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The inevitable Hitler comparison


 

You know, when I wrote the other day that questioning someone’s patriotism was roughly equivalent to comparing them to Hitler, I should have known that this week would not pass without a reference to Adolf’s Germany.

If reports are accurate—I didn’t see the interview in question, standing as I was in the cold outside Rideau—congratulations are thus due to Liberal Derek Lee who decided yesterday to raise the Nazis’ burning of the Reichstag in 1933.

Bravo sir.


 
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The inevitable Hitler comparison

  1. I happen to have seen that interview on TV. Lee wasn’t talking in an angry or inflammatory way and he wasn’t denouncing anyone, he was having a sort of academic discussion with Don Newman. He actually bungled the Reichstag reference and referred to the “Bundestag”.

  2. Is it possible to compare someone to Hitler in a non-inflammatory way?

  3. Paul: Perhaps when describing someone’s choice of moustache. But even that’s dicey.

  4. I thought it was the commies who burned down the Reichstag, thus giving Hitler an even bigger excuse to become dictator.

  5. Lee wasn’t comparing anyone to Hitler.

  6. Stephen B’s description is correct and I almost missed it as I was alternating my attention between the screen and work but I was still surprised by the jump to that sort of reference.

    I dislike instensely how Stephen Harper has acted in government for the last almost three years but Canadians shouldn’t go throwing around Hitler/Nazi references with such ease.

    I am no constitutional expert but I dislike the decision to prorogue for its future ramifications. The precedent has been set that now any Prime Minister can request a prorogation as a way to shut down Parliament and avoid losing a confidence vote. I personally find this troubling.

    Shutting down Parliament because you don’t like what will happen there isn’t burning down the Reichstag but it does demosntrate contempt for our democratic institutions.

  7. I saw the interview as well, and would have to agree with Stephen B. It wasn’t really done in an angry way, but it definitely made me perk up for a minute and say “Really??”

    And yeah… “Bundestag” left me scratching my head for a moment. Speaking of which, I was watching Wednesday’s QP on ParlVu, and did anyone else notice that instead of saying “Seperatist Coalition,” Leona Aglukkaq kept saying “Specialist Coalition?” Made me chuckle a bit.

  8. In all fairness, Harper is not a Nazi, he’s a fascist.

  9. Are we allowed to call Harper authoritarian or autocratic, or is that unseemly as well?

    It’s no fun being a non-Conservative. You’re never permitted to indulge in any kind of simple, straightforward and widely-recognised metaphors or analogies the way the Conservatives (even ones we we’re familiar with and are obliged to take seriously, like the Prime Minister) get to do without some school marm popping up to wag his or her finger.

  10. I know Derek Lee enough to believe two things…

    1) Derek doesn’t have much of sense of humour – at least in public and
    2) He is anything but a flamer – unlike some of the Alliance backbenchers who Harper slipped the muzzles off yesterday – the ones who spouted the words traitors and treason – come to mind!

  11. Harper’s like Hitler, but not in an inflammatory way?

    Seriously?

    If somebody said “much like Hitler, Stephen Harper is dedicated to improving highways across the country” that would still be inflammatory, because comparing somebody to a genocidal dictator because he holds too many elections and counters constitutional moves against him with other constitutional moves is… well… :P

  12. Maybe he was musing along the lines of “people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones” – we are talking about Krystalnacht – where the Quebec Nation are playing the role of the Jews?

  13. For the last time, Lee wasn’t comparig anyone to Hitler. I don’t recall the topic of conversation precisely but it was something like avoiding parliamentary votes. I took the Rechstag reference as a sort of wry, out-of-left-field example of an extreme case. Maybe I mistnterpreted it but I probably have a better menory of the discussion than anyone who didn’t see it.

  14. SHAME ON YOU, AARON.

    I know and respect Derek Lee, but he had no business saying what he did and you have no business giving your blessing to this inappropriate comment.

    There is never an appropriate time to suggest that Canada’s Prime Minister, whoever he or she is, can be compared to Hitler. Period.

  15. There is never an appropriate time to suggest that Canada’s Prime Minister, whoever he or she is, can be compared to Hitler. Period.

    Jawohl!

    Do these people ever read what they write?

  16. Obviously not, Ti-Guy. If they did their heads would explode after realizing they’ve constantly referred to Layton as Taliban Jack over the past two years.

  17. But isn’t Harper’s Hitlerness a mathematical certainty for the left?

    Bush = Hitler
    Harper = Bush

    Therefore Harper = Hitler

    Of course they have some rather dubious equations behind them, for instance:

    62% majority = 34% of Canadians that actually support a coalition

  18. Dennis F – Sorry, that’s in that other history book. The interactive one that we can make up as we go along.

    You’ll find it’s often referred to on these blogs. The only problem i find with it is that most editions only start around 1995.

  19. I repeat. There is never an appropriate time to refer to a Canadian leader as Hitler Not now. Not ever.

    Grow up boys. Name calling is not an effective tool for political discourse. It is a sign of juvenile behaviour.

  20. I am not sure which term I prefer: soft fascism or fascism lite.

  21. Let’s make this perfectly clear, our tape-loving, law-suit throwing prime minister set a precedent when he called a Prime Minister a supporter of pedophiles…
    And apparently, Harper’s definition of our democracy includes set election dates (unless he so chooses), the right of non-confidence motions (unless he can wiggle out of it), and the right of members of parliament to join in a coalition with anyone of their choosing (unless it’s against him).
    Bravo. At least we can see this naked king’s shortcomings.

  22. Wouldn’t comparisons to Charles I and his repeated dismissing and summoning of Parliament prior to the English revolution be the appropriate dictator reference?

  23. Agreed that Hitler comparisons are minimally juvenille, and maximally offensive.

    Yet somehow, Lee’s analogy seems more intellectually honest and less offensive than this gem from the past: “Paul Martin Supports Child Pornography”.

  24. so calling others traitors OK, separatists OK………. right?

    Neocons are such hypocrites.

  25. I suggest “neofascism”. Like “neoconservatism” refers to things that aren’t even vaguely conservative, “neofascism” refers to things that aren’t even vaguely fascist.

    Proposed usage:

    Stephen Harper called another election. What a neofascist.

  26. Also, I’m pretty sure Conservatives were first out of the gate this time around by comparing the coalition to a putsch. (that may have just been other commenters, and not MPs – too busy to research it now).

  27. LordBob,

    you were almost funny. Give it another go.

  28. I know and respect Derek Lee, but he had no business saying what he did and you have no business giving your blessing to this inappropriate comment.

    Haha, is a sarcastic “bravo sir” what passes as granting one’s blessing in this day and age? Because if so, I have a lot of apologies to make today.

  29. Grow up boys. Name calling is not an effective tool for political discourse.

    Right, Like three years of “Not a Leader” was the height of maturity.

    Anyway, Harper’s not a nazi. He’s a proto-fascist, Read Umberto Eco’s Eternal Fascism:
    Fourteen Ways of Looking at a Blackshirt
    for a quick overview.

    The one thing that has always bothered me is the Conservative Party’s Newspeak, and its uncritical reception by Conservative partisans. It’s one thing for Harper to call his opposition terrorist enablers, pedophiles, traitors etc., ; it’s another for his supporters to actually believe it.

    Even the positive messages: “Canada’s New Government,” “North Star,” as well as all the other “family values” propaganda such as “working families who pay their taxes and play by the rules” has always been intensely unsettling.

  30. Take the core origins of the Reform/Alliance — bitter, western separatist leaning Albertans who really only support democracy when it works in their favour. If others are winning, then its an outrage, a betrayal, a conspiracy. These forces have blindfolded their fellow Albertans to maintain a bumbling, democratic-deficit loving provincial government despite polls showing ‘great dissatisfaction’… It isn’t that there aren’t options, but they’ve been told those options are akin to ‘putsches’, NEP-huggers, hippies etc.
    If you can bottle up their core supporters and the Bloc’s, you’d see that there was little but self-interest that motivates them. The country be damned.

  31. Jon Stewart said, and I agree with him:

    “To sum up, please stop calling people Hitler when you disagree with them. It demeans you, it demeans your opponent, and to be honest, it demeans Hitler. That guy worked too many years, too hard, to be that evil, to have any Tom, Dick, and Harry come on and say ‘Yeah, you’re being Hitler.’ NO! You know who was Hitler?… Hitler!”

  32. Lee’s comments were bad in all senses. Harper has multiple grievous faults of character, but he is not a dictator, fascist, let alone nazi. Insulting to those who suffer(ed) and to Canada, as well as Harper. Perspective needed

    Dennis F. is joking, right?

    Here is some truly disturbing stuff, from Cheryl Gallant on Tues night: “Basically she is seeing three guys from Quebec who are trying to topple the government and hijack the balance of power.” &
    “She says that French leader doesn’t belong with us.”

  33. If Harper is Hitler, Dion is Stalin. Layton is… Satan?

  34. Layton Satan? hahahha Na! He is a charmer.

    If anyone could be Satan that would be Harper.. look at THOSE EYES! CREEPY!

  35. THOSE EYES!

    Damian!

  36. Eugene: Once Harper is out of power, ask them then if he was a dictator. But wait until he’s out of power.. or the answers won’t be worth anything.

  37. Thwim, but if he’s a dictator then there will never be a chance to ask that question eh!

  38. It isn’t that there aren’t options, but they’ve been told those options are akin to ‘putsches’, NEP-huggers, hippies etc.

    In fact, the NEP has pretty much become the Dolchstoßlegende.

    The parallels are chilling.

  39. Godwin’s Law has shown itself to be sadly valid as the Hitler epithet does tend to surface far too often and Jon Stewart’s reply to those who go there is a an excellent retort.

    While the Hitler analogy is usually completely misplaced we must not forget the years we have had to listen to:

    – care more about the Taliban than Canadian soldiers
    – soft on terror because of familial ties
    – soft on crime/drugs/whatever becasue they just aren’t very “manly”
    – soft on child porn
    etc.

    And let’s not forget the most recent additions to the Hit Parade:

    – coup d’état
    – putch
    – treason
    – sedition
    – tear apart the country

    And sadly the hits just keep on coming …

  40. Allan Gregg compared Harper to Mugabe on the At Issue panel last night….might have been “Mugabe tactics” or something like that.

    Mugabe has a weird mustache thing happening too.

  41. i.e., let the “eastern” bastards freeze in the dark? : )

  42. All this confirms to me is that Ti-Guy and many of the other left wing posters on here think they have it bad as the political opposition in Franco’s Spain, Hitler’s Germany, and Mussolini’s Italy. An idea which is entirely based on the fact that Harper doesn’t give money to the auto industry.

    But usually the people who throw out the fascism card are usually the ones who don’t really know anything about it.

    As well to say the Conservatives are “fascist” because of their opposition to the Tamil Tigers and their support of tougher criminal justice measures is ridiculous.

  43. But usually the people who throw out the fascism card are usually the ones who don’t really know anything about it.

    Indeed.

  44. Despite the fact that I deplore any kind of comparison of Harper to Hitler, it is difficult to know what else to call Harper’s moves other than “proto-fascist”. Remember, fascism has a really bad look because of Hitler. But it is a political phenomenon not limited to Germany before and during the war.

    Pushing the Governor-General to make an unprecedented intervention in our democratic life, lying so frequently and so often that he forced this country’s best journalists to correct the record in media res, and finally, demeaning the democratic legitimacy of elected MP’s is going well beyond responsible democratic behaviour.

  45. Apparently near 50% of Canadians are fascists, too. Wow.

  46. “Despite the fact that I deplore any kind of comparison of Harper to Hitler, it is difficult to know what else to call Harper’s moves other than “proto-fascist”.”

    An example of how our Westminister style Parliament works for one. If you’re going to say that Harper is a “proto-fascist” which is a frivilous claim, then the entire British Parliamentary system is “proto-fascist.”

    “Remember, fascism has a really bad look because of Hitler. But it is a political phenomenon not limited to Germany before and during the war.”

    Robert McClelland actually cited a book which made that case. I believe George Orwell stated that fascism has lost all meaning and is simply referred to anything considered undesirable. However most people make the mistake in considering Fascism a capitalist/individualist ideology when it is nothing of the sort.

    “Pushing the Governor-General to make an unprecedented intervention in our democratic life”

    Just to be clear according to most polls if an election were to be held today, the Conservatives would likely get a majority with a popular vote ranging from 44-46%. Most Canadian’s, likely through arrogance likely never thought that a coalition of this sort was going to happen, nor did they think on election day that Jack Layton would be named Industry Minister. If we were to flip this situation and have the CPC getting ready for a coalition government, I’m sure those on the left would make the same argument the partisan CPC members are making.

    “lying so frequently and so often that he forced this country’s best journalists to correct the record in media res”

    This is once again one of those self-defeating points that is often brought up. If we’re a proto-fascist nation one would expect such journalists to be put in jail. That being said any person who thinks that we’re in the grips of fascism because a politician lies is fooling himself, if that was the case then every single politician is some sort of fascist. Which is somewhat true since they do use coercive means to rule the population.

    “and finally, demeaning the democratic legitimacy of elected MP’s is going well beyond responsible democratic behaviour.”

    I’ve noticed this continued mantra of “democratic behavior.” What most don’t recognize is that Parliament can be prorogued by the GG, it’s a part of our current democracy. Similar to how the Liberals/NDP can form a government despite the fact Dion had produced one of the worst showings for the party in Canada’s history. Also if you’re going to make the argument that it’s undemocratic, then it seems to me that if you really cared about democracy you’d want the coalition government to be elected by the voters of the country.

  47. “Allan Gregg compared Harper to Mugabe…”

    I don’t remember the part where Mugabe won the election, so I guess I miss the comparison.

  48. Um, yeah. This is a pertty clear comparison:
    “The whole thing (is) of an executive government kneecapping Parliament,” Lee said. “In that case they burned the Reichstag, they set it on fire, the Nazis, so that it could not meet and responsible government was lost.”

  49. But it is a political phenomenon not limited to Germany before and during the war.

    Umberto Eco’s argument is that the elements of fascism in their proto-stage exist all the time…thus, eternal fascism.…and that those can be pandered to an exploited and amplified at particular times.

    Funny how the Conservatives start shaking with rage at any mention of fascism or authoritarianism just after their leader precipitated a national unity and a constitutional crisis after expressing himself some of the most appalling sentiments in the history of post-war Canada.

    Hits a nerve, obviously.

  50. If people want a more concurrent example of what I’m talking about, I’ll cite the coalition between the Liberals/Nationals in Australia which was put in place before elections.

    It seems that people are up in arms about Harper being a fascist, or the equally silly claim which is “proto-fascist” never actually criticize the system we have which allows the Governor General to make these decisions. I would take these calls of fascism more seriously if they were to call for a major restructuring of our system of government, but I don’t so it’s just partisan hyperbole.

  51. “Funny how the Conservatives start shaking with rage at any mention of fascism or authoritarianism just after their leader precipitated a national unity and a constitutional crisis after expressing himself some of the most appalling sentiments in the history of post-war Canada.”

    I don’t think you’ve ever made a good case for why the CPC is fascist and the Liberals are not. The crisis came about due to the possibility of a coalition government with the support of the Bloc, the end result of course is two parties fighting each other to ensure control of government. The most appalling sentiment was the issue over whether or not the taxpayers of Canada should fund political parties, which is hardly an authoritarian impulse as it would allow Canadian’s the freedom to fund which parties they’d life.

    The delusional view expressed by Ti-Guy that this is somehow the equivalent of Fascism in Germany, Italy, or Spain, is ridiculous to any rational observer. This is especially ironic coming from someone who favours a stronger government role in individuals lives.

  52. I don’t think you’ve ever made a good case for why the CPC is fascist and the Liberals are not.

    No, but I think Umberto Eco does in highlighting elements of proto-fascism in Harper’s movement conservatism. It’s worth checking it out. You might find it edifying.

    I’m pretty sure you know next to nothing about the subject.

  53. But Ti-Guy I think you’re contradicting yourself abit here because yesterday you stated that the right wing wanted to “destroy government.” Which seems to me to be a stronger impulse more suited to a classical liberal/libertarian/anarchist than a Fascist. Their seems to be a weird dichotomy between this idea that Stephen Harper wants to destroy government which would obviously be a good thing for individual liberty and freedom [bigger governments equals less freedom for the individual] and Fascism which is essentially the worship of the state.

  54. “No, but I think Umberto Eco does in highlighting elements of proto-fascism in Harper’s movement conservatism.”

    When did Umberto Eco call Harper a fascist?

    I have read the 14 points of fascism many times. Doing a quick search I cannot find any article which indicates Umberto Eco has called Harper or any Conservative a fascist.

    “I’m pretty sure you know next to nothing about the subject.”

    But I do, that’s why I don’t loosely apply it to people who have differences of opinion.

  55. The problem is that Hitler is the only historical example of tyranny that anybody today has ever heard of. If you said, “Harper is behaving like James II!” it would be a lot closer to the truth (though an extreme exaggeration) than saying that prorogation is like burning down the Reichstag and blaming it on the commies. But nobody has ever heard of James II, despite the involuntarily vital role he played in defining our constitution. Heck, nobody’s heard of Franco or Tiberius. We live in a profoundly amnesiac society in which Hitler and the Nazis have almost ceased to be historical figures and are just moral totems. I mean, in how many applications of Godwin’s Law is the offender even trying to make a historical argument? On the other hand, since so much of the modern world was created in reaction to Hitler’s nightmare vision for humanity, the existence of “Godwin’s Law” — and its gleeful application by an amnesiac blogosphere — also strikes me as a recipe for forgetting the very real, very serious fact that the Nazis almost did take over the world.

  56. When did Umberto Eco call Harper a fascist?

    Sorry, my mistake. I should have written that Eco highlights elements of proto-fascism that I recognise in Harper’s movement conservatism. In addition to just the one I mention already (Newspeak…which is the element I first found startlingly alien in Harper’s propaganda) is popular elitism, appeal to a frustrated middle class, contempt for the weak, machismo, contempt for non-standard sexuality…

    Anyway, I’m planning to write a dissertation about it after this period is over.

  57. I thought the comparison was with Charles the I. Either way, I’ve argued with those on the far-right over whether or not Obama is a Marxist [which he obviously isn’t] and now with those on the left about whether or not Stephen Harper is a Fascist [which again isn’t the case].

    It’s a perfect example of the Michael Savages vs the Michael Moores, both are on the opposite sides of the spectrum, but at the end of the day they’re both morons.

  58. BDJ: “I thought the comparison was with Charles the I.”

    Wishful thinking? : )

  59. the return of the repressed! : )

  60. I missed this point:

    But Ti-Guy I think you’re contradicting yourself abit here because yesterday you stated that the right wing wanted to “destroy government.”

    Well, destroy government in the sense of the type of government constituted to work for the people. I’ve generally sensed that Harper would have less of a problem with business taking over more of the functions we entrust to public service. That might sound reasonable to libertarians, but when we understand that most business is conducted by large corporations, for which oversight is almost impossible, it gets a little closer to the idea of government as an extension of corporate power.

    The Reform tradition was more purely libertarian, but what we’ve since the rise of Harper is something quite different.

  61. It’s a perfect example of the Michael Savages vs the Michael Moores, both are on the opposite sides of the spectrum, but at the end of the day they’re both morons.

    The price of freedom is eternal vigilance. I think it’s important for people to entertain the unthinkable just to make sure they’re not missing anything.

    My beef with calling Obama Marxist was that is was coming from people who don’t even understand the American constitution, let alone Marxism.

  62. particularly Marxism…

  63. “Well, destroy government in the sense of the type of government constituted to work for the people. I’ve generally sensed that Harper would have less of a problem with business taking over more of the functions we entrust to public service.”

    That wouldn’t make Harper a fascist then, he would actually be a classical liberal or minarchist.

    “I’ve generally sensed that Harper would have less of a problem with business taking over more of the functions we entrust to public service.”

    Once again, I think your views on fascism are abit off. Fascism as an ideology supported strong government intervention into the economy, in fact it could be said it was the support of a mixed economy. A rejection of both capitalism and communism. What you’re talking about it something entirely different from fascism.

    No intelligent fascist would entrust education, healthcare, and yes even daycare, to private citizens. If they did that wouldn’t bode well for their attempts to create a collectivist society.

    “That might sound reasonable to libertarians, but when we understand that most business is conducted by large corporations, for which oversight is almost impossible, it gets a little closer to the idea of government as an extension of corporate power.”

    Depends, more often then not corporations are the first ones to benefit from the government. One only needs to look at the bailouts that are being given to the automakers down south. Once again, it is doubtful any government would be so concerned about your average small business. The government as an extension of corporate power is definitely improper, but I think you’re somewhat failing to see the irony in your own points since the coalition you support would prop up the automakers more easily than the current government.

    “The Reform tradition was more purely libertarian, but what we’ve since the rise of Harper is something quite different.”

    I’ll agree with you on that, I think Harper gave up on all his Reform roots when he became leader of the CPC. Which is unfortunate for those on the classical liberal side of the spectrum.

  64. I’m not making a case for fullblown fascism. I examining elements that are embryonic that point to fascism. And not a textbook case of Mussolini’s fascism or National Socialism, but something that would be unique to our circumstances.

    The only thing that would cause me to think less along these lines is if I saw greater respect from Harper for our democratic and public institutions. That’s been sorely tested over the last few years, particularly with the way he’s treated Elections Canada and now, with what he’s done with Parliament…well.

    I believe Harper should resign. I will not support a Conservative government headed by this man.

  65. Like I stated before, the Governor General likely made the best choice when she prorogued Parliament. Allow the opposition and government to cool things down for the next couple of weeks, and then decide the fate of the government when the budget comes to a vote. If Harper fails then let the coalition take over the reigns or have an election.

  66. As well if people are unhappy with the decision the GG made, they should focus their energies on trying to change the structure of our government.

  67. Or lobby for better selection of Governor Generals.

    Just sayin.

  68. Yes, you see BDJ, maybe that’s just the point.

    Despite the fact that many of those who supported the coalition disagreed with the GG’s decision, we respect her right to make that decision. We respect the institution. Some of us even concede that she had valid grounds to make that decision, even though we may feel it was the wrong one.

    We don’t immediately clamour for the abolition of the GG, of responsible government, and of the principle of representative, parilamentary democracy.

  69. The structure of government is fine, the problem here is the creeping presidentialism in this country.

    Let’s put aside what was done this week. Can we agree that there is something profoundly undemocratic and damaging to our Parliamentary system when the executive has the power to unilaterally suspend the legislative branch, when any legitimacy the executive has stems from the support of the Parliament?

    And if people think that this isn’t a problem, do they recognize that they are advocating for a pseudo-Presidency, except without the many checks on presidential powers as are observed in most republics?

  70. And I think all reasonable observers recognize that it was probably the right choice for the GG to grant the request for prorogation. The problem here is that the executive has such sweeping power to disable the legislative branch. The operation of the legislative branch should be according to the will of the Parliament.

    It’s also worth saying that this is just another chapter in an on-going tale of unchecked executive power.

    The Parliament recently passed into law a provision that future elections would only be triggered by a vote of non-confidence in the government or the passage of 4 years from the previous election. The law was weakly worded and did not adequately constraint the Prime Minister. Thus, this law (and the will of Parliament) was subjugated by the executive when the dissolution of Parliament was requested and granted despite the explicit instruction that that not occur.

    I mean, when and where do we draw the line in the sand and say “no further” to the ever growing strength of the executive and ever lowering of Parliamentary authority? This path leads to a vulnerability to Hugo Chavez style autocratic regimes.

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