I’ve blogged before about how quick ideologues are to leap on the emotionally-charged reductio ad Hitlerum fallacy. It seems there is no letup in this phenomenon, in spite of how obviously invalid it is. The latest example that’s come to my attention is the following column by militant Rightist Thomas Sowell, courtesy of Jewish World Review (WebCite cached article), which opens as follows:
When Adolf Hitler was building up the Nazi movement in the 1920s, leading up to his taking power in the 1930s, he deliberately sought to activate people who did not normally pay much attention to politics. Such people were a valuable addition to his political base, since they were particularly susceptible to Hitler’s rhetoric and had far less basis for questioning his assumptions or his conclusions.
It’s curious that Sowell is complaining about “activating” people who haven’t previously been politically active … especially since his own fellow Right-wingers in the “Tea Party” could also be described this way. Oh well. You have to just accept a certain amount of brazen hypocrisy from a guy like that.
At any rate, while Sowell does not actually state in this column that “Obama is a Nazi” or “the Democrats are the Nazi Party,” his opening the column with the above paragraph cannot have any intention other than to make just this comparison. The reductio ad Hitlerum here is implied, rather than stated outright. It’s a clever move, I admit, but it’s also transparent.
In any event, allow me to address several points about this:
Among the first things Hitler and his Nazi party did, once he became Chancellor in January 1933, was to outlaw other political parties, beginning with the Communists, then the Social Democrats, then the (Weimar) Democrats, the People’s party, the Centrists etc., eventually banning all parties other than their own. I’m not aware that Obama or the Democrats have even begun to make any moves along the lines of abolishing any other political parties.
Hitler and the Nazis nationalized the country, dismissing the elected governments of Germany’s various states, and appointing Nazi operatives to run them. To my knowledge, neither Obama nor the Democrats have absconded with any of the 50 state governments; their elected governors and legislators remain in place.
Prior to their seizure of power, Hitler and the Nazis had a freecorps or militia working for them, the Sturmabteilung (aka the S.A., Brownshirts, or storm troopers), who intimidated the Nazis’ opponents and rivals in the years leading to Hitler’s appointment, and which became their privately-run enforcement arm afterward (eventually spawning the dreaded Schutzstaffel, aka the S.S.). I haven’t heard that Obama or the Democrats have any such militia, at the moment.
Hitler and the Nazis also took control of higher education in Germany, installing loyal Nazis to run the universities and expelling many professors (particularly Jewish) they deemed harmful to the regime or to Nazi ideology. But I haven’t heard that Obama or the Democrats have changed the management or faculty of any university or college.
The Nazis also abolished all labor unions, forcing workers to join, instead, a nationalized agency, known as the German Labor Front (aka the D.A.F.) which essentially placed Germans at the whim of their employers. Not one union, on the other hand, has been outlawed since Obama took office … that I’m aware of, anyway.
The people in charge of organizations that the Nazis abolished — such as rival political parties, the trade unions, etc. — were exiled and/or placed in concentration camps. These imprisonments numbered in the thousands, in the early years of the Nazi regime. I’m not aware that Obama or the Democrats have even come close to doing anything like this.
This is just a small selection. The truth is that the Nazi regime, in its early years, did many things the current administration hasn’t even dreamed about doing, much less attempted to do.
Really, details matter. If you’re going to call Obama and his administration “Nazis” — or as Sowell does, merely imply that they’re Nazis — then there have to be some details in common. I see no comparison, however. Obama hasn’t even come close to doing any of these things which were early hallmarks of the Nazi regime.
Granted, this is not a phenomenon solely found in the Right. It’s something I’ve seen coming from the Left, during the George W. Bush administration; Bush and Cheney were also compared to Hitler and the Nazis, in their time. However, I’ve found this rhetoric to be more frequent, at the moment, wielded by the Right.
For the most part, when someone compares Obama — or any other person or group — to Hitler and/or the Nazis, it’s not because there’s a discernible and objective resemblance. It’s merely because the accuser happens not to like them. Basically, then, it’s nothing more than name-calling. It’s childish, and therefore not acceptable behavior in grown adults. People like Sowell are much too old to be engaging in behavior this juvenile … yet they do so, nonetheless. One wonders why … ?
Photo credit: Wikipedia.Tags: adolph hitler, appeal to hitler, appeal to the third reich, argumentum ad hitlerum, hitler, nazi, nazis, nazism, reductio ad hitlerum, sowell, third reich, thomas sowell