[Note: This item comes from friend Robert Berger. DLH]
Who goes Nazi? Media edition
It’s a great game to play with people
By Leah Finnegan
May 2 2017
There’s an article I think about pretty much every day called “Who Goes Nazi?” It is by Dorothy Thompson, one of the few Western journalists to interview Hitler, and it was published in the August 1941 issue of Harper’s. It is the best article ever written, narrowly beating Lynn Hirschberg’s profile of M.I.A. and Lynn Hirschberg’s profile of Kurt and Courtney.
The article’s premise is very simple. Thompson imagines a dinner party attended by well-heeled guests. Then she tells us which ones she thinks are, or will become, Nazis. “Nazism has nothing to do with race and nationality,” she writes. “It appeals to a certain type of mind.”
According to Thompson, the most successful Nazis are not overt in their Nazism. Subtle, ruthless, cerebral, and bitter people are more likely to “go Nazi.” “The frustrated and humiliated intellectual, the rich and scared speculator, the spoiled son, the labor tyrant, the fellow who has achieved success by smelling out the wind of success — they would all go Nazi in a crisis,” she writes. Other people go Nazi, she says, because they are really dumb, or will want to be close to power when the timing is convenient.
Thompson recommends that readers play this game at their next dinner party, but it can really be played anywhere. Sometimes I like to look around my apartment and theorize which of my possessions would “go Nazi” (Whole 365-brand cereal, certain candles, my Keurig). Other times I do it while reading the news. There are many examples. People are going Nazi all the time these days.
Ross Douthat went Nazi over the weekend with a column titled, “Is There a Case for Le Pen?” Douthat, the Times’ senior correspondent for opinions on Girls, wrote of the overtly racist French candidate for president: “Some argue that Le Pen has simply replaced anti-Semitism with Islamophobia. But her attacks on Islamic fundamentalism and her defense of a strict public secularism have been echoed by many mainstream French politicians.” It highly amuses me when conservatives, always so logic-obsessed, trot out the junior-high-level line of reasoning that if others are racist, the racism of an extremely racist person, say, poised to take power over a nation can be discounted or excused.
This type of forgiveness is a classic sign of a Nazi predilection. As Thompson describes one dinner guest: “Mr. G is a very intellectual young man who was an infant prodigy. He has been concerned with general ideas since the age of ten and has one of those minds that can scintillatingly rationalize everything… He will certainly be able, however, fully to explain and apologize for Nazism if it ever comes along.” This pretty much describes eight out of ten Conservative columnists, but especially Ross Douthat.
Chris Cillizza went Nazi long before Trump was elected. Thompson might argue that the former Washington Post blogger, who now writes Trump fan fiction for CNN,was born with this frame of mind. She writes: “L is the strongest natural-born Nazi in this room… He has the brains of Neanderthal man, but he has an infallible instinct for power.” This description squares quite well with Cillizza’s recent work. Last week, in a column defending Ivanka Trump after she was booed by a German audience for supporting her father’s pitiful paid-leave policies, Cillizza, somehow channeling the voices of Ward Cleaver and John Mayer simultaneously, wrote: “It’s important to remember that Ivanka is, first and foremost, her father’s daughter. As such, she is going to defend him — as would almost every daughter in any situation in which her dad is under attack.”