UPDATE, January 30, 2007 – Today is the seventy-fourth anniversary of Hitler’s appointment to the Chancellorship of Germany, which makes it a particularly good time to reflect on mistakes, both past and present.
It is a testament to the schizophrenic nature of this day and age that one sometimes find himself forced to argue against ideas so patently devoid of merit that he doesn’t know where to begin to start disassembling them. This comes, partly, because he knows that if the devotee of whatever silly notion du jour he is flogging were operating from a position of rationality he would not have dreamed this intellectual excrescence up in the first place, so The Beast has to ask himself how much good a reasoned argument would be to disabuse him of it? Furthermore, since these arguments often rely on inaccuracies, historical ignorance and false equivalencies The Beast often has to begin his argument at a stunningly remedial level, teaching basic politics, simple history and language (stuff any high school grad should know, but obviously doesn’t else they wouldn’t be having this argument) to provide a factual foundation on which he can then build his counter-argument. Frankly, that’s a lot of work.
But, as Petraeus said recently “Just because a job is difficult doesn’t mean it can’t be done.” So today The Beast rolls up his cyber-sleeves, dons the Hip waders of Truth and wades into the sewers of irrationality to focus the flashlight of reason into the murky alcove that is:
The Bush-As-Hitler meme is not strong in the mainstream of public discourse; it’s reserved for the loonier conspiratorial fringes and relies, not so much on current concrete examples, but rather a pastiche of rough comparisons and slippery slope fear mongering. Obviously millions of people are not being rounded up and herded into trains to certain death – nobody could argue that Hitlerian political repression and Holocaust-level genocide is happening right now under the Bush regime. It isn’t and it would be utter folly to suggest it is. No, instead Bushitlerites point to vague similarities between the governing styles of Nazi Germany and the USA and portend that these will result eventually into the establishment of a full-bore fascist state in this country. Here is a typical example culled from a quick google search under the keyword “bushitler”, titled Fear Americans – Bushitler: Is George W. Bush like Hitler?
Note: each warning sign is listed first and followed by a rebuttal which compares actual Nazi laws and actions to the implied American equivalent and similar issues in other countries. The Beast did not wish to seem as if he were cherry-picking so he chose the first four.
The 14 Warning Signs of a Fascist Government:
# 1.) Powerful and Continuing Nationalism: Fascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans, symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia. Flags are seen everywhere, as are flag symbols on clothing and in public displays.
Hitler: The infamous rally at Nurmenburg which was to begin on 8 September 1935 was originally designed to celebrate the establishment of the Nazi flag as the new national symbol. The Reichstag was to meet on Sunday, September 15, and pass the Reich Flag Law, but Hitler was worried that this would not be enough to justify such a grand gathering. Hitler upped the emotional ante by including a variety of anti-Jewish legislation; prohibition of mixed marriages, of extra-marital sexual intercourse between Jews and Aryans, of employment by Jews of Aryan maids and allowing Jews to fly this new national symbol.
Bush: In the general patriotic fervor that followed the 911 attacks the American public went a bit flag-happy, true. Republicans and Democrats waved along with everybody else, including President Bush. But so what? Flag fervor comes and goes, like mini skirts and big hair. Love for the symbol of your nation is a good thing if that symbol stands for something decent and honorable. In Nazi Germany this was simply not true: even the establishment of the Swastika came within the context of clear racial hate – a very different thing altogether. Nationalism is a good thing if your nation is worthwhile and even the ones who aren’t (France) still inspire devotion in its non-Renault burning citizenry.
Other Nations: nearly every household, apartment and hovel in stalinist/communist North Korea is equipped with a radio speaker they cannot turn off and which broadcasts government propaganda from morning to night. The same holds true for every public venue. Try walking down a street in much-beloved communist Cuba without reading a party slogan or viewing the visage of “President” Castro. Now compare that to the occasional flag on somebody’s porch.
# 2.) Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights: Because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of “need.” The people tend to look the other way or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of prisoners, etc.
Hitler: On January 30, 1933, President Hindenburg appointed Adolph Hitler chancellor of Germany even though the National Socialists never captured more than 37 percent of the national vote. Twenty-nine days later, the day after the infamous Reichstag Fire, Hitler suspended ALL civil liberties in Germany. Two weeks later the Reichstag voted to suspend the Constitution. Within a month, the Nazis had transferred jurisdiction over treason cases from the Supreme Court to a new People’s Court controlled by the party.
Bush: In the aftermath of the 911 attacks President Bush and congress passed the Patriot Act which created definitions for terrorists and included changes to the judicial code that would make fighting them easier. Two sections have been found unconstitutional and changed, but it’s important to note that unlike Hitler, who suspended all constitutional rights within months of taking office, six years after 911 American rights are still in place and our constitution is too. The courts continue to exist and their rulings have been enacted. There is no comparison, unless you’re the kind of person who thinks a water leak in your basement is the same as the Indonesian tsunami, in which case you are beyond help.
Other Nations: Americans who return home after a period of living abroad will bore you to death with stories about how controlling their host country is. Whether it’s the ubiquitous cameras watching the every move of Englishmen or prosecutions for Holocaust denial in Germany (the Beast does not weep for the morons convicted, but he does weep for the free speech they are denied), ask yourself why nobody complains about Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s impending coronation as “Castro Lite”? The dark night of totalitarianism is always descending on America, but it always manages to land in Europe or South America.
# 3.) Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause: The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial, ethnic or religious minorities; liberals; communists; socialists, terrorists, etc.
Hitler:In the aftermath of the aforementioned Reichstag fire which Hitler blamed on Communists (correctly), he overstated the danger to the nation and used the event as an excuse to suspend all civil liberties. He then moved onto the Jews, stripping them of rights over time and eventually executing as many as he could – some six million or more. Hitler eventually allied with Joseph Stalin, leader of the communist Soviet Union to carve up Poland between them. Later in the war Hitler violated the peace pact and invaded Russia.
Bush: In the aftermath of the 911 attacks Bush called for a Global War On Terrorism but has maintained that the war is on radical terrorists not Islam itself. Others, including The Beast may debate on whether radicals create Islamist fundamentalism or Islam creates fundamentalist radicals, but the administration has been careful not to blame all the members of a religion for the actions of a tiny minority.
Other Countries: Fiddle while Peugeots burn.
# 4.) Supremacy of the Military: Even when there are widespread domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is neglected. Soldiers and military service are glamorized.
Hitler: Built a vast war machine and used it to invade all of Europe, North Africa and Russia with the intent of repressing and controlling the inhabitants. Twenty Million died in Russia alone.
Bush: Sent two thousand troops to Afghanistan to remove the radical Taliban Government and around a hundred thirty thousand to Iraq to remove the despot Sadaam Hussein. While the wisdom of those deployments can definitely (and legitimately) be debated, the ultimate goal of establishing a stable democratic government in both countries cannot. Bush may well fail in that goal, but it was and remains the ultimate mission of the troops. One could hardly say the same for the German Army.
Other Countries: Have their own problems; most are happy to hide under the American military umbrella and let us do the hard work while they snipe. However, Europe may need some soldiers soon enough within their own borders to save then from the predations of various “youths” screaming “Allahu Akhbar” while they riot.
What irritates The Beast most about the Bushitler meme is that it’s intellectually lazy and dishonest. To work it properly you must pretend that degree does not count – that there is no real difference between a war of liberation and war of bloody conquest. You must pretend that normal, healthy patriotism is no different from radical nationalist fervor. Note the title of the post we dissected: “The 14 WARNING Signs of a Fascist Government” – that’s where the sleight-of-hand occurs. America isn’t a Nazi government yet, but it’s heading that way, so you don’t have to prove anything, just suggest how it will be in the future when we all tumble down the slippery slope. Which is odd in itself because despite all the predictions, President Bush will be out of office in less than two years. If he hasn’t suspended civil rights and installed himself as dictator by then, he most likely never will. Six years of dire predictions hasn’t really produced any genuine fascism, has it? And what fascist dictator allows free elections and then leaves office voluntarily?
Of course there are some vague similarities between The Bush Administration and Hitler’s Reich: They both fought a war that the Democrats worked hard as hell to make them lose.
If you find that comparison unfair and wrong you are correct; it is. Two can play at that game.