Monday, January 24, 2011
Goe-balls And No-balls
I suppose I've been remiss in not mentioning Rep. Steve Cohen and his reference to Goebbels' "big lie" during the recent so-called health care debate.
Coming, as it did, so soon after pledges of a new civility, it was ill-timed and ill-conceived. As Jon Stewart said, the congressman needn't have resorted to playing the Nazi card, when all he had to do was point out that the Republican arguments were a bunch of unrepentant and shameless lies. Despite the fact that Mr Cohen's remarks were criticized by both sides (and, of course, hyped beyond their original context by the screamers on Fox "news" and blanketed on the right-wing airwaves), at least one commenter here thinks he's been given a pass by "the media." That's as wrong as he was.
Still, I don't think all Nazi references need be ipso facto off-limits henceforth and forevermore. If, for example, some country or other began to round up Jews, or Christians, or blue-eyed blondes and began systematically to kill them in gas chambers, comparisons might be apt. Similarly, we might be justified in raising alarums were there ranks and files of armed men marching down our streets, goose-stepping, raised arms adorned with swastikas, looking over at a guy with a mustache? We might be excused, I'd argue, for comparing them to Nazis.
So where's the line? Somewhere near where truth ends, I'd propose. Did Joseph Goebbels extol the virtues of repeatedly lying, or did he not? Are right-wingers repeating lies, over and over, about the ACA, or are they not? Is the repetition of these lies effective in getting people to believe them? May it not be said, under any circumstances, that there are similarities? In what way is Mr Cohen's example incorrect, factually or historically?
On the other hand, when Glenn Beck (who never uses Nazi references) suggested Obama was planning concentration camps, was that true, or was it not? When Michele Bachmann warned of "reeducation camps," was that based on fact, or did it spring, like putrid purulence pouring from a punctured pustule, from whatever polluted processes go in inside her own poor head?
Mr Cohen made his point civilly, I'd say, and it was accurate. It was a bad idea, rhetorically speaking and timing-wise; but it wasn't a falsehood, nor was it screamed, nor was it intended as a springboard for paranoid fantasies bedecked with chalkboards aimed at fueling delusions of the masses.
So, yeah, enough with the Nazi references, especially when they're complete bullsh*t. But let us not forget that the need for civil discourse does not abrogate the right and the responsibility to call a spade a spade. Or a shovel a shovel.
Especially when it's the truth.