Respectful Insolence

i-e7a12c3d2598161273c9ed31d61fe694-ClassicInsolence.jpgVacation time! While Orac is off in London recharging his circuits and contemplating the linguistic tricks of limericks and jokes or the glory of black holes, he’s rerunning some old stuff from his original Blogspot blog. This particular post first appeared on June 10, 2005 and is the second ever Hitler Zombie post. Although the Undead Fuhrer himself has not yet made an appearance, the concept is there, and this forms the basis for what the monster became. Enjoy!

Last week, inspired by this post, I discussed how quick politicians and pundits are these days to make fallacious comparisons to Hitler or the Nazis, pointing out that such comparisons are generally poorly thought out and serve more as a means of demonizing one’s political opponents rather than making a serious comparison. I also noted that “argumentum ad Nazium” (a.k.a. the Hitler card”) was once a favored tactic mainly of the left, but that right wing hacks like Rick Santorum had unfortunately now adopted, making weak Hitler/Nazi/Holocaust comparisons the bad historical analogy that hacks of all political stripes love to indulge in these days. (Remember the lead-up to the Iraq War and all the “Saddam Husein=Hitler” comparisons?)

Now, I find out that Democrat Charlie Rangel has joined in the fun, comparing the war in Iraq to the Holocaust:

It’s the biggest fraud ever committed on the people of this country,” Rangel told WWRL Radio’s Steve Malzberg and Karen Hunter. “This is just as bad as six million Jews being killed. The whole world knew it and they were quiet about it, because it wasn’t their ox that was being gored.”

Oooh boy. OK, the Iraq war was, in my opinion, a horrible mistake that has gotten the U.S. involved in an open-ended counter-insurgency action that will last many years, has cost nearly 1,700 U.S. soldiers and probably ten times that number of Iraqis their lives, and is likely to cause all sorts of harm to our military capability over the long haul. However, it is most definitely not the equivalent of the Holocaust, not by any stretch of the imagination. When asked to clarify, Rangel added:

“I am saying that people’s silence when they know terrible things are happening is the same thing as the Holocaust, where everyone would have me believe that no one knew those Jews were killed over there.”

Hmmm. So Charlie didn’t exactly compare the Iraq War to the Holocaust, at least not directly; he just compared the public reaction to the Iraq War to the the public’s indifference to the Holocaust, thereby indirectly implying that the Iraq War was as bad as the Holocaust. Way to go, Charlie! Don’t let that Republican hack Rick Santorum upstage you or Robert Byrd when it comes to idiotic Nazi analogies!

As you can imagine, the conservative blogosphere has jumped all over this, with Chrenkoff, Michelle Malkin, McQ, and Polipundit weighing in. (I don’t recall if they were as indignant when Rick Santorum made his boneheaded Nazi analogy, but somehow I very much doubt it.) I also note that, while castigating Charlie Rangel for his fallacious Holocaust analogy (abuse that Charlie richly deserves), they generally let Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League off the hook for his own questionable Holocaust analogy made in response to Rangel:

“It is so outrageous that I think he owes an apology not only to the families of the victims of the Shoah, but he also owes an apology to the soldiers who are fighting for freedom. If the world had recognized the evil of Hitler early enough – just like we’re confronting the evil of terrorism and fundamentalism now – then maybe the 6 million wouldn’t have died.”

Oooh boy. Again, Saddam Hussein was not a good guy. He was a very bad guy who killed lots of his own people. But the equivalent of Hitler? No. Ditto “terrorism,” al Qaeda, and “fundamentalism” when compared to the Nazi regime.

One of the rightwingers proposed a rather questionable solution, however: The Bipartisan Anti-Inflammation Pledge of 2005. The pledge states:

I pledge for the length of my public career:

  1. To never compare a politician to Stalin, or a prison to the Gulag, unless millions of said politician’s countrymen have been starved, murdered, worked to death, or otherwise killed, for the sole purpose of establishing a worldwide revolution or in the service of Communism.
  2. To never compare a politician to Hitler, unless said politician has dissolved Congress, usurped power totally, murdered political opponents, attempted to rule an entire continent through invasion, and instigated a war that has engulfed the entire world.
  3. To never compare any event whatsoever, anytime, anyplace, to the Holocaust, perhaps the most evil event in humanity’s lifespan.

This is simplistic and a bit disingenuous in that it appears intended to preclude all such comparisons, except under very limited situations. (Note the mention of gulags, which is a clear allusion to Amnesty International’s comparing the Guantanamo Bay detention facility to a gulag. Ask yourself: Why limit such comparisons only to detention camps run by Communist regimes? Why would comparing a mass detention center in the service of a non-Communist regime not be appropriate?)

Since my original post on this topic, I think I’ve come up with (I hope) a better idea. Whenever someone makes a Hitler or Nazi comparison, be it “Bush=Hitler” or “Hillary=Hitler” or “Whomever=Hitler” or a questionable Holocaust comparison, don’t just accept it or shrug and walk away. Pin down the person making the analogy. Ask him what, specifically, he means! Make him justify the analogy with history, facts, and logic. Ask him specifically what similarities and what historical events lead him to make that analogy. At least 95% of the time, you’ll get either no answer (and you’ll hopefully make the idiot making the analogy very uncomfortable); a meaningless “because X is as bad as Hitler,” “because X got us in a war,” or “X is like the Holocaust because lots of people are being killed” kind of an answer or an obviously fallacious answer like Charlie Rangel’s or Abe Foxman’s. The other 5% of the time (or usually way less), you may get something as thoughtful as David Neiwart’s essays (not as long, of course). If interviewers who encounter such analogies from politicians they’re interviewing would consistently, calmly, and insistently ask followup questions demanding justification and pointedly asking why the politician being interviewed chose the Hitler/Nazi analogy rather than another, a lot of this silliness would disappear. It wouldn’t stop the bad analogies in political speeches, but it might make TV and radio political punditry just a little less annoying by making politicians acutely aware that they will be called on it when they use Nazi comparisons. At the very least, it would make politicians making such overheated analogies squirm on the air a bit, and that’s always a good thing. In fact, maybe we could even have pundits invoke Godwin’s Law. Now that I would like to see.

Comments

  1. #1 Boo
    August 25, 2007

    a horrible mistake that has gotten the U.S. involved in an open-ended counter-insurgency action that will last many years, has cost nearly 1,700 U.S. soldiers and probably ten times that number of Iraqis their lives

    Um… are you actually saying only around 17,000 Iraqis have been killed?

    http://www.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/meast/10/11/iraq.deaths/

  2. #2 Graculus
    August 25, 2007

    Um… are you actually saying only around 17,000 Iraqis have been killed?

    Boo, it’s a repost from 2 years ago.

  3. #3 Boo
    August 25, 2007

    Ahh. Yes, it’s good to read things before responding. But it still seems to be lowballing:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,2763,1338749,00.html

  4. #4 Bob Calder
    August 25, 2007

    Les Roberts has only made his methodology, well actually details of it, available to select researchers. There is sensitive personal information to protect. The furor over it seems to have died down but perhaps it has moved to some specialist journal. At any rate, plenty of people have kicked the tires of the 426,369 to 793,663 range. It has held up so far with one exception.

    President Bush says the number is not right. He thinks only 30,000 Iraqis have died. Les Roberts says his technique is used by the U.S. government and it is accepted by them for estimating deaths in other conflicts. In fact the U.S. has a training program called Smart Initiative that uses the same method.
    Interview with Roberts:
    http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=06/10/12/145222
    Wikipedia bio of Roberts:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Les_Roberts_(epidemiologist)

  5. #5 Toni Petrina
    August 25, 2007

    Good old Goodwin law. I’m surprised to see so much use of it.

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