Monday, March 10, 2014

Reductio ad Hitlerum

It's odd that in 2014 so much political debate is still about Hitler. Was Napoleon still so prominent in people's minds almost 70 years after his downfall? Nonetheless, I recommend as interesting and generally persuasive this piece "Hitler wasn't a socialist. Stop saying he was," by Tim Stanley at The Telegraph, written in response to "Leftists become incandescent when reminded of the socialist roots of Nazism," by Daniel Hannan. I weighed in on a similar issue a few years ago with my FrumForum piece "Yes, James Von Brunn Is Right Wing." The Nazis/fascists-are-socialists-are-liberals argument is a reaction to, but no smarter than, the conservatives-are-Nazis/fascists argument (and I recall being called a fascist at least once in college for being a libertarian conservative; now that I'm a centrist, I suppose I could be called that from either side). Right and left in politics are cumbersome but not useless terms. I'd apply left to those who think they represent some advance from a benighted past, and right to those who draw more on the past (often an idealized past). Granted, that doesn't readily capture the environmentalist/socialist who exalts preindustrial, precapitalist society, or the libertarian transhumanist who wants to upload his (or, more rarely, her) mind into a computer, but it at least moves us away from the they-started-it insult-fest of which they're-like-Hitler is but one part.

Note: this post initially was titled Reduction ad Hitlerum, for which I blame spell check.

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