OpEd: The problem with Nazis

Despite the headline, this is not about the far right political group formed in 1920 by Anton Drexler and co opted by Adolph Hitler into a fascist totalitarian government. No, this is about something a bit more insidious. It’s about language.

Language is a very interesting thing; it’s more tied into who we are than we like to admit. How we use our words tells others not only what we think but how we think about things. Take, for example, the word Nazi. It’s a highly inflammatory word with a very specific meaning. And yet, people throw it around casually in the same way we throw around ‘ice cream’ or ‘chartered accountancy.’ As though it’s just a word. Another slur to throw at someone on the internet, something that can’t really be answered well. And here we come to my issue with it.

Be clear: there’s nothing wrong with saying something along the lines of ‘I am taking it that you don’t understand the degree to which your argument endorses tactics used by fascist regimes like those of Pol Pot, Amin and Hitler.’ I am talking about the stupid, baseless ‘let’s go for the shock factor!’ one offs, like calling someone a Nazi because they want you to do your job and bake a damn cake, or post a meme with a Nazi flag background because they happen to be married to the President you hated. That kind of thing.

It’s not just that it’s a lazy debate tactic, although it is. It isn’t even that it’s almost always dishonest, despite being that, too. It’s that equating someone who belongs to the opposing political party with a regime that tortured and killed millions of people and made desk lamps out of some of their skin while trying to erase their every trace from the face of the Earth is contemptible and base and deserves nothing but mockery and scorn. It cheapens the sacrifice of every single Jew who was killed, tortured and harmed and reduces the horror and evil of their attackers. And it obviously degrades the conversation, as everything after that is merely useless back and forth insult.

This is, of course, personal opinion. The entire reason I posted it was to solicit yours, as I tend to get somewhat obstinate about words. This one, I think, is important. Especially as we try to sort through some of the issues we see around us. Am interested in hearing your thoughts.

Edit: So the question, I think, is just where do you see the word ‘nazi’ in public discourse? Is it just another word, or do you think it means more?

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