Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Adolph Hitler, Straw Man

As a conservative, you get pretty used to being called Hitler. Or a Nazi, or a fascist. In fact, there's a joke that goes like this:

Q: What's the definition of a fascist?

A: A conservative winning an argument.

There's even a delightful concept called reductio ad Hitlerum, which is the attempt to invalidate any argument based on some tenuous link to Hitler. To wit...

Hitler liked dogs.
You like dogs.
Therefore, you are Hitler.

Boom, argument over!

Now, apparently, in America, there are fascists behind every rock, necessitating a new movement called "antifa," or anti-fascist. Supposedly, the fascists are part of the "alt-right" movement. I've been a conservative my entire adult life, I have scores of conservative friends, and I have yet to meet anyone who calls themselves "alt-right," or had even heard of the term until about a year ago. Nonetheless, I'm told they are everywhere. The left, without irony, views fascism as a legitimate threat to our democracy.

Do I have to point out the real irony? Fascism is just another branch of socialism, in that it features near complete government control of society. Mussolini, fascism's father, wrote this:

"The Fascist conception of life stresses the importance of the State and accepts the individual only in so far as his interests coincide with those of the State."

Does this sound like something a conservative would say? We tend to like small, unobtrusive, decentralized government. We tend to like the Constitution, a document whose entire purpose is to protect the individual from the state.

On the other hand, does it sound like something Bill De Blasio or Bernie Sanders would say? If you're not really sure, consider that just this week, De Blasio said the following:

"Our legal system is structured to favor private property. People would rather have the city government determine which building goes where, how high it will be, who gets to live in it, what the rent will be...If I had my druthers, city government would determine every single plot of land, how development would proceed, and there would be very stringent requirements around income levels and rents. That's a world I'd love to see."

Yes, he said that. He doesn't really have to use his imagination, though. The world he longs for, so annoyingly foiled here in America by the Constitution, has existed in many places at many times. The communists, for instance. The Soviet authorities had all the powers De Blasio pines for. Even today, there's Venuzuela, Cuba, North Korea...check, check, check. It's a super system.

Students of history, of which there are vanishingly few, know that fascists gave themselves the same authority. In fact, there are only a couple of substantive differences between communism and fascism. Fascism, being the more open minded of the two philosophies, tolerated a certain amount of private enterprise, so long as these enterprises did the bidding of the state at all times. It's unclear from De Blasio's quote which side of the communist/fascist fence he might fall, at least as it pertains to the existence of any sort of nominally private property. The way I read it, he leans fascist, in that he would tolerate the existence of private developers, so long as they followed his precise instructions. Perhaps some descendant of Albert Spear's is for hire?

I suppose it's at this point I should remind everyone what the word "Nazi" stood for: National Socialist Party. Yes, Adolph Hitler, the all-purpose boogie man of the left, was a big government man through and through. But, you know, whatever. The true test of a belief isn't its provable truth, but its utility.

Someone once said that. Wish I could remember who.

And yet, we should be balanced about this. There are those on the right, if only a handful, that summon Hitler's ghost. Like, say, these people...

To listen to your typical campus activist, they number in the millions. It looks like there are maybe half a dozen in the picture. When they gather, they are usually outnumbered by counter protesters and the media by about 100 to 1. But how useful these handfuls are to the left!

Still, pitifully small or not, they exist, no denying it. Who are they, and what motivates them? Here, I will delve into sheer speculation, because I've never actually met (or seen) anyone who wears swastika t-shirts. I don't believe that any of these people has the first clue what fascism really means. That they share this ignorance with the very people who fight them at rallies is either funny or alarming, depending on whether you've had your first scotch. I think they are button pushers, and they know, correctly, that all it takes to create a frenzy of attention is to throw an arm up in a sieg heil. A half dozen people holding signs against Obamacare? Snooze. The same group in Nazi paraphenalia? Now, that's money. CNN will give you the first five minutes of prime time. Chris Cuomo will barely be able to contain his excitement.

I also think some of these people are racists, and they know enough (not much) about Nazis to know that they were racial purists. This is one point - the only point - where the "alt-right" is more aligned with fascists than the left. But, as I said, I think the numbers here are vanishingly small. The left would have us believe that all whites, other than the "woke," are racists to one degree or another. With some, like the people in the picture, it's overt. With others, it's latent, but we all have swastica shirts lurking just under the surface. (Thus, the odious concept of "white privilege.") Pictures like this one make them feel as if they've proven their point.

So, when you get down to it, both sides find Hitler useful, even if they only have the vaguest idea for what he and other fascists stood. He's shorthand, evil meme to the left, and a useful button for the right (sorry, alt-right). Sadly, I don't expect his place in the firmament to fade away anytime soon.

Hat tip: the Bee Line Blog, one of the best out there.