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Reductio ad Hitlerum
Thoughts on the normalization of gross hyperbole and hypocrisy by Democrats.
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As someone with a profound appreciation for all things historical, few things are more aggravating than when people appropriate history in gross hyperbole. Case in point: Comparing Trump to Hitler and Republicans to Nazis.1
Re Trump and Hitler: One of these two dudes has a reputation for being a braggadocio of a businessman and a really bad loser; the other literally oversaw the industrialized murder of 6 million men, women, and children whose only “crime” was being born Jewish, and he started a war2 that took some 50,000,000 lives.
Did it ever occur to you that to so glibly toss around Hitler and Nazi comparisons, pretending as though we’re living in Weimar America with Trump as the new Fuhrer and all Republicans his Wehrmacht foot soldiers, is horrendously disrespectful to the memory of those who actually suffered under Nazi Germany? Or is that, like, a small price to pay so long as you get your psychological satisfaction?
These false equivalencies trivialize the Holocaust. I shouldn’t even have to say that. When they’re deployed thoughtlessly, invocations of Hitler and Nazi Germany serve to soften the evil they perpetrated, which for many people isn’t history but their life story and that of their families.
I submit that those who make such egregiously exaggerated comparisons reveal themselves to be not just ignorant,3 but intellectually coddled. Clearly you’ve either never seen or somehow forgotten the photos of starved, lifeless bodies stacked like cordwood; gas chamber walls covered with fingernail scratches; people getting their gold teeth yanked out with pliers before being killed and cremated; etc. etc. It’s also intellectually lazy, this sloppy analogizing. The Hitler/Nazi descriptor is most often used as a kind of moral, rhetorical cudgel for making what the Germans call a Totschlagargument: A “knock-out” or “killer” argument intended to end all discussion. Rarely does it work.
You’re merely looking to use contrived shock and gravitas to score political points instead of using your big boy words and formulaically making a case. Moreover, when you go from zero to one hundred by casually pulling out a Hitler/Nazi comparison, the dehumanizing effect makes real discourse (you know, like actual dialogue) all but impossible; once somebody is equated to that degree of evil almost anything is justified to stop them.
Of note, the stupid “#Resistance” movement has Nazi connotations that are in no way coincidental. The Resistance was the name used by French citizens who fought the Nazi occupation of France during World War II. When the press labeled those who opposed Trump “the Resistance,” it was akin to likening an American president-elect to Hitler. It wasn’t long before anyone who didn’t publicly denounce Trump with monologues worthy of a Shakespearean dramaturgy was deemed a Nazi/Fascist.
Former MSNBC host Donny Deutsch had a thing for comparing Trump to Hitler and equating Trump supporters to Nazis. In a 2018 appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, for example, Deutsch said, “If you vote for Trump, then you, the voter—you, not Donald Trump—are standing at the border like Nazis going, ‘You here. You here.’” The reference is to what Nazi guards at extermination camps would say as they separated the Jews sent to the gas chambers from those going to the work barracks. Slight exaggeration, but sure Douche. Two years later, Deutsch went a step further. “There is no difference from what Donald Trump is preaching, from what Adolf Hitler preached in the early ’30s. Let’s just say it once and for all,” he said, this time on Morning Joe as well. My dude, where is it exactly that you get your history from? Malcolm Gladwell? Nikole Hannah-Jones?
The 82nd anniversary of Kristallnacht, or “Night of Broken Glass4,” was on November 9, 2020. On that day in 1938, Nazi leaders initiated a series of pogroms against Germany’s Jewish population, which they claimed were spontaneous, justified actions by the German people after the assassination of a diplomatic official. It was the first time Nazi officials made wide-scale arrests of Jews specifically because they were Jews, and some 30,000 Jewish males were rounded up and taken to concentration camps that night. Basically, the official start of the Holocaust. Not exactly the sort of historical event you want to be flippant about. But on the 82nd anniversary of Kristallnacht, CNN’s Christiane Amanpour compared Trump to Hitler on the air.
And then, of course, there were the vapid celebrities trading in Trump-is-Hitler rhetoric in poorly disguised attempts to reconcile reality with the mental lala land they took up residence in because Orange Man bad, chief among them one Alec Baldwin, he of the quite poor trigger-finger discipline and renowned purveyor of two-faced moralizing. After Biden’s election victory, Baldwin tweeted that Trump “should be buried in a Nazi graveyard with a swastika on his grave.”
Similarly, I’ve long since tired of the steady stream of overwrought, existential rhetoric that comes out of the Democratic hysteria machine. It’s such a crude, despicable way of fishing for votes. “Vote for us or else [insert cataclysmic event] will happen!” That mainstream media content so seamlessly corresponds with Democratic messaging means that the fear mongering is far more effective than it would be otherwise.
“Many people I know.” Stop. Max Boot, you are a bona fide tool. Although I truly wish more people would move to another country so they might learn, by way of brutal reality check, why America is far and away the greatest nation on planet earth, you wouldn’t be able to show proof of more than maybe one acquaintance of yours actually leaving because “the prognosis is grim.”5
The inconsistencies between Democratic talking points and Democratic actions are glaring. Nothing better exposes the high-minded theatrics for the sanctimonious bullshit that it is than the fact that they’ve taken to supporting, via millions of dollars, pro-Trump candidates in GOP primaries.
Here’s Biden this past Monday:
Dude. Literally at this very moment in at least five states your own party is meddling in elections by running ads designed to ensure the GOP nomination will go to candidates hoped to be “too extreme” to win come November’s midterm elections.
One race in my home state is particularly revealing: The Michigan GOP primary pitting House freshman Peter Meijer, who voted to impeach Trump, against former Trump official John Gibbs, who has said there were “shenanigans” in the 2020 election and claimed Biden’s victory looked “mathematically impossible.” The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has already spent $435,000 on ads calling Gibbs “too conservative” and highlighting his connection to Trump in a bid to “boost his appeal” to conservative primary voters.
But tell me more about how Trump-aligned Republicans are Nazi-like white supremacists devoted to overthrowing U.S. democracy and installing a white nationalist dictatorship. If Democrats really believed this, they obviously wouldn’t be trying to get these candidates who’re Extremely Dangerous to Our Democracy™ nominated over anti-Trump Republicans like Peter Meijer. At least Kinzinger knows what hypocrisy looks and smells like:
Numerous Democratic-associated groups are spending millions in contested GOP primaries this month to attack more mainstream Republicans, while in other contests they’re amplifying messages from the “election-denying” candidates.
Obviously, these organizations are gambling that “far-right candidates,” who hold polarizing views on various issues, will be easier to defeat in the November midterms when a much greater percentage of the electorate will be voting—but these efforts come with the inherent risk that if they end up winning the general election, Democrats will have contributed in a significant way.
“They’re playing with matches, and they’ve got lighter fluid on their hands,” longtime GOP communicator Doug Heye told The Daily 202. “If one of these political candidates win, it’ll be arson.”
“It’s quite interesting that Democrats are bolstering the same candidates they’re calling dangerous,” said Jon Seaton, who managed Republican businessman John Brunner’s 2012 Senate campaign in Missouri. “In this environment, with inflation being what it is, and the kind of tail winds that we have, Democrats should be very, very, very careful what they wish for. Maybe they don’t care.”
What makes this entire ploy even more ridiculous is that Hillary Clinton’s campaign did the same exact thing in the 2016 presidential election by elevating Trump over his Republican opponents. We know this because of a document found among the tens of thousands of emails to and from John Podesta, Clinton’s chair, which were released by WikiLeaks. They referred to it as the “pied piper” strategy: Intentionally cultivating extreme right-wing presidential candidates, hoping to turn them into the new “mainstream of the Republican Party” in order to (try to) increase Clinton’s chances of winning. The Clinton campaign and Democratic National Committee called for using far-right candidates “as a cudgel to move the more established candidates further to the right,” insisting that Trump and other extremists be “elevated” to “leaders of the pack” and media outlets “take them seriously.”
The irony is absolutely delicious, I must say. But man, after paying such a steep price in 2016, you’d think they learned their lesson.
N.B. - This is not the first time people have compared a U.S. politician to Hitler. It goes all the way back to Nixon, and Republicans in the past have used the same hyperbole to condemn political opponents. We live in a day and age where George W. Bush, Saddam Hussein, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump, Angela Merkel, Hillary Clinton (“Hitlery”) and Barack Obama have all seamlessly been compared to Hitler. However, the comparison has never been so whimsically thrown around by so many people than during the Trump era.
Trump was the first president since Jimmy Carter not to enter U.S. troops into a new conflict. Not exactly what you'd call Hitler-like.
The pathological use of Hitler analogies also overshadows other important historical parallels. History is rife with lessons. The WWII era has much to be drawn from, but so do other periods and events. For example, WWI, rather than WWII, offers important historical takeaways about how the world can drift into catastrophe without someone like Hitler challenging others to either appease or go to war. When mindful of historical context, analogies can help us understand our present, and perhaps even shape it for the better.
So called because of the shattered glass that littered the streets after the vandalism and destruction of Jewish-owned businesses, synagogues, and homes.
This is like the time New York Times mediocrity Ezra Klein claimed that the number one question he's been asked by people over the past few years is whether or not they should have kids because of “the climate crisis they will face.” Be quiet, Ezra. You just wanted an opening sentence with a bit of gravitas.