Nazi references are all the rage these days!

The casually-dropped Nazi smear is perhaps the best single indicator that a speaker is both a political and historical idiot – which is one reason we’ve seen the Lyndon LaRouche acolytes using it with wild abandon over the summer.  However, it seems that anyone can play, even (perhaps especially) leading thinkers of Academia like Noam Chomsky, who must have channeled his inner Ward Churchill in San Francisco this week.  Chomsky told a Commonwealth Club crowd that Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage, and “right-wing media” herald the new coming of Naziism:

The memory that comes to my mind — I don’t want to press the analogy too hard, but I think it’s worth thinking about — is late Weimar Germany. There were people with real grievances, and the Nazis gave them an answer. ‘It’s the fault of the Jews and the Bolsheviks and we’ve got to protect ourselves from them, and that will take care of them.’ And you know what happened…

[…]Germany in the 1920s was at the peak of Western civilization. A decade later, it was at the pits of human history.

Unless an answer can be given to these people, unless they can be led to understand what’s really happening to them, we could be in for trouble.

Where to start with this serial string of idiocies? First, Germany in the 1920s was hardly “at the peak of Western civilization.” Its economy had collapsed, its social structures had collapsed, and its national identity had been crushed by unexpected and humiliating defeat in a near-existential war that their “peak” civilization thought they had won. It was a disaster waiting for a bigger disaster, just as Versailles was a peace treaty looking for a bigger war. The entire idea of the Weimar government had little support with Germans, who wanted a monarchy — and failing that, a strongman.

But even more, “anger” and “opposition” do not equal “Naziism” or “fascism”.  Context is rather important in that analysis.  The Nazis did not come to power by tapping into a deeply-seated notion of limited government, after all.  They satisfied that urge for a charismatic leader who would reorder society through a  fuehrerprinzip that would get the trains to run on time, succeeding because of that disregard for a Weimar constitution more or less imposed on them by their enemies and the political and economic chaos it created.  Regardless of what one thinks of the very, very different styles of Limbaugh and Savage, neither one pump for greater government control of our lives; in fact, the very reason both get exercised is to fight that creeping intrusion.

The only way anyone can make this argument is either by breathtaking intellectual dishonesty or sheer ignorance of 20th-century history and current events.  In this case, perhaps it’s both.

Don’t forget to click the link to Mediaite to get their take on Chomsky.