Still Pissed Off About the Hawley-Smoot Tariff

Monday, September 13, 2004

Remember When Words Meant Things?

Last week the Times-Picayune published (I assume for the comedic value) a letter to the editor explaining in calm, patient language why it is perfectly fair to compare Bush to Hitler. That’s sad, because now the phrase "like Hitler" joins words like "censorship," "fascist" and "imperialism" as devoid of meaning. Pretty soon, the only words we’ll have left are "double," "plus" and "ungood."

The problem is this - Hitler may be successfully compared to many people. New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin has devoted a lot of time and money to repairing the roads around here (sooner or later). Hitler built the Autobahn. Therefore, Ray Nagin is "like Hitler." Tom Selleck has a mustache that is a virtual trademark. So did Hitler. Tom is therefore "like Hitler." Gandhi wanted a united country free of foreign control. Gandhi was therefore "like Hitler." John Kerry is a carbon-based lifeform who converts oxygen to carbon dioxide before expelling waste gasses into the atmosphere in a process called "respiration." Kerry is therefore "like Hitler."

Comparing someone to Hitler used to mean something. Saddam Hussein is like Hitler because he conforms to Hitler’s behavior in meaningful ways, ways for which Hitler is widely remembered. For example, Hussein ordered the mass deaths of his own citizens, tortured and murder his political enemies, wanted to see the Jews exterminated wholesale... Do you see why these comparisons get to the heart of what we think of when we say "like Hitler"? But now those words have been hijacked by moonbat leftists, and they don’t mean anything anymore.

The most recent dilution of the English language is from Dr. Mike Adams' latest column. He prints a hate-mail he got from a reader who took issue with his opposition to abortion. The reader writes, "People like you who want to tell people like me what to do with their lives are like Hitler."

The problem, of course, is that it is government in general, not just Hitler, that tells us to one degree or another how to live our lives. Government tells me not to murder people, to sell or use drugs, or to molest children. Americans have elected leaders to make value judgments on what is or is not acceptable behavior, and punishes that which is not. Now a thoughtful person might legitimately question whether government should put a negative value judgment on abortion - that debate can be and is carried on by thoughtful, sane people almost every day. But to suggest that making that value judgment at all means you are "like Hitler" - well, it divests the phrase of all meaning.

Hitler was famous, of course, not for trying to tell Germans how to live their lives, but for the systematic executions of people for living their lives at all.

Another good example is Al Gore's thoughtful description of internet writers (I guess that would include me, although I was not a blogger at the time) who are so bold as to point out inconsistencies and even lies as "digital brownshirts." So now the word "brownshirts" has no meaning. That's a shame. Or rather, that's double plus ungood.