Our Hitler, Our Nazis

From Political Orphans:  https://www.politicalorphans.com/our-hitler-our-nazis/

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Back in the earliest days of the Internet, Mike Godwin made a pithy observation. “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.” In other words, if an argument lasts long enough someone will eventually make a reference to Hitler. It came to be known as Godwin’s Law.

This tendency to use Nazi references as a terminal point in an argument was first observed by Leo Strauss back in 1953. He called it reductio ad Hitlerum. Anything with the most tendentious connection to the Nazis was tainted by contact, without regard to merit. If Hitler used a toothbrush, then dental hygiene must be suspect. This created an almost irresistible urge in a debate setting to compare an opponent to Hitler. Nazi comparisons were so overused that they became a joke.

Times have changed and no one’s laughing anymore. In August 2017, Mike Godwin, the father of Godwin’s Law, sent this Tweet:

Mike Godwin

 @sfmnemonic
By all means, compare these shitheads to Nazis. Again and again. I’m with you.

Comparisons between present-day politics and the fascism of the mid-20th century are no longer abstract or esoteric. Liberal democracies are facing an existential threat from a new generation of authoritarians borrowing old, discredited ideas. But is it accurate to characterize that threat as “fascist,” and if so, why does it matter? Is Trump our Hitler and are his followers our Nazis, and what response would that conclusion require?

Reaching a sincere and persuasive answer to this question has to start with a set of standards. First we must establish a definition for fascism, of which Nazism is merely our most familiar manifestation, then compare it to our regime. To do so we have to perform some translation across time and cultures. As Robert Paxton, one of our premier modern scholars of fascism explained, new waves of fascists don’t just “dust off their swastikas.” The movement evolves to adapt to changing circumstances. Finally, we must ask the most harrowing question of all, what do the results of this comparison mean for us?

What is Fascism?

According to historian Robert Paxton, “Fascism may be defined as a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation, or victim-hood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy, and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion.”

A search for fascist exemplars usually starts with Mussolini or Hitler, but the earliest roots of the movement are found in the US, starting in the Reconstruction Era South and continuing with our later anti-immigrant hysterias. The Nazis borrowed their race laws almost word for word from Jim Crow Laws in the Southern states. In Mein Kampf, Hitler praised America’s race-based immigration exclusions that barred entry to “inferior” races:

Continue reading at:  https://www.politicalorphans.com/our-hitler-our-nazis/

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