Pink Pills, Brown Shirts, and a Clear Failure of Rhetoric

“All propaganda has to be popular and has to accommodate itself to the comprehension of the least intelligent of those whom it seeks to reach” – Adolf Hitler

There was a quip used by political pundits back during the Gray Davis recall election in California (eventually won by Arnold Schwarzenegger to become governor): all you have to do to beat Gray Davis is get him talking. The thinking was that the more Davis spoke the less people liked him – a bad place to be for a politician. That’s the way it goes sometimes though. Sometimes your opponent makes such a bad argument that all you have to do is let him talk, and then point out that he’s wrong and everyone will agree.

For example, I recall the strains that Democrats went through to explain how Elizabeth Dole’s move from Kansas to North Carolina (her birth state) to run for Senate made her a carpetbagging outsider and was reprehensible … but Hillary Clinton’s move from Arkansas to New York for the same purposes was just fine. Or General Wesley Clark’s attempt to claim that the Iraq war was immoral because it failed to get UN approval – but somehow his campaign in Bosnia was different, even though it to failed to get UN approval and used NATO as a surrogate. Whether you agree or disagree with Clark on either war was irrelevant, he was arguing for one thing and against the same thing.

Yesterday I caught an article by Jeffrey Weiss over at Real Clear Religion titled “Pink Pills Aren’t Evil Like Brown Shirts.” Weiss ways in on the rhetoric surrounding the recent DHHS ruling to force religious charities to cover abortifacient drugs to their employees (and later to require all insurers to cover them free of charge). It’s a short article and not a bad read … but WOW does he miss his argument badly. Weiss makes two general points:

  • Hitler and Nazi references are used too often and typically over-the-top
  • The abortion issue is nothing like Nazism

On the first point I’d say we agree. Of course Hitler references are over-the-top. Of course they are used too often. I recall when Al Gore called radio stations and country music fans “brownshirts” for refusing to play, listen to, or buy Dixie Chicks music after they criticized president Bush’s foreign policy. Apparently to Gore, free market interactions that are impacted by political preferences are akin to Nazism. It was dumb. Many other Hitler references fall in the same vein.

On the second point though, I think Mr. Weiss actually makes an argument in defense of the Nazi comparison when it comes to the abortion debate. Let’s consider a few quotes from the article.

There was nothing hidden or subtle about the Nazis’ ambitions. Hitler’s virulent anti-Semitism was central to his writings long before most Germans knew who Hitler was.

Yes. Of course, eugenics and even ethnic cleansing have been part of abortionist writings for a century or so. Consider Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood: “We do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population.”

History is replete with examples of lesser but still massive brutality, hatred and oppression. Heck, Stalin and Mao killed more people. Al Qaeda has lasted longer. Saddam Hussein’s use of poison gas on his own people was incredibly horrific.

But none of them, and no other example you want to name, measures up (or down) to the Nazis. Here’s what made the Nazis the Nazis: An open, massive, systematic, deadly destruction of peoples — Jews, homosexuals, Roma — in unprecedented numbers and for no rationalization beyond the decision to declare them un-people. [emphasis added]

[ … stunned … silence … lip twitches … fist begins to shake in rage at my side …]

YYYYEEEEEESSSSSS!!!!!! They killed unprecendented numbers for no rationalization beyond the decision to declare them “un-people” … or, as we like to call them FETUSES! The Nazis could only dream of killing the same number of people as the abortionists. They could only dream of this scale of genocide. Estimates put total abortions in America since Roe vs. Wade at over 50 million. That’s 50 million people killed in an “open, massive, systematic, deadly destruction” just because they are declared “un-people”. Mr. Weiss, I cannot think of a better person to argue the “pro-choice-equals-nazism” point than yourself.

The Nazis were also masters of best technology of the era. There were other evil and hateful regimes in history. But they were forced to operate murder-by-retail, one victim at a time.

Just stop, Mr. Weiss. The comparison is too perfect. The Nazis were the forerunners of our modern abortionists. I see it now, more clearly than ever before – because you have explained it so clearly.

So when a politician or putative pundit pulls the “Nazi” comparison, here’s what they’re saying: Their American political opponents are on the way to approving massive, systematic, open, meticulously measured, murders of innocent and helpless victims without apparent political or material benefit using the latest in technology and on a scale that beggars the imagination.

You already had me convinced Mr. Weiss – the Nazi comparisons are right. I cede the argument. Your stunning indictment of American pro-choice politicians and the abortion machine has been brilliant.

It’s with this last flourish that Mr. Weiss gets it. He hasn’t had his second cup of coffee, but  he now realizes the obvious counter-arguments to his premise, based on his own argumentation, and tries in vain to dismantle them.

I will grant that some who are engaged in the health care debate may actually want to go there. For some, abortions (and even birth control) represent a massive system of murders that are comparable to the Holocaust.

To them I would respectfully say: You do realize that you are vastly outnumbered by your fellow citizens? Only the small minority who would eliminate abortion for any reason except to save the mother’s life (essentially self-defense) actually, literally equates abortion with murder. I’ve never seen a poll to indicates that represents anything more than a fringe of American public opinion.

Now we have it. He recognizes that the mass-murder comparison is exactly the argument made by pro-lifers, and is exactly the comparison to Nazis that fits. His response? Majority rule. As though somehow being “vastly outnumbered by your fellow citizens” carries any moral weight. Weren’t a vast number of southerners supportive of slavery? Did that make it right? Weren’t a vast number of Germans supportive of Hitler and Nazism? Did that make it right? If standing against evil when it’s unpopular to do so makes me “fringe” then I’ll gladly take it. Mr Weiss continues:

And while morality is not necessarily a matter for referendum, do you really want to declare that the vast majority of Americans are tantamount to Hitler and the SS?

No, Mr. Weiss, we don’t declare that the vast majority of Americans are tantamount to Hitler and the SS. We declare that the vast majority of Americans are tantamount to the citizenry of 1930s Germany, who couldn’t be troubled to stand against a clear evil because it would cause inconvenience for their lives. I’ve heard the arguments before. “Can you imagine how difficult it would be – just what the political upheaval would be – if we actually outlawed abortion?” Or how about if we outlawed slavery? Did that cause political upheaval? Good thing we didn’t do that. Oh, wait.

I’m still stunned. I’m flattened by just how effective Mr. Weiss was at drawing out the similarities between the Nazis and the abortionists, and justifying the comparison at every turn. It was quite comprehensive.

I leave you with Amos 6:1-7 and God’s rebuke of those at ease in Zion before they went into exile:

1 Woe to you who are complacent in Zion,
and to you who feel secure on Mount Samaria,
you notable men of the foremost nation,
to whom the people of Israel come!
2 Go to Calneh and look at it;
go from there to great Hamath,
and then go down to Gath in Philistia.
Are they better off than your two kingdoms?
Is their land larger than yours?
3 You put off the evil day
and bring near a reign of terror.
4 You lie on beds inlaid with ivory
and lounge on your couches.
You dine on choice lambs
and fattened calves.
5 You strum away on your harps like David
and improvise on musical instruments.
6 You drink wine by the bowlful
and use the finest lotions,
but you do not grieve over the ruin of Joseph.
7 Therefore you will be among the first to go into exile;
your feasting and lounging will end.

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One Response to Pink Pills, Brown Shirts, and a Clear Failure of Rhetoric

  1. Jeffrey Weiss says:

    Thanks for the shout-out! While we disagree about some of our conclusions, I appreciate the civil fashion in which you raise your points. That you would make abortion the exact equivalent of the Nazi murders and oppressions — and thereby the majority of US citizens the same as the Germans who “went along” is logically consistent. But as I learned long ago in logic class, the accuracy of a logical conclusion depends totally on the truth of the underlying assumptions…1:-{)>

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