Meanwhile, back on Planet Earth . . .
First, let’s define our terms. There is a common derogatory derivative of “Nazi” which means a thug or a person who holds extreme racist and authoritarian views and acts out those views with brutality. It is also a 60s derogatory term for law enforcement that was of that generation and is practically alien (pun intended) to most anyone under 40 or so today.
Then, there is the proper historical reference to the Nazi Party of 1930s Germany, which advocated right wing authoritarian nationalist government (fascism) based on a racist ideology, anti-Semitism, and a belief in the superiority of the Aryan race or, as the founder and board member of FAIR, the group that boasts authorship of the Arizona legislation, prefers to say: “European-American society and culture.”
Based upon the historical reference, the term “Nazi” as applied to this law “is a very fair comparison,” according to Colorado Congressman Jared Polis (D), who is Jewish. “I hope that we’re not headed on the same trajectory that Nazi Germany was,” he said. “But this was a very recent experience for Jewish Americans and Jews worldwide and it’s something that when we see similarities we start ringing alarm bells.”
Let’s tick off the similarities, shall we, Chris: (1) authoritarian – grants law enforcement unconstitutional authority to detain citizens without proper identification; (2) racist – despite claims to the contrary by the Governor, it codifies racial profiling, which is illegal and unconstitutional precisely because it’s racist; (3) nationalist – not only in intent which is to empower the police to determine nationality (who is and is not an American) based on appearance or other factors, such as behavior, and criminalize those persons unable to prove their citizenship.
These are all characteristics common to the Nazi regime of the 1930s, before the mass killings and exterminations, and of most authoritarian fascist regimes whose methods of maintaining order and squelching dissent began with expanded police authority to detain, question, and jail citizens precisely for reasons such as not having proper identification.
Speaking for this blog, the term “Nazi” is used solely to reference the Arizona law -- not the person of the governor or any law enforcement officer or any other person -- and appropriately so. In his semi-coherent rant, Chris conflates “Nazi” with “Hitler” or “Hitlerian,” which is strictly a right wing canard against President Obama. But it isn’t used in any references to the Arizona law as a Nazi law that I’ve seen and are linked below, because it doesn’t apply. This isn’t about a charismatic dictator or hurling derogatory terms about.
Not surprisingly, Chris Matthews is completely wrong. But don’t take my word for it. Some time ago, Chris said the person he’d most like to have dinner with was the Pope. In light of recent events, would you care to revise your remark, Chris? Might I suggest the less pontifical Cardinal Archbishop of LA Roger Mahony. He said of the Arizona law:
- “I can't imagine Arizonans now reverting to German Nazi and Russian Communist techniques whereby people are required to turn one another in to the authorities on any suspicion of documentation.”
- Reverend Al Sharpton was “one of many speakers at the rally to compare the law to apartheid, Nazi Germany and the segregation-era South. Sharpton said he would mobilize people from across the country to march in Arizona and get arrested if necessary to fight the new law.”
- Rep. Connie Mack, Republican of Florida: “This law of ‘frontier justice’ -– where law enforcement officials are required to stop anyone based on “reasonable suspicion” that they may be in the country illegally –- is reminiscent of a time during World War II when the Gestapo in Germany stopped people on the street and asked for their papers without probable cause. It shouldn’t be against the law to not have proof of citizenship on you.”
Chris Matthews has a habit of saying ridiculous things. Once he analogized President Obama’s clash with political opponents to “cowboys and indians.” When the Frank Luntz lies were finally exposed on his network, after more than a year of giving Luntz and his memos a pass, and then only because the President mentioned it, Chris boosted Luntz’s “recognition” with great merriment, not once noting that Luntz is an admitted and proud LIAR. Nor did he draw the distinction between honorable political consultants who “spin” but have scruples and unscrupulous punks like Luntz, who LIE for a living.
Discussing the Nevada Senate race, Chris boasted of having met Republican Sue Lowden and talked her up, until one guest correctly pointed out that Lowden repeatedly touted bartering chickens for healthcare as a viable proposal. Chris called it a “blow to the midsection” as if mentioning what she said and reiterated somehow distorts her views. Why?
Matthews should worry less about how blogs and alternative outlets of information that he disdains choose to report the news, and more about the restrictions imposed by his own network on its news readers and assorted commentators, such as a virtual prohibition on using the words “Nazi” and “fascism” and “liar.” If Chris consumes less inside-the-beltway POLITICO gossip from rumormongers who drag themselves onto Hardball or Andrea Mitchell looking like they’ve been on an all-night binge, he might even catch that scent of donuts-and-coffee fascism wafting across the fruited plain.
I believe in calling a spade a spade. The use of euphemistic language only clouds our political discourse and can lead to hideous consequences. The radical right wing has never had a problem using hate speech, distortions, and propaganda -- all techniques developed by the Nazis and other fascist or authoritarian states -- to promote a dangerous, divisive, racist and violent agenda. We cannot effectively oppose the radical right wing with euphemisms and civil discourse. When Republicans and wingnuts lie we should call them liars. When they make bigoted or racist remarks we should call them bigots and racists. And when they pass laws reminiscent of Nazi Germany we should call them Nazi laws.
This country was never immune from the influence and appeal of fascism and the Nazi ideology. From experiments in eugenics to racist exhortations of right wing radio demagogue Father Coughlin (the Rush Limbaugh of his day); from the America First movement to neo-Nazi rallies in Madison Square Garden headlined by Charles Lindbergh (the Sarah Palin of his day); from McCarthyism (fascism by another name) to the militias and Oklahoma City bombing; from the Birchers to the Birthers to the Teabaggers -- fascism in all its manifestations, from neo-Nazi racism to extremist right wing xenophobia, has been a dark and sinister stain on this nation's fabric.
When fascism rears its ugly head, we are compelled to call it out. We cannot count on the corporate media to do what it has not done since the days of Watergate -- which is to be a watchdog of our democracy.
THEY CAME FIRST for the Communists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.
THEN THEY CAME for the Jews,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.
THEN THEY CAME for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.
THEN THEY CAME for me
and by that time no one was left to speak up.
Pastor Martin Niemöller