Friday, August 14, 2009

The Moral Context Of Being Called A Nazi

Michael Gerson puts the Nazi name calling in the appropriate moral context. He writes:
"This rhetorical strategy is intended to convey intensity of conviction, as in, 'I am very, very, very serious, you Nazi jerk" Actually, it is a lazy shortcut to secure an emotional response. Worse than that, it is an argument that puts an end to all argument. What discourse is possible with the spawn of Hitler? And when someone is unjustly accused of Nazi tactics or sympathies, what response can we expect other than Buckley's outrage? Let the head knocking begin."
This type of name calling does not serve well the need to have dialogue and debate on important issues but is does cause the diminishing of our sensitivity to the horrors of the Nazi experience in Germany, somehow legitimatizing it, and it falsely portrays our present politics as being the choice between good and evil instead of valid, but opposing viewpoints of what is best.

Gerson writes about the Buckley-Vidal interaction:
"During live television coverage of the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago, novelist Gore Vidal famously called William F. Buckley a 'crypto-Nazi.' To which Buckley famously replied (in addition to other choice words), 'Stop calling me a crypto-Nazi, or I'll sock you in the goddamn face and you'll stay plastered.'

Buckley later apologized. He also explained: 'Can such men understand the causes of anger in others? Understand the special reverence we need to feel for that which is hateful? I do not believe that anyone thought me a Nazi because Vidal called me one, but I do believe that everyone who heard him call me one without a sense of shock, without experiencing anger, thinks more tolerantly about Nazism than once he did, than even now he should.'"

This name calling is nothing new but as Buckley stated the further in time we get from 1930s and 1940s Germany, the more civilized sounding Nazi name calling becomes. That is a horror that we should stop. Sphere: Related Content

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