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June 17, 2005

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» Don't use the Hitler argument from aTypical Joe: A gay New Yorker living in the rural south.
Yesterday I pointed to Talk Left and called Bill Frist a liar. Well Michael at Here's What's Left, who's argued before that we shouldn't use the Hitler argument, says "we all should have known what was going to happen" and... [Read More]

» More on Nazi analogies from aTypical Joe: A gay New Yorker living in the rural south.
From the ever-wise Nathan Newman: We live in a pluralistic culture that often lacks strong shared metaphors of evil. The Nazis are one of those few touchstones of shared understanding of evil and it would deny our language a strong... [Read More]

» More on Nazi analogies from aTypical Joe: A gay New Yorker living in the rural south.
From the ever-wise Nathan Newman: We live in a pluralistic culture that often lacks strong shared metaphors of evil. The Nazis are one of those few touchstones of shared understanding of evil and it would deny our language a strong... [Read More]

» The Hitler Argument, just this once from aTypical Joe: A gay New Yorker living in the rural south.
A year ago I was quoting Michael at Here's What's left that we should not use the Hitler argument, "the republicans will find some other stupid thing to feign outrage about, but let's not give it to them, ok?" Well... [Read More]

Comments

Michael

Nope, sorry. Durbin told the absolute truth. His historical analogy was apt. The Repugnacons were going to jump all over him no matter what he said. We get nowhere (except more of the same crap we've been getting the last five years) if we censor ourselves just so the 'pugs don't make hay out of our remarks--especially while they and their "pundits" can say whatever the hell half-lame-assed, hateful, asinine, illogical, misquoted and decontextualized BS they want.

Give 'em a dose of their own medicine. And be just as unapologetic when they howl about "unfair" as they are when we do it.

Michael Miller

In the general sense that we should avoid rhetorical traps, I tend to agree with you. On the admonition to only choose word that cannot be used against us by people who redefine the language as needed to suit... not so much. If we allow Them to control the language, They will define a new reality that we can then, if we choose, study judiciously. Say what you mean, define it and frame it well, and bite back hard at anyone who distorts your words or intent. I like what John Conyers did today with this letter to Dana Milbank:

http://rawstory.com/news/2005/Congressman_Conyers_hammers_the_Washington_Posts_D_0617.html

Incertus

Yeah, a couple off months ago I was right there with you, HWL, but now? Fuck 'em. The right wingers you quoted are going to call us names no matter what we do, and I'm tired of worrying about it. If the administration is doing things that resemble, in kind if not yet in severity, the actions of Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, etc., then we ought to say so, and say so loudly. We don't have much to lose by doing so.

Bob57

My head is with you on the relativity of how "truth" (I don't argue truth with manipulators anymore) is bandied about as if it were a rubber ball, but my heart tells me to keep pounding away at the "fascist" comparisons. Stalin gave Hitler a lot of leeway because he understood that capitalism in its death throes was fascism. I'm not sure where I'm going with this because I have believed from a very young age that capitalism is not humanistic in any way. I do know that the more we push this comparison (AMERIKA,) the more we will realize a historical moment. It may not be good for the planet at its beginning; hell we may not survive it, but it will be the beginning of a new understanding and a new "truth."
People ask me why I don't vote. I told them that it didn't matter who won because of this hypothesis: If the reps win our historical moment will be hastened; if the dems win it will only be postponed. We are at a crossroads historically. Everything from the founding of our country to industrialization to WWI, WWII up to the present has been in anticipation of this moment. When the moment happens it will not be pretty.
My only hope is that some of us survive it and learn.

Ruthless

Although I agree with the author (using the terms "Hitler or Nazi" in describing someone or something is usually not a good idea since it usually produces the reaction "Oh, now you're exaggerating"), I disagree that it really matters.

Even if the "left" didn't use the words, the "right" still does (and it doesn't seem to have made any difference).

Also, the "right" has become so dishonest that a Democratic congressperson could say "I like puppies and kittens" and Republicans would say "Congressperson XYZ just admitted that they wanted to see Terri Schiavo kicked to death by wild hyenas!"

In other words, no matter what we say, it'll get twisted. The only thing that seems to be important is to be honest, to call them on their dishonesty, and to repeat over and over again to the masses so that it sinks in. This strategy seems to be working (see: the Social Security albatross around Bush's neck) and the pendulum seems to be swinging the other way. The general public is becoming increasingly distrustful of the GOP and is catching on to their lies.

I still don't think we're doing enough to combat dishonesty in the media and in our elected leaders, though. And I still think we should avoid too much hyperbole (like the "Nazi" reference. Even if it is true.)

Michael

If a statement is true, it cannot be "too much hyperbole." Hyperbole involves wild exaggeration. What Durbin said was exactly accurate.

Heather

The point Michael (the author one) is trying to make is that it doesnt matter if the historical analogy holds. "Because it's true" is not a good enough reason for saying something so easily thrown back in our faces. And a strategic philosophy of "they'll twist anything so we should be able to say anything" seems absurdly short-sighted. Yes, we're all tired of the requisite self-censorship. And we're all tired of "Them" defining issues, language, etc. But right now they do define things, and when they won't define things is when we learn to exercise maybe just some tiny bit of control over the news cycle, and when that WON'T happen is when the news time is being sucked up by some smug fatass republican talking about how inapproprate democrats are while the real issue, the horrifying issue of prisoner mistreatment, is lost in the background.

and sure, they twist words and lie and lie and lie and lie and lie. But some words are hard to twist and some words are easy to twist and some words don't require any twisting at all. Here's a word that doesn't need twisting: "Hitler." I don't care if Hitler is a good example for whatever your argument is, it still pisses people off to hear you talk about him. and when dems talk about this stuff, they are not only asking to receive a royal spanking on national television, they are also going out into the yard and choosing one of the biggest switches they can find. and for what? we have to not only fight loudly but fight smart, right people?

Incertus

I understand what you're saying, Heather, but I think we're beyond that. I think we're at the point where if we continue using the Hitler analogy, one of a couple of things will happen. Either the Hitler analogy will stick, as it ought to, or it will become utterly meaningless, as the use of the word fascism has, and we'll be rid of it because it'll automatically be ignored. Either outcome is beneficial as far as I'm concerned.

Michael

So where is the outrage, Heather, from these same Republicans when Rush uses the term "feminazis" about eight hundred times a day on his radio program? (And he's been doing it for at least a decade.)

Why weren't they up in arms when Senator Man-on-Dog compared the filibuster to the Nazi invasion of France on the floor of the Senate last month?

We rightly scream when the Republicans pull that kind of shit, because it is hyperbole--and bad hyperbole at that. What Durbin said was factually true and historically appropriate, and we're supposed to be backing down or rethinking it? I'm sorry, but that's just wrong.

Yeah, we might have to work a little, but I think we can win on this rhetorical front. We play a clip of what Durbin said, and the Freepers' reaction to it. Then we play a clip of Santorum's speech, and follow it with the Freepers' reaction of applause. Or better yet, we follow it with a headline: "Republican criticism of Sen. Santorum's Nazi remarks" over a blank screen, with the sound of crickets chirping in the background. Simple, truthful, and effective.

Bob57

fascism is real and it's newest incarceration is here. The use of words is hyperbole.

Heather

Michael--Of course there's no outrage over Rush or Santorum. You'll never hear me say Republicans aren't hypocrites.

And I'm not saying that we shouldn't defend Durbin's remarks. I'm just saying it was bad strategy to make them, because Republicans have exploited him for the purpose of taking attention off of the real issue. Which I would like to see not happen. And yes, there should be more of an outcry from our side.

Your ad is a good idea except it creates an equivalence between Durbin's and Santorum's remarks. And you and I know that that equivalence is a false one.

The problem is that this kind of equivalence already exists. Santorum's remarks got some coverage, maybe not enough, but some...so there's some criticism of him, some criticism of Durbin, and basically the whole issue is reduced to the presence of Durbin, the presence of Santorum, and the presence of the word "Nazi." Do you think most people know or care whether Durbin's remarks were actually offensive or not? Do most people know or care that one set of remarks was carefully thought out while the other came from some jackass shooting off his mouth in a disgusting manner? Do most people even know what a filibuster is?

Incertus--Either the Hitler analogy will stick, as it ought to, or it will become utterly meaningless

ok. I'd guess that the former won't happen, but if it does, I assume it would take a while, and in the meantime, we'd keep getting hammered for using it. The latter option seems plausible to me, but again, in the meantime it's trouble...and in this case we'd definitely end up with a net loss. Given that this is a possibility, why gamble that way?

Incertus

Heather--I don't think it's a net loss, and I'm gathering that more and more people are starting to think that way as well. I think the public is starting to see the Republican outrage for what it is--bullshit--and they're tired of the fact that the country is in bad shape and the Republicans are spending more time being offended than actually doing anything.

Michael

I don't think the ad I suggested would suggest that there's a parity between Santorum's remarks and Durbin's: merely that there's a disparity between the reaction of the right-wingnuts to the two.

I'm a modern European historian, and my specialty (or one of them) is the Second World War. I hate it when people bandy the word "Nazi" (or "Hitler," or "Gestapo") around like it was the new "fuck" (the all-purpose grammatical particle!). I really, really hate it that so few people know much about WWII beyond "Nazis and Japanese bad, Americans good," Pearl Harbor, D-Day, and maybe Hiroshima/Nagasaki.

But, doggone it, I do know something about the period, and I do see relevant parallels between some things the Nazis did and some things the Bushoviki are doing, and I hate the fact that I have to spend 20 minutes putting it in context every time I point that stuff out, just to avoid the inevitable citation of Godwin's Law. "Nazi" is a bad word, yes. But using it is only bad when it is used outside of its appropriate context. And I'll be damned if I'm going to let the Repukes be the ones to tell me what "appropriate context" means.

HWL

Michael,

This is perfectly legitimate:

But, doggone it, I do know something about the period, and I do see relevant parallels between some things the Nazis did and some things the Bushoviki are doing, and I hate the fact that I have to spend 20 minutes putting it in context every time I point that stuff out, just to avoid the inevitable citation of Godwin's Law.

But you shouldn't be surprised, and in fact you should expect it, when the right-wing decides to make a political issue out of it.

republicans aren't suddenly going to become honest and want a civilized discussion. all i'm saying is that we should recognize the reality of republican tactics and not play into their traps.

and one more point: there's a big difference between you and i and incertus on our blogs and dick durbin in the senate.

Incertus, let's hope you're right about this:

I think the public is starting to see the Republican outrage for what it is--bullshit--and they're tired of the fact that the country is in bad shape and the Republicans are spending more time being offended than actually doing anything.

But what I'm theorizing here and more generally is that we don't win any points with the public to which you refer when we're perceived as talking about Hitler all the time.

i'm making a purely strategic argument here. you might think that it's unprincipled. maybe it is. but i for one am tired of losing elections. and i don't think saying the word "nazis" will help us.

just for the record, i'm in favor of durbin not backing down and not apologizing. i don't think he has anything to apologize for, i just wish he wouldn't say this stuff anymore.

Cheryl

You lose, Buckwheat.

The neocons are a bunch of fascist America-hating Nazis.

The main point all of you have missed is that the reason neocons are winning the debate in the media is because they own the media.

In order to fight back effectively, we must fund our media. That means sending checks to PBS, NPR and Pacifica, people. That means creating and sponsoring local cable television shows that hit hard and relentlessly. That means attending your favorite brand of liberal church and conducting outreach. That means starting your own blog or web site. Activism changes things. Whining about the media and playing in a rigged game changes nothing.

How the fuck do you think the right got where it is today? They got off their lazy butts and organized at the grass roots level for the past 3 decades. They worked their fingers to the bone dialing in phone banks. They made signs and protested in the streets. They invented and redefined words. They even went out and shot 'abortionists'. They got out there on the front lines and got in people's faces. They went to city council meetings and spoke up. They gave 30% of their incomes to their churches. They drew attention to their causes, put slick marketing gloss on everything, and sold their snake oil with all the energy they could muster.

Put your money where your mouth is and you will be amazed at how the public debate changes. Forget this whole thing about pussy-footing around so that fascist media will be nice and give Durbin a clear voice. If he did not use the H word his comments would not even have been covered.

No, I disagree 100% with this whole premise of leaning to the right in order to avoid falling off the left end of the news coverage. Clinton tried that and what we got from him was the dot-bomb disaster, a protracted impeachment fiasco and environmentally hostile NAFTA plus a whole host of eleventh-hour environmental protection executive orders that Bush undid in the first 100 days.

Give the fascists an inch and they will take a mile. Let them scream that the left hates America all they want. The crowd they talk to are lost already because we have neglected to buy our own goddamned amplifiers and we are getting drowned out.

Fund public media with every spare cent you have and then get yourself on the TV and the radio on your own shows. Forget playing their game. Whenever you piss them off they take their ball and go home anyway. It is rigged. Stop playing with them.

Stand up in front of the camera on your local cable TV station, then calmly and slowly quote Durbin in its entirety, explaining the parallels to Hitler, Nazi Germany, and fascism. Anybody got the gumption for that? What are you waiting for, Armageddon???

Yeah, I thought so. The left is chock full of spineless wimps with plenty of brains and no common sense.

I have been quoted in my local newspaper and radio half a dozen times. I speak at public engagements. I run a camera at my local cable station. What the hell are the rest of you doing to get the message out? Anything???

Come on, wimps, get off your butts and do something. Stop whining. The neocons not only have money and power, they also practice what they preach. They are all about getting their message out and winning. What are you about? Whining? Dining? Cheese and caviar? Envy?

There are far too many lefties taking our technological wonderland for granted. What is at stake is not just our democracy, it is the human race itself. If the cons get their way we will all burn coal and uranium for the next 100 years, guaranteeing that our grandchildren will be born with 3 heads and glow in the dark while unpredictable storms rage across the face of the Earth. There is far too much hanging in the balance to play nice with the fascists. They are dangerous self-centered fanatics. Fight back!

the exile

We could all adopt the Billmon strategy, referring only to "an extreme nationalist party in a certain central European country."

But my preferred strategy is this: Preface every statement about Nazis with the following disclaimer: "I am NOT comparing our brave troops to Nazis, and I am willing to take it outside right now with anyone who does. But...." and then go on to make the nazi comparison with complete unabashed license.

Simple. what's the problem?

Cheryl

How about, "I'm completely opposed to the beady-eyed Republican neocons who keep trying to turn our troops into Nazis."

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