Holocaust as Metaphor

November 20, 2004 | 60 comments
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I know it’s the weekend and blog activity drops way down on weekends. However I thought some might find this discussion interesting. I’ve been blogging about it on my website the past few days, but have primarily been focusing on abstract phenomenological and semiotic aspects of the problem.

The basic issue gets back to the whole Sheri Dew Nazi reference. Over on LDS-Phil we had this (to me) extremely interesting discussion of why her comments were inappropriate. Quite a few people I really respect strongly suggested that to use the holocaust as a metaphor diminishes and denigrates the holocaust.

Now my view is that I strongly disagree. Not because I think Sheri Dew’s use was acceptable. By Goodwin’s Law alone it was a poor rhetorical choice. However what we very interesting to me was the notion that it was always inappropriate to use the holocaust to refer to anything other than the events of the holocaust in Europe during WWII at all. To me, the holocaust exemplifies a certain unspeakable evil better than almost any other symbol we have. As such I think it one of the ideal symbols for evil. Others, however, made the argument that to have the holocaust refer to any other event waters down the meaning of the holocaust and is thus inappropriate.

Allow me to quote a bit from my blog, where I droned on endlessly about some of the more abstract philosophical implications. I’ll skip the boring philosophy and just cut to the chase.

One big problem I have with the way the holocaust or other Nazi attrocities are treated is how that treatment devalues all other atrocities and genocides. The fact we want to distinguish the holocaust from evil bothers me since one would think that the holocaust is a rather prime example of evil. Thus the holocaust exemplifies evil but sure the evil it exemplifies is more essential and fundamental. Indeed evil itself is hopefully the more troubling to us.

I think that the holocaust is seen as a particularly good representation or symbol of evil and thus directs us towards an evil that can’t ever be directly thought properly or fully. Yet to make the holocaust itself the object of a kind of veneration or fear is to in a sense trivialize it because in so doing we trivialize the actual evil itself. What I’m trying to say that when we treat the symbol as what is important rather than what it symbolizes (or exemplifies) that we’ve reversed things in a very disturbing way.

The reason I find this disturbing is because the holocaust, as being in the past, is dead, complete, determinate and thus in a sense under our power. The future is incomplete, unfinished, and indeterminate. Thus it is in a sense out of our power. By making the past events more important than the evil they exemplify, we in effect suggest a power over the future we don’t really have. It is that movement to death that allows new genocides like Darfor or Rwanda to take place and not have the power the holocaust does. We’ve made evil dead when it is unfortunately very much alive.

Now I’ll leave the abstractions for discussion on my blog (and feel free to join in there or on LDS-Phil) However here I’m more interested in the practical implications. Ought we use the term holocaust to refer to the Turkish genocide of Armenians or Stalin’s purges of the Jews or the genocide of 10% of Cambodia by the Khmre Rouge?

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60 Responses to Holocaust as Metaphor

  1. David King Landrith on November 20, 2004 at 2:28 am

    I think that one major difference between Nazi genocide and other genocide is their mustering of industrial technology to perpetrate the crime. The Nazi’s moved beyond simple mass executions to create a mechanized mass murder industry complete with specialization of labor and an assembly line. I believe that there is something especially horrifying mass murdering people in a fashion analogous to the way Eli Whitney made muskets or Henry Ford made cars.

  2. John H on November 20, 2004 at 2:28 am

    I agree in theory that we should be able to use the holocaust in ways other than simply referring to the event itself. The problem is, so many people overuse it to mean almost anything they object to. Sheri Dew is one example.

    I’ve heard George Bush referred to as Hitler. In high school debate, what we wouldn’t have done if we couldn’t drag out the Nazi references as a warning of what was to come if an opponent’s ideas were implemented!

    The problem is then two-fold: We’ve used the Holocaust metaphors so often that it does detract from the sheer magnitude of what happened. September 11th, a horrific, awful day, saw .05% of the number of people killed in the Holocaust – and that’s just the Jewish casualties. It doesn’t include deaths from the war, the handicapped, gays, etc. It’s so staggering, I doubt many of us have truly comprehended the implications.

    The second problem of overuse means no one takes the comparisons seriously anymore, even if it is used appropriately. When anyone with dandruff suddenly is Hitler, and any hate crime, terrible as it may be, suddenly conjures images of the SS, how are we to feel the power of the symbolism of the Holocaust in today’s world?

  3. Clark Goble on November 20, 2004 at 3:17 am

    Just for the record, I certainly agree that there are many improper mentions to the holocaust. I’m not sure though that using it to describe the genocide of the Armenians by the Turks, the Jews by Stalin, 10% of Cambodia by the Khmere Rouge and so on fit that category. I’d probably even allow its use by anti-abortionists for abortion. But I think, for instance, its use by animal rights activists rather inappropriate, for instance.

  4. Chris on November 20, 2004 at 6:02 am

    It seems like there are at least two separate issues here.

    1. You might object to the moral claim that Bad Event X is bad on the same order of magnitude as the Holocaust. So someone might say, “the treatment of native Americans by the settling Europeans was another Holocaust,” and you might think it’s just repulsive that someone would think that the behavior of European settlers was anywhere near as bad as the attempt to exterminate the Jews.

    2. You might object to someone’s using the Holocaust as a rhetorical device, even when it’s unlikely that the person really meant to draw a strict moral comparison. For example, someone might say something like “Bush expects everyone to show blind loyalty to the state — he’s another Hitler.” Now, probably if you sat down and had a quiet discussion with that person, he’d admit that Bush is not marching people into death camps on account of their supposedly inferior race; he’d probably even admit that, even if Bush and Hitler have certain characteristics in common, the former is not as morally repugnant as the latter. And, in turn, even if you disagree with the bare claim “Bush is immorally demanding blind loyalty to the state” that disagreement isn’t what upset you about the person’s statement. So in this case it isn’t really a moral claim you object to — it’s an inappropriate use of rhetoric.

    Perhaps oddly, I’m more troubled by the second than by the first. I can accept genuine moral disagreement. I can’t accept using the Holocaust rhetorically when one isn’t prepared to stick by the moral claim underlying the rhetoric.

  5. danithew on November 20, 2004 at 8:43 am

    I hope someday to visit Auschwitz and other death camp sites in Eastern Europe … simply because I feel it would help me to feel better and understand better what happened there. I had a week years ago where I spent each evening watching the Shoah videos through until I had seen them all — and it was one of those experiences that made me feel that human existence really can become surreal. I was particularly jarred by the Jewish survivor who returned to the town where he lived and where so many of his fellow Jews were killed. It was jarring because he was surrounded by “friendly” fellow non-Jewish villagers who used to be his neighbors during WWII. They recognized him, he recognized them — and they were “reminiscing” (if I can put it that way) about what happened and talking about it in front of the camera. It was one of the strangest things I’ve ever seen. I wonder if I experienced something like that if I would ever be able to return (as this man did) to the place where such terrible things had happened.

    One could only wish that the Holocaust was a unique event in history but it is clear (from the other historic atrocities that have been listed) that the darkest side of humanity has manifested itself many many times historically. We really have to be on guard and realize that a supposedly refined and civilized nation can turn into a bloodthirsty monster in a period of years.

  6. Frank McIntyre on November 20, 2004 at 8:46 am

    It would seem that any policy that involved killing millions of people could fruitfully be compared to the holocaust, even if the two were not identical. The obliteration in Cambodia or the Great Leap Forward certainly comes to mind.

    Further, as John notes, comparing to the holocaust is often its own refutation; since, for example, September 11th was simply nowhere near the numerical scope of the holocaust. Personally I’ve never heard anybody try to compare 9/11 to the holocaust, presumably because even if the villains were as evil, they lacked the power to do what Hitler and his enablers did. So by all means let the holocaust comparisons continue, to help us identify those who make poor arguments (although, for the record, I wouldn’t put Dew’s usage in this camp).

    There are also probably many other constructive ways to use the holocaust as a historical example of people’s behavior in times of extreme duress. It points out that normal people can do very bad or very great things when faced with extraordinary evil. Somone places a hypothetical in Nazi Germany where no one denies the evil of the outcome, and so one can focus on the other elements of the hypothetical rather than on deciding if the outcome is perhaps justified.

  7. Larry on November 20, 2004 at 10:06 am

    I have met holocaust survivors and heard their stories and it is an experience no one would ever want to go through. I’ve seen their tattoos which branded them as nothing more than animals for experiment.
    Having said that, this blog is about Sheri Dew and the fact that she used the term holocaust in reference to gay activists and their methods.
    Sheri wasn’t born yesterday. She didn’t just get off the train. She knew what she was saying and she said it. I’m not sure it was done out of ignorance.
    With that in mind, why don’t we get Sheri to respond on this site and share with us why she used that reference. She might have good reasons for having used the comparison and we may be reacting in a politically correct manner rather than a sound intellectual or philosophical manner. We may even be ignoring what has really happened in the interest of political correctness. Just a thought.

  8. Larry on November 20, 2004 at 10:11 am

    Frank,

    Another one came to mind. The 30 some odd million western Ukrainians that were starved to death in the mid to late 30’s by the Soviet gov’t. That actually exceeds the numerical nos. of the holocaust .

  9. David King Landrith on November 20, 2004 at 11:30 am

    I’ve seen Dew’s position represented as saying everything from “Those who believe that people should gay marry each other are like Nazis” to “People gay marrying each other represents the new Holocaust.” Even in a posts here at Times & Seasons, Kaimi Wenger has stated that Dew “compared gay-rights activists to Nazis.”

    Meridian appears to have (perhaps wisely) removed the text of Ms. Dew’s speech from their site. Here is the portion dealing with the Hitler:

    This escalating situation reminds me of a statement of a World War II journalist by the name of Dorothy Thompson who wrote for the Saturday Evening Post in Europe during the pre-World War II years when Hitler was building up his armies and starting to take ground. In an address she delivered in Toronto in 1941 she said this: “Before this epic is over, every living human being will have chosen. Every living human being will have lined up with Hitler or against him. Every living human being either will have opposed this onslaught or supported it, for if he tries to make no choice that in itself will be a choice. If he takes no side, he is on Hitler’s side. If he does not act, that is an act—for Hitler.”

    May I take the liberty of reading this statement again and changing just a few words, applying it to what I fear we face today? “Before this era is over, every living human being will have chosen. Every living human being will have lined up in support of the family or against it. Every living human being will have either opposed the onslaught against the family or supported it, for if he tries to make no choice that in itself will be a choice. If we do not act in behalf of the family, that is itself an act of opposition to the family.”

    It is certainly an unfortunate rhetorical choice on the part of Ms. Dew, but she is not actually comparing the Naziism to anything. Ms. Thompson’s “onslaught” is Hitler’s military aggression. In fact, far from using Holocaust imagery (as feminists, animal rights activists, eco-terrorists, and frothing-at-the-mouth Bush-haters are wont to do), Ms. Dew does not even use the word Holocaust. Her argument can be characterized in the following form:

    1. Before WWII, many people were indifferent to Hitler’s aggression.

    2. By the time WWII was well under way, indifference to Hitler had ceased to be a tenable position, because the fight against him had become part of a titanic moral struggle.

    1a. Many people are now indifferent to whether folks gay marry each other.

    2a. There will be a time when indifference to whether folks gay marry will cease to be a tenable position, because it will become part of a titanic moral struggle.

    Thus, she uses Hitler’s onslaught as an example of something that a great many people thought was harmless but developed into a titanic moral struggle. She is stating that she believes the same kind of moral struggle will develop out of the controversy over whether people should gay marry each other. I don’t know as I agree with this position, but I can’t really see how it trivializes the Holocaust.

    Larry: With that in mind, why don’t we get Sheri to respond on this site and share with us why she used that reference.

    you suggest this out of fair-mindedness and with deference and respect to Ms. Dew’s opinion. And this blog (Times & Seasons) is more interesting for the participation of LDS figures interested in clarifying (or in the case of Daniel C. Peterson, making fun of) certain issues. I don’t see, however, that they are obliged in any way to participate in this forum. Indeed, I think we need to grant people the right to remain silent (as is it were), because anything they say here can and will be used against them. (And I don’t mean to imply that you meant it this way, Larry. I say this in the spirit of clarifying, rather than contradicting what you’ve said.)

  10. David King Landrith on November 20, 2004 at 12:05 pm

    Out of keeping with my regular habits of posting in this forum, I’m going to try to actually speak to the subject of the initial post in this thread:

    Clark Goble: Ought we use the term holocaust to refer to the Turkish genocide of Armenians or Stalin’s purges of the Jews or the genocide of 10% of Cambodia by the Khmre Rouge?

    Perhaps I’m mistaken, but I believe that the term genocide was coined specifically to describe Hitler’s attempt to kill all Jews.

    Moreover, it’s important to remember that Hitler was trying to kill every Jew. Neither Stalin’s purges nor the Khmre Rouge’s slaughter in Cambodia were perpetrated with the goal of killing everyone in a certain ethnic group.

    Moreover, Communism (for all it’s former glory) has gone the way of Monarchism, and (as a political system) no longer poses a serious threat. Still present in our world are anti-semetism and the “I’m not my brother’s keeper” mentality that allowed (for example) many Germans and French to sit idly by while soldiers dragged off friends, neighbors, and colleagues to slavery and slaughter.

    So I say: No, we should not use the term Holocaust to refer to other genocides. Nor do I believe that crimes as bad as the Holocaust are as common as many people (who would measure them by numbers alone) would have us believe.

  11. Larry on November 20, 2004 at 12:07 pm

    David,

    Thank you. Point taken. Well put in your statement. My hope is that she be offered the opportunity. Whether she accepts or not is her decision.
    I am glad you clarified the context. It certainly puts me in her camp with respect to the issue. I say this because I have had the opportunity to watch the evolution of other practices, i.e. abortion,go from protecting the health of the mother to a form of birth control with the use of partial birth abortion. Instead of being a health issue it became a woman’s rights issue. (common-law marriages, the ease of divorce, the proliferation of illegal drugs etc. are examples of others)
    When we look down the road at the gay issue, I have often stated that marriage and equal rights is not the ultimate goal of those pushing the agenda.
    It has become a human rights issue to speak out against gays and lesbians (but not against heterosexuals). By slowly manipulating political correctness and human rights issues they have advanced an agenda that was unthinkable just a generation ago. This has nothing to do with tolerance and live and let live.
    Nobody was actively attacking them. They set the agenda and they set the tone.
    In that sense Sheri Dew may have said more than we realize.

  12. Jonathan Green on November 20, 2004 at 1:18 pm

    No, no, no. Absolutely not. You should not use ‘Holocaust’ metaphorically, or for anything other than the systematic genocided perpetrated by the Nazis. I agree with Frank that the Holocaust can be compared to other genocides to help understand the particular historical context of each, but Holocaust as metaphor is a terrible idea.

    1. ‘Holocaust’, ultimately derived from a Greek biblical word for ‘burnt offering,’ implies a religious understanding of events that doesn’t apply elsewhere.

    2. Evil is a dangerous concept that should be handled only with exreme caution. Yes, the Holocaust was evil. That something else is evil does not by itself make it directly comparable to the systematic murder of millions of innocents. That something else does not rise to the same level of abomination as the Holocaust does not mean it is not evil.
    2a. Why do you need an ideal symbol for evil? What’s out there that so badly needs to be tarred as ‘evil’ that it’s worth invoking the deaths of millions of murdered innocents?

    3. For the systematic killing of large numbers of people, there is already a perfectably acceptable term: ‘genocide.’ Using ‘Holocaust’ in these cases is offensive to a lot of people people because it confuses the historical specifics of the Nazi-perpetrated genocide with other historical circumstances.
    3a. “Stalin’s purges of the Jews”??? It seems ghastly to compare the Nazis’ crimes that claimed millions of innocent lives with a particular aspect of Stalin’s crimes when that one aspect had, maybe, dozens of victimes.
    3b. Genocides are properly measured numerically, but the Holocaust’s particular abomination was not merely numeric. Stalin’s and Mao’s policies were often disastrous, possibly genocidal, but malicious agricultural policies are different than rounding up men, women, and children and systematically murdering them.

    4. Stop drinking the kool-aid: the Right abuses Nazi and Holocaust imagery as much as the Left does. As Clark alludes above, the anti-abortion movement has for its own ends. According to Clark, this is A-OK by him: “I’d probably even allow its use by anti-abortionists for abortion.”

    Clark, I think this is strong evidence that your license to use the term ‘Holocaust’ should be revoked.

    Abortion. Is. Not. Murder. It is a medical procedure that is often sinfully abused, but in some circumstances can be an appropriate choice. When is it ever appropriate to compare one person’s choice concerning her own body, perhaps sinful but maybe not, to the systematic murder of millions, organized and enforced by the machinery of a modern politcal state? If you allow the anti-abortionists this usage merely because they feel so strongly about the issue and it’s consistent with their world view in which abortion is murder and legality is the same as compulsion, then you can’t deny the same usage to animal-rights activists and anyone else who feels strongly about an issue.

    In a word: No.

  13. Jonathan Green on November 20, 2004 at 1:27 pm

    I swear that I made at good-faith attempt at correct HTML, including closing tags. One more try:

    No, no, no. Absolutely not. You should not use “Holocaust” metaphorically, or for anything other than the systematic genocided perpetrated by the Nazis. I agree with Frank that the Holocaust can be compared to other genocides to help understand the particular historical context of each, but Holocaust as metaphor is a terrible idea.

    1. “Holocaust”, ultimately derived from a Greek biblical word for “burnt offering,” implies a religious understanding of events that doesn’t apply elsewhere.

    2. Evil is a dangerous concept that should be handled only with exreme caution. Yes, the Holocaust was evil. That something else is evil does not by itself make it directly comparable to the systematic murder of millions of innocents. That something else does not rise to the same level of abomination as the Holocaust does not mean it is not evil.
    2a. Why do you need an ideal symbol for evil? What’s out there that so badly needs to be tarred as “evil” that it’s worth invoking the deaths of millions of murdered innocents?

    3. For the systematic killing of large numbers of people, there is already a perfectably acceptable term: “genocide.” Using “Holocaust” in these cases is offensive to a lot of people people because it confuses the historical specifics of the Nazi-perpetrated genocide with other historical circumstances.
    3a. “Stalin’s purges of the Jews”??? It seems ghastly to compare the Nazis’ crimes that claimed millions of innocent lives with a particular aspect of Stalin’s crimes when that one aspect had, maybe, .
    3b. Genocides are properly measured numerically, but the Holocaust’s particular abomination was not merely numeric. Stalin’s and Mao’s policies were often disastrous, possibly genocidal, but malicious agricultural policies are different than rounding up men, women, and children and systematically murdering them.

    4. Stop drinking the kool-aid: the Right abuses Nazi and Holocaust imagery as much as the Left does. As Clark alludes above, the anti-abortion movement has c-opted the term Holocaust for its own ends. According to Clark, this is A-OK by him: “I’d probably even allow its use by anti-abortionists for abortion.�

    Clark, I think this is strong evidence that your license to use the term “Holocaust” should be revoked.

    Abortion. Is. Not. Murder. It is a medical procedure that is often sinfully abused, but in some circumstances can be an appropriate choice. When is it ever appropriate to compare one person’s choice concerning her own body, perhaps sinful but maybe not, to the systematic murder of millions, organized and enforced by the machinery of a modern politcal state? If you allow the anti-abortionists this usage merely because they feel so strongly about the issue and it’s consistent with their world view in which abortion is murder and legality is the same as compulsion, then you can’t deny the same usage to animal-rights activists and anyone else who feels strongly about an issue.

    In a word: No.

  14. Jonathan Green on November 20, 2004 at 1:31 pm

    Last try, and to h*** with the HTML. Maybe one of the people in charge would take a moment to clean up the mess above. Sorry about that.

    No, no, no. Absolutely not. You should not use “Holocaust� metaphorically, or for anything other than the systematic genocided perpetrated by the Nazis. I agree with Frank that the Holocaust can be compared to other genocides to help understand the particular historical context of each, but Holocaust as metaphor is a terrible idea.

    1. “Holocaust”, ultimately derived from a Greek biblical word for “burnt offering,â€? implies a religious understanding of events that doesn’t apply elsewhere.

    2. Evil is a dangerous concept that should be handled only with exreme caution. Yes, the Holocaust was evil. That something else is evil does not by itself make it directly comparable to the systematic murder of millions of innocents. That something else does not rise to the same level of abomination as the Holocaust does not mean it is not evil.
    2a. Why do you need an ideal symbol for evil? What’s out there that so badly needs to be tarred as “evil� that it’s worth invoking the deaths of millions of murdered innocents?

    3. For the systematic killing of large numbers of people, there is already a perfectably acceptable term: “genocide.� Using “Holocaust� in these cases is offensive to a lot of people people because it confuses the historical specifics of the Nazi-perpetrated genocide with other historical circumstances.
    3a. “Stalin’s purges of the Jews”??? It seems ghastly to compare the Nazis’ crimes that claimed millions of innocent lives with a particular aspect of Stalin’s crimes when that one aspect had, maybe, dozens of victims (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Jews_in_Russia_and_Soviet_Union#Stalin_and_allegations_of_anti-Semitism).
    3b. Genocides are properly measured numerically, but the Holocaust’s particular abomination was not merely numeric. Stalin’s and Mao’s policies were often disastrous, possibly genocidal, but malicious agricultural policies are different than rounding up men, women, and children and systematically murdering them.

    4. Stop drinking the kool-aid: the Right abuses Nazi and Holocaust imagery as much as the Left does. As Clark alludes above, the anti-abortion movement has co-opted the term Holocaust for its own ends (http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&lr=&safe=off&q=%22abortion+holocaust%22&btnG=Search). According to Clark, this is A-OK by him: “I’d probably even allow its use by anti-abortionists for abortion.�

    Clark, I think this is strong evidence that your license to use the term “Holocaust� should be revoked.

    Abortion. Is. Not. Murder. It is a medical procedure that is often sinfully abused, but in some circumstances can be an appropriate choice. When is it ever appropriate to compare one person’s choice concerning her own body, perhaps sinful but maybe not, to the systematic murder of millions, organized and enforced by the machinery of a modern politcal state? If you allow the anti-abortionists this usage merely because they feel so strongly about the issue and it’s consistent with their world view in which abortion is murder and legality is the same as compulsion, then you can’t deny the same usage to animal-rights activists and anyone else who feels strongly about an issue.

    In a word: No.

  15. Clark Goble on November 20, 2004 at 2:11 pm

    While I don’t think most abortions are murder, those who do obviously will see things differently. If you earnestly believe life begins at conception, then it seems the parallel fits.

  16. Larry on November 20, 2004 at 2:19 pm

    Jonathan,

    You make a compelling case and in the end in order to preserve our memory of the horror that was Nazi Germany, “Holocaust” should be reserved for that event alone.
    But let me raise an interesting argument that you addressed. Changing the word murder to destruction, doesn’t your point regarding the holocaust being the “systematic murder of millions, organized and enforced by the machinery of a modern politcal state” give some relevance to the charge, made by reasonable people, that it amounts to a similar state of affairs with regards to abortion?

  17. David King Landrith on November 20, 2004 at 2:27 pm

    Jonathan Green, I’ll readily concede that there’s quite a lot of Holocaust image misuse on all political sides. Limbaugh, for example, has popularized the term feminazi to anger those among the feminists who invariably lean toward the autocratic side of the political spectrum, and who are prone to misuse holocaust imagery. And I agree that it is a misuse of Holocaust imagery to apply it to abortion. I limited my examples to left-leaning groups for rhetorical effect; since I like the rhetorical effect, I stand by my examples.

    That said, I’m no dogmatist to point out that that the left is clearly more comfortable throwing around smears like fascist, brown-shirt, goose-stepper, and nazi. Perhaps the europhilia that is so much more prevalent among the American left (than the American right) makes them more sympathetic to the European position that tolerates anti-semitism and moral chest-thumping.

  18. Mark B on November 20, 2004 at 2:53 pm

    I said this before, but I’ll say it again here.

    David King Landrith is right about placing Dorothy Thompson’s statement in context. She wasn’t talking about the Nazis’ attempt to exterminate the Jews, since the system for exterminating them had not yet begun functioning by the time she spoke (sure there were persecutions and mass arrests and deportations to concentration camps before then). She was talking about Hitler’s agressive war and the subjugation of essentially all of Europe.

    People who think that Ms. Thompson (or Ms. Dew) were talking about the Holocaust are ignorant of history, and are attempting to impose the context of what we know now on an earlier day. Those same people (or perhaps just their intellectual roommates) complain about the failure of the US to bomb Auschwitz or rail lines leading to it in 1943 or 1944, while ignoring the fact that the US didn’t have the overwhelming superiority in airpower that it achieved later in the war, or that US soldiers were fighting and dying in large numbers in Italy (beginning in 1943) and France (beginning the next year), and surely the first priority in bombing targets must have been to reduce Germany’s ability to fight and kill Americans.

    So, the real folks at fault are those who either misunderstood or intentionally twisted Ms. Dew’s statement, and then waved the bloody shirt of “She called us Nazis.” She didn’t compare homosexuals to Nazis.

    As to Jonathan Green’s thrice told tale: “Abortion is not murder.” Well, it depends. First, it depends on how murder is defined. If the law defines murder to include the killing of a fetus, then abortion could well be murder. Second, it depends on circumstance. Just as some killing of human beings is not murder (Mark Twain–or was it Ambrose Bierce?–divided homicides into “premeditated, intentional, accidental and praiseworthy”), so, too, abortions could be divided into different categories, depending on the states of mind of the actors involved. Just because some may be the analogue of the “praiseworthy” homicide doesn’t mean that others could not be characterized as murder.

  19. Ethesis (Stephen M) on November 20, 2004 at 3:07 pm

    Clark Goble: Ought we use the term holocaust to refer to the Turkish genocide of Armenians or Stalin’s purges of the Jews or the genocide of 10% of Cambodia by the Khmre Rouge?

    The Turkish genocide is particularly important, since Hitler modeled his activities after it, and justified his genocide with the comment that the world had forgotten the Armenians, so they would forget the Jews. To the extent that there is a benchmark, that we should never forget, it is really the Armenian genocide …

    As for the Greek genocide in Turkey (population of Greeks in Turkey dropped by an order of magnitude due to the pogroms), the Greeks had places to go (and mostly got there instead of dying, though they lost a lot). I was born the year of the last major pogrom, my grandfather’s generation had slaves taken from the Greek population where he was born, and on academic conferences he could drive by his old house and see the artwork still on the walls (though, I should note, a large silver family heirloom was saved for him by Turkish neighbors, which is what he chose to remember of the Turks — there is good and bad in every community). The Greek/Turkish genocide experience models the one in Palestine in many ways. The Armenian/Turkish one models the one in Germany. It wasn’t a Greek holocaust as the Greeks (for the most part) got out, though the concentration camps (my grandfather was in one) had lessons that the Nazi’s learned from as well.

  20. a random John on November 20, 2004 at 3:28 pm

    David,

    Thanks for bringing up the original text. It seems to be that the point being made is a bit more subtle than your outline suggests. Dorothy Thompson isn’t saying that indifference is an untenable position, but that indifference is by default supporting the Nazis. One could certainly argue with such logic. To me it falls into the “a vote for Nader is a vote for Bush” category.

    The text makes no direct mention of the holocaust, and I don’t think it there is anything to gain by trying to say that it does. Note that I am not saying that David is drawing this line, but others are and it is unfortunate. It is also unfortunate that Ms. Dew choose this text, because doing so seems to create a parallel between gay marriage activists and Nazis. There are several ways in which this parallel breaks down. Most obvious is that in WWII a long term victory was a possiblity. Nazis were killed and jailed. Others went into hiding. The Nazi party was destroyed. Could someone tell me what long-term “victory” against gay-rights activists would look like? Would it bear any similarity to victory in WWII?
    .
    .
    Would it involved nuclear weapons?

  21. David King Landrith on November 20, 2004 at 3:33 pm

    a random John, I see your clarification as a question of emphasis, and I think that your take on the emphasis is more correct than mine.

  22. Larry on November 20, 2004 at 3:48 pm

    The focus of Ms. Dew’s comments have to do with ignoring what is happening and what the consequences could be, not equating gays with Nazis.
    Using a tragic historical sequence to illustrate a serious problem now is not wrong.
    If we ignore the secondary and tertiary consequences of what is occurring, our children and grandchildren may well remember our silence in as serious a vein as we remember those who ignored Hitler for so long and behaved as Neville Chamberlain did.

  23. Jack on November 20, 2004 at 4:13 pm

    OK, forget the Holocaust as a metaphor for the destruction of the family.

    So, what other term can we conjure up to adequately convey the systematic destruction of that human organization instituted by God which if altered contrary to His design will bring upon the nations the destruction foretold by the prophets?

  24. Larry on November 20, 2004 at 4:24 pm

    Ignoring Hitler was the problem. The Holocaust was the consequence. It’s the problem we are arguing.

  25. APJ on November 20, 2004 at 4:26 pm

    How about “natural human progress?” Honestly, if someone can actually distinguish the Church’s current position on gay marriage from their previous defense of polygamy and their justification for denying blacks the priesthood for over a century, then they will have my respect. I have yet to see any compelling argument as to how this is not just another example of the Church being 20 years or so behind the times.

    What’s more, I don’t see how homosexuals are hurting me at all, and I don’t see how recognizing their existence and rights would upset the Church’s mission in the least.

    To those who see this as sacrilege, compare members’ responses the day after the priesthood ban was lifted…what many were saying that day would have been seen as equally sacriligious if they’d said it the day before.

  26. Bryce I on November 20, 2004 at 4:30 pm

    I’ve also made this point before in response to Mark B., and I’ll make it again.

    Despite the fact that Dorothy Thompson’s remarks were not referencing the Holocaust, Sheri Dew’s use of it was clearly intended to invoke the specter of the systematic elimination of the Jews. There’s no making excuses for Sister Dew on this point.

    The missing piece of evidence is the sentence in her speech that immediately follows the quote given by David King Landrith in comment #9. It reads as follows:

    “At first it may seem a bit extreme to imply a comparison between the atrocities of Hitler and what is happening in terms of contemporary threats agains the family, but maybe not.”

    To parse this a bit, Hitler’s military aggression did not rise to the level of “atrocities” — the atrocities associated with Hitler are those of the Holocaust. Also, Sister Dew explicity acknowledges the unwisdom of using such a comparison by describing it as “a bit extreme”. So while Dorothy Thompson’s words cannot be reasonably construed to refer to the Holocaust, Sister Dew’s appropriation of those words can, and should be.

    What troubled me the most about Sister Dew’s talk at the time is that after making the above-quoted statement, she has nothing further to say on the matter. To address Clark’s initial point somewhat, if you’re going to make a comparison with the Holocaust, and I believe there are times when this is a useful and legitimate argument to make, you had better make darn sure you explain on what terms you are making that comparison so that no one can accuse you of making and empty and dishonest argument. I was disappointed that after recognizing explicitly the problems with the comparison she was making, Sister Dew refused to defend it at all.

  27. Jack on November 20, 2004 at 4:44 pm

    APJ, it was known that the ban would, at some point, be lifted. However, I’m not aware of any prophecy that points our minds toward a change in ” neither is the man without the woman, nor the woman without the man, in the Lord”.

    Furthermore, gay marraige isn’t the only issue at hand with regard to the demise of the family. What about abuse, infidelity, poverty etc? Would you catogorize these problems under ” natural human progress”?

  28. APJ on November 20, 2004 at 5:03 pm

    Jack, I need to clarify that my suggested name ‘natural human progress’ was somewhat tongue-in-cheek and only referred to gay marriage. Abuse, infidelity, and poverty were not in my mind when I made the comment. I also would like to point out that including abuse, infidelity, and poverty (and any other DIRECT harm) with gay marriage, in my mind at least, cheapens our effectiveness in fighting against those TRUE dangers.

    Also, I know it’s up for debate, but I truly doubt that there was a general feeling that the priesthood ban would ever be lifted. Since it was lifted by revelation, how could anyone have been certain that the Lord was going to? Even if they were certain, how could it be known that it would happen before, say, the Millenial reign.

  29. David King Landrith on November 20, 2004 at 5:13 pm

    AJP: What’s more, I don’t see how homosexuals are hurting me at all

    Just wait until one of them tries to gay marry you.

  30. APJ on November 20, 2004 at 5:16 pm

    Do you mean that a homosexual would try to claim me as a spouse, or that he/she would try to perform the ordinance of marriage (marry me to someone)? Since I am already married, I would have serious problems with either scenario. One, I am not gay; two, polygamy has clearly not been smiled on (openly) since 1890. (This response is also somewhat tongue-in-cheek).

  31. Jack on November 20, 2004 at 5:21 pm

    Was that really DKH?

  32. Jack on November 20, 2004 at 5:23 pm

    Oops, I mean DK*L* as in Landrith

  33. David King Landrith on November 20, 2004 at 5:43 pm

    Jack: Was that really DK[L]?

    Yes, Jack. It’s me. Why do you ask?

  34. Jonathan Green on November 20, 2004 at 6:18 pm

    DKL, when you first mention Rush Limbaugh, and then talk about the American Left being more tolerant of moral chest thumping in the same post, you’re being ironic, right?

  35. David King Landrith on November 20, 2004 at 6:50 pm

    Jonathan Green: DKL, when you first mention Rush Limbaugh, and then talk about the American Left being more tolerant of moral chest thumping in the same post, you’re being ironic, right?

    Actually, no.

    I don’t think that Limbaugh holds a candle to (say) Chirac. Limbaugh’s basically an entertainer; Chirac is an elected head of state. Moreover, Limbaugh’s chest thumping monologues are directed towards leaders of the Democratic party. The journalists and essayists on the left who came unglued after the Bush won (Eric Alterman, Jane Smiley, Katha Pollitt, Maureen Dowd, et. al.) directed their fury against ordinary American voters. They expressed the sentiment London’s Daily Mirror; viz., those who disagree with them are stupid and morally inferior.

  36. Jack on November 20, 2004 at 8:13 pm

    DKL, as one who agrees with 90% of what you have to say, I guess your comment struck me as being a little odd. I couldn’t tell if it was serious or playful. (playful in the sense that I don’t think homosexuals wanting to gay marry me will ever be a serious problem) And knowing that commenters names have been used by dishonest lurkers, I thought that perhaps this is what happened. That said, I think there are other *very* serious problems with gay marraige.

  37. Bryce I on November 20, 2004 at 8:14 pm

    An observation: Jonathan Green exhorts us: “Stop drinking the kool-aid: the Right abuses Nazi and Holocaust imagery as much as the Left does.” It’s interesting how blithely we accept some forms of senseless human behavior that results in the loss of life (drinking the Kool-Aid) as a metaphor or figure of speech, and how resistant we are to others (the Holocaust).

    Nothing deep here, just a thought in passing.

    As for the left abusing Nazi imagery, I’m not calling this abuse, but David Neiwert has a remarkable series on the rise of what he calls pseudo-fascism in the US that’s worth taking a gander at, if only to be aware of its existence.

    And looking at the site to find the link, I find this fascinating title: Bush, the Nazis, and America.

  38. David King Landrith on November 20, 2004 at 8:26 pm

    Jack: DKL, as one who agrees with 90% of what you have to say, I guess your comment struck me as being a little odd.

    Fair enough. I meant it as a joke. I’ve often been warned that making politically incorrect humor undermines people’s perception of my argument, but I’ve never heeded such advice.

    Jack: I don’t think homosexuals wanting to gay marry me will ever be a serious problem

    LOL. Here’s hoping you don’t wake up someday and find yourself gay married without your consent.

  39. Jack on November 20, 2004 at 8:31 pm

    Oh yes, I ment to respond to APJ.

    You say: “I also would like to point out that including abuse, infidelity, and poverty (and any other DIRECT harm) with gay marriage, in my mind at least, cheapens our effectiveness in fighting against those TRUE dangers.”

    There are some that believe that SSM is a TRUE danger to the family. Your logic is based on a belief that SSM is not a true danger. I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree.

    You say: “Also, I know it’s up for debate, but I truly doubt that there was a general feeling that the priesthood ban would ever be lifted.” You may be right that most members were ambling along with the status quo, but there were some who were eagerly awaitng the change. Many of our African American brothers and sisters prayed fervently that the change would come in there life time. Also, there was a serious concern among many of the brethren as to the problem with a mixture of African blood among peoples of other countries where the church was growing rapidly.

  40. Jack on November 20, 2004 at 8:36 pm

    DKL, don’t stop making the jokes on account of my thick headedness. :)

  41. David King Landrith on November 20, 2004 at 8:39 pm

    Bryce I: It’s interesting how blithely we accept some forms of senseless human behavior that results in the loss of life (drinking the Kool-Aid) as a metaphor or figure of speech, and how resistant we are to others (the Holocaust).

    This is a very interesting point.

    Just a small piece of trivia: According to the Kool-Aid FAQ:

    Question XX: What kind of Kool-Aid was consumed at Jonestown, Guyana?

    Answer: It is a popular misconception that 900 followers of cult leader Jim Jones committed suicide by drinking Grape Kool-Aid laced with cyanide at their commune in Jonestown Guyana in the late 1970’s. The followers of Jones actually drank cyanide laced Flavor-aid, a cheap imitation of Kool-Aid.

  42. APJ on November 20, 2004 at 8:44 pm

    Jack, thanks for the comments, and I definitely see where you’re coming from. I guess the Libertarian in me just doesn’t allow me to lump in a non-direct threat to my values (like gay marriage) with direct threats (like the one’s you mentioned, i.e. abuse, infidelity, etc.).

    From your comments, it’s obvious you put more stock/faith in current church positions than I do. I think one of the strengths of my position (not a proof, but a strength) on this issue is that, if the Church teaches something different about homosexuals tomorrow (i.e. it is completely genetic, for example), it won’t lead to a crisis-of-faith for me.

    P.S. I have no idea why I’m not watching the BYU-Utah game right now!

  43. Jack on November 20, 2004 at 8:56 pm

    APJ, I’ve found that crisis’ will come when you least expect them.

    For the record, when/if that crisis should come, you are welcome on my side of the fence. :)

  44. APJ on November 20, 2004 at 9:04 pm

    Jack, much appreciated. I guess even those who are more liberal on some social issues can still “hypothetically” have a crisis-of-faith. Well, I think I’m gonna go catch the 2nd half of BYU-Utah…thanks for the discussion.

  45. Jonathan Green on November 20, 2004 at 10:11 pm

    Bryce, an answer:

    Jim Jones’s followers did themselves in, mostly. The victims of the Holocaust did not.
    There are survivors and children of survivors of the Holocaust who are personally invested in the use of the term Holocaust and have wishes regarding how the term is used that merit some consideration. Not too many Jonestown survivors, though, and they didn’t apply the term to themselves in the first place.
    Kool-aid drinking has become a term of art for uncritical embrace of political party platform points. I associate the rise of the term in politics with Republicans semi-ironically describing their party loyalty, which probably means that Republicans associate it with the Democrats doing the same.

    Is there some converse statement of Godwin’s law by which any online discussion about Nazi comparisons will inevitably degenerate into a random crossfire about the most divisive possible topics known to the group in question? I mean, we’ve already had abortion, gay marriage, presidential politics, Left vs. Right, American vs. European, OD-2, and the BYU-Utah game. How much longer before this turns into a discussion of Signature, Sunstone, and the Student Review? I swear, if this were a rock climbing group, we’d be talking about the ethics of bolting vs natural protection by now.

  46. David King Landrith on November 20, 2004 at 10:18 pm

    Jonathan Green: How much longer before this turns into a discussion of Signature, Sunstone, and the Student Review?

    As if his behavior weren’t already fruity enough, I’ve heard from reputable sources that Lou Midgley showed up unannounced at Lighthouse Ministries and rudely interrupted George Smith having fondue with the Tanners.

  47. Larry on November 20, 2004 at 10:28 pm

    DKL

    Here’s one that is in the headlines today here in Canada.
    “Looming influezna pandemic could kill 10s of millions”. Mother Nature is our lurking enemy. The experts are evidently in a state of panic over this one that’s supposed to be coming this year.

  48. David King Landrith on November 20, 2004 at 10:42 pm

    Larry (siting headline): “Looming influezna pandemic could kill 10s of millions.”

    This headline trivializes genocide because it barrows the language of mass murder to describe a common illness.

  49. Larry on November 20, 2004 at 11:04 pm

    DKL,

    This was done in jest, not to trivialize.

  50. Mark B. on November 20, 2004 at 11:15 pm

    Bryce I.

    I agree, upon further review. Mostly.

    The victorious allies seem to have considered Hitler’s making of aggressive war an atrocity, since several of the defendants at Nuremberg were members of the General Staff, who were charged with making war. And, if memory serves, some of them (Keitel and Jodl, I believe) received the same sentences as those convicted of Holocaust-related crimes. But, I suspect that Ms. Dew wasn’t thinking of this when she made her comment about “Hitler’s atrocities.” The inhabitants of Warsaw or Rotterdam or the East End might have thought of that, however.

  51. David King Landrith on November 21, 2004 at 12:06 am

    Larry, my response to your headline was also in jest.

  52. Clark Goble on November 21, 2004 at 12:09 am

    Just a question, but at what time did the phrase “nuclear holocaust” arise and was the term linked to the holocaust that itself partook of Biblical language? (i.e. the holocaust offering)

  53. Larry on November 21, 2004 at 12:18 am

    DKL,

    I’ll learn to read you yet. :)

  54. John Mansfield on November 21, 2004 at 9:01 am

    Nazis are overblown. For several years they were The Enemy and the full propaganda machinery of the nation made sure we hated them. Take a look at this Texaco ad for example: http://www.lileks.com/institute/jetsam/4/index.html
    Here’s another: http://www.lileks.com/oldads/40s/2.html

    It seems so over the top now, but it was as earnest as a seminary filmstrip. Remember, too, that our image of the Nazis was built up before we knew of the Holocaust. Such massive investment in creating a symbol of All That Is Evil doesn’t have to go to waste once the war is won. Decades later, Indiana Jones can still mow down truckloads of the swastika guys and it’s good family fun. They are equivalent to the robots used for massive PG violence in other movies, not really people. It is interesting that we cling to a view of the Nazis that they shared, in their case in how they regarded the Jews.

    Someday Nazis will become demythologized and be viewed as one more repugnant political apparatus, but not today. Modern comparisons with Nazis have there uses. When one needs a cheap swipe at an opponent, they’re available. When one is worried about an unprincipled group amassing power, the Nazi example is worth considering. It is weak though to think that a repetition of anything the Nazis did is a preparation for unleashing evil. Probably 90% of their work was the same as that of any ruling party.

  55. David King Landrith on November 21, 2004 at 10:35 am

    John Mansfield: Such massive investment in creating a symbol of All That Is Evil doesn’t have to go to waste once the war is won.

    As with most cynical outlooks, your view lacks the sophistication to actually account for what has happened. The propoganda machines pumped out as much or more hyperbole against the Communists and the Japanese as it did against the Germans. And the International Military Tribunal for the Far East (or Tokyo War Crimes Ttribunal) after WWII led to a comparable number of executed Japanese leaders for things like the Nanking Massacre, where the Japanese Army murdered between 150,000 (according to the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal in 1948) and 300,000 (more recent estimates) unarmed Chineese over the course of 6 months. It is the creation of a mechanized industry to exterminate every last Jew that makes the Naziis especially evil.

    John Mansfield: When one needs a cheap swipe at an opponent, they’re available. When one is worried about an unprincipled group amassing power, the Nazi example is worth considering.

    This basically agreeing with the entire thrust of this thread. One of its primary topics has been the misuse of Holocaust imagery.

    John Mansfield: It is weak though to think that a repetition of anything the Nazis did is a preparation for unleashing evil. Probably 90% of their work was the same as that of any ruling party.

    I’m glad that your strong enough to realize this. Even so, what you say amounts to the conventional wisdom on the topic; it is, at any rate, beside the point. Nobody here is proposing that we go over, say, the minute details of Nazi transportation, tax, or drug regulation policy. (Although Nazi monetary policies—which are not considered a necessary evil—have been the topic of some study, since inflation was a large problem and an important political issue in pre-WWII Germany.)

  56. Jack on November 21, 2004 at 11:47 am

    DKL : “The propoganda machines pumped out as much or more hyperbole against the Communists and the Japanese as it did against the Germans”

    David, I’m not sure this argument holds up today. No doubt such was the case during WWII and the decade immediatly following it, but since the sixties IMO “communism” and “naziism” have been treated quite differently by the U.S. propoganda machine. Inasmuch as one is an extreme evil of the “left” and the other an extreme evil of the “right”, the bias is obvious – regardless of the fact that the outcome of the two is essentially the same. (i.e., the cold blooded murder of millions irrespective of the difference in ideologies)

  57. Ivan Wolfe on November 21, 2004 at 1:54 pm

    Jack –

    I don’t buy the argument Naziism is an extreme evil of the right, especially since the Nazi party was a socialist party.

    Hitler’s extreme wasn’t so much on the left or right, but on being authoritarian (which neither side of the political spectrum has a monoploy on)

    see this website:
    http://www.digitalronin.f2s.com/politicalcompass/analysis2.html

    That’s how I prefer to think of political affiliations, rather than the overly simplistic left/right dichotomy.

  58. Ivan Wolfe on November 21, 2004 at 2:04 pm

    I should add I don’t agree with all the placing on the “Political compass” I linked to, but I do like the overall idea.

  59. Jack on November 21, 2004 at 3:39 pm

    Ivan, I’m not sure that I buy it either, but the “propoganda machine” has bought and sold it as such for, lo, these many years.

  60. Ivan Wolfe on November 21, 2004 at 5:38 pm

    Jack –

    I’m with you on that. It’s like the left/right distinction – the “political compass” I prefer may be a better or truer way to describe political leanings, but the rhetoric employed in public discourse is so geared toward the left/right binary that it’s hard to get out of that way of thinking.