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May 5, 2014

Not Hitler Again!

Listed in: NJDC News, Press Releases

The funniest line in President Obama’s speech to the White House Correspondents Association dinner was also the truest: “As a general rule, things don’t end well if the sentence starts, ‘Let me tell you something I know about the Negro,’  You really don’t need to hear the rest of it.”

The uproarious laughter that followed that remark was recognition that the ignorance and bigotry revealed by Cliven Bowen was unmistakable.  And while I can’t lay claim to similarly trenchant lampoon of “Nazi” language, I think it is fair to say that anyone who diminishes the horror of the Holocaust by using it as a political analogy deserves the same disrespect.

The most recent appropriation of genocide for political gain was by Tennessee State Sen. Stacey Campfield who compared enrollees through to Jews registered for “train rides” by the Germans in the 1940s.  Sen. Campfield has a talent for the inappropriate remark, but with this entry he joined a long list American politicians who try to play the “Hitler card.”

Here’s the truth about using the Third Reich as your third-party validator: it ends serious consideration of your message by anyone who isn’t your BFF.  Once Goebbels or Eichmann or Hitler himself is part of your messaging, it is no longer about the message, it is all about the Nazis.  Once you claim it is 1939 all over again, the debate becomes why it isn’t 1938 or 1940.  Once you draw that toothbrush mustache on your opponent, you insult not only the victims and the resistance, but the marginal characters who consider it an insult to the Fuehrer himself.

So unless you are Mel Brooks or Quentin Tarantino, reconsider any attempt to make use of Nazi imagery.  It doesn’t make your statement seem ominous or insightful. Instead, we really don’t need to hear the rest of it.