Why say “X is like Hitler” or “X is like Nazism”?

If you wanted to erase the impact of a visceral recent historical memory, one of the best ways would be to render it absurd. You could, for example, bring it up over and over again, in increasingly ridiculous comparisons, until it became nothing but meaningless hysteria. Then, when you do something that genuinely compares to the horror of that memory, you can be sure that legitimate reminders of the historical lesson are tuned out as nothing but noise and posturing.

You can’t erase history, but you can certainly beat the relevance out of it.

Some (obvious) claims

  • The current cultural climate in the US stems from three decades of a deliberate, systematic disruption of education. It’s an engineered disease.
  • Corporate fundamentalism (megachurches, scapegoating by means of so-called culturally conservative values, etc.) takes hold as an opportunistic infection in a diseased body. 
  • The media are addicted to celebritizing as such, because celebrity allows them to productize what they sell to viewers in order to attract ad dollars. 
  • Despite the fake outrage about the mainstream media, none of the current crop of radicals in populist clothing would exist otherwise. 
  • The dominant narrative of an election constantly shifts state between cause and effect.
  • In the same way that talent has been fundamentally decoupled from entertainment, wisdom and ability to govern have been disconnected from politics.
  • Large swaths of voters are bewitched by the idea of change and by the circus of campaigns, without considering that their choices will be in office for years, and the consequences felt for much longer.
  • Votes are typically reactions, rather than intentions.

It’s all been said before, and said better, but my fingers more or less insisted on typing these words this morning. And even though it seems to slant to what most think of as “the left,”  I’d apply the last six points with little alteration to election of Obama, too.

If you’re interested, agree or disagree, please do comment.

What’s clear is that nothing escapes our influence. Nothing is untrammeled. The human signature has been scribbled across the planet with absolute comprehensiveness. So let’s not argue that we shouldn’t tamper with the Earth. We’ve already tampered with it. We’re tampering with it right now. Every time we dress, every time we drive, every time we eat, every time we plug something in, or touch a thermostat, or buy a toy, or send an email, we are geoengineering.

Anthony Doerr, “Planet Zoo,” The Morning News, September 15, 2010