When people are called ‘Nazi’ for the slightest social justice transgression, is it any wonder that the word is starting to lose any meaning?
One of the trends of the just-departed decade has been the expansion of the Nazis. Not literally, though social media and websites certainly gave the extreme right a more vocal presence than it might have had before. I’m thinking more in terms of how the social justice movement have used the word as go-to insults for pretty much anyone that they disagree with.
There’s a long and proud history of people referring to humourless authority figures as Nazis – the very idea of the Tinpot Hitler, the jobsworth who has allowed the small amount of power that his job as a security guard or park keeper or traffic warden or such has given him (and it is usually a him). It’s a comedy trope – On The Buses‘ Blakey even had a Hitler moustache, just to hammer the point home. But these were figures of fun more than serious fascist dictators.
There’s also been a long and rather less proud history of campaigners shouting ‘NAZI!’ at those in opposition to them, which could be anyone from actual National Front Neo-Nazis to the police, back before their touchy-feely days. It was both an insult and an accusation, one prone to a degree of exaggeration perhaps, but still aimed at both the actual Far Right and the authority figures who were all too keen to crush individual liberties. Kids today who moan about heavy handed policing should be glad that they weren’t around in the 1970s and 1980s, when the police really did start to resemble thuggish, bully boy brown shirts at times.
Social media exaggerates everything, of course, and with the return of ‘literal Communists’ and the like, it is perhaps inevitable that the use of the word ‘Nazi’ to describe pretty much anyone to the right of Owen Jones or Jeremy Corbyn, or increasingly anyone who you simply disagree with, has spread like a virus. The Brexit result and the election of Donald Trump has super-boosted the hysteria to new levels, and seen pretty much anyone who didn’t tow the line of the self-proclaimed progressives slandered with the accusation.
It starts with the politicians themselves – in Trump’s America, the term is casully tossed around during discussions of his Presidency, even by the serious press. In Britain, Boris Johnson is regularly called a Nazi online. This is quite a new thing – even Margaret Thatcher was not called a Nazi by anyone other than the most fanatical, and I think that she was much further to the right than either Trump or Johnson, both of whom might more accurately might be seen as populist opportunists, happy to go with the flow rather than having any seriously-held political beliefs.
the Nazi accusaton has inevitably spread to their supporters and the Leavers in the Brexit debate – if you voted for Brexit or the Tories, you are a Nazi. No ifs, no buts, no consideration for the myriad of reasons that people might have had for voting this way. And beyond that, the Nazi label now gets attached to people who might simply read certain books that the internet mob don’t approve of and want banned (the irony of the whole book burning anaolgy lost of people it seems), who support blacklisted artists or who might retweet someone else’s comment – just ‘liking’ a contentious point is now seem as equivalent of posting it. If you are much-loved pop culture figure – say, a J.K. Rowling – a single transgressive comment, a single strand of belief that goes against newly established orthodoxy will see you ‘cancelled’ and labelled a Nazi by the very people who a day before had worshipped the ground you walked on (because hell hath no fury like a nerd scorned). And that’s the fascinating aspect of all this – you don’t even need to be expressing anything that would unquestionably be seen as Nazi-like ideas anymore. You know, the racism, the anti-semitism (in fact, you might get a pass for this) and the calls for genocide. Today, you simply have to stray in any way from the Woke path, and you risk being called a Nazi. It seems for the current generation, it’s all or nothing – today’s Intersectionalist will be tomorrow’s Nazi if they dare (or accidentally) question any of the orthodoxy.
There’s an irony that is probably lost on them, but the actions of anti-Nazi fanatics often seem to border on Nazi behaviour – not just the book burning, but the mob violence that seems to excite them, the demonisation, the bully-boy tactics and ‘othering’ of opponents, the curious tolerance of Jew–baiting and the silencing of other viewpoints seems very much the sort of thing that Hitler would approve of.
You think you’ll never be called a Nazi? You probably already have been. If you voted the wrong way or read an article in The Spectator and found yourself somewhat agreeing, if you followed a right-leaning commentator on Twitter, if you failed to disown Brexiteer friends and family members, if you questioned any aspect of current Woke culture, or even if you used the word ‘Woke’ without pointing out that it is just a Far Right invention designed to silence the Left – you have already been caught up in the blanket accusations thrown out by furious social justice campaigners online. You, my friend, are a Nazi. Don’t feel bad. You’re in good company.
As a Reprobate reader, you’re a smart free thinker and so I don’t need to point out the problem in labelling everyone who has ever said anything that you disapprove of as a Nazi. But I will anyway, just to be clear. If you throw the word ‘Nazi’ around with gleeful abandon, attaching it to people who not only are clearly not Nazis but who might in most circumstances actually be your ally, then you cheapen the word and you diminish your argument. You make the accusation meaningless, because most sensible people will see through your nonsense. You become the boy who cried wolf. The real Nazis will start to get a free pass because the claim no longer has any meaning – people will laugh off warnings about The Daily Stormer because you have rendered the word ‘Nazi’ meaningless, and so actual Nazis start to slip through the net and enter the mainstream. You give this small, pathetic, fringe movement power by suggesting that it is much bigger – and much less ugly – than it really is. Meanwhile, you have increasingly alienated the very people who should be supporting you – and that will not help your cause. The UK General Election result is a good indicator that, funnily enough, shouting ‘NAZI!’ at people is not a good way to win over hearts and minds. It would be nice to think that people would take that on board. Instead, they seem to just double down on their beliefs, calling everyone who voted Tory a Nazi.
A sensible person might look at how ordinary people with no significant political leanings are labelled Nazis and wonder what is going on here. The people accused of being Nazis might be forgiven for not suddenly apologising, but instead moving further away politicially and culturally from the people shouting the accusation at them. It’s entirely possible that the end result of calling everyone Nazis will be more Nazis – not the imaginary ones, but actual people who have been pushed into the arms of the extremists.
When everyone is called a Nazi, the real Nazis gain power and importance, slipping through the net as they claim victimhood and suggest that criticisms of them are also false flag attacks. By seeing Nazis everywhere, don’t highlight their dangers – we mainstream them and make them seem harmless. Is that what you want?