Of late we have suffered through a series of public comparisons of various phenomenon to the Nazis. Commentators from Tom Perkins, founder of Kleiner Perkins, to John Macey of Whole Foods have mentioned Nazis or Fascism. And if you go back a few years to the Bush years you will find many on the Left making similar comparisons.
But what bothers me the most is the bald assertion in response that “comparisons to Hitler and Nazi Germany never work.” Multiple journalists have repeated similar views and chastised various comparisons as lowering the public discourse. There is even Godwin’s law supposedly enshrining that Nazi comparisons instantly halt all rational discussion and are often intended to do so.
The people making these assertions that we should fail to engage with Nazism and that we should ban it from public discourse as too unspeakable for modern use are the Neville Chamberlains of our time.
And before the usual attack becomes, let me caution you. The Nazis butchered my family in World War II. Not the particular industrialized method of the Holocaust, but the bombing of London over the course of five years first in the Battle of Britain in 1940 and thereafter in the Blitz, the mini-Blitz, and the 1944 missile attacks. The method of terrorizing innocent civilians for terrors sake over five long years killed my grandmother and my aunt at the same time it permanently wounded my mother and grandfather.
So, I will make Nazi comparisons whenever I damn well please. Why? Because, it is an important lens through which the victims of Nazism demand that we view current events.
It is important because that lens does not always yield the expected result. If I examine Syria through the lens of Nazidom, I see:
- Summary executions;
- Targeting of civilians; and
- The total absence of the rule of law.
But missing from this lens are crucial differences:
- Syria is not waging aggressive war outside its borders; and
- Syria is a civil war with no Churchills.
What that tells us is that while there may be alternative reasons to intervene in Syria, such as UN Ambassador Power’s theories on genocide, it is not because the Syrian Civil War resembles Nazi Germany. And even if we are committed as a nation to “never again” a Fascist state practicing aggressive war, we can see we are not compelled to declare war on Syria.
If I focus on John Mackey’s quote, I understand the comparison. Hitler confiscated the wealth of Jews and others, including their businesses, then transferred them to select wealthy industrialists who supported the Nazis. He then made competition with that system illegal.
One of the most important lessons of Nazism is its banality. Its commonness. The tolerance of average Germans, Brits, and French in the early and mid 1930s to Hitler’s preliminary steps toward aggressive war and genocide.
And what it shares with Obamacare is obvious. Obamacare forces all health insurance through a select group of providers who are often donating to Democratic candidates. Whatever Obamacare’s success in insuring the uninsured, its most successful effect is buttressing the health insurance business through government guaranteed revenue.
As I have repeatedly said, a single payor system prevalent throughout the other democracies of the world is the method this blog favors. While I certainly do not believe as a Democrat that my party is about to commit genocide through healthcare, I wonder why the type of government intervention in the free market that Hitler practiced makes economic sense in the US?
And there is of course a civil answer to that. One that is familiar with Fascist economy policy. I am just not sure what it is, because of course that “Nazi comparisons never work” card was played to shut down discussion.
When you make a Nazi comparison it has to be right. That is the balancing to my insistence that we talk about Nazis and make comparisons to them. Tom Perkin’s comparison was wrong. Rich people suffering under regressive and politically stupid policies nevertheless is not Kristallnacht.
But if the cost of never forgetting, never accepting another Fascist state promoting aggressive war outside its borders, is a few bad comparisons that is not much cost. Because the price of preventing a conversation because it might be unpleasant, of good men and women doing nothing, is Fascism amongst us again.