Saturday, 24 January 2009

Are comparisons alway odious?

Renegade Evolution has declared that she will not allow unchallenged accusations that someone or other is like the Nazis to appear on her blog. She writes:

If in your comment you compare anyone or anything to Hitler or the Nazis, you will either NOT be published OR I will mock the ever living fuck out of you.

WHY? Because one, invoking the Nazis or Hitler is a cheap, emotional gut shot and is rarely germane to the actual discussion at hand. It is a cheap argument with no solid footing. Comparing anyone or anything to a man and a group of people who killed millions of marginalized people is a total shit argument. One person is akin to Hitler- and that would be it? Same goes for similar comparisions to Stalin, the Khmer Rouge, so on.

If you have a point or an argument to make, make it, but do it on your own, with facts and proof, and not the emotional gut shot tactic of comparing everyone and every thing to people responsible for the deaths, torture, and suffering of millions of people.

Got it? Good.

She has a very good point to make here and in the comments section there are other points that are equally valid. I recommend all to read them.

There is indeed a form of lazy rhetoric in which anything with which one disagrees is likened to such extreme movements. The term "feminazi" comes immediately to mind - as does the use of the word "holocaust" when used by anti-abortionists. Such is nothing more than flaming and as such should not be taken seriously - the delete button being designed for just such idiocies. I fully agree with Ren's policy in such cases.

Although Ren can, of course, set whatever rules she likes for her own blog, I would be wary of a blanket ban such as she proposes. Because there is an underlying assumption that Nazism was an aberration and a unique event. I fear that it was not. It is certainly true, as commenters have said on Ren's blog, Nazism has so far been the only ideology which has had as its central tenet the eradication of a particular group of people. It is also true that this occurred as result of a particular set of historical events that will, we hope, never be replicated. It is probably true that, modern neo-nazis notwithstanding, we will not see a significant political party that could be called Nazi.

Nazism, although shaped and given spurious legitimacy to the German people by the terms of the Treaty of Versailles and the subsequent travails of the Weimar Republic, was not, however, born from them. It drew upon a long-standing tradition in European thought. For example, there was an Englishman, Houston Stewart Chamberlain who married Wagner's daughter. In 1900 he published "The Foundations of the Nineteenth Century" in which he exhorted the "pure" German people to embrace their destiny as "lords of the world" by defeating and suppressing the German Jews. He was only one voice among many. Anti-semitism was the cultural norm - as a reading of John Buchan and Evelyn Waugh among many others will soon demonstrate.

The feelings, beliefs and emotions that fuelled Nazism were not new and neither have they been eradicated from our culture. And it is for this reason that I am wary of a blanket ban on comparisons with Nazism. Hitler himself will not return, but the disease he exploited is still here, ready for anyone else. It is based on the notion that some human beings are more worthy of consideration than others - and that, in fact some people are less human than others. It was the justification for the eradication of the native Americans and for the expansion of the European Empires. The disease is manifest in our popular tabloids with their rampant xenophobia. It is manifest in anti-gay rhetoric and other hate-speech. It is in the pronouncements of both the Israeli Government and Hamas. It is endemic to our civilisation and must be named whenever it is detected

Ren is right, however, that name cannot be Nazi. But a comparison may be justified.

No comments: