Archive for September 8th, 2009

September 8, 2009

Is Obama Hitler? A historical fact check on “black Nazis”

With the health care debate and the metastazation of the “Obama is Hitler” meme reaching a crescendo, I decided to repost my August 10 article on the fate of Africans and biracial people in the Third Reich. While I obviously don’t expect a mere fact check like this to influence the discourse, if just one or two people on this planet would start to feel even a little bit ashamed about the self-serving nonsense they’ve been dishing up over the past several months then I’ll feel like I’ve done my good deed for the year.

IN A RECENT ESSAY, Salon editor Joan Walsh asks in dismay whether “our first black president [is] a ‘Nazi’?” After being exposed to the increasingly frantic political rhetoric enveloping President Obama’s health care reform proposals, one is tempted to believe that he is. None other than Rush Limbaugh has pointed out that “Adolf Hitler, like Barack Obama, also ruled by dictate,” taking care to remind us that Obama has adopted a health care reform logo closely modeled on the Nazi Party emblem.

Well, I guess that about clinches it – for many of us, at least. Now I have already presented my own reasons why Obama isn’t Hitler elsewhere, and I’ll leave the comparisons between the President’s actual policies and those of the National Socialist dictatorship to the subtle minds that congregate on talk radio. What interests me is the term “black Nazi” itself. It sounds impressive enough, but just what does it mean? Yes, I know – in itself it means nothing at all. As George Orwell once wrote, “The word Fascism has now no meaning, except in so far as it signifies ‘something not desirable.’” Or perhaps Lewis Carrol’s Humpty-Dumpty had a better grasp of today’s politics: “‘When I use a word,'” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean neither more nor less.'” But just for fun, let us imagine for a moment that words actually do have some sort of verifiable meaning, and that terms taken from history have… well, a history of their own. So what attitude did actual members of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party – the fabled “Nazis” of American political punditry – display towards people of African origin? And what are the chances that a man like Barack Obama – the biracial offspring of a black Kenyan man and a white American woman – would feel any affinity for the NSDAP and its doctrines?…