“You know who else liked dogs? Adolph Hitler, that’s who!”
As the wheels of politics grind steadily forward, and the 2016 presidential campaign begins to warm up, it’s clear we’re going to start seeing the old memes with a fresh veneer. Chief among them, an oldie but a moldy, the Hitler/Nazi parallel argument. It’s so old that we can trace it back to the pre-Mad Men times of 1951 when philosopher Leo Strauss (a conservative, by the way) coined the term “Reductio ad Hitlerum”. The dog Latin reflects the fallacious reasoning that occurs when a position, any position (seriously, any position), is compared to that held by Hitler or the Nazi Party, and therefore is wrong, bad and/or evil.
The argument is so tiresome that it received a second summarization in 1990 by Mike Godwin who coined Godwin’s Law: As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.
The fallacy is not only ludicrous, it’s also ludicrously dangerous. It does nothing to advance a discussion, it does everything to shut down an exchange of ideas, and it belittles the horrors suffered during the Holocaust/Shoah. This isn’t a matter of simple semantics, but of the specifics of the parallel being drawn to Hitler and the Nazi party. Not every time, mind you, but about 99.44% the “argument” is an overly simplistic parallel, generally based on a loose link that immediately creates a false dichotomy of arguments: Us (good guys) vs. Them (bad guys).
It’s so simplistic that we can apply it to just about anyone. For example, the Nazi Party’s 25-Point Program, which helped usher them into power, stood on various planks held in common with the current Republican Party (hold those hate mails, conservatives, the liberals have theirs coming). This includes point #11 “Abolition of unearned incomes.” Essentially, what Republicans define as “entitlements”. From the 2012 Republican Party Platform we can read about the evils of “entitlements” no less than nine times, where they also call for their abolition.
In addition, there are these lovely gems:
Point #16, “We demand the creation of a healthy middle class and its conservation . . .”
Point # 7 “We demand that the state be charged first with providing the opportunity for a livelihood and way of life for the citizens. If it is impossible. . . . then the members of foreign nations (non-citizens) are to be expelled from the Reich.”
Point #23 “We demand legal opposition to known lies and their promulgation through the press.”
Point # 24 “We demand freedom of religion for all religious denominations within the state so long as they do not endanger its existence or oppose the moral senses of the Germanic race.”
From all of this, we could make the overly simplistic statement that Republicans are Nazis because they hold these five planks (at least) in common with our jack-booted friends. But let’s not stop there. There are twenty-five of these planks too choose from, and my mother always taught me waste not, want not. So, for my good friends in the Democratic Party, don’t start throwing those swastikas ninja stars at your political enemies just yet. Remember your own Nazi Party parallels:
Point #9 “All citizens must have equal rights and obligations.”
Point #14 “We demand a division of profits of all heavy industries.”
Point #15 “We demand an expansion on a large scale of old age welfare.”
Point #20 “The state is to be responsible for a fundamental reconstruction of our whole national education program . . .”
Point #21 “The State is to care for the elevating national health . . .”
Gasp! That’s five planks that align perfectly with the Democrats. Now should we go forward and draw the conclusion that anyone affiliated with the donkey is a Nazi? What do we do about those big elephant Republicans and their evil plots to take over the tri-county area!?
This is exactly why the Hitler/Nazi parallel argument is both foolish and detrimental to say the least. However misguided Republicans and Democrats are (or seem to be) there are two problems with drawing an immediate parallel with the Nazis and Hitler that falls flat under even the most rudimentary of observations. Republican/Democratic political agenda and social philosophy has nothing to do with those that drove Hitler and the Nazi Party. Absolutely nothing. Hitler’s regime was one based on fear and hatred. It delved deep into the human psyche, dredged up naked filth, and weaponized it to seize power. Hitler and the Nazis pointed the finger at ethnic and religious groups, claimed those groups were the root cause of all the country’s ills, and then actually went forward and acted on that concept, killing millions.
So yes, folks, if you’ve used, endorsed, or shared a Hitler/Nazi parallel, most likely you have oversimplified the matter, which has nothing to do with you being a simple man with simple thoughts and writing simple words. This is exactly why, 99.44% of the time, any link between Hitler or the Nazis is completely irrelevant to an honest discussion on politics and society (or dogs). The true issues are only being linked by seeming parallels, usually a similar quote or a chance similarity in images, and not by any kind of review of historical underpinnings based on stated political agenda and the driving social philosophy.
Those things, of course, require effort.
There are still times when a “that’s rather Nazi of you” might actually be appropriate, so here are some rules to follow when getting ready to play the Hitler card (any 3 out of 5 will do) in order to end the conversation, win the discussion, and prove your intellectual superiority:
- Are the followers/leaders of the group admirers of Nazi principles, Fascist principles and/or Adolph Hitler?
- Has one (or more) of the group’s leaders adopted the nickname “Hitler” as Chenjerai “Hitler” Hunzvi did?
- Does the group promote the reading of “Mein Kampf” as a “good basis” for understanding their agenda, rather than the cautionary writings of a dark and dangerous mind?
- Has the group attempted to diminish, deny or disregard the Holocaust/Shoah, or defend a policy of genocide? (Fact: Six million-plus Jews died.)
- Is there a stated belief in strong, autocratic rule, while at the same time decrying a specific ethnic population (Jews, Muslims, gays, hippies, Twihards, etc.) and urging their expulsion or extinction?
Bonus points if you can get all five!
It’s not enough for an individual, group or even political party to simply want increased gun control (or gun elimination) to render them “Nazis”. They can’t just support/criticize unions, birth control, or Rockstar Energy drinks to earn the mantle of the next Adolph Hitler. In order for us to draw a true comparison between the historic regime of darkest, 100%, pure, unadulterated and uncut, lab-purified evil and a modern equivalent, there has to be more than just a disagreement of opposing opinions. If you can’t say “yes” to the questions above, if it’s not a joke amongst friends, then just say “no” to the “Reductio ad Hitlerum”.