Monday, January 28, 2013

Ilya Shambat: The Cheapness of Hitler comparisons

  Hitler comparisons are a dime a dozen, and the more they are used the more the actual wrongdoings of Hitler are cheapened. There are people comparing Obama to Hitler. There are people all over the Internet who are always ready with a Hitler comparison. The more this goes on, the more the memory of the Holocaust is insulted. And the more the real wrongs done in WWII become trivialized.

  So it is about time to impose discipline on this issue. Unless someone is actually intending to wipe out an ethnic group or to kill 50 million people, there is no merit in making these kinds of comparisons. This is the case regardless of what one believes the other person to be like from a psychological standpoint. Most people who had what Hitler had (if psychologists are to be believed, 3 million people presently living in America) are neither tyrants nor murderers, and it is wrong to accuse them of similarity to someone who was both.

  From the psychological standpoint, Freud and Hitler were a lot alike. Did Freud become a mass-murderer? No. From the psychological standpoint, Ayn Rand and Hitler were a lot alike. Did Ayn Rand become a mass-murderer? No. From the psychological standpoint, John Rockefeller and Hitler were a lot alike. Did John Rockefeller become a mass-murderer? No. So it is time to put an end to misuses of psychology to compare any given person to Hitler when most of the people who get accused of such things have no intention of killing anybody.

  And unless someone is actually interested in mass murder, it is wrong to compare them to Hitler - or Dahmer, or Bundy, or Koresh, or anyone else of that sort.

  Doing so insults the memory of the people who have been killed by these mass murderers. It also undermines one's own credibility. One keeps shouting wolf at all sorts of things that aren't wolf; so that when a real wolf shows up one is no longer believed.

  Of potential wolves there are plenty, and most of them are on the Right. I would like to single out Alex Jones, Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh as wannabe wolves in America. Hitler, if it is to be remembered, was a right-winger as well and appealed to the same things as does the Tea Party (patriotism, national greatness, tradition, white supremacy) while militating against the same groups against which Tea Party militate (social democrats, Communists, feminists, unions, ethnic and racial minorities). It is amazing that the same people who are so ready with spurious Hitler comparisons are nowhere to be seen when faced with real fascism. In the same way as the people who were so ready to attack Bill Clinton for supposedly practicing "big government" were nowhere to be seen when Bush not only bloated the government but also imposed oppressive and unconstitutional restrictions on people's lives.

  So to these people: You are either idiots or conmen, depending upon whether you actually believe these things or claim to believe them in order to fool others. None of the people who get accused of similarity with Hitler today have killed 50 million people. Meanwhile the greatest atrocities in the history of humanity - the murder of 100 million American indigenous people and the enslavement of 100 million Africans by European conquerors and the murder of 150 million Hindus by Muslims - were not led by psychopathic despots but rather by very normal priests, imams, monarchs and traders. Should I compare all priests, imams, monarchs and traders to people who perpetrated these crimes against humanity? Should I agitate public opinion against them? Should I consider this course of action scientific? You get the idea.

  There can be any number of reasons why any group of people, or any individual person, decides upon a destructive course of action. Psychopaths play a role in only some of these situations. A regular conservative, either in Texas or in Afghanistan, is a violent, bloodthirsty beast. And most of these people are completely normal.

  As we have seen, the world's greatest atrocities are not owed to psychopaths. They are owed to your very regular Christians and Muslims. The Hitler comparisons are a distraction in these groups attempting to dominate. Both religions have killed many more people than did Hitler and vastly more than anyone they accuse of being Hitler-like.

  Are these religions the only source of atrocity? By no means. Certainly Hitler would have killed more if he had more time, and Stalin and Mao have also been major killers. What it does show however is that it is wrong to accuse people who aren't mass-murderers of similarity to people who are mass-murderers. Unless someone is actually plotting to kill 50 million people, one has no business comparing him to Hitler. And the fact that Hitler showed one way in which to be destructive does not give either him or people whom one can compare to him the monopoly on destructiveness.

  So it's time to put an end to these irresponsible comparisons. The bulk of the people who had what Hitler had are not only not mass murderers but in fact form the bulwark against the tyranny of the majority. When people go down a garden path, the only person who can set them straight is someone who thinks differently from them. This means that these people possess a real social function.

  And the only people who would do away with people's ability to do that are the people who are themselves conmen, tyrants or both.

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