TRY GOOGLING “+obama+hitler” and you’ll come up with eight and a half million references. Switch on talk radio and you’re liable to hear twice as many before cocktail time. New York Times columnist David Brooks recently succumbed to the temptation, insinuating certain parallels between the American president and the German dictator.
But it isn’t just Obama who gets compared this way. Playing the Hitler card is quickly becoming America’s pastime. It certainly requires a lot less skill than baseball. Whether it is Saddam Hussein, George W. Bush, Osama bin Laden, Rush Limbaugh, Kim Jung Il or Vladimir Putin – they have all seen their card pulled from the deck the moment they got in someone’s way. And as everyone knows, there’s “only one way” to deal with Hitler. But this is not just a diversion. FOX News commentator Bill O’Reilly famously compared abortionist Dr. George Tiller to Hitler and the Nazis, and we have seen the result.
George Orwell had this game figured out as early as 1946, and probably much earlier than that: “The word Fascism has now no meaning,” he wrote, “except in so far as it signifies ‘something not desirable.’” Back in 1953 neocon philosopher Leo Strauss identified the “reductio ad Hitlerum,” by which any person or argument could be demolished by even the most tenuous association with Hitler. (Example: Hitler liked German shepherd dogs. Joe Blow likes German shepherd dogs. Ergo, Joe Blow is like Hitler. Joe Blow is Hitler.) Today anyone who has ever ventured onto an Internet forum knows all about “Godwin’s Law,” which states that “as an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.” Rants about “econazis” and “feminazis” clog the blogosphere like hair in a sink. While the United States does not have a monopoly on this sort of rhetoric, it’s hard to imagine a country where the H name is thrown around with less basic curiosity about the man and his career. I think it’s time we put the bite back into this name. So who was Hitler really and how useful is he as a political touchstone? In the following I have compiled a list of ten key character traits of the historical Hitler that can be used as points of comparisons with other public figures. So step right up and take the challenge: Can your favorite politician or pundit pass the Hitler test? … (Continued)