Tuesday, June 28, 2005

The Nazi Insult

Jeff Jacoby wondered why the absurd Nazi insult recently perpetrated by Senator Dick Durbin caused such a controversy. As Jacoby illustrates with example after example, politicians of both parties and others who should know better use the Nazi insult so often that it has become commonplace. The whole column is worth reading. Here's his conclusion:

Those who draw such insane parallels seek to damn their opponents with the most evil association they can imagine. But all they really accomplish is a kind of Holocaust-denial. After all, if congressional Republicans are "worse than Hitler," then Hitler must have been no worse than congressional Republicans. Which means that the tyrant who drenched Europe in blood, created a hellish network of concentration camps, and sent more than a million Jewish children to their deaths is roughly equal to--maybe even better than--a political party that calls for tax cuts and welfare reform. Anyone who can say (or imply) such a thing is guilty of trivializing the Nazis' crimes and of cheapening the agony of their victims.

This is where the degradation of American political discourse has brought us, but it isn't where it will end. When calling an opponent "worse than Hitler" or "another Pol Pot" has lost its sting, what new invective will the slanderers move on to? When opponents of the war can no longer whip up a frenzy by depicting Bush as Hitler or by likening US troops to the SS and KGB, what fresh venom will they come up with?

Politics ain't beanbag. But there used to be limits--including rhetorical limits--that decent men and women respected. As those limits are shredded and forgotten, our political environment is growing dirtier, uglier, and sicker.

Think about the American politician or public figure you find most distasteful. Assuming you know anything at all about World War II and the Nazis, there is no way you can intelligently characterize him or her as a Nazi or make a comparison to Hitler. Think about it. If you're guilty of doing it, you're making yourself look like an idiot. Cut it out.


Anonymous Ray said...

Amen brother you preach it. I am sick of the trivialization of Nazis, Stalinism, and Kmere Rouge from both sides of the ailse. The political landscape in this country keeps slipping further and further into the bottomless pit.

9:56 PM, June 28, 2005  
Blogger Esther said...

Yes, awesome post, Tom. I feel like that's all I've been saying lately but I agree and have nothing to add when you say it so eloquently. :)

11:26 PM, June 28, 2005  
Anonymous Schmedlap said...

This is a cultural trend. People seemed unfazed or bored with anything less than outrageous behavior. Whether it be increasingly outrageous reality TV, increasingly oversexed commercialism, outrageous court cases, or absurd accusations by members of congress, there seems to be no way to garner headlines unless you act like a total idiot.

4:59 AM, July 04, 2005  

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