Sunday, January 29, 2006

Are the Republicans really Nazis?

I was recently having an on-line debate with a friend over whether or not I should be as concerned as I am over this Alito thing.

I mentioned my now familiar thread on similarities between the Bush exploitation of 9-11 and Hitler's exploitation of the Reichstag fire to move rapidly from democracy to an authoritarian state. My friend dismissed my argument as hyperbolic and told me that I had attained the perfection of Godwin's Law (that the first person to make a comparison to the Nazis in order to win an argument automatically loses it) -- and since I'd made it in my opening salvo, I'd pre-empted my own argument before any actual arguing began, thus the "perfection" of the law.

You will hear conservatives frequently cite this, along with a huffing rebuke of whomever has used the comparison--Senator Byrd, for example--as being hysterical and trying to exploit the Nazis for their own nefarious political agenda. Never mind that people like Rush Limbaugh have been comparing Democrats and feminists to Nazis for years without the slightest pang of concience over it.

Unfortunately, Godwin's law provides an excellent cloak of protection to anyone who is actually advancing an ideology similar to the Nazis. They've been told that they can just stop listening as soon as they hear that buzz word, and that they can automatically "win" an argument they have not actually engaged in.

For me, anyone who agrees about history teaching lessons that ought not to be forgotten and who doesn't want the abuses of the past to return would do themselves a favor to examine the Wiemar period and how power was consolidated from a democratic republic into the hands of an increasingly powerful central authority.

While it's true that facile references to the Nazis always fly a little too glibly from the lips of liberals, it is also true that many facets of Dubyisti tactics since 9/11 are substantively reminiscent of the Nazi dismantling of Weimar democracy.

Case in point: I feel the Reichstag Fire Decree -- issued on the German equivalent of 9/12 -- genuinely parallels the programmatic intrusions the Bush Administration has dishonestly used 9/11 to impose or attempt to impose on the US Constitution:


Order of the Reich President for the Protection of People and State

On the basis of Article 48 paragraph 2 of the Constitution of the German Reich, the following is ordered in defense against Communist state-endangering acts of violence:

ยง 1. Articles 114, 115, 117, 118, 123, 124 and 153 of the Constitution of the German Empire are suspended until further notice. It is therefore permissible to restrict the rights of personal freedom [i.e., habeas corpus], freedom of opinion, including the freedom of the press, the freedom to organize and assemble, the privacy of postal, telegraphic and telephonic communications, and warrants for house searches, orders for confiscations as well as restrictions on property, are also permissible beyond the legal limits otherwise prescribed.


Does this mean that I think Bush, Cheney, et al actually are Nazis? No.

Does it mean I think they have certain important and dangerous qualities in common with the Nazis? Yes.

I strongly recommend that anyone who's interested in looking more closely at those similarities read Defying Hitler: A Memoir, by Sebastian Haffner.

Haffner, a prominent German historian and journalist during the latter half of the Twentieth Century, wrote the memoir in 1939, after fleeing Germany for England; but it wasn't published until the unfinished manuscript was discovered by Haffner's son after his death. His story of a largely apolitical young attorney watching as his country is led in small steps from democracy to fascism in the months following 9/11, and the familiarity of Haffner's descriptions to observations being made about our current situation is chilling.

Further Reading:

Thanks to my good friend JT for his input on this. Together, we've often comprised a whole brain.


Blogger R said...

People forget they were evil in many ways. Not just in reguards to the holocost. Although that one IS a topper.

9:11 AM  

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