliath as they get.

One of the richest men in the world, he has spent his entire life having people pamper him and cater to him. He is the embodiment of schoolyard bullying, of anti-intellectualism, of all that is vile, nasty, corrupt, hateful and cruel.

And he has powerful allies, including the American media – which trumped up and trumpeted phony “scandals” about his opponent while burying dozens of very real scandals about him. Even the director of the FBI violated the agency’s own directives to interfere in the election on his behalf. Under the circumstances, it would have been a miracle if Hillary Clinton had won. And miracles are in very short supply – that’s what makes them miracles.

Here’s an uncomfortable fact that they neglect to teach you in Sunday school: Goliath usually wins. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be particularly remarkable for a shepherd boy to bring him down. Before that fateful encounter, the obnoxious brute already had dispatched a number of worthy opponents. David typifies the hope that there is always hope if we act courageously in the face of evil, no matter how overwhelming the evil; and that sometimes one defeat of Goliath makes up for all the times he’s won.

Another important truth to remember is one so succinctly articulated by Tony Kushner in Angels In America: “The world only spins forward.” Civilization will keep advancing no matter how many obstacles Goliath throws in its path. Sometimes it will take two steps forward and one step back – or sometimes even (as we’ve just seen) vice versa. But overall, it keeps progressing.

African-Americans struggled for centuries against the Goliath of racism (which still isn’t dead but at least has been crippled). They faced bondage, lynchings, beatings, torture, discrimination and oppression before civil rights advances and even the election of a black president.

Gays have faced a similar Goliath, and have received comparable treatment. But eventually they were represented with respect in the media and by the law, and some have become openly gay elected officials. Today, they even can get married. What makes that miracle even more miraculous is that the change was delivered by a Supreme Court dominated by right-wingers. (It’s worth noting that the oppression of both groups, like many other social injustices, was fervently endorsed by Christian zealots — who now are beside themselves with ecstasy over Trump’s win.)

The world only spins forward.

During that same week in November when America officially embraced fascism, the world lost visionary singer/songwriter/poet Leonard Cohen, whose  distant relatives were murdered back when Europe officially embraced fascism. That weekend, Saturday Night Live faced a dilemma: was it appropriate to open the week’s episode with the customary light-heartedness after such a heavy double dose of sadness?

The solution was simple, elegant and powerful. Kate McKinnon, who had been portraying Hillary Clinton in the program’s satirical skits, sat at the piano and accompanied herself singing Cohen’s somber anthem “Hallelujah” – which coincidentally opens with a reference to that fabled shepherd king of Israel who once toppled a giant. At the song’s conclusion, McKinnon turned to the camera tearfully and said, “I’m not giving up. And neither should you.”

No, you shouldn’t. The world only spins forward. Fascism has been defeated once, and will be defeated again.

Goliath usually wins. But he can’t go on winning forever.

50 Years Ago…

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I’m sitting in my fifth grade class. The teacher stops talking in mid-sentence because she’s seen the principal appear in the doorway wearing his yellow raincoat and a grim expression. She goes back to see what he wants, and they talk in subdued tones for a couple of minutes. The only thing I overhear is “he was shot in Dallas.”

He leaves to deliver his ponderous message to other classrooms, and she returns to the front of the class to inform us that it’s President Kennedy who’s taken the bullet, and he’s in serious condition. She says she’s going to the office to listen for updates on the radio – that’s what we called our Internet in those days. It’s a bold and reckless move to leave a gang of antsy youngsters unattended, but since presidents don’t exactly get shot every day, we’re uncertain just how rambunctious we’re supposed to be. So out of sheer confusion, we end up being unusually well behaved in her absence.

A few minutes later the teacher returns and announces rather matter-of-factly, “he’s dead’.  She then pays tribute to the fallen leader by reading a passage from a history book. It’s about the assassination of Lincoln, but she substitutes names and other details to create an instantaneous historical account of the most recent assassination . This is followed by a minute of silence, punctuated by her “amen”, and then we ready ourselves for early dismissal.

We don’t know yet that the world has been upended in an instant. We don’t realize to what extent JFK had embodied optimism and altruism and courage and vision.  We just know that our parents have expressed grave misgivings about having a Catholic, whatever that is, in the White House. We don’t foresee that his murder has ushered in a new norm of gun violence, of high-profile public shootings that will include the president’s brother five years later and the president’s alleged killer only three days later.

We can’t predict that guns will become the new coin of the realm for an increasingly psychopathic society, a political hot button, a lightning rod for propaganda and greed and bitter divisiveness , a preferred means of quick distinction and immediate limelight for pathetic losers. Earlier in the year, a classmate had brought his hunting rifle to school one day to show off; and while the teacher reprimanded him, there was no disciplinary action. We have no way of imagining that a day will come when such an incident would have made national news.

For the moment, we just know that we’re leaving school early. As we saunter out to the buses, I hear a wise ass vocally imitating the sound of a bugle blowing “Taps”. Another wise ass comments to the principal, “are we going to celebrate?” The principal fixes him with an icy glare and replies, “I hope you meant that as a joke, son.” The wise ass hastily responds in the affirmative.

It isn’t until we get home that the day’s events become real for us. And what makes them real is the same thing that makes everything else real: television. It’s the medium the late young president had utilized as no other politician had done before, and none would ever do again.  How ironic that he has become the first president whose assassination is covered by the medium. Over and over we see the tragedy played out in black and white, and after a while it starts to sink in that this is not a test. We’ve already failed the test.

For me, the punch in the gut comes when a reporter is trying to interview a man who had witnessed it all. The man starts to relate what happened, but before he can get very far he just breaks down and starts sobbing. Whereupon the reporter assures him, “that’s quite all right, sir”.

And that’s as real as it gets. Television has given us permission to mourn. To reflect. To recoil in horror. To say that the country will never be the same again.

More on the Myth of Hitler’s Gun Ban, Part 2

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( a continuation of the previous post which was the continuation of a prior post)

Salient Point # 3: Yes, the Jews fought back. So what?

Of all the statements I made in my original post, the one that seems really to stick in the craw of the gunsters the most was this:

But the concept of a handful of citizens armed with hunting rifles and Saturday night specials fending off an army is delusional hubris peculiar to gun addicts.

That was just too much reality for some of them to take, and so they accused me of being not only full of bovine fecal matter, but of being (somehow) disrespectful to the victims of the Holocaust. One “rebuttal” even characterized my research as “outrageous” and “disturbing” (unlike, say, having a bunch of deranged individuals playing with loaded weapons).  Because, as some of them hastened to point out, some of the Jews did fight back, and did so most valiantly. And in particular the gunsters point to the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising as proof that my “opinion” is dead wrong.

Sometimes I really need a crowbar to pry my jaw off the  floor. I can’t imagine a more vibrant example of people arguing against their own position.

Yes, the Jews fought back, in Warsaw and many other places. They staged more than 100 acts of armed resistance, according to Wikipedia. Sometimes they did some damage, and a few of the perpetrators even lived to tell about it. And guess what? All of these insurgencies combined still failed to stop the Holocaust. So explain to me again exactly how mentioning them is supposed to discredit my conclusion?

I don’t mean to suggest that the Jews should not have resisted somehow, even violently. Desperate times call for desperate measures. But the odds were overwhelmingly against them, just as they are overwhelmingly against any group of armed citizens facing off against an armed government. Considering that their score was zero out of 100-plus at preventing the Holocaust, how can anyone believe that their acts of armed resistance prove the odds were in their favor?

Oh, wait. There’s something I forgot to include. The gunsters also maintain that even though the Jews were, in some cases, armed, they just didn’t have enough arms. If only the Jewish resistors could have gotten their hands on more hardware, they assert, the tide would have turned. They’re not even speculating about this; it’s something they absolutely and unequivocally know to be true.

Time out.

Could these possibly be the same gunsters who proclaim, loudly and at every opportunity, that “gun control doesn’t work”? And yet in the next breath they declare that beyond a shadow of a doubt, “gun control” is the one thing that made the Holocaust possible? Which is it, folks? Does “gun control” work or doesn’t it? Are you saying that it only works on Jews?

No, wait, it must work on any other oppressed people as well. Because according to the Gunster Gospel, the first thing a dictator does when seizing control is to take away people’s guns (even though an armed populace can effectively resist tyranny) and then he can commit genocide and do whatever else he pleases because the people are unarmed and therefore powerless (even though “gun control” doesn’t work). Everybody clear now?

If, as the gunsters so often insist, people who are sufficiently motivated to get their hands on guns will do so no matter what kind of laws they are violating, then one must assume that the Jews were armed to the teeth. What more powerful motivation could there possibly be than survival? But no matter how adequate or inadequate their arsenal may have been, one thing is for certain: the Nazi arsenal was far superior.

Likewise, the gun nuts who are itching for a chance to take down Uncle Sam in a showdown at the corral seem to be convinced that if they only could acquire more and bigger toys, then the momentum would shift in their direction. Sorry, gun nuts; you will always be pitifully outnumbered and pitifully outgunned.

Salient Point # 4: The exceptions really aren’t.

It appears I may have goofed again. A moment ago, I stated that when a small band of armed citizens defend themselves against armed government forces, the odds are overwhelmingly against them. What I probably should have said instead was that the odds of their success are essentially nonexistent — at least if history is any guide. Because I can’t think of a single unequivocal exception to this rule.

The gunsters, however, are convinced that they can.  There are several examples in particular that they keep lobbing in my direction: Afghanis against Soviets, the South Vietnamese against the North Vietnamese and even (I kid you not) the American Revolution. But none of these qualifies as an instance of a small contingent of armed citizens defending themselves against their government.

In each of these conflicts, the insurgents formed an army and/or were aided by outside forces; in the first two, it was the United States supplying much of the firepower. In the Revolution, the colonists formed their own organized and trained army (not just a band of armed citizens) and they were substantially aided by other armies — most notably, that of France. (Sorry, gun nuts. I know many of you love to believe that the French are anti-American socialist pussies; but the truth is that to a very large extent you owe to them the liberty you so fervently claim to cherish.) In each of these wars, moreover, the defenders were warding off invaders on their home turf — which was not the case in Germany.

And what about the French Revolution? Yes indeed, those brie-nibblers did have their own revolt and it was indeed successful, but it was a multi-pronged social upheaval rather than just a military action. And it wasn’t fought by just a small group of people, but by a large contingent of revolutionaries, including soldiers, against a corrupt aristocracy.  Note also that they were on the offensive rather than the defensive end of the clash.

Such also was the case with the successful Cuban revolution, which probably stands the best chance of providing a solid exception. The victorious revolutionary force was quite small, but it employed guerilla tactics quite effectively, essentially assuming the character of a military unit. (As I’ve mentioned before, the dividing line between civilian and military factions is sometimes blurry.) Perhaps most significantly, the Cuban guerillas had the support of the people, who were fed up with the Batista regime.

Support is crucial in such situations, which is one of many reasons why the Tea Partiers would be crushed like bugs if they ever attempted to emulate Castro’s success by storming Washington. Not only would government forces have them woefully outnumbered and outgunned, but few citizens would have their back. Most Americans would rather stick with a duly elected president, even if they don’t particularly like him, than line up behind the likes of  Wayne LaPierre.  By the way, history failed to repeat itself in Cuba only a couple of years later, when a counter-revolution failed to overthrow Castro (who is yet another dictator whom the gun culture falsely accuses of banning guns).

Which brings us back to the Jews in Germany. Some detractors have suggested that it really wouldn’t have been necessary for them to win in a conflict with the Nazi troops; just by attracting the attention of the rest of the world, they could have drawn sympathetic reinforcements that could have toppled Hitler. In other words, if they’d fought back — which they did, many times over — with better weapons — which they were prevented from acquiring by “gun control” — which doesn’t work — then it would have prevented the Holocaust — which may or may not actually have happened, depending on which gunster you ask. Such a presumption, however, ignores the most crucial factor of all.

Salient Point # 5: Hitler had a more potent weapon.

It could be found even on the other side of the world, on the seat of every new Ford motor car that rolled off the assembly line, in the form of The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, an apocryphal tome detailing how the Jews were supposedly scheming to take over the world. Henry Ford, a virulent anti-Semite, felt that every citizen (or at least every citizen who could afford to buy one of his automobiles) should have a complimentary warning about the Jewish menace.

It wasn’t just this one book that made the difference, by any means. Ford spread calumny about the Jewish people in other ways as well; he compiled his own anti-Semitic book, ran anti-Semitic rants in a newspaper he owned, and even supplied financial backing for the Nazi cause. Nor was he the only prominent American to do so. Numerous American tycoons and businesses provided financial and/or rhetorical support to Hitler and his conquest. Among them were William Randolph Hearst and a banking firm connected to Prescott Bush, grandfather of George W.

With that kind of bankroll, fueled by poisonous rhetoric, in support of the Nazis worldwide, it’s staggeringly naive to suggest that a small band of Jewish rebels, or even a large number of small bands of Jewish rebels, could have gained enough international traction to help them topple Goliath — particularly given that the Nazis controlled the media in Germany, and could censor and spin the news at their discretion.  And all the while, they were convincing people that in fact it was the Jews themselves who dominated the media. Thus they circulated illustrations like this one:

nazi propaganda

The Nazis were masters of propaganda, which saturated every level of their society at every age stratum. We’ve previously mentioned that the nursery rhymes their children were taught glorified weaponry. Additionally, the math problems they learned dealt with killing their enemies, invalids and other “undesirables”. Propaganda is arguably the most powerful weapon on earth, depending on how one defines power. The Nazis had one of the most potent arsenals of it in history; and the Jews were its prime target.

In sum, the notion that resistance by the Jews could have averted their fate — or that “gun control” was crucial to Nazi dominance — is wild speculation at best. There is scarcely a drop of evidence to support either conclusion. And an ocean of evidence to contradict them both.

A Parting Irony

And in concluding (I hope) the discussion of this topic that has dragged on much longer than I ever planned, I can’t help noting how ironic it is that the smears comparing President Obama to Hitler invariably come from right-wing extremists.  Because they themselves have much more in common with Nazism than does the president. No no no, I am not saying that they are Nazis (except for those who actually call themselves Nazis — we’ll allow them that privilege if they want it) but they at least lean in that general direction. Enough so that their likening Obama to Hitler is rather akin to the whoopee cushion calling the football flat.

Of course, if you want to play the reductio ad hitlerum game, you can always find some way in which Hitler resembles absolutely anyone. Even me; although I find Nazism detestable and see nothing the least bit admirable about Hitler, I have brown hair and a mustache and I’m a vegetarian and a writer and an amateur artist. Just like Adolf. Perhaps if you dug into his biography deeply enough, you might find that he once had a pet rabbit and raised underwear on his high school’s flagpole just as I once did.

But when we speak of the ideological kinship between Nazism and contemporary American “conservatism”, we’re referring to values that are far more fundamental: jingoistic nationalism, hawkishness, corporatism, patriarchalism, strong alliance between church and state, and “traditional values”.  Not to mention a raging hard-on for firearms. If you look at the list of Americans and American firms who aided and supported Hitler, you’ll find that they were almost entirely right-wing. And years later, it was a Republican president who honored Nazi soldiers.

Additionally, both Nazism and “conservatism” revolve to a great extent out of demonizing the others; moreover, they largely even target the same scapegoats: communists, secularists, homosexuals, university intellectuals, unions, religious minorities, and assorted “liberals”. And like the Nazis, the “conservatives” also saturate the media with accusations that those whom they most despise are really the ones who manipulate the media:

bigjournalism-20110314-antisemeticimage

This is a cartoon intended to depict how “liberals” supposedly control the media. Notice anything familiar about it? It was used no fewer than three times on the popular right-wing website Breitbart.com. (The man is gone but his brilliant legacy lives on.) It was eventually removed from two of the posts in question, but the last I heard, the bright folks at Breitbart still have not apologized for what might charitably be termed a dire lapse in judgment.

I may have said this before, but it bears at least one reiteration. Whenever group A wages an intensive campaign to demonize group B, it’s wise to be more suspicious of the former than the latter. If there’s one lesson the Holocaust really should have taught us, that’s it.

The Biggest Lie About the Civil War

Since 2011 marks the 150th anniversary of the outbreak of The Civil War, perhaps it would be improper to allow the year to expire without commenting on a popular misconception about the bloodiest conflict in American history. Did we say misconception? Nay, it’s an outright lie, spread by proponents of the Confederate cause.

The Big Lie: “It Wasn’t Really About Slavery.”

Advocating slavery would not be a very popular course at present; and it wasn’t even universally popular at the time. Consequently, it often has been camouflaged by other supposed motives. The right to secede. (For what purpose?) Government  policy. (Pertaining to what?) Economic factors. (An economy powered by what?) States’ rights. (To do what?) Every supposed impetus you could name, even if legitimate, could be directly linked to slavery.

“States’ rights” is an especially popular excuse these days; one reason is that it aligns the Neo-Confederates with the Neo-Conservatives, both of whom are concentrated below the Mason-Dixon line.  But both actually support states’ rights only when convenient. For an example of how quickly the Neocons can be prompted to do an about-face on states’ rights, see Bush vs. Gore. For an example of how easily the Confederates could be prompted to do so, see how pissed they became at Northern states who opted not to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act.

From the Horse’s…er,  Mouth

Obstinate adherence to an ideology always requires a certain willingness to ignore facts. But the Dixienauts also seem quite willing, when it suits their purposes, to ignore the words of their own beloved iconic leaders: Confederate “President” Jefferson Davis and “Vice-President” Alexander Stephens.

In January 1861, then-Senator Davis delivered a farewell speech to the U.S. Senate in which he declared why his state of Mississippi was to become a Union dropout:

“She has heard proclaimed the theory that all men are created free and equal, and this has made the basis of an attack upon her social institutions.”

Stephens was even more explicit. In what was to become known as the Cornerstone Speech, delivered in March of 1861, he declared:

“This (equality) was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution.”

And he added:

“Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition.”

But my favorite part of his speech is this:

“This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth. This truth has been slow in the process of its development, like all other truths in the various departments of science…Those at the North, who still cling to these errors, with a zeal above knowledge, we justly denominate fanatics. All fanaticism springs from an aberration of the mind from a defect in reasoning. It is a species of insanity. One of the most striking characteristics of insanity, in many instances, is forming correct conclusions from fancied or erroneous premises; so with the anti-slavery fanatics.”

Any questions?

A Dose of Sanity

For an example of what Stephens considered sane behavior, see page 282 of Malcolm Gladwell’s 2008 book Outliers, in which he describes a standard treatment, known as “Derby’s dose”, administered to runaway slaves by one certain slave owner:

“The runaway would be beaten, and salt pickle, lime juice, and bird pepper would be rubbed into his or her open wounds. Another slave would defecate into the mouth of the miscreant, who would then be gagged for four to five hours.”

Yes, surely this was the slave’s “natural and normal condition”.

They’ll Rise Again and Again

The Confederate mentality is still very much with us. It never left. You can’t really expect it to when history has so whitewashed what the Confederacy really stood for, and posterity has been so willing to honor the memory of those who died in battle regardless of the values they represented. You may recall that President Ronald Reagan caused a stir by paying tribute to Nazi soldiers, apparently not even considering the implications of his actions.

Walk through Gettysburg and you’ll see monuments to Confederate soldiers right there with monuments to Federal troops, as if their causes were equally noble. They weren’t. One side fought to preserve the Union, the other to rip it apart in order to preserve the institution of slavery. No amount of “politically incorrect” revisionism can change that.

Slavery, whether they knew it or not, was what those Confederate troops fought and died for. And whether they know it or  not, it’s what today’s Neo-Confederates are glorifying.

The Myth of Christmas Candy Canes

A certain laundromat that I’ve frequented recently seems to be a popular hangout for Jehovah’s Witnesses. Every time I go there, they’ve left some of their pamphlets behind, featuring people on the cover who display what perfect skin and hair God will grant you if only you submit to His will, as relayed by them. I’ve learned to take this all in stride; maybe this literature actually is of benefit to some people. But on my last visit I discovered they’d really crossed the line by leaving behind those candy canes.

 

Yes, candy canes. About a dozen of them, each conveniently attached to a little tract explaining the TRUE meaning of Christmas. Like pedophiles, religious propagandists know that candy is an effective way to attract and manipulate children into something they’re not old enough to process. (Come to think of it, few adults are old enough to process religion. But that’s another story.) Accordingly, I threw them all into the trash where they belong. Sorry kiddies, you’ll have to get your sugar high elsewhere.

 

This was, alas, not the first time candy canes have been used as church bait. It’s been going on for centuries. Lately, there’s been a popular rumor circulating that these confections were created expressly for that purpose, and are infused with religious symbolism. Here’s how one website, often quoted in emails, states the case:

 

“A candy maker in Indiana wanted to make a candy that would be a witness, so he made the Christmas Candy Cane…He began with a stick of pure white, hard candy. White to symbolize the virgin birth and the sinless nature of Jesus, and hard to symbolize the Solid Rock, the foundation of the Church, and firmness of the promises of God… The candymaker made the candy in the form of a “J” to represent the precious name of Jesus… Thinking that the candy was somewhat plain, the candymaker stained it with red stripes. He used three small stripes to show the stripes of the scourging Jesus received by which we are healed. The large red stripe was for the blood shed by Christ on the cross so that we could have the promise of eternal life.”

 

Lovely story. There’s just one problem with it: it’s utter horseshit. Inspired, perhaps, by the pretzel, which has a much older, and possibly religious, origin – with the folded shape representing either hands in prayer or a disguised cross.  The use of bread also probably stems from Christianity’s roots in harvest celebrations, and even possible connections to ancient cannibalistic cults . (“Eat this bread, it’s my body.”)

 

Candy canes themselves have existed, and have been used for Christmas decoration, for centuries. And they were plain white until about a hundred years ago, when somebody decided that they looked more festive with red stripes, and the innovation caught on. Originally, the canes were straight, but the crook was added later for reasons unknown, but there is no reason to believe it was intended to represent the letter “J”. Another legend (also unproven, but somewhat more plausible) relates that this alteration did indeed have a sort of religious significance: it supposedly was concocted by an official at Cologne Cathedral in the Seventeenth Century as a novelty to pique the interest of restless children in attendance. According to this legend, the shape represents a shepherd’s staff – not a letter of the alphabet.

 

But that’s quite likely a fabrication as well. It reeks of the same kind of symbolic retrofitting that Christianity has always been guilty of. Now, as always, Christians are trying to take credit for something they didn’t originate – including the United States of America. And, lest we forget, this holiday now commonly known as Christmas.

 

 

The Myth Of Hitler’s Gun Ban

Whenever a politician, or anyone else, starts talking about regulating guns, it’s a safe bet that someone will bring up how Hitler supposedly outlawed guns in Germany, which supposedly enabled him to do all the mischief he did.  As we’ve noted before, Adolf is a staple reference among propagandists. It’s become an automatic response to compare anyone you don’t like to Der Fuhrer, on the grounds that since he was evil incarnate, everything he ever said or did must also be evil. People have even been known to suggest that since he was a vegetarian, vegetarians are evil. It’s not surprising, then, that you often see this quote pop up:

“This year will go down in history! For the first time, a civilized nation has full gun registration! Our streets will be safer, our police more efficient, and the world will follow our lead into the future!”  –Adolf Hitler, 1935

Trouble is, Hitler never made such a speech in 1935. Nor is there any record that he ever spoke these particular words at all.  This little “speech” was obviously written for him, many years after his death, by someone who wanted you to believe that gun registration is Hitler-evil.

What he did say, seven years later, was this: “The most foolish mistake we could possibly make would be to permit the conquered Eastern peoples to have arms. History teaches that all conquerors who have allowed their subject races to carry arms have prepared their own downfall by doing so.” So it’s fair to conclude that he believed “gun control” had its uses. But that’s quite a different thing from claiming that “gun control” was instrumental in the Nazi rise to power.

And the truth is that no gun law was passed in Germany in 1935. There was no need for one, since a gun registration program was already in effect in Germany; it was enacted in 1928, five years before Hitler’s ascendancy.  But that law did not “outlaw” guns, it just restricted their possession to individuals who were considered law-abiding citizens, and who had a reason to own one. And there’s no reason to consider that law particularly significant, either; the Nazis didn’t seize control of their own country with gunpowder. They used a much more potent weapon: propaganda.

Jews comprised less than one percent of the German population. Why didn’t the other 99 percent come to their defense and fight off Nazi tyranny? Quite simply, because they didn’t want to. They’d been persuaded that what was happening was best for their country, and that the Jews deserved what they got. It was propaganda, not firepower, that made the difference.

Under Nazi reign, Jews were prohibited from owning guns, just as they were prohibited from doing many things. And it has become an article of faith among the gun culture that had they been armed, the Holocaust would not have happened (that is, among those members of the gun culture who know that the Holocaust really did happen). But the concept of a handful of citizens armed with hunting rifles and Saturday night specials fending off an army is delusional hubris peculiar to gun addicts. On American soil, its most glorious day in the sun has been perhaps Waco. And we all know how well that turned out.

The gun culture is right about one thing, however. Hitler really did enact a new gun law. But it was in 1938, not 1935 – well after the Nazis already had the country in its iron grip. Furthermore, the new law in many ways LOOSENED gun restrictions. For example, it greatly expanded the numbers who were exempt, it lowered the legal age of possession from 20 to 18, and it completely lifted restriction on all guns except handguns, as well as on ammunition.

Given all of this, it’s pretty hard to make a case that “gun control” played a significant role in Nazi conquest. In fact, one might well say that when gun addicts brandish Hitler as a weapon, they are unwittingly arguing against their own cause.

(NOTE: Paragraph 5 of the above post was added after initial publication. For a more detailed discussion of this topic, see More on the Myth of Hitler’s Gun Ban, Part 1 and More on the Myth of Hitler’s Gun Ban, Part 2. Because the above post was deluged with comments, a few of them somehow were overlooked and did not get approved and published until later. Apologies to those who posted them.)