Fox News chief Roger Ailes has never been known for his tempered, measured ways, but last week when he called National Public Radio executives "Nazis" for firing Juan Williams, he crossed a serious line.
Juan Williams, as you may remember, was the NPR commentator who was terminated last month after he told Bill O'Reilly that he feared those dressed in Muslim garb in airports. The firing was premature, true. He has a right to state his opinion and, quite frankly, he voiced something that many feel and don't say. He started a discussion.
But Fox News, who had a point for once, ruined any chance of rational discussion when they called NPR "Nazis." And it isn't the first time they have referenced the most horrific political movement of the 20th century.
On his TV and radio shows, Glenn Beck has referenced Nazis in his attacks on the Obama administration:
You have to think like a German Jew [in] 1934.
Later, he said:
Well, some believe that the idea of eugenics got ugly before they started gassing Jews and homosexuals.
Fine, we get it. You disagree with their politics and you want to make it clear just how abhorrent you find it. But the trend toward using the word "Nazi" to describe anything that we find militant is disturbing. Remember Seinfeld's "Soup Nazi"?
"Don't be such a Nazi about this," one might say to a friend who is doing something you don't like. The lefty who is critical of Israeli policy might bring up the Holocaust, calling Israeli citizens "modern day Nazis." Consider this from the Jerusalem Post:
The comparisons of Israel to Nazi Germany became more popular during and in the aftermath of Operation Cast Lead, according to the report. This, it says, represents “the deliberate abuse of diminishing the tragedy of the Holocaust and playing upon Jewish sensitivities in order to provoke."
Unless you're talking about Nazis and Germany circa 1940, then it's best to just say fascist or militant or any other number of ways to get your point across without sounding like Rush Limbaugh and his hateful Feminazi rhetoric.
Because in every case, your argument is weakened by your hate speech.
Memo to conservatives: you strengthen your argument when you make it on its own merit. Those who may have agreed with the initial thought are so horrified by your execution that we cannot, in good faith, back your beliefs.
As NPR's Guy Raz said so eloquently:
I realized that that word -- Nazi -- means something very real to the millions of Germans who have courageously struggled to come to terms with that legacy for 65 years. It also means something to the estimated quarter-million Holocaust survivors still alive today with numbers tattooed on their arms. Nazism was unequivocal. It was depravity. It was bodies buried one on top of the other. It was deliberate, mechanized killing. It was a movement that seized the minds of a segment of humanity. Just 65 years ago, within the lifetime of many people still alive today, the Nazis killed 1 out of every 3 Jews on the face of the Earth.
Comparing that to anything is not just disrespectful, but also ignorant of history, insensitive to feelings, and yes, highly offensive to many. It weakens your argument and makes you look stupid.
Does it bother you when people say "Nazi" in the wrong context?
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