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Fearless Philosophy For Free Minds: Reckless Comparisons

Friday, June 17, 2005

Reckless Comparisons

The rancorous language in our public discourse is continuing to sink to new lows. Some of President Bush’s opponents have likened him to every villain from to Adolph Hitler to Darth Vader. Amnesty International has told the world that the prison at Guantanamo Bay is the new Gulag. U.S. Senator Dick Durbin agreed with Amnesty International’s assessment but took it one step further comparing the U.S. soldiers guarding Gitmo to Nazi concentration camp prison guards.

These kinds of reckless comparisons do not only come from those on the political Left, however. I have heard similar extreme language from pundits on the Right referring to Hillary Clinton as ‘Hitlery’ and likening the Florida court’s decision to allow the removal of Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube, pursuant to Florida law, to the Nazi government’s policies toward disabled people.

The icing on the cake came when Michael Jackson compared the historical relevance of his acquittal to the release of Nelson Mandela from prison, Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, and the fall of the Berlin Wall.

What’s the harm in making such outlandish comparisons? Comparisons such as these trivialize the importance of all these people, places, and events. Let’s take a closer look at these comparisons.

People of all political stripes should be very cautious when drawing comparisons between Hitler, the Nazis, and the Holocaust. Adolph Hitler rounded up and exterminated 6 million Jews. Jews under Nazi occupation were subject to scientific experiments, burning alive, starvation, poison gasses, and many other methods of torture and execution. Once the executions were complete, the bodies were buried in mass graves. Hitler’s goal was to weed out the ‘inferior’ races and create a master race. This master race would of course be under his control and would ultimately dominate the entire planet.

Can anyone honestly name one person in government today who can honestly be compared to Hitler? People who make these kinds of comparisons to the Nazis either do not have an understanding of what the Nazis did or they disregard the horror the Nazis inflicted on the world. I don’t care what president you want to use as an example of a bad or tyrannical leader, no president in our history should ever be compared to Adolph Hitler. Certainly, we have had presidents who have made some grave mistakes affecting lives at home and abroad. Not one president I can think of ever attempted to exterminate an entire class of people.

As to comparing Guantanamo Bay to the Gulag, I fail to see the comparison. Let’s begin comparing the prison populations of each prison. Guantanamo Bay’s inmate population is made up of al quadea terrorists and enemy combatants captured on the battlefields in the war on terror. These are the people who have no problem strapping bombs to themselves, women, and children. These are the same people who execute women who are raped while the rapists go virtually unpunished. These are not pleasant or reasonable people to be around.

The Gulag’s prison population? Gulag prisoners were common criminals that every society has plus political prisoners, rebels, "wifes of traitors of Motherland,” and even children of traitors.

When we consider the conditions of the prisons, the makeup of the prison population is very important. Political dissenters and their wives and children are very different from terrorists who themselves do not value life.

The conditions? Gulag prisoners were sent to Siberia and forced to do hard labor in the harshest of conditions imaginable. The prisoners were not clothed to suit the harsh arctic climate and were underfed for the type of work which was required to be performed.

The terrorists jailed at Guantanamo Bay, by contrast are in a tropical climate where prisoners are issued a prayer rug and a Quran at taxpayer expense (I would argue that this is a blatant violation of church/state seperation). The cuisine of the prisoners is, by some accounts, better than the cuisine of our soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. The so-called hash treatment of these prisoners consists of playing rap music at a high volume, women interrogating prisoners while violating the prisoner’s ‘personal space’ (how dare we subject these terrorists to be interrogated by second class citizens), sleep deprivation, and possibly abusing the Quran. Yes, the wonderful book that influenced their despicable behavior to begin with.

With all of this in perspective, Senator Durbin has no shame in comparing our soldiers to Nazi prison guards. Blasting rap music – Nazis! Forcing prisoners to go without sleep – torture! Yeah, Guantanamo Bay is JUST LIKE the Gulag and our service men and women are JUST LIKE the Nazis. I hope you Democrats out there are proud. And where’s the condemnation of Senator Durbin from Senate and House Republicans?

As far as Michael Jackson is concerned, is there anything I really need to say? How do we compare the likes of Michael Jackson with Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King Jr.? Both these men advocated important social causes to change the world for the better. Michael Jackson? He can do the moonwalk, while grabbing his crotch. OK, I guess that’s a fair comparison. Michael Jackson’s acquittal and the fall of the Berlin Wall? I guess those events are similar. The prosecution failed to prove that MJ had molested a child (which is not the same thing as proving he didn’t molest children, by the way) and the Berlin Wall fell signaling the fall of the USSR. I guess I failed to realize what an important figure Michael Jackson is in the history of our world. Maybe we should make Jacko’s acquittal a national holiday!

There are so many other inappropriate comparisons in our public debate. When we make comparisons, we should really consider what we are saying. We are so ignorant of history as it is. To make flippant comparisons with the Nazis, for example, does not allow a person to truly appreciate what they did. I would like to think that we can make our points without dishonoring the past. Maybe we can’t expect too much of Michael Jackson, but surely we should demand more from our leaders.

Related Posts:
Cox & Forkum: Durbin Warfare (Political Cartoon & Blogpost)
T.F. Stern: In Time of War...
Dean Esmay: Appropriate Comparisons And Obvious Responses (Hat tip: Eric Cowperthwaite)


Blogger T. F. Stern said...

Thanks for the link. As far as bringing Nelson Mandella into the mix; I would have used someone else. Mandella and his wife are both mass murderers; not on a scale anywhere close to Hitler or Stalin, murderers who for some reason have become folk hero types and the darlings of the press, with no limits to the means to accomplish such. Sorry, Mandella should still be in prison.

10:15 AM  
Blogger Stephen Littau said...


The reason Mandela is mentioned in this post was because MJ compared himself to Mandela and MLK. I must admit that I don’t know a great deal about Nelson Mandela. From what little I have read he seems to be a positive force for change. The link I placed in the article tells of how he fought against Apartheid. Apartheid was a policy which gave non-whites little or no freedom in South Africa. Mandela, according to this article at least, advocated racial equality in South Africa.

I cannot vouch for the accuracy of the article; South African politics is a little outside my scope of knowledge. From what I did read; however, I think I will have to do some further reading because it seems like a fascinating topic.

Whatever the case, MJ compared himself to Nelson Mandela. Though I know little about the Mandela, when MJ made that statement, I found it to be quite arrogant. Mandela has impacted the world for good or ill in ways MJ never will. MJ’s acquittal certainly does not rise to the level of historic importance of the birth of MLK or the fall of the Berlin Wall. In the grand scheme of things, MJ’s acquittal will be little more than a footnote in American history at best.

12:42 PM  
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2:04 AM  

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