Image by Peter Lomas
In the wake of the modern volatile political landscape, everyone and their dog seems to be obsessed with labeling their political rivals as “Nazis” or “white supremacists.” While hyperbolic, there is a reason for calling anyone you dislike a Nazi, but this only serves to empower the very neo-Nazis that don’t need any power.
Adolf Hitler is understandably the most evil human being of all time. Before Hitler, nobody had reached the same level of pure, unadulterated evil. Sure, you had Genghis Khan, Oliver Cromwell, Napoleon Bonaparte, but no-one on the same level as Adolf Hitler. After the atrocities committed by Hitler and the Nazi Party were revealed after World War II, Hitler became the ultimate bad guy. This makes sense: the actions of the Nazi Party were so reprehensible and horrific, the English language doesn’t even begin to describe it. Referring to a politician you dislike as “literally Hitler” or “just like the Nazis” is by no means a new thing. It’s been happening since 1945, and it’ll keep happening until another politician appears who is worse than Hitler.
Enter Donald Trump. With Trump’s Presidential win in November last year, the mass media has been obvious in their reporting that they believe Donald Trump is the new Adolf Hitler, and that the Republican Party is well on their way to becoming the new Nazi Party. Even before he became President, HuffPost published an article called Countdown to Kristallnacht, in which author Akbar Ahmed claims Trump’s “Islamophobia” is exactly the same as Hitler’s anti-Semitism. For anyone unfamiliar, Kristallnacht was the catalyst for the Holocaust. A young Jewish man assassinated a German diplomat, and Hitler and the Nazis used this as a pretext for Kristallnacht, a violent pogrom (massacre) against Jews and Jewish buildings on 9 November 1938. Ahmed states he is waiting for Trump’s Kristallnacht—basically, he believes Donald Trump wishes to murder Muslims just as Hitler murdered the Jews.
This is absurd. There is no way Donald Trump is anything like Adolf Hitler. He is not a Nazi. In modern America, it is almost impossible to have the same level of power the Nazis had in Germany in the nineteen-thirties and forties. Nobody in their right mind would support a Nazi, but that doesn’t stop political ideologues from believing Nazism is rampant in America. It doesn’t help that language in the modern political landscape is constantly evolving, and at this current point in time, anyone who is vaguely Republican or conservative is labeled a Nazi or Nazi sympathizer.
We must stop with this absurdity. Calling any old Republican who has slightly backwards views on abortion, guns and immigration a Nazi or white supremacist insults those who were actually affected by the actual Nazis. You’re upset the Republicans are trying to limit the powers of Planned Parenthood? That’s understandable. However, they are not Nazis or white supremacists for doing this. Calling any old Republican or conservative a Nazi for holding conservative viewpoints is a massive insult to the Jews, Polish, LGBT+, Romani and others who were tortured, humiliated and murdered by the Nazis. You are normalizing the word “Nazi”. You are trivializing what happened to Holocaust survivors.
There are actual Nazis in the United States: they are called neo-Nazis and they do not make up a significant portion of the population. White supremacists such as the KKK and those like Richard Spencer are not the same as neo-Nazis, and mixing up the terms “white supremacist” and “Nazi” only gives power to these lunatics.
When even those who are not on the Right are labeled Nazis, it is a concerning time for politics in the United States. Members of Antifa believe they have the right to punch anyone they label as a Nazi, which is concerning not because we shouldn’t punch Nazis, but because the definition of Nazi seems to have become so loose that Antifa will punch anyone they deem to be a Nazi. Men who have the same haircut as Richard Spencer have been targeted by Bash the Fash types, even if these men have political views that align closer to communism than fascism.
If we want to stop white supremacy in the United States, we must stop calling our political rivals “white supremacists” and “Nazis”. When there are actual white supremacists—as evidence by the Charlottesville riots—we are giving these people more power. The Independent said 22 million Americans support neo-Nazis, new poll indicates, but in said article, admit this statistic is based off a poll of 1014 people:
The Washington Post ABC poll was carried out in the wake of the deadly racially-charged violence which erupted at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville earlier this month. If extrapolated to the entire US population, nine per cent would equate to 22 million people.
The more neo-Nazis and actual white supremacists like Richard Spencer and the Charlottesville rioters hear that their radicalism is popular and fashionable, the more open they will be with their fascistic tendencies. They are not the norm. Social media has only made it seem that way. However, by trivializing the use of the word Nazi, we are detaching the rational fear that comes with the word and turning into yet another generic insult.
As Mike Godwin—the creator of Godwin’s Law—says:
Sure, call Trump [and conservatives] a Nazi. Just make sure you know what you’re talking about.