Monday, January 31, 2011

Enough with the Nazi comparisons

After a congressman compared the GOP to the Nazis in an argument there was an appropriate level of disapproval in the media (including The Daily Show taking him to task about that). However, that all dwelled on it not being in line with the new level of rhetoric that was proposed in the wake of the Arizona shootings.

While that's certainly a valid point, the real question is: Over six decades after they were defeated, and after being lampooned by everyone from Bugs Bunny to Mel Brooks, how can comparing anyone to the Nazis be an effective invective?

Yes, the actual Nazis were hideous, but their power ended when my father was a young man; to claim they still carry the same weight in the minds of today's young people as they did in my father's youth is, at best, questionable.

Because they were defeated and because they were lampooned and because they're not a present threat (in the same way they were in the first half of last century), Nazis can be alluded to freely. No one will boycott you or protest; at worst someone will quibble with whether your reference held any applicability.

Essentially, overuse of the villains from World War II in other contexts has rendered the term relatively impotent. If a survivor of Auschwitz is telling the story of the atrocities faced, then yes, talking about the actual Nazis is still powerful, but comparing the Nazis to the tactics of another political party to push legislation or to a blog espousing ideas one does not share falls ridiculously short. It's a relatively safe thing to say in those contexts, certainly, but that's only because it's been done so much that it doesn't raise red flags like it used to. Which is only a problem in that it seems like those using the term in these contemporary instances want it to.

Ultimately, it's laziness, falling back on the easy analogy rather than putting any effort into finding a more apt (and less outdated) situation to make one's point.

But maybe the point is merely to appease one's base, who presumably already agree and need no effective argument to be persuaded. Which is kind of sad, when you think about it; if there's one thing that can be said about the Nazis is that they were... (let's go with) effective (in a really loose use of the term)... in getting people to go along with them.

Okay, the already inclined all got together, and then intimidated the rest into participating.

So maybe the analogy really fails not merely because "Nazi" is overused, but also because the ones being compared to the Nazis are not sufficiently intimidating to the disinclined.

Both sides should take some solace in knowing the other side really isn't powerful enough to be worthy of being called Nazis, although they won't.


However if the term must be misappropriated, how about this:
After a Fox News anchor claimed they never use that term on their network, TDS put together a montage of Fox contributors comparing various parties to Nazis. Essentially the exchange turned Jon Stewart into a "Nazi" Nazi (using the parlance of invoking "Nazi" to indicate one who dwells on the details, a la "grammar Nazi").

No? Okay. Let's all just drop it.


  1. I agree, people who are on the losing end of an argument trot out the "Nazi" or "racist" or "homophobe" epithet in an attempt to divert the conversation from the fact that they're LOSING THE ARGUMENT, and instead make the offending winner of the argument shut up.

    Not me, though. The more names I'm called, the more successful I am. And I point that out to the losers-of-arguments, which makes them hate me more.

  2. Here's another one of my "favorites" --

    "Don't you support the troops?"

    Of course I do, that's why I hate to see them die in two dead-end wars.


So, what do you think?