Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Commenter Says HR 1388 "Not Nazi"

Yesterday, FreepGawker sent a great comment in. He’s the guy who does the blog “Rosanna Pulido is a Freeper.” Today, "Jonathan" writes an e-mail that starts out nicely, but quickly goes off the deep end. Like his friend FreepGawker, Jonathan disagrees with me, but does not resort to pointless name calling or obscenity. Unlike FreepGawker, however, Jonathan veers off course. Jonathan refers to HR 1388, which has made civil libertarians very concerned. To quote from the Stop HR 1388 Facebook group, “Many, however, are raising concerns that the program, which is intended to include 250,000 ‘volunteers,’ is the beginning of what President Obama called his ‘National Civilian Security Force’ in a speech last year in which he urged creating an organization as big and well-funded as the U.S. military. He has declined since then to elaborate. ... The legislation also refers to ‘uniforms’ that would be worn by the ‘volunteers’ and the ‘need’ for a ‘public service academy, a 4-year institution’ to ‘focus on training’ future ‘public sector leaders.’ The training, apparently, would occur at ‘campuses.’ This is basically a big version of Hilter's Youth.” Jonathan Greenberg is offended by the allusions to the Hitler Youth. His full comment is below. (My response follows his comment.) Mr. Mannis: I really think your arguments against HR1388 would be strengthened if you toned down the totalitarian/fascist/nazi imagery. I can see how aspects of the bills can raise your heckles, but I think it's a far cry from deporting minorities to ghettos to be subsequently processed in extermination camps. Given the vast gulf between this bill, well, the Holocaust, photoshops of Hitler Youth posters blended with Obama's face are simply offensive. You praise FreepGawker for his civil approach to politics (and I helped him with that project), and maintain a commit to a similar approach, acknowledging room for humor as long as its not hateful humor. I'm pretty sure comparing your political opponent to one of the greatest mass murderers in the 20th century (only behind Mao and Stalin) crosses that line. As a Jew whose grandparents came from Poland the Ukraine, I doubt I have to further elaborate on why "tongue in cheek" allusions to Nazism are rather hurtful. I find your repeated attempts to conflate Obama's positions with totalitarianism especially amusing since, asides from your misuse of the word (I studied fascism and other totalitarian modes of government in college), I would be very surprised if you vocally opposed during the Bush years his warrantless wiretapping, war of aggression, suspension of habeus corpus, and torture (you know, the things totalitarian governments actually do). But by all means, keeping displaying your tasteful Hitler photoshops and comparing Americorp to Nazi brutality (my girlfriend works for Americorp; she teaches legal immigrants English. The horror). Yours, Jonathan
PS: Please do not get the intentions of this e-mail wrong. Yours is one of the few conservative blogs I consider worth reading, and I only took the time to send you this because I thought it was constructive and more importantly you strike me as someone open to reason.
--- My Response ---
Jonathan: Thank you for your comment. Again, as with FreepGawker, I appreciate a good and civil volley of words. It will not surprise you that I disagree with a number of the points you made. You started out by saying that you think my “arguments against HR1388 would be strengthened” if I “toned down the totalitarian/fascist/nazi imagery.” Perhaps, but that cannot be proven either way. The bill HR 1388, however, smacks of totalitarianism and state absolutism. As noted in my post "The New Hitler Youth? Stop HR 1388!," the House of Representatives adopted a last-minute amendment that would actually bar participants in the programs from attempting to influence legislation or taking part in various other political activities, including protests or voter-registration drives. Is that not totalitarian? As for the fascist/nazi imagery, keep reading. Your first sentence was on target. However, the rest of your first paragraph veers off course. There, you said that you “can see how aspects of the bills can raise your heckles, but I think it's a far cry from deporting minorities to ghettos to be subsequently processed in extermination camps. Given the vast gulf between this bill, well, the Holocaust, photoshops of Hitler Youth posters blended with Obama's face are simpy offensive.” Really? I mean, really? I must ask you if you ever wrote a similar comment to any of the thousands of liberal bloggers who, over the past nine years, have gleefully portrayed George W. Bush as Hitlerian in art and words. Bush-as-Hitler was completely inaccurate, whereas the similarities of Obama’s proposed youth corps to Hitler’s youth corps are frighteningly real. Why is it, sir, that liberals love to portray others as fascists and Nazis even when it is inaccurate to do so, but they get the heebie-jeebies when it’s done to them? Liberals love to chant the mantra “Fear No Art,” so why is it that they fear so much art? (See "The Left's Shameful Slurring of Monkey Cartoonist.")
You continued, Jonathan, by saying that comparing one’s political opponent “to one of the greatest mass murderers in the 20th century (only behind Mao and Stalin) crosses that line. As a Jew whose grandparents came from Poland the the Ukraine, I doubt I have to further elaborate on why "tongue in cheek" allusions to Nazism are rather hurtful.”
Again, sir, I remind you of the Left’s incessant comparison of Bush to Hitler. But you’ve missed something here. You are not seeing the nuances. Yes, the poster in question alludes to Hitler, but it stops short of saying that Obama is another Hitler. The poster makes the point that the Obama youth corps is (possibly) a new, happy face version of the Hitler Youth. Compare that to the tens of thousand of portrayals of Bush as Hitler, with no nuancing, that clearly paint Bush as a genocidal maniac. We are not portraying Obama as a genocider; what we are saying is that Obama (and some [but not all] Democrat leaders), are embracing policies and programs that totalitarian in nature. Totalitarian, as I've already said, does not require genocide or mass murder to simply be totalitarianism. Your imagination gets the better of you when you say the poster compares Obama to “one of the greatest mass murderers in the 20th century.” The poster is quite specific in its allusion to the Hitler Youth. It refers the program, the policy, the bill. It does not say that Obama is Hitler. Unlike many Bush-Hitler liberal “art,” the poster in question does not suggest that Obama is a murderer. You’re a Jew, Mr. Greenberg? So was my father and his entire side of my family. My grandparents, too, came from Ukraine to escape the czar’s persecutions. Many of my relatives, left behind, were subsequently destroyed by Hitler’s machinations. Please do not lecture me on why allusions to Nazism are “rather hateful.” They certainly can be, as in the Bush-Hitler examples. But they can also be instructive. After all, Mr. Greenberg, I’m guessing that you would agree that we should “never forget.” Do you take that to heart? Do we not have a duty to point out a program, proposed by a sitting president, that has frightening similarities to a program favored by Hitler? You call the poster’s allusions to national socialism (Nazism) "tongue in cheek." You’re wrong. They’re intended seriously. You seem unaware of the fact that totalitarianism does not require genocide or mass murder to simply be totalitarianism. You say you doubt that you have to further elaborate on why allusions to Nazism are rather hurtful. No, you really don’t. When I was in college, I and others formed a group that stopped the student government from giving thousands of dollars to the legal defense fund of subsequently convicted bomber/murderer. That money would have been illegally taken from student health funds. We were successful, but in the two-week long struggle, liberals spat on us and called “Nazis” and “fascists” verbally and in the liberal student newspaper. Has that happened to you, Jonathan? Were we Nazis because we tried to prevent theft? Were we fascists because we stopped the illegal plundering of student health money? Hurtful? I can tell you personally, Jonathan, that it is. When you "studied fascism," Were you only reading the textbooks that your Marxist professor assigned to you, or did you face down real fascists disguised as liberals, as I did? You say that you find my “repeated attempts to conflate Obama's positions with totalitarianism especially amusing since, asides [sic] from your misuse of the word.” “Nazi,” by the way, is capitalized because it’s a proper name, such as Republican or Democrat. You must have noticed that while studying fascism, no? You say you studied fascism and other totalitarian modes of government in college, yet you seem incapable of recognizing it when you see it.
You’re wrong, too, in assuming that I have not “vocally” opposed “warrantless wiretapping, war of aggression, suspension of habeus [sic] corpus, and torture (you know, the things totalitarian governments actually do).” I have always been against illegal wiretapping. I am against “war of aggression” but support a war of self defense. I kind of like habeas corpus and have never spoken against it, although I think President Lincoln was correct to suspend it given the circumstances of the time. Torture is nasty business, yes, but have you been speaking out against Chinese torture of prisoners or against the brutal torture of millions of young Muslim girls who face genital mutilation? Have you? You make some very large assumptions, Jonathan. Your comment goes of the road in your last paragraph: “But by all means, keeping displaying your [dis]tasteful Hitler photoshops and comparing Americorp to Nazi brutality (my girlfriend works for Americorp; she teaches legal immigrants English. The horror).” Nobody has compared Americorp to Nazi brutality. (Where did that come from?) Those of us who are worried about the National Civilian Security Force are concerned about political indoctrination, state absolutism, and the bad things that could result from those. Nobody has suggested that the National Civilian Security Force would make use of brutality, although only a fool would not see the potential for such abuse. Which part of “Security Force” makes you feel comfortable? Perhaps you think the “security force” will only teach English to legal immigrants. Maybe you think that such a “security force” would mow people’s lawns and plant petunias for peace between ESL classes. As a Jew who wants to understand the state sponsored brutality in his family’s history, especially as one who has studied fascism, you should be more aware of the current and very real trends toward totalitarianism.
From Tim Geithner's request to be able to seize non-bank entities in pre-emptive fascist fashion, to Nancy Pelosi's desire to muzzle radio talk show hosts, to Obama's desire for a vast civilian "security force," the sound of jackboots marching toward us grows loudly by the week.
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