It was “literally Hitler” six months ago, but it was readily understood to be hyperbolic hysteria by anyone with a brain. So it was ridiculed, because we know it wasn’t “literally Hitler.” At least, I thought we did. I may have been too enfeebled to see clearly.
In a post about why the First Amendment still lives as we’ve reached the end of our hypotheticals of doom, Ken White did something that shocked me.
The Nazis, whether armed with rifles or clownishly clad in khakis, stand against our values — they stand for the proposition that some of us are less American than others by birth, and that America must be “preserved” to the tastes of a particular narrow ethnic prejudice. Nazis attacking and threatening our fellow Americans threaten not just their immediate targets but the foundations of everything we’ve built. Decent Americans should speak, organize, and lead against them. This is the end of another classic hypothetical — what would you do if America’s most shameful ancient wrongs were resurgent? What would you do if the Nazis started marching again?
Ken called the pimples who soiled the earth of Charlottesville the final word: Nazis. I refuse to do so. I reject using this word to characterize them. Much as I respect Ken, I cannot accept this characterization.
First, they are not Nazis. They are poseurs, white supremacists and all manner of despicable people. But not Nazis. Maybe neo-Nazis. Maybe Nazi -wannabes, but not Nazis. To call them Nazis is to legitimize them as meaningful, significant, a real threat to our nation and its people. They are not. They are nobodies. They are sad, pathetic and ignorant. They are not Nazis.
Second, if they were Nazis, given what we know about Nazis, then the only response would be to pull out guns and kill them where they stand, since we know that is what they will ultimately do to others. To defend those the Nazis will destroy, they must be destroyed first.
But nobody pulled out a gun and killed them where they stand, not because they don’t hate the Nazis enough, but because they know these aren’t Nazis. They know this nation may have sharp political divisions, but outside of a tiny group of nutjobs, despise what these pimpleboys represent. Nobody truly believes they can possibly succeed in their efforts, and nobody believes they pose the threat that Nazis pose, because nobody shot them dead. Because they are not Nazis.
Third, if the word Nazis can be invoked here, now, then we have maxed out the language. There is no name more evil, more repugnant. Will there be no one else, no other group, no other cause, as, if not more, evil? Is this it? Are these pimpleboys the ones that require us to use our final linguistic bullet? Once spent, we are rhetorically unarmed. Are they worth having no word left in our lexicon for the worst evil possible?
Mike Godwin, the creator of Godwin’s Law, seemed at first to endorse its violation in this instance. But even he saw the light. Compare these pimples if you must, if you can’t control your impulse and are willing to lose perspective, but I refuse to join you. These are worthless poseurs. These are not Nazis. Don’t call them Nazis.