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Talk of the Social Contract Should Not Make Rightists Reach for Their Guns

09/27/11

Daily Kos reports:

After a video of [Elizabeth] Warren talking about the deficit and the social contract went viral last week (see above), Rush Limbaugh, the Fiscal Times and Rich Lowrey all spent time attacking her. Now, Lowrey has decided to spend another column going after her, and places like the Daily Caller and Reason have piled on. There is also this gem from right-wing blog Wizbang:

The Wizbang text reads:

When I hear the word “contract” I [strike-through: reach for my revolver] think of two unique definitions — formally, a legally binding mutual agreement made between two or more parties, or idiomatically, an attempt to hire an assassin to kill one or more of your enemies.

As many readers will recognize,  the “reach for my revolver” line derives from Nazi sources. The phrase “Whenever I hear [the word] ‘culture’ . . . I remove the safety from my Browning!” is usually attributed to Gestapo founder Hermann Goering, though Wikiquote attributes the line to a play by Hanns Johst first performed in April 1933 in honor of Hitler’s birthday.

Is this really the impression Wizbang wants to convey? Should those who think the rich should pay their fair share of taxes fear a right-wing Gestapo? We do not fear.

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A Comment and a Clarification

Addendum: A reader who is a friend writes in (see comments):

Sorry, but I think you’re reaching here with the Nazi analogy. The existence of a parallel form of sentence structure (which isn’t even parallel because the original was probably spoken in German) doesn’t necessarily imply that the speaker was referencing the Nazis in making the remark. 

I hate to be defending the right wing. 

Our reply:

Thanks for writing in. We stand by the comment, but should clarify. You are correct that the writer was not necessarily intending a reference to anything Nazi. The original German, according to Wikiquote, was “Wenn ich Kultur höre . . . entsichere ich meinen Browning!” It’s not just a parallel of sentence structure but a similar impulse toward violent reaction to a viewpoint one finds intolerable. The similarity, the echo is there whether we point it out or not. Would the writer(s) at Wizbang have used that phrase if they knew it echoes a remark originally spoken by a prominent Nazi or associated with Nazi Germany? The writer is essentially saying, ‘When I hear someone saying that the rich and prosperous have succeeded with help from others in society, and owe some of their success to what others have paid for, and therefore should share some of their wealth [this was Elizabeth Warren’s point], I have an impulse to shoot that person.’

Hitler and the Nazi Third Reich inflicted incalculable horrors on humanity, and it cheapens and dishonors that human suffering to automatically call someone you disagree with a Nazi. We are not saying that Wizbang is run by Nazis or deliberately used a Third Reich reference. But they are giving off unfortunate connotations—are they aware, and if so do they care?—and they are right in line with former Nevada senatorial candidate Sharron Angle’s talk of “Second Amendment remedies,” Sarah Palin’s bull’s-eyes on her Facebook map showing locations of Democrats’ offices, and the smashing of Democrats’ windows after the passage of the health care reform bill in March 2010. Let’s not forget “Break Their Windows. Break Them Now” [see “ ‘Kill the Bill’ vs. ‘Stop the War’: A Tale of Two Protests”], or the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ).

We are reminded of Diderot’s observation, “From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step.”

Thanks again for your comment. We’ll try to be more precise in the future—especially in any references to Nazis, which we do not make lightly (have never made before), or ever wish to make at all.

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2 Responses to “Talk of the Social Contract Should Not Make Rightists Reach for Their Guns”

  1. Ron Lavine Says:

    Sorry, but I think you’re reaching here with the Nazi analogy. The existence of a parallel form of sentence structure (which isn’t even parallel because the original was probably spoken in German) doesn’t necessarily imply that the speaker was referencing the Nazis in making the remark.

    I hate to be defending the right wing.

  2. Levees Not War Says:

    Thanks for writing in. We stand by the comment, but should clarify. You are correct that the writer was not necessarily intending a reference to anything Nazi. The original German, according to Wikiquote, was “Wenn ich Kultur höre . . . entsichere ich meinen Browning!” It’s not just a parallel of sentence structure but a similar impulse toward violent reaction to a viewpoint one finds intolerable. The similarity, the echo is there whether we point it out or not. Would the writer(s) at Wizbang have used that phrase if they knew it echoes a remark originally spoken by a prominent Nazi or associated with Nazi Germany? The writer is essentially saying, ‘When I hear someone saying that the rich and prosperous have succeeded with help from others in society, and owe some of their success to what others have paid for, and therefore should share some of their wealth [this was Elizabeth Warren’s point], I have an impulse to shoot that person.’

    Hitler and the Nazi Third Reich inflicted incalculable horrors on humanity, and it cheapens and dishonors that human suffering to automatically call someone you disagree with a Nazi. We are not saying that Wizbang is run by Nazis or deliberately used a Third Reich reference. But they are giving off unfortunate connotations—are they aware, and if so do they care?—and they are right in line with former Nevada senatorial candidate Sharron Angle’s talk of “Second Amendment remedies,” Sarah Palin’s bull’s-eyes on her Facebook map showing locations of Democrats’ offices, and the smashing of Democrats’ windows after the passage of the health care reform bill in March 2010. Let’s not forget “Break Their Windows. Break Them Now,” or the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ).

    We are reminded of Diderot’s famous line, “From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step.”

    Thanks again for your comment. We’ll try to be more precise in the future—especially in any references to Nazis, which we do not make lightly, or ever wish to make at all.

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