Everyone needs to stop calling everyone else a Nazi
“Trudeau had to find a reason to justify the Emergencies Act, for which he knew there was no reasonable justification, so he harped on the Nazi theme. “
When Donald Trump was first elected, my friends on the left would routinely refer to him as a new “Hitler.” The words “fascist” and “Nazi” were flung around with abandon. And these were educated people who knew very well what the word Nazi actually means, and who Hitler actually was.
The dumbing down of those words for no purpose other than to give satisfying vent to their hatred angered me because it put me at a polemical disadvantage. I was backfooted by their assumption that Trump was the living incarnation of one of the greatest evils in recorded history. If that was to be the premise of the discussion, there was no common ground for rational exchange. The tactic angered me.
It got so bad that I had to set down a rule: Any mention of Trump as Hitler, and the discussion is over. They agreed, and we were occasionally able to have a rational discussion about U.S. politics. For the record, I am no fan of Trump. But I was also no fan of Obama, yet I never compared him to Stalin. I wish I could set the same rule for irresponsible politicians who play the Nazi card to backfoot their opponents by portraying themselves as morally superior.
What does the word Nazi convey today when used by politicians and other cultural elites? It is a catch-all term that suggests evil, but which may also mean ‘people who disagree with me’. (I have been called a fascist more times than I can count solely on the basis of my opinions.)
The important thing is that everyone agrees that if an individual or a movement or a party is found guilty — or made to look guilty — of Nazi affiliation, that justifies extraordinary measures of punishment. It is no accident that Putin is pinning his invasion of Ukraine on a need for “de-Nazification,” an absurd charge against a nation bent on meeting the standards of democracy necessary to join NATO, and headed up by a Jewish president.
During the Freedom Convoy protests, our political leadership — notably our prime minister — expressed no sympathy whatsoever for the legitimate concerns motivating the protest, but instead encouraged loathing of the protesters. Trudeau took the easiest route in ‘othering’ them. He referred again and again to the pitifully few symbols of Nazism amongst the protesters — even though they were not symbols of affiliation, but of accusation (which doesn’t mean I approve of their use) — to imply that conspiracy theorizing and white supremacy ran rampant as a primary motivating force through the convoy, demonstrably not the case.
Trudeau had to find a reason to justify the Emergencies Act, for which he knew there was no reasonable justification, so he harped on the Nazi theme. He was so determined to embed the Nazi analogy in the national consciousness that he deliberately implied in the House of Commons that Conservative MP, Melissa Lantsman — a lesbian Jewish grandchild of Holocaust survivors — was standing with “people who wave swastikas.” This was in its own microcosmic way as cruel and misleading as Putin’s deliberate insult to Ukraine’s Jewish president.
As Melissa Lantsman wrote in Newsweek following the question period incident, for Trudeau, “there are only two kinds of people in our country: People who agree with him and people who support Nazis.”
Trudeau’s linguistic game of divide and conquer according to identity and party affiliation is a dangerous one. Inflammatory words and encouragement to scapegoating are the tools of a dictator.
But while we’re on the subject of Nazi-related demonizing, it’s not a good look on Maxime Bernier when he alludes to Chrystia Freeland as Canada’s “Nazi deputy prime minister.” The conspiracy theory that keeps whirling around Freeland has been thoroughly debunked, but simply won’t die. Russian disinformation has kept it alive. And it is wrong for conservatives to go that route. None of us is responsible for what our grandfathers did.
Many of the same people who are eager to tar Freeland with her grandfather’s sins believe Ukraine is a Nazi country, a ridiculous charge, since Ukraine’s entire spectrum of hard-right parties only attracted 2.2% of the popular vote in the 2019 national elections.
Putin is not going to heed my call for de-Nazifying his political discourse. And I can confidently predict Justin Trudeau won’t either. But I would hope that my fellow conservatives might ponder and reflect on their own rhetorical excesses. When they go low, we should go high.
Barbara Kay is a senior columnist for the Western Standard.