- Florida Representative Allen West (R), speaking about Congress's low polling numbers at a press conference late last year, said, "If Joseph Goebbels was around, he'd be very proud of the Democrat Party because they have an incredible propaganda machine.' When challenged on his comment, West refused to backtrack, and instead, attacked the media: "I'm talking about propaganda. Don't start taking my words and twisting it around. I'm talking about propaganda . . . . Once again, you guys will take whatever I say and you will spin it to try to demonize me or demagogue me. What I'm talking about is a person that was the minister of propaganda. And I'm talking about propaganda. So please. I'll be prepared to wake up tomorrow and you guys make up some crazy story. Whatever.' And this is a man who would have Jewish voters believe he's the best friend Israel ever had . . .
Wieder . . . SHON GENUG!
A little over three years ago, I published an op-ed piece entitled Shoyn Genug! -- Yiddish for "Enough Already!" In the essay, I excoriated a number of politicians and media figures for likening President Obama as well as various members of Congress to Adolf Hitler, and for comparing various policies, programs and proposals they opposed to the Holocaust. The purpose of that article -- as its title easily indicates -- was to cry out "Enough Already;" to call out those who blithely inject their speeches and statements with such historically chilling terms as "Hitler," "Gestapo," "storm-trooper," or "Holocaust."
That 2009 op-ed spoke of three serial Holocaust rhetoricians: Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and Orly Taitz. That in 2012 one (Beck) is no longer on television and one (Taitz) could easily be the subject of a "Where Are They Now?" column is good; it does show a bit of progress. Of Limbaugh, regrettably, we must say Ach, ist dass eselhengst immer noch bei uns -- namely, "Alas that Jackass is still with us . . ."
And yet, despite all the times he's been called on the carpet for comparing Barack Obama to Adolf Hitler, or using Holocaust-tainted rhetoric, Limbaugh is unrepentant . . . and still earning more than $730,000 a week, 52 weeks a year.
Just the other day, Rush was back at it, talking about propaganda versus truth. He began by talking about a CNN interview in which DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz repeatedly mentioned how Paul Ryan's budget plan would "end Medicare as we know it." After referring to the DNC Chair as "Debbie 'Blabbermouth' Schultz," El Rushbo asked his radio audience, " Propaganda versus truth--which wins?" He then continued with "Well, what did--what was Hitler more concerned with? Propaganda. Did Hitler succeed for a time? Yeah, he did." Then, going totally off the deep end, Rush got to the heart of the matter:
What was Clinton more concerned with--truth or propaganda? What's Obama more concerned with--truth or propaganda? Who would you say is winning? Is propaganda winning or truth winning? We, the virtuous ones in our society--we think truth wins. We have this investment in the truth. We think it's holy. We think that it is profound, and we think it's persuasive.
I guess when someone pays you $146,153.84 a day, five days a week for spending a mere 15 hours behind a mike, you feel empowered to say anything you damn well please . . . and believe yourself to be traveling the moral high ground. And if it were only Rush Limbaugh -- who after all, has never been elected to anything -- who was making these idiotic comments, it would be far too many. But sadly, regrettably, outrageously, it is not; using Nazi and Holocaust comparisons has been a regular growth industry over the past three years. Included on the roster of rhetorical reprobates are:
- Maine Governor Paul LePage (R) who, in speaking of the Affordable Health Care Act's mandate to purchase insurance said , "We the people have been told there is no choice. You must buy health insurance or pay the new Gestapo -- the IRS." When given a chance to step back or, in contemporary parlance, claim that he had been misquoted (hard to do, since he said it on the radio), LePage was anything but apologetic: " Maybe the IRS is not quite as bad -- yet," [the tax-collecting agency is] "headed in that direction" and will end up killing people by rationing care. Either Governor LePage hasn't the slightest idea of how evil the Gestapo was, or he just doesn't care. No wonder they call 'em "Mainiacs!"
- Florida Governor Rick Scott (R), seeking to shield Mitt Romney from attacks surrounding Bain Capital -- and thus, to Scott's way of thinking capitalism itself, invoked Martin NeimÃ¶ller's famous poem " First They Came" " Stating that he had a copy of NeimÃ¶ller's poem on the wall in his office, Scott paraphrased the work, stating "We've got to defend the freedom of the free market. If we don't defend the free market, they'll pick on somebody. Now they're picking on Bain Capital, then they'll pick on somebody else.' To equate questions about Romney and Bain Capital with the increasingly desperate situation in the Third Reich would be silly . . . if it weren't so incredibly insensitive.
- Ohio Congressional Candidate and micro-celebrity opportunist Samuel "Joe the Plumber" Wurzelbacher (R) released a campaign video in which he blamed both the Holocaust and the Armenian genocide on gun control. Mr. Wurzelbacher's video features footage of him on a shooting rage blasting fruits and vegetables with a shotgun. As the clip draws to a close, Mr. Wurzelbacher, gun in hand, proclaims, "I love America.' The description of the video describes gun ownership as "our last line of defense' from tyranny. (It also poses a rather existential question about Mr. Wurzelbacher's produce shooting hobby!)
The arguments I made back in early August 2009 are the precisely the same as I now make in Mid August 2012:
- Using Nazi or Holocaust-era terminology for political gain is more than insensitive or callous; it is monstrously bloodless, cold-hearted, and crass.
- The flippant use of such terms as "genocide," "mass murder," "extermination" and "Third Reich," in any discussion of contemporary American politics desecrates the memory of the millions upon millions of men, women and children who were exterminated. It also transmutes the very horrific reality of history's darkest, most barbarous period into nothing more than a rhetorical club with which to attack the people with whom one disagrees.
If I were in charge, I would make it mandatory for anyone using such vile rhetoric -- whether in political speeches, video or print ads or on radio talk shows -- to tour Auschwitz, watch all 9 1/2 hours of Claude Lanzmann's epic film Shoah and then spend a minimum of 12 hours at Yad Vashem , the Holocaust History Museum in Jerusalem. To my way of thinking, this is the prescription for disarming and disabusing die historisch gefordert -- the "historically challenged."
Rush: Barack Obama is not Adolf Hitler; he has not and will not kill tens of millions of people regardless of what you say or think.
Governor LePage: The I.R.S. is not the Gestapo; I.R.S. agents do not round up people in the middle of the night and then whisk them away to crematoria. They do make sure we pay taxes . . . that's about it.