There’s a strategy to going ad hitlerum–at least I imagine there is (but I’m not sure I hope there is).
It’s difficult to break through the enormous media clutter without bringing in the rhetorical heavies. The subtleties of tax policy or gun control are lost on most people, so you may think; if you want to contribute to a discussion, you have to go big. Once you do, you’re assured of a prime place on Talking Points Memo, the Huffington Post, and so forth. Here’s from yesterday’s Talking Points Memo:
The billionaire founder of Home Depot just pulled a Tom Perkins.
“I hope it’s not working,” Langone told Politico, referring to populist political appeals. “Because if you go back to 1933, with different words, this is what Hitler was saying in Germany. You don’t survive as a society if you encourage and thrive on envy or jealousy.”
Politico noted that Langone’s comments would inevitably “draw ire from those who find such comparisons to Nazi Germany insensitive” and that he “showed no hesitancy” in invoking the Nazis.
The last part’s the hilarious part–even Politico has noticed the cravenness of the strategy.
Naturally, your Nazi analogy is absurd, and hopefully you know it. This requires you “to apologize.” Here again, Talking Points Memo:
The billionaire founder of Home Depot apologized late Tuesday for taking a page from the Tom Perkins playbook in comparing the fight against income inequality to Nazi Germany.
“My remarks were intended to discourage pitting one group against another group in a society,” Ken Langone said in a statement obtained by the New York Daily News. “If my choice of words was inappropriate — and they well may have been that — I extend my profound apologies to anyone and everyone who I may have offended.”
Langone had told Politico that populist political appeals currently en vogue parallel the rhetoric Hitler used in Nazi Germany, albeit in “different words.”
It’s the words you see–not the thought. What we have here is a kind of self-iron manning: I say we call it the “Iron Cross” in honor of the Nazis who dominate the form.
Here’s how it works:
Step one: go ad hitlerum to get attention: modest adjustments in tax reform are just like the populism that carried Hitler to power! Wait one day while news organizations report on your absurd analogy.
Step two: “apologize” for the “words” you’ve used, but caution that the thought–though much altered to exclude the Nazi part–stands. Wait one day while news organizations report on your apology.
Step three: reap the rewards of a discussion turned your way. Though you began with a manifestly absurd move that ought to have earned you STFU points, it doesn’t, because you come back with the apology. Your opponent–the critic–in other words, has to waste a move (and you only get so many) pointing out how wrong you are.
I wonder, short of ignoring the likes of Iron Crossers such as Langone, etc., is there any move open here to the critic?