Stephan Helgesen is correct that politicians fling analogies with Nazism with abandon. He cites only Democrats, but Republicans haven’t been shy in this regard. This very week, Kenneth R. Timmerman, a writer and recent congressional candidate, claimed that the Nunes memo revealed “Gestapo-like tactics” by the FBI. Not to mention analogies with Stalinism, such as likening the DOJ to the KGB, which a Republican congressman did last month.
But if Mr. Helgasen wants to be partisan about all this, that’s his business. Much more serious is that only one day before he preached against denouncing political foes as Nazis he indulged in some loathsome rhetoric of his own – rhetoric with actual Nazi roots.
Immigrants, he wrote, “poured over our borders like ants at a picnic.”
Likening humans to insects is indecent on its face. But the offensiveness goes far deeper. The classic lead-up to genocide is a period of comparing the target population to vermin. A notorious Nazi propaganda film alternates sequences of Jews with images of swarming rats. In the period leading up the Rwanda genocide, government propaganda called Tutsis “cockroaches.”
A leading scholar of genocide (yes, unfortunately, that’s now a field of study), summarizing the stages of mass slaughter, writes that in the pre-genocide period: “One group denies the humanity of the other group. Members of it are equated with animals, vermin, insects or diseases.”
I’ll do Mr. Helgaesen the favor of assuming that he’s not laying the groundwork for encouraging the slaughter of immigrants. But, surely, an ex-diplomat and author ought to know what it means to deploy this rhetorical weapon. And, to repeat myself, simple decency should have kept him from using such poisonous imagery.
Lastly, I subscribe (and donated) to ABQReport for the reporting. So I’m sad to see the publication of opinion pieces that only add to the mountain of vapid commentary cluttering up the airwaves and internet. But, OK, if you want to keep running mediocre opinion pieces, I can just ignore them in favor of the reporting. But if you’re going to persist in publishing what amounts to hate speech, I’ll just give ABQReport a pass.