Thursday, August 13, 2009

Why Comparing US Presidents to Hitler Sucks

What's wrong with these pictures? Besides the photoshopping jobs, I mean.

I can think of one problem, right off the top of my head: neither of the men depicted here are like Hitler. And by "not like Hitler" I mean "In no way like Adolf Hitler except for superficial similarities that can be attributed to all three being male members of the species Homo sapiens and also politicians (politicians not being a separate species, despite some evidence to the contrary)."

Hitler, for those of you who don't know, was this guy back in the first part of the last century who took control of Germany preaching a doctrine of open anti-semitism, totalitarianism and militant nationalism. Unlike most politicians, he made good on his campaign promises, systematically killing millions of Jews and other minorities and starting World War II (although you could probably make the case that given the state of Germany after the Treaty of Versailles and the rise of Fascism and Communism, war was inevitable even without Hitler).

Barack Obama and George W. Bush are not Fascists, don't advocate the murder of minorities, don't enjoy marching or moustaches--not like Hitler. This is not rocket science people. But here's a blog, from before the last election, explaining how Obama is like Hitler; here's another blog from a few years before that explaining how Bush is like Hitler.

These people are pretty much openly nuts (the liberal likens Bush's arrest for drunk driving to Hitler's arrest for attempting to overthrow the Bulgarian government, while the conservative says both Obama and Hitler were popular with young people), but they aren't isolated nuts. Plenty of liberals made sometimes-half-joking comments about Bush being a Fascist for imprisoning suspected terrrorists without trial and conservative protestors are holding up Nazi signs as a way of calling Obama a socialist or something. (The Nazis were Fascists, not socialists. Fascists and socialists fought a war in Spain in the 30s. They weren't friends.)

To be fair, anyone who makes a seriously compares any US politician to Hitler is way out on the fringe.* The truth is there aren't any elected officials who are even secretly Fascists--or Communists, for that matter. But the existence of these kinds of statements and the media attention they get points to an increasing hysteria in our national dialogue.

It's not enough to disagree with the politics of the President, you have to invoke the worst bogeyman in history. The Iraq war wasn't just a case of interventionalist foreign policy gone wrong thanks to incompetence, it was as bad as Vietnam. Arresting a few hundred suspected terrorists means we're going the way of 1984 . Gay marriage will destroy the family. Giving the government more control over health care is sure sign that the US is turning into Soviet Russia. Does anyone actually believe any of this?

The confusing, wildly inaccurate way pundits and bloggers are used to debating is not only stupid and self-defeating (no one is going to expand their view by listening to someone shouting), it obscures the points on which most Americans probably agree. For instance, in the health care war, everyone can agree on these three points:

1. If the government or large multinational corporations control health care, it will suck.
2. No matter what happens with this health care reform, the government or corporations will be in charge.
3. Health care is still going to suck, unless you happen to be rich.

So lets step back, okay? Making health care a little more socialist (it already is slightly socialist, with Medicare and Medicaid, which no one seems to mind) isn't the revolution. The Nazis and the Bolsheviks are not in power, it's the Democrats and Republicans, which is bad enough.

*BONUS: Why Rush Limbaugh Sucks (part 1 in a planned 437-par series): The Democrats apparently planted some protestors to make it seem like there were more Republicans calling Obama the next Hitler. Rush Limbaugh denounced the Democrats for this, which would be fine if he hadn't compared Obama to Hitler a few days earlier. If you bother to read the transcript in the first link, you'll find him comparing the Democrats to the Nazis at the same time he's accusing Democrats of making the Republicans look like wackos, which is a nice trick if you can pull it off. He also claims, bizarrely, that the Nazis were leftists. Keep it up Rush!

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