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Poison Politics: Using the ‘N-Word’

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No, not that n-word. I’m talking about “Nazi,” the epithet-turned-buzzword that’s polluting political discourse in this country.

The most egregious recent example of this comes from Colorado University professor Ward Churchill, who has encountered a firestorm of criticism for referring to those who died in the World Trade Center as “little Eichmanns.” (An excellent, thoughtful piece on the incident and Churchill’s supposed Indian identity can be found here.)

Hackles were raised again just last week Democratic Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia compared Republican efforts to ban the filibuster in the Senate with Nazi Germany (one presumes that Byrd, a former KKK member, speaks from experience).

Long the preserve of the left, words like “Nazi” and “fascist” have been lazily employed to describe anything we disapprove of. Here are a few other notable Nazi comparisons from the left:

  • In Dude, Where’s My Country, Michael Moore clamis that the “Patriot Act is as un-American as Mein Kampf.” When challenged about this analogy by Robert Novak on CNN’s Crossfire, Moore responded, “The Patriot Act is the first step. Mein Kampf was written long before Hitler came to power. And if the people of Germany had done something early on to stop these early signs…if people don’t speak up against this, you end up with something like they had in Germany.”

  • Smarmy, arrogant cartoonist Ted Rall (yes, the one who made fun of “Terror Widows” not long after 9/11) posted the following under the heading “Is Bush A Nazi?”:
    Lately we’re being told that it’s either (a)
    inappropriate or (b) untrue to refer to Bush’s illegitimate junta as Nazi, neo-Nazi or neofascist. Because, you know, you’re not necessarily a Nazi just because you seize power like one, take advantage of a national Reichstag Fire-like tragedy like one, build concentration and death camps like one, start unprovoked wars like one, Red-bait your liberal opponents like one or create a national security apparatus that behaves like something a Nazi would create and even has a Nazi-sounding name. All of those people who see a little Adolf in the not-so-bright eyes of America’s homeland-grown despot are just imagining things.

  • Renowned linguist and political “theorist” Noam Chomsky, writing on his blog (for a more thorough examination of his blog, click here) compared those who “lament piously” over the terrorist activities of Iraqi insurgents to “Nazi and Stalinist apologists wringing their hands over the terror of the Partisans and the Hungarian resistance.”

In today’s political landscape, this kind of rhetoric is by no means confined to the left. Increasingly those on the right have been getting in on the act.

Here are some of their greatest hits:

  • Bill O’Reilly, hosting The O’Reilly Factor on FOX News:
    Joseph Goebbels was the Minister of Propaganda for the Nazi regime and whose very famous quote was, “If you tell a lie long enough, it becomes the truth.” All right? “If you tell a lie long enough, it becomes the truth.” And that’s what [Al Franken] and Michael Moore and all of these guys do.

    On celebrities who went to a Fahrenheit 9/11 screening: “Here are the people who would turn out to see Josef Goebbels convince you that Poland invaded the Third Reich. It’s the same thing, by the way.”

  • Ralph Peters, writing in a vitriolic New York Post article called “Howard the Coward,” comments upon the Howard Dean campaign and Dean’s boisterous supporters:
    These are the techniques employed by Hitler’s Brownshirts. Had Goebbels enjoyed access to the internet, he would have used the same swarm tactics as Dean’s Flannelshirts….Dean was already practicing the Big Lie. Montreal was just a stop on his journey from Munich to Berlin. He was already looking around for his Leni Riefenstahl.

    Strangely enough, this article is no longer available in the Post‘s archives (a fact that FAIR does not miss in their criticism of the Post and FOX News), but the text of the article can be found here.

  • Dr. Ted Baehr of the Christian Film and Television Commission comparing Million Dollar Baby to Nazi film I Accuse:
    After (that film) was released, a majority of German people said they had changed their minds and now supported mercy killings. After a few more of Goebbels’ films about invalids and handicapped people, the German people became strong believers in the efficacy of mass mercy killings. Similarities between the National Socialist use of film and Million Dollar Baby are frightening.

  • Right-Wing blog Power Line on pro-Democrat vandals in Wisconsin:
    Democrats attacked a Republican campaign office in a manner reminiscent of the Brownshirts of seventy years ago….In this campaign season, there is seemingly no length to which the Democratic Party, like the National Socialist Party of seventy years ago, will not go.

    This post is nicely disputed by Jason Steed on PoliticalJuice, but he manages to stick in a Nazi comparison of his own.

Perhaps this is just symptomatic of the great race to the bottom that our political culture has become. As the marketplace of ideas devolves into a bargain basement, pundits and hotheads everywhere are willing to slander history in order to take a cheap shot.

Whether the attack comes from the left or from the right, it is my position that lazy comparisons to Nazis are never appropriate.

Plenty of governments do unpleasant things and curtail certain freedoms (yes, ours included). This tendency is not limited to the Nazis. While the term “Nazi” is synonymous with propaganda and strong-arm politics, it is inextricably tied to ethnic scapegoating and mass murder—with arguably the most extreme example of man’s inhumanity toward man in modern history. No comparison to the Nazis can possibly avoid this association.

Sadly, propagandists and tyrants (large and small) are a dime-a-dozen in the modern world, so there’s plenty of fertile ground for analogy. Reflexively associating unpleasant tactics with Nazism serves only to chip away at the memory of how horrible—how truly exceptional—that regime was.

The frequency and fervency of these kinds of attacks are testament not only to the mean-spiritedness of today’s punditocracy, but also to a profound failure of the imagination. There’s no excuse for substituting actual arguments with rhetorical shorthand—particularly not this most vile variety.

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  • Eric Olsen

    great job Pete and totally agree, plenty of blame to go around in all directions. “Fascist” is the equivalent of Nazi-lite

  • http://www.shortstrangetrip.org Joe

    I blame Neil from “The Young Ones”. He made it fun to laugh at fascism, again.

  • http://paskudnyak.blogspot.com The Proprietor

    An excellent post, and true, both sides of the fence are equally at fault for using this most egregious term. It’s something I’ve had to point out to people in online discussions many times, that the careless use of the “N” word demeans its victims and the true horror that it represents, especially when it’s used to delegitimize people who were harmed by the genuine article. The people most likely to throw the term around generally have a very poor understanding of that historical period, and probably couldn’t identify much more than Hitler and swastikas (and amusingly enough, when they daub them on protest signs, their swastikas tend to be hooked to the left instead of the right, which is the ancient Indian/Sanskrit swastika, a symbol of good fortune)

  • http://gratefuldread.net Natalie Davis

    I wholly disagree. If one honestly believes that there are similarities between tactics and methodologies employed by some leader(s) on the right or left and those used by Hitler and Co., it is dishonest and cowardly not to say so. It is also potentially dangerous.

    Are there “leaders” who could wreak the kind of havoc the Nazis did? Absolutely, and those people must be named and stopped. Pussyfooting around the issue of their treachery and the harm they do and will cause only helps the evildoers ultimately succeed. The horror of thee Holocaust can happen and I fear it will happen again — in fact, I suspect it’s already under way in Red Amerikkka in one fashion or another. Color this the baby-steps phase. But what some well-meaning people permit now — encroachments on civil liberties, end-runs against international pacts, unjustified state-sanctioned violence, assaults on equality under law — will come back to bite society where it really hurts and in the worst way. Remember, rank-and-file Germans sucked in by der Führer were well-meaning folks too.

    I will leave it at that and leave you to your discussion; just wanted to speak my piece. I have no wish to endure the retaliatory rantings of right-wingers, fundies, jingoistic Bush supporters, or those who would appease them.

  • Eric Olsen

    But Natalie, isn’t it critical to shade the discussion as specifically as possible? The problem is that emotionally laden terms such as these (and a few choice others) tend to remove all nuance, specificity, and polarize.

  • Clement

    Deconstruction is funny because while it is certainly important to find truth, to find facts, to expose the details, it nevertheless prioritizes details, as do all human research orientations which are inherently limited by time, human labor, etc.

    So, the point is that the Nazis were horrible. That’s indisputable. And, if you really deconstruct the history of violence and repression they’ll certainly be included in the list of the most violent. But, what about the destruction of American Indians? What about the millions and millions killed in the slave trading industry, financed by wealthy European merchants? What about the Vietnam War? What about Madeline Albright’s Iraqi children?

    So, yeah it’s important to be sensitive to the history of the words we use. Normally, however, the essay, speech, conversation in which the word Nazi is being used should give some indication as to how informed the individual is.

    So, if you recognize the impact of US policy on the destruction of Iraqi civilian infrastructure, or the effect of US support of Nazi Germany (as those moved by the profit motive drooled over Nazi productivity), or the effect of US support of General Suharto in Indonesia, etc., then maybe the analogy to Nazi Germany actually appreciates the historical context, does not belittle the suffering of the Jews, and it offers a vision of death that certainly should be avoided.

    Obviously, the story of Nazi Germany is relatively clear to most people. However, the story of the slaughter of American Indians is usually framed as the savage Indians conducting Indian raids, not resistance. Or, the story of the Vietnamese was about containing communism. Both of these completely miscontrue the real details. The pain and suffering of these people is no less valuable, but looking at the scant attention paid to clarifying these stories tells us that these peoples are valued less than Jews. For that reason, using the word Nazi is the best word that elicits those feelings of empathy with peopel suffering under the iron fist of brutal governmental control.

    In the end, however, it is not just a matter of rhetoric. There are striking similarities between all institutions in which there are people on the top making choices that affect the majority of people on the bottom. In fact, this does not even consider the material support given to the Nazis by American financial and political elites.

    Sincerely,
    clement

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ

    So…

    The post’s author explains, in detail, why using the NAZI slur is so innappropriate, and we get two anti-American Leftists who then essentially use the term against the US.

    Ironic, don;t ya think? :-)

  • http://www.kolehardfacts.blogspot.com Mike Kole

    Thanks for this item and your perspective. It is refreshing and necessary.

    ‘Nazi’ is simply one of the strongest epithets available, and so should be used sparingly. Honestly, Natalie- a Libertarian such as myself could easily enough see shades of National Socialism on both right and left, but there are shades and then there is the real deal. Let’s reserve the use of that word for the real deal, to keep the impact of it real.

    I was genuinely repulsed by the over-use of swastikas and the word ‘Hitler’ in grafiti across Washington DC in the run-up to the 2004 elections. The most egregious use of swastikas were on Washington Times newspaper boxes, but also, it seemed that whenever an image of President Bush or Senator Kerry was on a flyer, poster, or billboard, it had a swastika or a Hitler moustache drawn on. I found it childish and repellant. You can dislike the Bush or Kerry, or the Washington Times, but to equate any with Nazis is simply ridiculous.

  • Clement

    To: RJ

    Then, is this an issue of only accurately using the term “Nazi” or is it of accurately using all words, respecting the appropriate historical context of all terminology? You seem to very carelessly use the term “anti-American leftists.” Actually I’m a pro-democracy libertarian socialist who has tremendous respect for the American people. We work our asses off to survive so political and financial elites like Bill Gaites, Bill Cleenton, Janet Rino, Donald Ruinfield, Dick Chinny, etc. can shit all over the world.

    Even so, if you’re offended by somebody using the word Nazi (as we know the swastika was lifted by the Nazis from some ancient usage, so, according to the logic being developed here, to even be disturbed by the picture of a swastika is to not really know its history…anyway) you at least got to ask them what they mean. I’d bet that they are familiar with the Jewish genocide perpetrated by the Nazis. I’d bet that they are using the word Nazi because they don’t want that to happen AGAIN!

    You’re wrong to think using the word Nazi belittles the suffering that Jewish people went through. Rather, to bring up any reference to the suffering that people in the past have endured is to respect and learn from their experiences.

    So, maybe what it all comes down to is that either you don’t know or you’re not willing to recognize that some people who represent you have committed atrocities on the scale committed by the Nazis. This is fact; just ask the slaves traded before the Civil War, just ask the American Indians, just ask the Southeast Asians. This is not anti-Americanism. To criticize is pro-American. To not criticize it is to chicken out, to wimp out, to run away crying to your mommy! To not criticize, that is disrespect, not only to Jewish people who have shown us how painful suffering can be under a tyranny, but it also disrespects those who are suffering now who don’t get your attention.

    Sincerely,
    Clement

  • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

    >> I’d bet that they are familiar with the Jewish genocide perpetrated by the Nazis. I’d bet that they are using the word Nazi because they don’t want that to happen AGAIN! <<

    So you’re saying that it’s a realistic possibility that our current administration will round up Jews or some other ethnic group and have them killed in huge numbers and that this justifies calling them nazis?

    You’re an idiot. Go away.

    Dave

  • Clement

    To: Dave

    Well, if this a matter of “rounding up” people in a gas chamber and killing them, I’m not aware of a US administration involved in this. Of course, we can’t forget that black people currently are “rounded up” in prisons here in the US. But, that’s not the same thing as gassing them, even though their life expectancies are far lower than the average.

    Nevertheless, it is my opinion that murder is murder, rounding up a group of people in a gas chamber, bombing civilian infrastructure, enforcing sanctions, challening patents on AIDS drugs, etc. are all illegal and evil, and if we’re counting, killing just as many people.

    This has happened before and is happening now. Therefore, if the same structure is left intact, only logically it will happen again. The current administration is not the only one to blame.

    While I myself have never called a US administration “Nazi”, I have a deep appreciation for the suffering associated with this term. While hopefully they know about the brutality with the help of movies, most kids do not understand the history of Nazi tyranny, to say nothing of the explicit support given to Hitler by financial and political elites in the US.

    Once again, if it’s about accuracy in general, where do you stop? What details do we highlight? Is it important to have a long discussion about the fact that Hitler was a vegetarian (even though he had the occasional liver dumpling platter)? No. Is it important to talk about how poorly Bush interacts with the press? No. Is it important to talk about Clinton’s immorality? No.

    The idea here is to stop the destruction caused by these people. If you don’t care about doing this, if you only care about “objectivity” then fine, why don’t you go criticize the latest bowling champion. Because in the post-modern world, a bowler is worthy of criticism just as much as tyranny.

    Sincerely,
    Clement

  • http://gratefuldread.net Natalie Davis

    So… we have a divide between those who find use of the N word inaccurate and those who consider it thoroughly accurate. Maybe that is the true essence or result of “Godwin’s Law” — discussions will necessary end because these two groups will not and can not come to agreement. That should surprise no one.

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    >>While I myself have never called a US administration “Nazi”, I have a deep appreciation for the suffering associated with this term. While hopefully they know about the brutality with the help of movies, most kids do not understand the history of Nazi tyranny, to say nothing of the explicit support given to Hitler by financial and political elites in the US.< <

    All the more reason why you and other fools should not muddy the waters by attempting to set anything the Bush administration has done as even vaguely equivalent to the actions of the Nazis in WW2. By even talking about the two in the same breath you tell the uninformed that the Nazis really weren't so bad. And this is EXACTLY what you do when you say:

    >>Nevertheless, it is my opinion that murder is murder, rounding up a group of people in a gas chamber, bombing civilian infrastructure, enforcing sanctions, challening patents on AIDS drugs, etc. are all illegal and evil, and if we’re counting, killing just as many people. <<

    Because the things you list are NOT equivalent in any way to what happened to the Jews in WW2. The fact that you think that a comparison can be drawn at all makes you either a fool or actively evil. I go with fool, because you seem to think that these activities are illegal, when they clearly are not. And I’ll stick with fool because you can’t do basic math, as the causes you list come nowhere near the numbers of people dead as were caused by the holocaust. And I’ll paint fool on your forehead because you can’t tell the difference between active evil with the intent of doing evil and the inadvertent results of government policy.

    So like I said before, take your Lyndon LaRouche holocaust-denying foolishness and peddle it at your local bar, because no one is buying it here.

    Dave

  • Clement

    Certainly, clarity is important. So, here it is: to even argue about the use of the word Nazi misses the whole point, or rather to argue about this becomes some exercise in post-modern, self-indulgent hippy talk. The deconstructionists have won when they say, “Generalization is for the stone age because as we know even the law of gravity falls apart in a singularity.”

    But generalizations are true and useful. Let’s not forget that the human project moves forward not because of 6 billion conflicting views but because of uniformity. For example, building a network of interstate highways is a cooperative effort; to even think for a second that such a project is the result of a multitude of divergent, individual interests is lunacy.

    So, can comparisons be made between different governments? Can we say that murder is murder even when different weapons are used and different amounts of people are killed? Yes.

    This moment is not an isolated event in history. We are part of a continuous process, in which human activities are intricately connected over long spans of time. We need to place what is happening now on a continuum so we can make better sense of the world, in order to make it better for more people. The current American empire was not created out of thin air; it learned from Britain’s imperial experience which followed Spain, Rome, etc.; America’s success rode on the backs of millions of dead African slaves, American Indians and American workers.

    So, I think it’s okay to criticize your government. This is important. We can’t get distracted by some phony version of patriotism or whether or not we can use the word Nazi. People are dying and not because of inadvertent government policy.

    When we acknowledge the benefits of life in America, do we forget the fact that the Nazis gave an award to Henry Ford, an American icon, who was not secretive about his anti-Semitism? Do we forget about the US financial and political support of Hitler and Mussolini before our entry into WWII? Of Suharto’s at least 500,000 killed in Indonesia? Of Rumsfeld shaking hands with Hussein? Do we forget that the Vietnam War (based on falsified accounts of an attack in the Gulf of Tonkin) killed tens of thousands of American soldiers and millions of Vietnamese?

    But this is not a thing of the past. Do we ignore that Colombia and Turkey, two of the worst violators of human rights in the world, get so much American aid? This can be at home, too. Do we ignore that over 9 million Americans go hungry every year? http://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/fanrr35/fanrr35.pdf

    What the US is doing right now is illegal. (In fact, since the founding of the World Court the US has been the only country found guilty for its war on Nicaragua.) The Geneva conventions make it illegal to target journalists and civilian infrastructure, which the US has done in Iraq, not only under Bush but also under Clinton. Meanwhile Alberto Gonzales says that international law is obsolete. Interestingly, the Nazi Wilhelm Keitel said the same thing and got the death sentence for it.

    So, the American project is great, but not flawless. Being satisfied with what we have now is not okay. We must strive for a future that while perhaps impractical is nonetheless important to help us envision potential improvements for human equality, liberty and health.

    Clement

  • gonzo marx

    Clement sez…
    *So, the American project is great, but not flawless. Being satisfied with what we have now is not okay. We must strive for a future that while perhaps impractical is nonetheless important to help us envision potential improvements for human equality, liberty and health.*

    /golfclap

    very well said…will you have my cyberbabies?

    Excelsior!

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    Yes indeed, fine closing paragraph after a series of inuendos, half-truths and outright lies all put together to conceal the fact that Clement cannot tell the difference between evil done with the intent of doing evil and the negative side effects of well intentioned policies. From that perspective whatever America does is evil, regardless of intent and there’s no difference between the man who pulls the trigger and the gun itself and the man who gives the order or the man who sets the policy that made the order possible. It’s all one big sameness to Clement.

    Dave

  • Clement

    This is not a Catch-22. To criticize something, to point out both good and bad, is not impossible. Recognizing that the American people enjoy the freest degree speech in the world is not a forced nod at our greatness, hard work and years of sacrifice. That is accepted knowledge, printed crystal clear in the history books for America’s children to read in public school.

    Yeah, most people can tell the difference between the manifest and latent consequences of actions. Like giving support to Hitler’s genocide. Like dropping bombs on Southeast Asia that killed millions of people. Those negative effects were entirely predictable. Even so, to think that this was well intentioned is to exhibit symptoms of a pyschological disorder. Hitler was bad from the beginning; dropping bombs kills people. Bad intentions, bad effects.

    Now, we’re not talking about the benign effects from the spread of figure skating around the world. Sure, there might exist some latent problems with the globalization of the sport, like the spread of realy bad music, but that doesn’t matter.

    We know good intentions from bad; our tax dollars fund the study of them and their predictable consequences.

    For example, the CIA (even Condi Rice later admitted publicly) has told us for years that if we continue to do as we have done in the mid-East, to support anti-democratic activities and people, like the Iraqi sanctions and Hussein, there would certainly be retaliation against us. This is cliche in the intelligence world. Negative effects predictably result from bad intentions. Good effects predictably result from good intentions.

    Clement

  • Clement

    While nobody would argue that more hungry people is good:

    http://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/fanrr35/fanrr35.pdf

    nobody would argue that getting rid of rubella is bad:

    http://www.voanews.com/english/2005-03-22-voa3.cfm

  • http://parentheticalremarks.blogspot.com Pete Blackwell

    Clement said: “Certainly, clarity is important. So, here it is: to even argue about the use of the word Nazi misses the whole point, or rather to argue about this becomes some exercise in post-modern, self-indulgent hippy talk. The deconstructionists have won when they say, “Generalization is for the stone age because as we know even the law of gravity falls apart in a singularity.”

    I’m struck by how disingenuous this comment is. I never said I was against generalizations. Just ones that are entirely inappropriate and inaccurate—the product of lazy or dogmatic thinking (or both) and the very “post-modern” mumbo jumbo that you attempt to accuse me of. You can’t be in favor of “clarity” and then totally misrepresent my argument.

    Arguing about history is not “self-indulgent hippy talk.” I would say that it is the attempt to stifle discussion, to paint everything with the same brush—which is exactly what hurling the Nazi epithet does—that is self-indulgent because it reject’s your interlocutor’s arguments before they can even be made.

    You start by saying that “clarity” is important, by which I can only assume you mean clear distinctions between ideas, but the rest of your post contradicts this statement.

    You go on to say the following: “So, I think it’s okay to criticize your government. This is important. We can’t get distracted by some phony version of patriotism or whether or not we can use the word Nazi.”

    How pious. Clearly my argument was that because I think it’s inappropriate to call Bush a Nazi, I therefore think our government is beyond reproach.

    How can you even attempt to participate in a discussion on the details of history and questions of proportionality when your Manichean world-view won’t allow you to see shades of difference at all?

  • Clement

    To Pete,

    Perhaps your responses should also be directed to the few other people who have contributed here.

    My post(s) about the use of generalizations had less to do with your original article than with the responses that followed it. Nonetheless, you claim “how truly exceptional” the Nazi murder of Jews was.

    Well, following this logic I could only see that every single mass slaughter has been exceptional in its strategies, victims and consequences.

    The destruction of American Indians was exceptional in that it was about frontier expansion supported by the ideology of “native savage” versus “christian savior.”

    The deaths of millions of African slaves were exceptional in that this was part of the trade between Europe and America.

    The deaths of Vietnamese were exceptional in that carpet bombing and agent orange were used against an undeveloped society.

    The deaths of millions of sub-Saharan Africans is exceptional due to AIDS.

    Etc.

    Do we claim that each slaughter is exceptional for the sake of historicity? If so, it seems we have accepted the continuous destruction perpetrated by a powerful few.

    Or do we say that the destructive drive is essentially the same? If so, finding a solution would be easier.

    To be clear is important here where you’re accused of “Lyndon LaRouche holocaust-denying foolishness”.

    Clement

  • Clement

    “Clearly my argument was that because I think it’s inappropriate to call Bush a Nazi, I therefore think our government is beyond reproach.”

    I think you meant “not” beyond reproach, right?

  • http://parentheticalremarks.blogspot.com Pete Blackwell

    Clement, I was being sarcastic. If you read my blog you’ll see that I criticize the government regularly.

    I never, ever said that the Nazis were the only example of atrocity in history. My argument is that people use Nazis—the most emblematic practitioners of genocide in human history—as a point of comparison to the current administration (or, as my post shows, to its leftist detractors). This is what I think is outrageous. If you want to compare slavery, the genocide of Native Americans, Stalin, Pol Pot, etc. to the Nazis, go ahead (although there are still important differences there).

    But to compare the Bush administration and the war in Iraq to Nazism is absurd and it truly does chip away at the historical significance of what you are comparing it to.

    I do not think that all expressions of violence are equal, or spring from the same source. Deaths caused by indifference (ie. AIDS in Africa) are different from deaths caused by deliberate acts (ie. the Nazis). The destructive drive is NOT essentially the same in my opinion. I think you are lapsing into essentialism, which never makes for good history, or good policy for that matter.

    To claim that certain atrocities are exceptional is not to condone or accept them. I don’t understand how you make this leap of illogic. I’m not saying that they’re exceptional and will therefore never happen again. What I’m saying is that there is not way that anyone could responsibly compare the Bush administration to the Nazis whith all that term entails.

    If concentration camps start popping up in Kansas for Muslims, I will be happy to reconsider my position.

    PS. It wasn’t me who compared you to LaRouche.

  • Clement

    Yeah, I had understood your criticism was pretty inclusive, I just didn’t catch the sarcasm. My fault.

    Most of what I had been saying was not a direct response to your original article but to the feedback that followed.

    Anyway, sure essentialism can be a problem. But I think it can be just as problematic as deconstruction. We all can see “shades of difference” in destruction, but to what end?

    Are we deciding a focus here? I think we should. Should we focus on the degree of difference between regimes of power? Maybe, to some extent.

    But, I think it’s really important to focus on the cause of destruction. Find connections to the past (a point which you are probably against) so that we can see a pattern that a powerful few are the guilty ones while the majority of humanity are innocent and disempowered.

    The Nazis were exceptional, with concentration camps and gas chambers. (You are right, the Bush administration would never do this. Why must I even say that?)

    (I could also say that the Nazis were exceptional in rebuilding an economy with enormous growth rates.)

    The Nazis were not exceptional in using propaganda that both demonizes a population and holds the war planners unaccountable. This is not calling Bush a Nazi.

    The early conquistadores did this in their reports back to European royalty. International economic institutions do it now with their talk about undeveloped countries not following the free market path to progress, even though the industrialized countries did not follow the free market path.

    So, anyway if we believe we have progressed since WWII, that does not mean we should deny current shortcomings. We should accept that democracy was not on Clinton’s agenda nor is on Bush’s agenda in the fight against Iraq.

    In the end, I care less about whether or not somebody uses the word Nazi then I care about whether or not somebody appreciates suffering. The two are different.

    PS: Somebody else had accused me of that here.

    Clement

  • http://parentheticalremarks.blogspot.com Pete Blackwell

    *So, anyway if we believe we have progressed since WWII, that does not mean we should deny current shortcomings.*

    I fully agree, and I don’t hesitate to point out shortcomings (I posted on my blog several times about the indefensible appointment of Alberto Gonzales).

    *The Nazis were not exceptional in using propaganda that both demonizes a population and holds the war planners unaccountable.*

    Here you’re making my point for me. I think we can all agree that the term Nazi carries with it implications not only of propaganda but of death camps as well. It’s not really possible to separate the two. Therefore, whenever you compare someone’s propaganda practices to the Nazis, you can’t do so without implicitly including all the other baggage that goes with that term. It is an extremely prejudicial thing to do. As I say in my post, propagandists are a dime a dozen, but genocidal maniacs are not. To choose the one example that happens to be both is–on almost any count–to overstate your case.

    By the way, I am in no way against looking to the past for lessons about the present. What I’m against is bastardizing history to make a rhetorical point.

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    Trying to argue with Clement is pointless because he seems to be a loon. But here’s one more brief try.

    >>Yeah, most people can tell the difference between the manifest and latent consequences of actions. Like giving support to Hitler’s genocide. Like dropping bombs on Southeast Asia that killed millions of people. Those negative effects were entirely predictable. Even so, to think that this was well intentioned is to exhibit symptoms of a pyschological disorder. Hitler was bad from the beginning; dropping bombs kills people. Bad intentions, bad effects.<<

    The intent of Hitler’s extermination of the Jews was ONLY to exterminate Jews, nothing else. The intent of bombing in Vietnam was to take out insurgents hiding in the jungle so that we could keep the people of South Vietnam free. Yes, people died (not the millions you claim, of course), but the intention was not to kill non-combatants. That was an unavoidable side effect of a policy whose objective was desirable. Please point out to me the desirable ultimate objective of rounding up Jews and gassing them – since the two are equivalent in your mind.

    Dave

  • Tristan

    Moch Schnell~!!!!

    To the ovens ……!!!!

    Sieg Heil mein Bush-meister Fuhrer ….

    (i luv the comment about the “2 un-amerikan left-wingers” …. and how all these “people” who support the Neo-Nazi Bush Regime — call anyone who disagrees with them “Un-amerikan” and/or “leftists” —labels are great for soup cans~~ they don’t work for people; labels are very “simple” things for very simple people…….
    In real life—people are much more complex and varied and impossible to pigeonhole like these simpletons constantly attempt to do.

  • http://parentheticalremarks.blogspot.com Pete Blackwell

    Tristan, I assume irony of your post is intended (ie. defending the labeling of people as Nazis in a post about how labels are only used by simpletons).

    Dave, I agree with the general point of your post, but not the details. The carpet bombing of North Vietnam was absolutely intended to cause civilian casualties (as were a multitude of acts committed by both sides during WWII). It was clearly an awful thing to do.

    However, it did, as you said, have a goal: winning the war. None of Clement’s examples quite fit the Nazi label.

    Keeping in mind that I in no way condone any of these atrocities:

    1) The Indians were killed off over time to permit the expansion of the United States.

    2) Slaves were imported to the US as a crucial element of an unwieldy agricultural economy.

    3) North Vietnam was bombed to destroy their will to fight and to try to win the war.

    As horrible as these events were, it can’t be said that there was no “practical” purpose at all behind these actions.

    The same cannot be said of the Nazi genocide. This fact makes comparisons between Bush and Hitler (or Moore and Goebbles) totally insane. That doesn’t mean that he’s a great guy, but he’s no Hitler.

    It reminds me of all the rhetoric surrounding the campaign of Jorg Heider in Austria in the 90s. “Well, he’s no Hitler,” people would say, as if that makes him ok.

    Isn’t that setting the bar for evil a little high? You can still be a huge bastard and not be as bad as Hitler.

  • Clement

    Pete,

    I think you’ve done the best job to bring us to a place at which we can reach the best degree of consensus.

    While I certainly disagree on some minor details, I think we’d agree on more broad issues of justice and accountability. To me that’s more important!

    Thanks for the feed,
    Clement

  • Clement

    that’s “broader”

  • http://paperfrigate.blogspot.com DrPat

    I’d vote for more broad issues, myself…