By Any Other Name, Nazis

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.

52 thoughts on “By Any Other Name, Nazis

  1. Jake

    This past weekend, men marched on the streets of an American city carrying torches, clubs, shields, and even rifles. They cried and sang vile speech denouncing gays, blacks, and Jews.

    They assaulted people with opposing views. One among their ranks murdered an innocent counter-protester and injured dozens of others while trying to kill them.

    They carried Nazi flags. They cried Nazi slogans.

    Label them however you want. I’ll be studying the history of Germany after the Treaty of Versailles. Intellectual honesty demands we recognize that every movement has a beginning. Every day we get to decide what warrants our attention and how we will react to it.

    If your initial and only response is to diminish the emotional impact and/or symbolism of what we all witnessed this past weekend, I want you to know, I am disappointed in you.

    1. SHG Post author

      Live long enough and you will see plenty of transient hysteria. This isn’t the first time the sky is falling. It won’t be the last. And I’m sure I will disappoint you again. That’s the duty of old white men, to diminish the emotional impact of the worst thing ever for the young and deeply passionate, with a harsh dose of reality.

      1. Richard Weaver

        “Nobody truly believes they can possibly succeed in their efforts”….

        Nobody truly believed Trump could possibly succeed in his effort to become President.

        1. SHG Post author

          Putting aside whether that’s accurate (though I certainly didn’t), this is a non sequitur. Sure, things that nobody believes possible occasionally happen. Should the situation change such that it becomes remotely possible in this instance, then we can revisit it. We’re nowhere near that point yet.

        2. Rick Horowitz

          More to the point, no one initially believed the Nazis could succeed.

          It’s why, for a time—a quite hideous time—they did. And it’s why my family, among so many others, paid the price.

          I am, for the moment, in agreement with Scott.

          But I also know that neither the Nazis, nor Hitler, sprang fully-formed from the brow of Germany.

          1. SHG Post author

            Should the situation change to one where there is any possibility that this handful of nuts has the capacity to capture the political will of a people, then it will be time to go to war. Are you ready to be a neo-Nazi? Do you hear your friends and neighbors, the guy who owns the corner store and the taxi driver, suddenly saying, “you know, I want to be a neo-Nazi too”? Or do you hear every single quasi-normal sane person condemning these scum?

            1. Rick Horowitz

              Not all of us live in New York. I see far too many people where I live complaining about being overrun by people of color (only that’s not what they call them).

              I also hear too many people who I would normally think of as sane sympathizing.

              Like I said, for now, I agree with you, but I recognize that “it can’t happen here” is a good way to get caught up unaware.

            2. SHG Post author

              There’s a significant gap between the demands of progressives that white men STFU in favor of the most victim-y-victim, an untenable demand, and white nationalism. But you are right that we should always be vigilant that the stupid or insane don’t jump the shark between the two.

    2. Joseph

      I would be the last person to discourage anyone from a thorough study of history, but it’s also my belief that if you made a thorough study of the fall of the Weimar Republic that you would find that we are a long, long way from 1933. Many forces came together at that time to catapult the Nazis to power. Fringe racist thugs alone do not make a relevant political movement.

      Exceedingly few people approve of Friday’s murder. The people who do approve are unhinged, but not much is likely to change their minds, and they cannot legally be muzzled. Murder is murder. Until the day we see the average man on the street applaud political violence – something to which the left has not always been a stranger – the rule of law will continue to operate in America, which is a better defense against paramilitarism than any amount of counter-protesting.

      1. SHG Post author

        Whether “the rule of law will continue to operate” is a far bigger question than these mutts. If this was the apocolypse, then law goes out the window for survival. Inter arma enim silent legēs. But we need to be absolutely certain that we are at war before wreaking havoc.

    3. B. McLeod

      These guys aren’t dangerous, as they are very small in numbers, and they make no effort to be anything but repugnant to mainstream citizens. To the extent this country is in danger of slipping into a totalitarian regime, it isn’t these guys but the leftists you agree with whom you need to worry about. They are the people who have a lock on Hollywood and the mainstream media. They are the people who have hijacked federal agencies to set up kangaroo “rape” courts on college campuses. They are the people who have openly attacked the First Amendment and would dictate the pronoun usage and thoughts of all Americans. Worry about the people who have actually made substantial progress eroding basic freedoms, because they know how to seem innocuous until it is too late.

  2. Jack

    If only 50 years ago, Mel Brooks had aptly depicted how these fools looked and how any rational human being viewed them:

  3. Andy

    There seems to be millions of people who badly want to believe that all their political opponents are [insert evil here]. Wish in one palm and shit in the other. Which is fuller?

    1. SHG Post author

      I’m told that 63 million people who voted for Trump are Nazis. Every one of them. And I am ridiculous for thinking that might not be the case.

      1. Nick Lidakis

        So what you’re really saying is that you had the lasagna, our pilot and most of the passengers had the fish, but if we keep a level head we might land just fine?

      2. B. McLeod

        Which, to the Antifa and their ilk, means every one of those 63 million people is a legitimate target for violence.

        1. SHG Post author

          Well, they are all deplorable. Not just a lot of ordinary, nice, regular people who couldn’t vote for Hillary, but deplorable.

  4. Dan

    “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.”

    Why not communist? The communists have murdered multiples more of their own people over the last century than the Nazis.

    1. paleo

      “The communists have murdered multiples more of their own people over the last century than the Nazis.”

      Well, the communists had the advantages of time and available population to kill. The Nazis only had, what, 12 or 13 years and limited territory. The communists have had the better part of a century and the populations of China and the Soviet Union from which to choose victims.

      My sense is that if you calculated killing rate/year and further adjusted it for population that the Nazis would win. I’m not going to take the time to figure it out though.

        1. paleo

          Nazis were Hitler and Communists were Che. Maybe if Hitler had worn his hair longer and added a beret…I don’t know.

          There’s probably a political conclusion in there somewhere but I don’t think I want any part of it.

      1. B. McLeod

        Holodomor. I found out this week most people never heard of it. Ten million Ukrainians in two years, and nobody even remembers.

        1. Neil

          The political ideologies of the World War 2 era, Nazism, Fascism or Communism are not the most dangerous legacies of that war. It’s Unconditional Surrender, and the mindset behind the Faustian pacts made by the Allies to bring the war to a close. Ending the war largely defanged those ideologies as their full implications became clear, but has left us with Unconditional Surrender itself, to take their evil place.

          My family, originating in the Ukraine, was divided by the War, with some making it to the Americas and others in Siberia after the war. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, we restored long lost relationships and learned of the many difficult trials faced. In one case, a bilingual individual was pressed into both the German and then later the Soviet armies as he tried to escape the war. Surviving the War did not mean surviving the conflict, and he eventually killed himself as post war circumstances could not tolerate prewar relationships.

          I had the opportunity to visit the House of Terror Museum in Budapest, with some of my Soviet relatives, and a young Polish woman. By proportion of exhibits, the Terror museum is dominated by the post war Soviet occupation of Hungary. A smaller amount of attention is paid to the period when a government installed by the Nazis continued Hungarian participation in the war. This was the Nazi approach to the problem of surrender, ensuring that none of their allies would leave the conflict without suffering a full measure of destruction. The young Polish woman, who’s Jewish grandfather had joined the Soviet Army in the liberation of Europe was quite upset by the emphasis the museum placed on the horrors of the Soviet occupation era. She was consumed by the mismeasurement of evil, and the necessity of uncompromising victory over the Nazis. To her mind, even the Soviet practice of machine gunning their fleeing conscripts was a necessary price to pay in defeating the greater evil.

          I must disagree. Unconditional Surrender has no place in settling conflicts. History helps us sympathize with why our ancestors felt compelled to make the tragic choices they had to endure, but also shows us the alternatives that they might have pursued.

          Those who sling the Nazi epithet pay no heed to the compromises they are making to win their cause. They have locked themselves into an unimaginative approach to conflict, where alternatives quickly dwindle. Someday, they may find themselves in an untenable middle, with no route to compromise, but the unconditional one. Nations and individuals alike, will pay a terrible price when that comes to pass.

  5. Ken Mackenzie

    What’s your definition of a Nazi? If it waves a swastika, salutes with a straight arm, admires Adolf Hitler and advocates the supremacy of the Aryans, it certainly shares a lot of characteristics with a Nazi. Is it the lack of real power? Can a pimple not also be a Nazi, if he tries really hard?

      1. Ken Mackenzie

        That’s true for Spiderman, but it doesn’t take superpowers to be a Nazi. The line between cosplay and Kristallnacht is just the decision to put rhetoric into action.

          1. Ken Mackenzie

            That’s true too. It took more than action to bring Nazis into power. Before they were in power, when it was all beer hall meetings and smashing Jewish shopfronts, they were still Nazis.

            1. SHG Post author

              There have always been crazies. The big different at the moment is they own your attention and you sold it cheap.

  6. Kentucky Packrat

    The problem with “here a Nazi”, “there a Nazi”, “everywhere a Nazi”, you lose track of the real dangers that let the Nazis take power in Germany in the first place.

    People want to forget WHY the Nazis were placed in power: the elite AND the people of Germany were so afraid of the Communists that they were willing to tolerate the National Socialists instead. Even with how scary the Brown Shirts were, and how communist-light Hitler’s Socialism was, the Antifas, the Anarchists, and the Communists scared the Germans more.

    There’s a strong rumor that there’s more FBI informants in the KKK and other radical white supremacist groups than actual members. I suspect that the Antifas will be about the same within the next 3 years.

    The real danger of this is legitimization: if we legitimize Antifa and we legitimize the white supremacists, then there will be a Franco on the left or a Pinochet on the right who will take advantage of the danger (whether real or fake) to take power.

  7. ppnl

    I agree that our nazies wannabes are a sad and pathetic lot but then I think the same is true of the original nazies. The success of the nazies was not due to some special evil genius of their leader or his followers. It was a weakness in the society that allowed a phase change into something nasty.

    The thing about phase changes is they happen very suddenly. So good luck to us all.

      1. ppnl

        Yeah, probably not. The point is that being sad and pathetic is one of the things our nazies wannabes have in common with the real nazies. There was no special evil there. There was just a society losing cohesiveness. And the thing is the rest of the world was more responsible for that than the dumbasses.

  8. Jim Ryan

    A lot of discourse today is designed to make it easy for non-thinkers.
    Like Ron Popeil and the “Set it and Forget it” mantra, labeling takes the place of thinking.
    Oh, he’s a “{insert label}”, “Set it and Forget it”.
    I can now move on to my next labeling.

          1. Rojas

            I’m not too concerned about his righteousness.
            To the extent that overselling the threat of the nobodies is profitable, Dees has mastered the art.

  9. John Maran II

    Before some ass hat punched Richard Spencer in the face, I didn’t even know his name. He was a nobody to me; he didn’t even register on my radar. But then this pimple started popping up everywhere, with people asking the question “Is it ok to punch Nazi’s in the face?” Sensible people were put into a position where they felt they had to defend a disgusting person. Richard Spencer idea’s were legitimatized as something worthy of being censored, his ilk were given something to defend against. The people who cheer on this political violence claim they want the “Nazis” to be afraid to speak their ideas, but with this new found opposition the pimples seem to have grown in number or at least to have been emboldened. Whilst the rally was only 300 – 500 people in number, it has been described as the largest fascist rally in recent history. If things continue as they have, I suspect the next one will be even bigger.

    1. SHG Post author

      We’ve made Spencer matter when he didn’t. We’ve made white nationalists matter when they don’t. Even assuming that there are, in a nation of over 300 million people, 10,000 who are so insane and susceptible to manipulation that they would seize upon this cause, would that number own a nation, cause the minds of 300 million to suddenly wake up and say, “hey, I want to be a white nationalist too”?

      If you believe Spenser has the capacity to capture the hearts and minds of millions of Americans, that the situation in America today is remotely similar to that of Weimar Republic, then it’s time to load your gun. I do not. There is nothing to suggest that there is any possibility that America will fall under his spell or be captured by their ideology. That we’ve allowed this tiny band of crazies to capture our attention at all is a disgrace.

      1. B. McLeod

        Ah. Martyrs for a cause. Last week, the people now lauding a deceased, plump paralegal as a national hero would not have spoken to her on the street. But, let someone become a victim of violence, and then, who they are or were is irrelevant.

        1. SHG Post author

          There is no reason to speak ill of the dead. Dying doesn’t necessarily make anyone a hero, but it’s extremely poor form to diminish the person or the tragedy of any needless death.

          1. B. McLeod

            Well, I’m not speaking ill, merely pointing out how people who will not be even a footnote in history, who would never otherwise have been thought consequential at all, are transformed by a punch or a speeding car to a symbolic status. It isn’t about the person at all.

            1. SHG Post author

              Then neither her physical appearance or her job are relevant or appropriate for mention, especially when derogatory.

      2. John Maran II

        I’m not one of these people that think that white supremacism needs to be stamped out, that one KKKer is too many. This is the USA. We’re allowed to have crazy, stupid, ugly ideas, and we are even allowed to assemble and rant about those crazy, stupid, ugly ideas. It was amusing watching 30 guys hold their “rally” in their goofy wizard robes as they effetely try to be relevant. The largest white supremacist in recent history amounting to a little over 300 people could also have been funny. I am ok with these people having their ideas, not because I find it funny to laugh at their antics, but because they are ultimately harmless, less dangerous than lightning strikes, and an attempt at opposing them would just be me trying to quash out wrong-think.

        A group of 10,000 white supremacists would not be quite so funny or harmless, or so easy to ignore for that matter. I’m not talking about a Weimar Republic situation. I’m talking about a group of 10,000 crazies in the streets using tactics its opposition has already deemed acceptable. Their opposition keep taking actions that make the pimples seem legitimate when they are not, and they are making themselves into a very appealing enemy, all resulting in an increase of the pimples numbers. And a bolstering of support for the pimples will of course legitimize their oppositions actions, bolstering their support as well. An escalation of violence on one side, be it intentional or not, will likely result in an escalation on the other as well.

        A blues musician by the name of Daryl Davis seems to have a way to make quite a few less KKKers, simply by talking to them. By showing that he is good, likeable guy firsthand, he has pierced through their ignorance and convinced them to hang up their robes. But I suppose that’s not quite as exciting as punching a Nazi. This shit is frustrating.

        1. SHG Post author

          One of the unfortunate realizations I’ve had being online is that there are far more crazies out there than anyone realizes. Not that they would all be white nationalists, but still crazy. That said, they were always crazy, and we survived.

        2. B. McLeod

          The people who most object are not interested in dialogue with the Nazis. If you saw the pictures online today from the memorial service for the woman who was killed, a plethora of helmeted attendees came with their bats, shields and guns. Just to be certain they could spread more “love” if any objectionable persons showed their faces. If the decedent believed in peace and fairness as her acquaintances have asserted, these goons apparently didn’t see the need to recognize those values at her memorial.

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