Town Hall Nazi-Talk Trivializes Holocaust

By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 14, 2009 7:50 AM CDT
Cameron Peterson carries a poster showing an altered photo of President Barack Obama at a health care town hall meeting in Alhambra, Calif., Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2009.    (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
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(Newser) – Comparing your nemesis to a Nazi has been a "staple of American T-shirt and bumper-sticker political culture," writes Michael Gerson in the Washington Post, and such Nazi-talk has becoming a recurring element of the health care protests. "Anyone with a black felt pen and the ability to draw a Hitler moustache on a poster" can invoke the 20th century's most awful regime, instantly shutting down argument. But Nazism is not a symbol for whatever you don't like; it's a historical movement whose importance we risk forgetting.

Strident voices from Michael Moore to Rush Limbaugh trot out Nazi analogies, but so do mainstream politicians—in recent days Republican senator Jim DeMint said Obama's America is little different from 1930s Germany. This rhetoric isn't just a "lazy shortcut"; it's a disservice to history. "Nazism is not a useful symbol for everything that makes us angry, from Iraq to abortion." For Gerson, we risk shrinking the horrors of the Third Reich "and robbing them of their power to shock and teach." (Read more Nazi stories.)