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September 8, 2009

We Have to Kill Hitler

Last year's Tom Cruise movie Valkyrie was about a real-life plot, unsuccessful of course, to assassinate Adolf Hitler in 1944. Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds, released last month, is about a plot, also in 1944 but fictional, to do the same, which ends quite surprisingly.

Now, it's time to kill Hitler again. And by "Hitler," I mean the obsession in modern-day political discourse of tossing about the Fuhrer's name at every turn.

There are the various Hitler/Obama signs that have begun appearing at town halls and presidential events. I've heard that Obama's health care logo is similar to some Nazi symbol "if you add a swastika to it," which I guess is true of every logo, ever. I've been told that "this is
how Nazi Germany started," which isn't even a little bit true.

Sure, Bush/Hitler comparisons came about every now and then during the Bush years, and I condemned them when they did. But it wasn't to this degree, nor was it just a few months after he assumed office.

I don't even understand the logic behind the Obama/Hitler comparison. Does Obama have a plan for racial purity? Will he be conquering other countries? Does he have plans for concentration camps or genocide? No, no, no and no.

I guess the idea is that Obama, like Hitler, is acting like a dictator. Except that he hasn't disbanded the military, dissolved Congress or attempted to extend his term. In the case of health care – the subject, you may remember, of the town halls – Obama has acted so dictatorial that he's let Congress write all of the bills themselves, the sort of thing dictators aren't generally known for doing.

The more common explanation seems to be the fallacy of "I don't like Obama, and I don't like Hitler. Therefore, Obama = Hitler."

There's something called Godwin's Law, coming from the world of the Internet, which is defined "As a Usenet discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1," at which point the debate is immediately over and the person who
mentioned Hitler loses. (It’s an online successor to "Reductio ad Hitlerum," which goes back to the 1950s.)

Godwin's Law, it appears, must have been struck down at some point, probably by an activist judge.

And it's not just politics. Even lower-brow culture isn't immune. On the Real World: Cancun episode that aired last week, cast member Bronne compared one of his female housemates to Hitler (and another to Mussolini.) Meanwhile, continuing her streak of baffling statements in interviews, actress Megan Fox compared the on-set behavior of her Transformers director Michael Bay to Hitler. Bay may be America's most loathsome filmmaker, a man responsible for numerous cinematic war crimes, but come on.

This hit a new low last week in a German-produced public service ad for Worlds AIDS Day in which a woman is depicted having sex with a man, revealed in the final shot to be the Fuhrer himself.

A hilarious satirical blog called Obama is Literally Hitler has had some fun with this, and the continuing Internet meme that adds fake subtitles to "Downfall" clips is continually humorous. Someone on Twitter even joked that the whole Obama/Hitler thing is just viral marketing for Inglourious Basterds.

But let's get real. No one in modern-day politics is a Nazi, or even a little bit comparable to a Nazi. No one has anything positive to say about the Nazis. Well, except for one person.

Pat Buchanan, expanding on a theme that was the subject of a book he wrote a few years ago, commemorated the 70th anniversary of the Nazis' invasion of Poland last week with a column arguing that Hitler wanted to end World War II in 1940 and that therefore all subsequent events (i.e., the Holocaust) were the fault of Britain and Poland. Buchanan's reward for this noxious line of thought? A continuing seat on the liberal network, MSNBC.

So let the lesson be this: If you propose universal health care, you're just like Hitler. If you defend Hitler, you're not.


© 2009 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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