Friday, June 17, 2005

Using Hitler For Rhetoric

Wanted to send a kudos out to Jon Stewart for his attack on people using Hitler to demonize their opponents, no matter how trivial the issue. It reminds me of the excellent case Matt from What Is The War made recently about how bad it was for Amnesty International to compare GITMO to the Soviet gulags. It cheapens the experiences of those who actually had to go to the gulags, raises the level of rhetoric in US political discussions to unnecessary extremes, and makes it harder to use that kind of comparison effectively when it is needed. The same goes for comparing everything to what the Nazis did or directly to the Holocaust. This kind of language does not help anyone. When Republicans said that letting Terry Schiavo die was like what the Nazis would do, we rejected that argument out of hand because we knew the comparison was ridiculous. Yet progressives often use the same language, which the average Republican voter also rejects out of hand because they know the comparison is ridiculous.

I keep pushing this point in blog posts and I'm sure that I will again. But we need to be precise in our language. We need to call things what they are. We don't need to demonize our enemies, we need to describe their perfidious actions as precisely as possible. Overstating things and making cheap and overheated comparisons only hurts us.