Op-ed: “Demagogues, Godwin’s Law and the Politics of Fear”

Posted by By at 7 September, at 17 : 34 PM Print

Godwin’s law, coined in 1990 and named after Mike Godwin, states that lengthy online discussions will ultimately degenerate into Hitler comparisons. Given enough space and time, the probability of referencing Hitler – no matter the issue -becomes more likely.

Democrats have been comparing Trump to Hitler since 2015. After the inauguration, Rep. Gerald Connolly (D-Virginia) took to twitter and compared Trump’s immigration polices to Adolf Hitler’s. Three days later, former Democratic presidential candidate, Martin O’Malley tweeted, “Now is not the time for reconciliation. Dietrich Bonhoeffer didn’t reconcile with the Nazis. MLK didn’t reconcile with the KKK. Now we fight.”

Prior to his inauguration, Donald Trump compared leaks on Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election to be like living in “Nazi Germany.” [1]

Now comes Scott Wagner’s stereotyping of George Soros, as a “Hungarian Jew” who hates America. George Soros survived the Holocaust in Hungary, a nation where 435,000 Jews were murdered with meticulous precision from March 1944 until August, 1944 in Auschwitz. Soros also survived fascism and the siege of Budapest. Countless Pennsylvanians were tuned in to Mr. Wagner’s most recent rant. How many nodded in approval or absorbed the verbal abuse without deploying a distortion filter?

America in 2017 should not be borrowing scenery and verbiage from occupied Europe in the 1940s.

We live in an era when making outrageous accusations enhances your chances of becoming President of the Unites States of America. Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that Holocaust denial or engaging in Jewish conspiracy theories propels you onto 60 Minutes or Fox News. But far more dangerous than anti-Semites or neo-Nazis masquerading as academics, are politicians and political pundits who dilute and diminish the horrors of the Second World War by comparing their opponents to fascists, Hitler, Nazis, or the Third Reich.

Rush Limbaugh compared President Obama to Hitler and likened the Democratic Party to Nazis.[2] Glenn Beck [3] spent several days debunking a myth he helped massage regarding FEMA’s operation of a concentration camp system.[4] Ben Stein [5], who is Jewish, compared a  speech by President Obama’s to a rally by the Fuhrer[6]. A former Jewish Pennsylvania Supreme Court jurist sent out a blast e-mail claiming a vote for Obama would invite a Second Holocaust.[7]

Senator Dick Durban (D-Illinois) compared Guantanamo Bay to camps under Stalin, Hitler, and Pol Pot [8], and on February 28, 2005, former Senator Robert Byrd (D-West Virginia) likened a Republican filibuster to Nazi Germany.

The former Klan member stated, “We, unlike Nazi Germany or Mussolini’s Italy, have never stopped being a nation of laws, not of men. But witness how men with motives and a majority can manipulate law to cruel and unjust ends.”[9] The number three Republican in the Senate at the time was Senator Rick Santorum who called on Mr. Byrd to retract his statements. On May 19, 2005 Mr. Santorum matched Mr. Byrd’s dilution of history: “It’s [the filibuster] the equivalent of Adolf Hitler in 1942 saying, ‘I’m in Paris. How dare you invade me? How dare you bomb my city? It’s mine.”[10]

Politicians from both parties must be held accountable for their words. There was a time when politicians, religious leaders, and political commentators served as a moral brake to rash accusations.

In 1991 William Buckley, a conservative talk show host, penned a 40,000 word essay condemning Pat Buchanan’s anti-Semitic rants. [11]

On the other side of the aisle, Senator John Kerry (D-Massachusetts) swiftly denounced Fritz Hollings (D-South Carolina) for charging that President Bush went to war at the behest of “the leaders of the Jewish Community.” Mr. Kerry called-out Mr. Hollings the following day for giving credibility to “anti-Semitic stereotypes that have no place in America or anywhere else.”[12]

Where are the elected patriots when their colleagues and allies dance on the tombstones of memory? Why doesn’t the media call out the purveyors of demagoguery?  Most of the disparate groups, organizations, and political parties on the Left and Right which exploit terms for political expediency remained silent during the Nazi’s attempted destruction of Jews. Additionally, many of these entities supported immigration quotas before, during, and after World War II.

Grover Norquist, head of Americans for Tax Reform, gave a new meaning to death and taxes. Norquist compared the estate tax to the Holocaust. Yeah, you heard right. The comments were aired on National Public Radio’s “Fresh Air” show with Terry Gross in October, 2003. His comments were reported two months later in Harper’s Magazine, and again in a column syndicated by Richard Cohen on Tuesday, January 6, 2004.[14]

The diminishment of the Holocaust and the minimization of Nazism is akin to murdering the memory of the victims and denying the value of military sacrifice. Distorted language and misplaced history is not the sole domain of any one party, platform, or person. The inability to engage in a vigorous and rational political debate is harmful to America.

Politicians and political pundits should be held accountable for their verbal projectiles, and heed the warning of Proverbs: 13:3: “He who guards his lips guards his life, but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin.”

 

Sincerely,
Eric Epstein, “Co-Author Dictionary of the Holocaust”
Harrisburg, PA 17112
717-635-8615
lechambon@comcast.net

End notes available upon request.

 

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This post was written by:
- who has written 365 posts for Rock The Capital
Eric J. Epstein is RocktheCapital‘s coordinator and a community advocate for good government for over 25 years. Mr. Epstein is also Chairman of the Three Mile Island Alert, Inc., a safe-energy organization founded in 1977; President of EFMR Monitoring Group, Inc., a non-profit economic development corporation established in 1977, and Chairman of the Stray Winds Area Neighbors (SWAN), a smart growth association organized in 2005. Mr. Epstein was a Visiting Assistant Professor of Humanities at PSU-Harrisburg (1992-1999) and co-authored the Dictionary of the Holocaust, which was released by Greenwood Press (1997) - Email Eric Epstein

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