Posts Tagged “argumentum ad hitlerum”

Veracicat has checked your facts and is not impressed with your lies. (PsiCop, based on original from quitor.com: http://www.quitor.com/cat-with-glasses.html)In case you hadn’t heard by now — and I assume most of my readers have — gay marriage is suddenly legal in a number of states (WebCite cached article). Naturally, this has brought the insanity out of the Religious Right, who just can’t tolerate the idea that gays should actually be allowed to live normal lives. I can hardly hope to catalog all the wingnutty craziness that has, and will, erupt from them over it. That would be impossible. Only Google has a data center with enough storage for that!

But I can report on one particular paranoiac reaction that defies history. It comes from the Bible Belt (er, Bobble Bay-elt) state of North Carolina; the Asheville Citizen-Times reports on some GOP functionaries’ reaction to a gay-pride flag flying over City Hall (cached):

A decision allowing that a two-story rainbow flag be flown at City Hall had more to do with supporting civil rights than jumping into political conflict over same-sex marriage, Mayor Esther Manheimer said Friday.…

Former City Councilman Carl Mumpower and Chad Nesbitt, a former chairman of the Buncombe County GOP, said council violated state open meetings law by not holding vote during an official meeting in public.…

Nesbitt and Mumpower in their statement included a depiction of a Nazi flag flying from City Hall.

“I am equating their methods with the Nazi movement,” Mumpower said. “They are indifferent to the rule of law and indifferent to the vote of the people. And that’s Adolph Hitler all over again in a different disguise.”

This is where I find it necessary to call a big fucking time out.

First, if the best these sanctimoniously-enraged good ol’ boys can come up with is to trot out an old reductio ad Hitlerum, their argument was over as soon as it began. The Right bellowing appeals to Hitler and the Nazis every time they’re confronted by something they don’t like, is exceedingly childish, and it’s long since gotten old. These guys desperately need new material — and fast.

Second, gay rights advocates absofuckinglutely are not Nazis, no matter how much one hates them. It’s not hard to understand why this is the case. It’s because, as I’ve blogged before, details matter. They have not taken over the federal government and then: 1) outlawed all other political parties; 2) nationalized state governments; 3) deployed their own militia out to control the streets; 4) abolished labor unions; or 5) arrested their opponents en masse and imprisoned them in concentration camps … just to name a few of the specific things the Third Reich did.

Third, Hitler and his minions in the Nazi party were certainly not friendly to gays. There is no goddamn fucking way they’d ever have flown a gay-pride flag over anything. Quite the opposite, they despised gays in every possible way! Gays were among those whom they first rounded up and imprisoned, then exterminated (along with Jews, Dom/Romani, and other minorities). One of the pretenses for Hitler killing Ernst Röhm, his head of the SA (i.e. the Sturmabteilung or “brownshirts”), was that he was gay. To suggest the Nazis might have done anything in support of gays, is contra-factual and idiotic.

Because of all this, I’m placing Mumpower and Nesbitt in my “lying liars for Jesus” club. I’m sure they’ll be happy to end up there, surrounded by lots of their fellow Christofascists who likewise have hurled ad Hitlerums around in ridiculous and juvenile fashion.

I’ve said it before and will say it again: I get it. Really. Honest, I do. I get that these hyperreligious nutcases don’t like gays. They don’t want to treat gays like human beings. They’d much rather not even know that gays exist. Gays creep them out. I understand that. I truly do. But … I don’t fucking care! The cold fact is that gays exist, they are human beings just like everyone else, and it’s fucking long past time for the world to accept it. These Religious Rightists don’t have to like it, and I doubt they ever will — but they do have to get over it and move on with their lives, fercryinoutloud. Just knock off the lying bullshit already.

Photo credit: PsiCop, based on original from quitor.com.

Hat tip: Raw Story.

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Santorum smiles while recounting a story about his fatherI’ve blogged many times already about the tendency of propagandists and ideologues to use the fallacious reductio ad Hitlerum — or comparisons to Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime — in their so-called arguments. People just can’t seem to stop using it, no matter how invalid it may be. I can understand its appeal; it’s a raw, emotionally-compelling talking-point that’s sure to trigger outrage in an audience. What makes it fallacious is that the comparison is never apt; whatever is being compared to the Nazis, usually has little in common with them.

The Washington Post relates the latest example of this, from the mouth of the furiously Christofascist presidential candidate Rick Santorum (WebCite cached article):

In a speech at a megachurch here Sunday night, former senator Rick Santorum (Pa.) used some of his direst imagery yet to describe what’s at stake in this year’s presidential election, drawing an extended World War II analogy that seemed to suggest that the United States faces a threat that is on par with what the world faced in the 1940s. …

[Santorum said,] “Your country needs you. It’s not as clear a challenge. Obviously, World War II was pretty obvious. At some point, they knew. But remember, the Greatest Generation, for a year and a half, sat on the sidelines while Europe was under darkness, where our closest ally, Britain, was being bombed and leveled, while Japan was spreading its cancer all throughout Southeast Asia. America sat from 1940, when France fell, to December of ’41, and did almost nothing.

“Why? Because we’re a hopeful people. We think, ‘Well, you know, he’ll get better. You know, he’s a nice guy. I mean, it won’t be near as bad as what we think. This’ll be okay.’ Oh yeah, maybe he’s not the best guy, and after a while, you found out things about this guy over in Europe, and he’s not so good of a guy after all. But you know what? Why do we need to be involved? We’ll just take care of our own problems. Just get our families off to work and our kids off to school, and we’ll be okay.”

Santorum does not state explicitly who the cognate of “this guy over in Europe” is in his analogy, but clearly, he’s implying it’s president Barack Obama. The problem here is that Obama has not so much as come close to doing even one thing that Hitler or the Third Reich did, as I’ve already blogged; I’ll repeat some of those details here:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

Put bluntly, it’s not correct to imply that someone is a Nazi, if s/he’s never done the things that the Nazis did.

As I’ve also remarked previously, the Left has thrown ad Hitlerums at the Right in the past, especially during the G.W. Bush administration. They were wrong to have done so, because the Bush administration didn’t do any of the above things, either. Still, that the Left used this tactic against them in the past, is why the Right feels entitled to use it, now. Unfortunately for them, though, this is two wrongs make a right thinking, and is fallacious. If it’s wrong to use ad Hitlerums, then it’s always wrong to do so … period.

I can’t say I’m surprised that Santorum would do this, though. As I’ve noted, he’s done this in the past. I can only assume he considers this a valid tactic, and that he’ll continue using it in the future. The really sad part of it, though, is that it will no doubt work for him. The sorts of people that Santorum is trying to reach already think Obama is a Nazi and are going to enjoy hearing him say it. More’s the pity.

Photo credit: IowaPolitics.Com, via Flickr.

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YellowstarI blogged yesterday about ultra-orthodox Jews in Israel who’ve been harassing other Israelis who aren’t religionistic hard-liners like themselves. They’ve taken some heat lately, but apparently are not mature enough to handle the criticism. They’ve shot back by hurling the old reductio ad Hitlerum at those who dare tell them to keep their vicious religionism to themselves, as the Jerusalem Post reports (WebCite cached article):

Approximately 1,500 ultra-Orthodox men gathered at Shabbat Square in the capital’s Geula neighborhood on Saturday night to protest what they called the “oppression” and “incitement” of the “secular community” against them.

Dozens of men wore yellow Stars of David on their jackets with the word “Jude” in the center, and banners bearing slogans such as “Zionists are not Jews” and “Zionism is racism” were paraded at the rally.

They’ve even asked for protection, because this criticism — as they see it — is no different than a genuine, physical attack upon their persons:

“Orthodox Jews demand the presence of international forces to protect them,” another sign read.

So not only are these people hyperreligionistic and immature, they’re also delusionally paranoid. What a wonderful combination. (Not unlike the Religious Right in the US!). These ultra-orthodox Jews view the insolence of secular Israelis who won’t give up being secular and abide by their dour ultra-orthodox standards as the equivalent of an active campaign to destroy them.

Sorry people, but in this world, no one is entitled never to be criticized, and to be criticized is not the same as being physically attacked. Time to fucking grow the hell up, OK? Wah wah wah.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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AuschwitzThe overuse of the reductio ad Hitlerum, or appeals to Adolf Hitler and his Nazi regime, is a trend I’ve remarked on many times so far — and likely will have to again. Over the last couple of months, Fox News has become a particular outlet for this sort of fallacious antic, having been used by (probable) paranoid schizophrenic Glenn Beck and his boss, Roger Ailes. The Washington Post reports that a group of rabbis have called out these screaming, bellicose crybabies on their use of this childish tactic, ironically using Fox News’ “sister publication” to do so (WebCite cached article):

A coalition of rabbis wants Fox News chief Roger Ailes and conservative host Glenn Beck to cut out all their talk about Nazis and the Holocaust, and it’s making its views known in an unusual place.

The rabbis have called on Fox News’s owner, Rupert Murdoch, to sanction his two famous employees via a full-page ad in Thursday’s editions of the Wall Street Journal – one of many other media properties controlled by Murdoch’s News Corp. …

The rabbis were prompted by Beck’s three-part program [cached] in November about liberal billionaire philanthropist George Soros, whom Beck described as a “Jewish boy helping send the Jews to the death camps” during World War II.

My skepticism caused me to wonder why the rabbis waited a couple of months to take out their ad, but the Post explained its timing:

Thursday is International Holocaust Remembrance Day [cached], an observance established by the United Nations in 2005.

For the record — and as I posted earlier — I do not think Beckie-boy or his boss are anti-Semites. They are, rather, furious with the Left, and so juvenile that they think they’re entitled to stoop to any kind of rhetoric — no matter how fallacious or vile it may be — to discredit the Left. Their anger and immaturity are so overwhelming that they just can’t help but act like tiny little children.

Can’t we all put away the tired, worn tactic of the reductio ad Hitlerum? Isn’t it time for a little more maturity and a little less caterwauling?

Photo credit: féileacán.

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Hitler and MussoliniI’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:

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

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Every once in a while I wonder if I’m the only person left on the planet who thinks that facts matter. Tonight I ran across a column by Leonard Pitts of the Miami Herald which shows that I’m not, in fact, alone. He writes of a correspondence with someone for whom facts are fungible, and who thinks something he doesn’t like is just someone else’s insidious “bias” (WebCite cached article):

Facts no longer mean what they once did

Igot [sic] an email the other day that depressed me.

It concerned a piece I recently did that mentioned Henry Johnson, who was awarded the French Croix de Guerre in World War I for singlehandedly fighting off a company of Germans (some accounts say there were 14, some say almost 30, the ones I find most authoritative say there were about two dozen) who threatened to overrun his post. …

My mention of Johnson’s heroics drew a rebuke from a fellow named Ken Thompson, which I quote verbatim and in its entirety:

“Hate to tell you that blacks were not allowed into combat intell 1947, that fact. World War II ended in 1945. So all that feel good, one black man killing two dozen Nazi, is just that, PC bull.”

In response, my assistant, Judi Smith, sent Mr. Thompson proof of Johnson’s heroics: a link to his page on the website of Arlington National Cemetery. She thought this settled the matter.

Thompson’s reply? “There is no race on headstones and they didn’t come up with the story in tell 2002.”

Judi: “I guess you can choose to believe Arlington National Cemetery or not.”

Thompson: “It is what it is, you don’t believe either…”

At this point, Judi forwarded me their correspondence, along with a despairing note. She is probably somewhere drinking right now.

You see, like me, she can remember a time when facts settled arguments. This is back before everything became a partisan shouting match, back before it was permissible to ignore or deride as “biased” anything that didn’t support your worldview.

What has happened is that, for most people, “truthiness” (or something that one intuitively accepts as “true” even when it’s not) is more important than “truth.” Pitts echoes this:

To listen to talk radio, to watch TV pundits, to read a newspaper’s online message board, is to realize that increasingly, we are a people estranged from critical thinking, divorced from logic, alienated from even objective truth. We admit no ideas that do not confirm us, hear no voices that do not echo us, sift out all information that does not validate what we wish to believe.

No one is really interested in anything other than his or her preselected ideology. Everything else is out. Entirely out. Unacceptable and even sinister. One’s own side is saintly, the other is Hitler. (Reductio ad Hiterlum is a common propaganda trick.) What the average American wishes to be true, s/he claims is true; what s/he doesn’t want to be true, s/he claims is not; and Americans refuse to actually look into things to find out if they’re correct.

P.S. For a taste of how irrational and fact-deprived Americans can be, have a look at the comments to Pitts’s article. They prove his point every bit as much as the correspondent he quoted. What a bunch of children.

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For veteran cybernauts like me (I started on Compuserve in the late 80s, and dabbled in the Internet in the years when Gopher was one of the chief ways to get around and there was no World Wide Web), Godwin’s Law is an old concept whose wisdom has repeatedly shown itself over the years. This “rule” as it was originally stated by Mike Godwin — back in the days when Usenet was the only significant venue for Internet discussions — averred that, if a discussion lasted long enough, someone involved will eventually mention Hitler and/or the Nazis. It was Godwin’s humorous way of pointing out a tendency for people to use Hitler and the Third Reich in their argumentation (aka argumentum ad Hitlerum).

Over time, the Internet community has expanded the meaning of Godwin’s Law, and applied it outside of Usenet; it’s commonly said that, once someone invokes the Nazis in any Internet discussion, the argument is over and the person who made the appeal to Nazis has lost.

The furious debate over healthcare reform in the United States has, as I’ve pointed out already, included a great deal of immaturity. It was only a matter of time until people started making accusations of Nazism at each other, over it. And in turn it was only a matter of time before the mass media finally picked up on this trend.

Hence, the New York Times Opinionator blog has observed that Godwin was right, and the inevitable invocations of Nazism have popped up all over the place:

Godwin’s Law has the health care debate in a hammerlock. …

In this brief interview, an older protester outside the Raleigh, N.C., office of Rep. Brad Miller, a Democrat, delivers the basic Obama-as-Hitler charge: “Hitler got rid of his undesirable citizens through ovens. Obama wants to get rid of people like me through hospice. . . . If [people] are a certain age, grim reapers calling themselves as counselors will go and tell them to take a pill and just die.”

It is, of course, true that Hitler and the Nazis disposed of people they were opposed to, and in large numbers, but this comparison is flawed, because no one has proposed that “death panels” or euthanasia be a part of any reform measure. The Opinionator blog entry provides a laundry list of people invoking the Nazis in this discussion, including accusations that some of these invocations are feigned, attempts to discredit the opposition:

Just who introduced Hitler in to the town halls has been the subject of not inconsiderable debate itself: “Nancy Pelosi started it,” says Powerline. Another theory has is that folks carrying the Obama/Hitler signs are Democratic plants. Pamela Geller wrote yesterday at Atlas Shrugs, there is a “fifth column manufacturing smears and lies.” Others on the right have tried to use confirmed reports that Lyndon LaRouche supporters are sporting Obama/Hitler posters at protests to distance themselves from the Obama-is-a-Nazi charge.

So what’s going on here is a “he-started-it; no, she-started-it” schoolyard-style spat among a bunch of sniveling whiners who are all too juvenile to stop with the caterwauling and start discussing the matter like grown adults.

Full disclosure: Many times in this blog I’ve used the term “religionazis” to describe people who want a religious takeover of the country. I confess that in doing so, perhaps I ran aground on Godwin’s law myself. I devised the term because in one simple compound word, it conveys a very striking picture of what I’m talking about. Any other phrase I could think of, would be too unwieldy to be concise and effective. I think I will use the slightly-milder “religiofascists” from now on. If I’m going to condemn people for invoking Nazism when it comes to things they don’t like, the last thing I should do, is keep doing exactly the same thing myself, no matter my reasons for doing so. Yes, the Nazis were fascists, so maybe this is a transparent substitution … but while it’s true that all Nazis are fascists, not all fascists are Nazis. There are variations of fascism.

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