How inaccurate Nazi comparisons fuel anti-Semitism

It will definitely not be among my most controversial statements to say that Adolf Hitler was a bad person. It will similarly be unobjectionable to say that Nazi-ism is and was a deplorable and horrifying philosophy and practice. No-one aside from the handful of anti-Semitic nutjobs who deny the Holocaust believe that Hitler or Nazis are a positive force in the world.

However, in colloquial parlance, Nazis and Hitler are bandied about so wildly inaccurately that we’ve lost sight of why they are bad. Let’s take a look at the philosophy of Nazi Germany under Hitler:

  • Totalitarian regime
  • Advocated the mass slaughter of Jews, Roma, homosexuals, Catholics, mentally and physically disabled
  • Practiced ghettoization of ‘undesirable’ members of society
  • Preached a doctrine of race chauvinism, with the intent of the destruction of all but the racially “pure”
  • Attempted to spread this doctrine by force across the entire world

This is not good stuff. Nothing on this list can be counted as a positive trait. Any movement that seeks the mass slaughter of people based on a doctrine of chauvinism and is spread by force of arms should rightly be compared to Hitler and the Nazis. It is absolutely right to draw comparisons between such practices and the horrors of the Holocaust.

You know where it’s not right? When talking about health care.

President Hitler signed a shockingly similar bill with similar tactics used to get it signed….threats,  harassment,  false promises,  intimidation, invented crises.  Gee….did Obama take lessons from Hitler?

Excuse me, WHAT? Dr. Laurie Roth seems to think that using unethical political tactics (and I’m not saying I agree even with this characterization) to sign policies into law is tantamount to being in league with Hitler.

First of all, understand Hitler was a brilliant, charismatic speaker who said things in style, lied through his teeth and manipulated whatever he had to, to get a vote and power…

Obama also seduced 60% of the nation, congress and most the media into not asking real questions and just believing his countless lies.

Hitler wore black socks. Obama has been photographed WEARING BLACK SOCKS! The similarities abound.

The question here that must be asked is as follows: is Obama similar to Hitler in any of the characteristics that are important? Namely, is he (openly or covertly) advocating the mass murder of a group of people based on ethnic or political affiliation? Is he declaring an expansionist war agenda in order to accomplish said mass murder? Is he jailing and shipping off political dissident groups to internment camps? If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, then I think your trial separation with reality has gone on long enough and you should just file the divorce papers already. If you answered ‘no’, then the question becomes whether or not the comparison to Obama is a fair one, or if you’re just using the spectre of Hitler and the Holocaust as a cheap and frankly tactless way of manipulating the emotions of your audience.

And before we get too smug here on the left side of the aisle, shall I remind you of the anti-Iraq-war protests of only a few years ago? Ringo remembers.

It seems as though we’ve taken the above description of Hitler and the Nazis and boiled it down to the first bullet point: Nazi = totalitarian regime. While nobody would suggest that totalitarian regimes are good, that’s not the only reason why Nazi-ism was so horrible; it’s not even the primary reason why Nazi-ism was so horrible. Look down the list – forced imprisonment, genocide, unjust war-making, all fueled by an underlying racist doctrine. The atrocities committed by the Nazis under Hitler were the worst that the developed world had ever seen, and possibly the worst in all of history.

It does disservice to the memory of the millions of people who have died at the hands of the Nazi philosophy to trivialize its inherent ugliness as mere totalitarianism. Most feudal monarchies were totalitarian, but many positive things came out of them. There are admittedly few examples of totalitarian regimes that were good for the world, but much fewer are the examples that can be aptly compared to Nazi-ism – perhaps Russia under Stalin, Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge, the genocides in Rwanda and Sudan, and even these last few are not at the hands of totalitarian rule but of brutal military rule.

Taking a handful of characteristics, out of context, from the Nazis or Hitler, finding similarities to modern events and then forging specious equivalence between those events and the Nazi philosophy is belligerent intellectual dishonesty. Worse than that, however, is the fact that as the word “Nazi” gets applied to everything under the sun that one person or another doesn’t particularly like, the real meaning and context becomes diluted. The consequence of this is that we begin to forget the dark scourge of anti-Semitism that allowed such a philosophy to propagate on a global scale. As I showcased recently, anti-Semitism is still alive and well both internationally and here in Canada. It doesn’t need to be helped by down-playing the horror of its history.

It seems appropriate at this point to say something about anti-Semitism. I have no particular allegiance to any religious group; I find them all distasteful at best, and destructive at worst. I fully recognize that Jewish people, and the Jewish faith is no better or worse than any other, except insofar as its adherents tend to be less militantly violent and intolerant than Christians, Muslims, or Indian Hindus. I highlight this particular race chauvinism (anti-Semitism) not only because it’s topical but because it’s pervasive. I am not claiming that anti-Semitism is philosophically better or worse than any kind of racist philosophy (although it has the longest history and is perhaps the most widespread). I am opposed to the idea of group identification based on religion, since religious expression is highly varied and is almost entirely based on superstition and nonsense. However, I am more opposed to the idea of violently exterminating a group of people based on group identification or shared belief. I am also opposed to intellectual dishonesty and the degradation of history to serve the agenda of the forces of stupid.

So the next time you hear someone compare Obama or Bush to Hitler, or call someone else a ‘grammar Nazi’ or, in the case of one friend of mine, receive the fascist salute from a student because they don’t like your teaching style, I’d invite you to remind them that totalitarian as Nazi Germany was, that’s not the biggest criticism to be levied at them. I’d also invite you to offer to slaughter their families if they want their characterization to be more apt.

Canada: now racism free!

It’s always nice to see how multiculturalism and universal tolerance abounds in this great country of ours.

Or maybe not so much.

Two Ottawa youth were attacked by a group of allegedly Palestinian men while walking home from the bar. The group of men shouted anti-Semitic slurs at the two students (only one of whom is Jewish) and attacked them with a goddamn machete!

I’m not going to weigh in on who is wrong and who is right in the middle eastern conflict. I honestly don’t know enough to have an informed opinion (except to know that the religious reasons are bullshit). However, that being said, I think we can all get behind the principle of not attacking people with machetes on the streets of Ottawa.

Can’t we?

Nova Scotia Cross Burning – Why Indeed?

Two Nova Scotia men have been remanded to police custody for erecting and burning a cross on the lawn of an interracial couple.

From the article:

The brothers are accused of erecting a two-metre-high cross, with a hanging noose, in front of the home of Michelle Lyon, their father’s cousin, and Shayne Howe and yelling racial slurs at the terrified couple and their children, who were inside at the time.

While this is understandably a horrible thing to happen to anyone, especially in Canada where we like to think of ourselves as being non-racist, the part that I found interesting was this:

Granville Rehberg, Nathan and Justin’s father, said he’s “real sick” about what happened early Sunday and equally baffled. “I don’t understand,” Rehberg told CBC News in a voice that cracked with emotion. “I got nieces that have black children. I got cousins that are black. My family is not racist. I just don’t know what to say.”

Commenters on the CBC website and the news anchor expressed similar dismay and bafflement. How could such a thing happen “in this day and age?” Aren’t we past such things? Especially in Canada where we don’t have the same history of lynch mobs and cross-burnings?

The answer is easy: Because Canada is racist, we just don’t talk about it.

If you haven’t thrown up your hands in outrage and disgust and closed the window yet, I’ll clarify what I mean. Racism is much more deep-seated than can be overcome in a few generations. What makes progress along the lines of eradication even more difficult is the fact that we’ve stopped talking about racism. We prefer, it seems, to stick our collective heads in the sand and act as though it isn’t a problem. I think of racism the same way I think of herpes: just because you ignore it doesn’t mean it goes away, and even when the symptoms subside, they can come back at any point.

What we see here in Nova Scotia is a racism outbreak. Nova Scotia is home to a surprisingly large number of black people – that is, surprising unless you know some of the history. Africville is an area in Halifax that was home to hundreds of recently-freed slaves and imports from Africa. Some black families in Nova Scotia can trace their lineage back hundreds of years. However, due to overt racism in the 1800s and early 20th century, and more subtle systemic (“polite”) racism in the latter half of the 1900s, black people in Canada have rarely been able to move into the upper middle class. Since race and class are closely related, and given the economic fortunes of the maritime provinces (largely agricultural, less industrial, economic decline in recent years due to fisheries changes), black people have commonly got the short end of the stick.

Herpes symptoms return whenever the body is immunosuppressed – the system is taxed and cannot fight off the virus. Racism similarly returns when the social system is under stress, such as economic hardship. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that this happened, because all the pieces were there – economic downturn, long history of cohabitation, large and easily-identifiable scapegoat group… it’s almost formulaic.

This event is tragic. Not only were the couple’s small children inside the house, and the couple themselves terrified, but the community at large (and indeed all of Canada) has been severely damaged by this act of hate. However, as the RCMP notes in the article, this isn’t a random act, nor is it the last we’ll see. Until large, wholesale sea changes are made in the way we deal with racial issues in Canada, we’ll never be able to completely divest ourselves of the racism virus. But we can’t act shocked and bewildered when it happens – we’re just lying to ourselves if we do.