Hitler As a Rule

September 19th, 2010

And the crazy keeps on coming. Glen Urquhart, the GOP candidate for Castle’s vacated House seat, said this:

Do you know, where does this phrase ‘separation of church and state’ come from?“ Urquhart asked at a campaign event last April. ”It was not in Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptists. … The exact phrase ‘separation of Church and State’ came out of Adolph Hitler’s mouth, that’s where it comes from. So the next time your liberal friends talk about the separation of Church and State ask them why they’re Nazis.

Urquhart has since tried to back away from it a bit, and I myself think the accusation that Urquhart said that Hitler “invented” separation of church and state is unfair–he was claiming that it more significantly came from Hitler, not originally in terms of who said it first or who created the concept. Not that he had a point–he was being a real ass in saying what he did, intellectually and politically dishonest.

It used to be the common idea that “whoever mentions Hitler first, loses,” meaning that invoking the image of Hitler was by and large a bogus scare tactic used when one had nothing more of reason to say. However, that rule seems to have disappeared as scores of Tea Partiers now use Hitler in an almost steady stream of comparisons to anything and everything they dislike.

The whole Hitler thing is a bit complex. The man was hardly consistent, and things he said or did were not always clear in their sincerity or motive. One could probably use him to cast aspersions on a wide variety of groups, even opposing ones. Over time, he made or was said to have made statements for and against religion; you can find many examples where he persecuted Christians but also made rather clear attacks against atheism.

So when we see statements like Urquhart’s, or the endless “Obama is Hitler” claims by his compatriots, it’s easy to fall back on the “whoever mentions Hitler first, loses” rule of thumb. This is true in a variety of arguments, about religion, gun control, and a broad range of other topics where Hitler analogies use distorted logic, out-of-context examples, or just plain ad hominem spew to attempt to use perhaps the most potent historical demon to bolster one’s point.

The problem is, then, because of dickheads abusing the Hitler analogy, we stand to lose one of the richest and most valuable historical lessons available to us. Just because Hitler is used so much as a fallback false analogy does not mean that cogent and authentic comparisons cannot be drawn and the lessons bringing us wisdom. I remember that back in the early Bush administration, when the drumbeat to war in Iraq was in full force, a very apt Nazi analogy was made, one echoed just today by a commenter, and one I made back in 2003, along with many other people who saw the parallels with this Hermann Goering quote:

“Why of course the people don’t want war … But after all it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship … Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger.”

This wasn’t some knee-jerk “Bush is Hitler!” ejaculation, it was noting something that was all too real and relevant. In the state of fear after 9/11, the country was maneuvered into war in Iraq, using exactly the tactics Goering outlined. Furthermore, the analogy was not drawn to say that Bush was a Nazi, or that the Bush administration was identical in any other way to the Nazi regime–but rather to simply make the point that this is a dishonest manner of manipulating the public, used effectively by some very bad people. And yet this analogy got shot down under the “whoever mentions Hitler first, loses” rule.

The sad point is, as I was reminded upon Troy’s reiteration, we still see echoes of it today, in statement’s like Gingrich’s Sharia ban proposal. We’re being attacked by Islam, and the people who are defending these terror mosque jihadists are putting us in danger. I would not go so far as to suggest that Gingrich is going to suggest forcing all Muslims to wear a star-and-crescent armband or something of that nature. But to note that a certain tactic is being used is quite instructional, in terms of how it is used and to what ends. It is instructional in that people should remember, understand, and be immune to its effects. After 9/11, Republicans discovered that this tactic–the combination of stoking fear, claiming ownership of patriotism, and accusing the other side of being traitors who are endangering the country–won elections. And they have not given up on it.

Alas, the very people who should be sitting up and taking note are the same ones who scream about Obama being the New Hitler because he wants to nudge health care a few inches more towards a public model.

The Hitler rule, apparently, is now amended: “Whoever mentions Hitler first to denounce liberals, wins.”

  1. Tim Kane
    September 21st, 2010 at 05:07 | #1

    I don’t suppose Jesus will look to kindly upon being compared with Adolph Hitler. It was his idea to separate church from state.

    “because of dickheads abusing the Hitler analogy, we stand to lose one of the richest and most valuable historical lessons available to us.”

    Perhaps that was the dickheads very purpose.

    I’ve always have believed, my whole entire life, that the purpose for studying history was to avoid what happened from 1929 to 1945.

    There’s a lot of catastrophies in history. Russia, China and Cambodia under communist dictatorship are high on the list. But Hitler took down one of the most advance societies in human history and got them to commit barbarism on a level that had not existed since, perhaps, Tamerlame. He created perhaps one of histories shortest, but deepest cutting dark age. Over a hundred million people lost their lives during that dark age.

    So, what the Facist Right are doing in this country is just another obvious undermining of rational public interest.

    These people are pathological. They paid hundreds of millions in lobbying dollars to ensure the perpetuation of health care system that see to it that 41,000 Americans die every year for want of health care insurance.

    It’s not just that they wanted to stop change from happening… it’s that 41,000 people would die if change didn’t happen, and they were willing to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to see that they would die.

    The irony, of course, is, is that these people are very sick.

  2. Tim Kane
    September 21st, 2010 at 05:20 | #2

    One other point, I cought today.

    Wiemar Germany looks a lot like Post-Clinton America.

    We have a growing list of chronic problems that aren’t being addressed by the political governing system.

    We have an implossion of the capitalist system.

    In the 1930s, Germany had a very strong Communist party. They also had strong Social Democratic party and Liberal parties. The threat to the uber-rich’s position was extremely accute.

    One rational reaction to the collapse of capitalism would have been a humongous lurch to the left.

    The rich in Germany then resorted to funding the Nazis, who used all kinds of red herring and casting of blame and creation of threats and propogation of ‘stabbed in the back’ persecuted minority political theatrics.

    All of this was done to distract the masses from the obvious pull of the left.

    It worked. But it left the country being run by insane pathological rouges which left vast devastation in its wake.

    Can we expect much else in our time from our situation?

    I imagine that a well informed, civic literate Germany citizens, observing all these theatrics and the undermining of stable society wondering where it will turn.

    The musical Cabaret, I believe, tries to demonstrate how some sectors of German society hid their heads under the sands of the time, through entertainment and debauchery.

    I too find my self much more comforted by watching reruns of Seinfeld, Two and a half men, Community and the Big Bang theory to watching Obermann and Maddow for two hours every night.

    I know what’s going on, but there’s no way I can see to stop this held long circling of the drain.

  3. Troy
    September 21st, 2010 at 06:24 | #3

    The musical Cabaret, I believe, tries to demonstrate how some sectors of German society hid their heads under the sands of the time, through entertainment and debauchery


    I know what’s going on, but there’s no way I can see to stop this held long circling of the drain.

    Even Sweden made a move to the right this weekend. Now, I don’t know if Swedish-brand social ism is actually any good, lord knows government can and does screw things up royally [hey, there’s a joke in there] sometimes.

    I am actually a left-libertarian so half of me does not really mind the libertarian strain of the Tea Party small-government conservativism present.

    But the other half thinks that government, when done right, can be a very useful social force ensuring that more people can become and remain productive members of society. This does not even require “redistribution” of progressive taxation, the working class themselves can fund their own social programs and retirements.

    They key thing is to have the taxes to pay for this taken out of their paychecks before we bid up the price of real estate with this surplus.

    Smart conservatives know and agree that all taxes come out of rents. Lower taxes, and you leave more money on the table to take from the middle class via rents.

    Social Security has been called a ponzi scheme recently by Dick Armey, of FreedomWorks:


    Feingold’s (very wealthy) TP opponent in Wisconsin is also running this theme apparently.

    while the truth of it is that is basically a government-mandated retirement insurance program that invested its surplus 100% in US Treasuries. Norway’s $450B pension fund and Alaska’s $36B “permanent fund” did not make this mistake, they are much more diversified.

    If We The People are so stupid as to let the conservatives steal Social Security’s $2.5T trust fund from us, well, more power to conservatives, eh.

    See, I think I can handle living in Canada, eh. I can say “aboot” , and “hoose” – I’ll fit right in. Hell, my family is from Washington.

  4. Troy
    September 21st, 2010 at 06:34 | #4

    Can we expect much else in our time from our situation?

    One other kinda scary thing is the religious right’s “white anting” of our military. The USAF is apparently a Christian shop now. This is all vague to me, but I wouldn’t doubt it.

    What’s going to happen to our trillion dollar per year military? A trillion funds around 10M nice jobs ($100K/yr), and these paychecks totally support dozens if not hundreds of red-state communities.

    Cutting it back to $500B/yr would utterly destroy the economy.

    Yet 80% of this spending is sheer waste with no actual wealth-accretion, it’s just consumption.

    I don’t think 5 years from now things will be much worse than they are now, but I do think it’s more possible that things will be worse in say 2017 than better in 2017.

    Having lived in Japan 1992-2000 I know what happens after a bubble. And our bubble 2004-2007 was extra special.

  5. Tim Kane
    September 22nd, 2010 at 06:19 | #5

    My guess is that the Air Force and the Army are Christianized.

    I can only see diabolical element in this. We all know that the Neocon architecture is for the country to be ruled by wealthy plutocrats who control the masses with excessive religiosity. That, still is a bit like hearding cats, but anyway, you can’t control the masses without having a corp of Kapos to heard those cats.

    Kapos were jews that policed the concentration camps on behalf of the Nazis. The Fundies (religious fundamentalist) are the plutocrats kapos.

    The fact is, you can’t run a dictatorial state without the help of the military. In order to control the military you need for the officer corp to be dominated by fundies, and the noncoms to be fundafied, only less so.

    When push comes to shove, the Plutocrats will know who they can count on by their Kapo status as fundies. This is the vastest most of the right wing conspiracies.

    I don’t mean to come across as a conspiracist, but I look at the fundafied military and can’t see it in any other terms. I can’t imagine why they allowed it to become fundafied in the first place, given the first amendment.

  6. Troy
    September 23rd, 2010 at 00:17 | #6

    Kinda hard to stop it, given the first amendment.

    Any sort of “Freemasonry” can establish itself within an organization pretty easily over time.

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