Calling someone a Nazi is one of the worst insults out there. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most pervasive in our culture. From the famous (satirical) Seinfeld “Soup Nazi” to recent political protests, calling someone a Nazi is the go-to way to convey how mean or unfair or overbearing someone is.
Now, the insult has returned – this time resurfacing in the healthcare debate.
Well, the Nazis were against big business — they hated big business. And of course we all know that they were opposed to Jewish capitalism. They were insanely, irrationally against pollution. They were for two years mandatory voluntary service to Germany. They had a whole bunch of make-work projects to keep people working […] They were for abortion and euthanasia of the undesirables, as we all know, and they were for cradle-to-grave nationalized healthcare.
Now I understand that it feels like calling someone a Nazi – or line by line “comparing” their policies with those of the Nazis – makes a powerful point. Except that it doesn’t. Really, it only does it minimize the horrific suffering inflicted on the millions the Nazis terrorized and killed. And it’s not a particularly effective rhetorical device.
As Fox News notes (while discussing how some Democrats have described protesters’ as using “brownshirt tactics”):
But an axiom in political strategy states that whoever uses the Hitler comparison generally doesn’t win the debate — unless he’s participating in a debate about Nazis.
And Mike Godwin made clear in Wired over a decade ago:
once a discussion reaches a comparison to Nazis or Hitler, its usefulness is over[.]
I say let’s keep it that way.
Photo from the Sam Stein on the Huffington Post.