Published Student Printz
University of Southern Mississippi
Hattiesburg, MS USA
Imagine this scenario: The defeat of the Germans in 1945 was actually their victory. The invading armies were brainwashed; the generals replaced by german-constructed, English speaking cyberbots; allied governments infiltrated and commandeered.
The armies returned home, and their German automatons became presidents, members of Congress, and agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Meanwhile, German POWS, picking cotton in Texas, fled to Montana, forming militias and awaiting the Reich’s rebirth. Sound preposterous? Not really, if you’re listening to the tone of American political hyperbole. The Nazis are everywhere.
“GENOCIDE!” screams Rep Major Owens (D-NY) at Republicans across the aisle. His reason? Welfare cuts, that in fact don’t go much farther than those his own president suggested. He goes on to call House Republicans “worse than Hitler.” A colleague, Sam Gibbons (D-FL), matches him. “A bunch of fascists,” he screeches. A World War II veteran, he exclaims, “I had to fight you guys 50 years ago.”
A National Rifle Association mass mailing calls agent of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms “jack-booted government thugs.” The reason? It seems some gunrunners trafficking in illegal weapons objected to the forceful confiscation of their contraband. One in particular accused the agents of stepping on a cat. Lest we miss the connection between cat abuse and fascism. Patrick D. Cupp, a Republican candidate for Senate, circulates a campaign flier that says, “When the Nazi Party came into power in Germany under Hitler, the first thing they did was to confiscate all guns.” And, presumably, all the common sense.
In San Francisco, conservative activist Michael Savage dubs homosexuals, “Nazis trying to steal our freedom.” When Limbaugh fumes about antismoking ordinances in New York City, he denounces the laws’ supporters as the”antismoking Gestapo.” Help! American hyperbole is out of control, and I’m choking on non-sequiturs!
Here’s Mary A. Carroll, an editorial writer in Chicago: “I’m not suggesting that folks like Newt Gingrich and Robert Dole are card-carrying members of the Fourth Reich.” Oh. “But I am suggesting their vision of the United States has more in common with German fascism than with the more admirable moments in the history of American democracy.” And blah, blah, blah. Carroll would do well to aim her rhetorical attacks with more precision; one man she demonizes, robert Dole, has done more to combat fascism in a very direct fashion then her sad and confused pontifications on political philosophy ever will.
This kind of rhetoric isn’t exactly new. In the 1960s, the left often called Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon fascists. In turn, supporters of Nixon and Johnson called their critics “the real fascists,” in the prelude to an interesting game of less-fascist-than-thou. but our times are different, because the charges of fascism are so widespread. Americans simply don’t know how to discuss politics with civility anymore.
You know the horses are loose when a web search engine is used with the keywords “Gringrich” and “Nazi” brings up more than 1,000 documents. The charge of “fascist” can take many forms, and one ubiquitous form current today is the phrase “politics of hate.” The only noteworthy characteristic of this phrase is that, like so much of political hyperbole, it means nothing. Calling someone a practitioner of the “politics of hate” is just another convenient way of assuming that your ideological opponent thinks the way he does because he’s a jerk or evil or both. And fighting the forces of evil is much easier than arguing against the philosophy of George Will.
Let’s take an example. Does Patrick Buchanan really practice the “politics of hate”? It’s true that he seems to think more with his shriveled ego than with his brain. But Buchanan is no fascist. More important is the very well articulated attack he makes on the basic unit of production of the modern era: The corporation. Here he has many potential followers and a long tradition of socialist philosophy to support him.
The obsession with Nazitis has ever spread to our little campus. One student a short while ago was quoted as supposing the university guilty of having a “plantation mentality,” which is a step away from calling Aubrey Lucus a klansman. And in case you missed it, the Hattiesburg community recently was treated to the fascinating spectacle of two conservative columnists Matt Friedeman and Deborah Mathis, accusing various individuals of different forms of fascism.
Look: we’re all basically democrats; there are enough kooks out there that we don’t have to run around inventing new ones; and anyone who can seriously think the term “Nazi” even of the most extreme of us has already demonstrated himself incapable of taking part in rational debate. Which, I fear, includes most of us.