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Ignorant Accusations Dilute the Meaning of Words


19 days agoSteemit5 min read

I have been called a "Nazi" quite a lot lately, which is truly laughable if you know anything whatsoever about my political, economic, and religious positions. It's sad, pathetic ignorance even if you don't know these things. Nonetheless, that label seems to be a popular go-to insult when someone is confronted by ideas they dislike.

You downvoted my spam? NAZI!

You challenged my copy/paste nonsense? NAZI!

You disagreed with my political prescription for problems X, Y, and Z? NAZI!

And so on ad nauseam. maybe it's time to stop using this term altogether? It is thrown around so often that the word is becoming meaningless. We have real problems that need to be addressed as governments of all kinds trespass against the liberty of the people they claim to protect, and we do have real racist violence inside and outside of those governments. But you called someone a Nazi on the internet, and you're saying it's bad? You're so courageous, right? Especially if you sidestepped a serious argument in order to fire off a dismissive epithet meant to end discussion and demonize your interlocutor. So brave. So wise. So truthful.

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There are still a few instances where the label of "Nazi" remains applicable in our world today, but they are few and far between, and idiotic misapplications of the label dilute the meaning of the word. What is a Nazi, really? That can actually be difficult to pin down, but the ideology has several key features that distinguish it from the various contemporary socialist and fascist movements in Europe in the early 20th century. Of course, if someone is sporting a red armband with a black swastika in a white circle, and they are not involved in some form of theatrical production, that should be a pretty good clue. But what if it isn't so obvious?

Nazism could be described as a subset of fascism, but even generic fascism is difficult to pin down ideologically. We have historical examples in Mussolini and Franco, of course, and their governments were totalitarian police states with centrally-planned economies that tended to micromanage nominally-private industries. Many nominally democratic societies now feature surveillance states, kangaroo courts, and prison systems that the tyrants of a century ago would marvel to see. Italy and Spain were primarily focused on imposing fascist rule internally. Nazi Germany, however, added some key features. Their ideology was rooted deeply in racism, and their foreign policy was built on rabid nationalist expansionism. This was sold to the public using the very real injustices imposed on Germany following the Great War, and promises to provide relief from the global Great Depression and the fiscal disaster of the Weimar Republic.

The neo-Nazi glorifies this nationalism and militarism, adheres to a belief in racial superiority, and condemns anyone they perceive as a "lesser race" to anything from open disdain to death. Accusing someone of such beliefs should be seen as a particularly serious charge, and when such a charge is blatantly false, the accuser deserves as much mockery as can be mustered for being such an intellectually empty idiot. That is easy enough in an internet forum, but what of modern politics?

A Nazi political ideology would require pervasive nationalist rhetoric, a centrally-planned economy, a belligerent foreign policy, and a deeply racist perspective on humanity. Here in the USA, all except the last are bipartisan descriptors, and the racism accusations are often less about what was actually said or done, and more about how the other party feels about a given policy. That isn't Nazism, no matter how disgusting any particular politician may be. They are certainly authoritarian, and perhaps verging on fascist, nut specifically Nazi? No, that is hyperbole to the point of absurdity.

That is not to say a politician needs to be let off the hook just because they don't sport a swastika or call for genocide, though. Nazism is just one manifestation of authoritarian overreach. It is hardly the only one. Stalin's brand of socialism is another. The long train of American presidents overseeing the exponential bipartisan expansion of the US police state and war machine is, too. Many petty dictators and tyrants infest governments of every size and at every level. The allure of politics draws the corrupt and abusive, and the nature of power corrupts those who seek office with pure intentions. The myth of democracy ensures the populace generally sees those tyrants as their representatives and agents rather than their oppressors.

And yes, there are a handful of actual Nazis still out there.

But odds are, if you're calling someone a Nazi, you're just advertising to the world that you have no real argument of your own, and thus have no option but personal attacks. That means you already lost your debate, and are throwing a temper tantrum. Grow up.

[/insomniac rant]


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