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It's not just Holocaust Denial, God Damn it!

One of the things which really irks me are historical hair-splitters who claim things like "Hitler was never democratically elected to power."

For all the Monday-morning-quarterbacking, Hitler was -in fact- legitimately elected to his defined job of Chancellor, according to the Weimar Republic.

And, despite the revisionist whining, the leader of the NSDAP followed all proper parilmentary rules and procedures while gaining the office of Chancellor.

The mistake the other parties made was that they expected Adolf to actually honor his promises.

What truly cemented the Nazi victory was a parlimentary vote to provide the Chancellor with a 1-year "emergency decree" of absolute power, which was allowed by the Weimar Constitution. That is what gave Hitler legitimacy.

The ultimate flaw was that German citizens trusted their rulers, not to mention what those rulers claimed. The very definition of American government has been, since the introduction of Federal power, has been the dispersion, dilution, and distrust of central power.

Despite the clamor in some quarters, Hitler gained power in a legitimate manner, in the same fashion that Oswald acted alone.

Sometimes ugly things happen, and you can't alibi them away, no matter how bad the flavor.

That said, Dean is entirely correct to state that incitement to riot is not protected speech.

In fact, John Irving nails it quite nicely. Claiming the Holocaust didn't happen is vile (but protected) speech. Saying "X did (or did not) happen, therefore we must attack Y" is not protected speech.

It's the difference between bitching about the New York Times publishing pictures of the "piss Christ," and burning down their central offices over the same question.

As I review, while I disagree with the contention that "Hitler was never democratically elected to power," it is entirely correct that Germany had a wide variety of speech-control laws in effect, and in fact Hitler was not allowed to speak in public for six or seven years after the Beer Hall putsch. We can all see how well those laws worked...

Hell, I live in Cincinnati: the city which is legally obliged to allow the Klan to put of a cross on Fountain Square at Christmas. It's not "racist;" the cross references Romans 12.

In other words, one (or more) groups had a hissy fit because the Klu Klux Klan wanted to put up a cross on Fountain Square with a Bible citation. Their objection? "It's the friggin Klan, guys!"

You see, that's the whole point of free speech. It's free. As in "ufettered," or "not officially controlled," or even "not according to what those in power consider appropriate."

In fact, while trying to recall which verse the "Cincinnati Klan cross" mentioned, I encountered a Cincinnati Post story which mentioned the "Black Fist, which has held protests against alleged police misconduct and racism, blame(s) the group which displays the menorah."

In other words, devout Jews displaying the menorah during a holy season are empowering racism. That's a "bad thing!"

Is it possible to find a better example of why "hate speech" laws are a bad idea?...

One of the more popular talking points on the right for the past couple of years involves mentioning that Wilson (the "idealist," "war to end wars" president) actually jailed anti-war commentators. Compare this to the Bush administration.

Despite all provocation, the Bushies haven't thrown people into jail just for criticizing them; Hell, if that were true, we wouldn't see any movies made for the next twenty years! Still, the liberals worry about suppression of speech.

And -in this case- the liberals are right. You can't (or shouldn't) throw someone in jail just because they said something you don't like, disagree with, or find morally/legally/politically/religiously objectionable.

If Andrew Sullivan wants to advocate unrestricted sodomy, that's his right. If Pat Buchanon wants to blame our war dead on faggots, that's his right. Even if he is a vile hypocrite...

If The Daily Kos wants to blame every unfortunate event in the United States of America on George W. Bush, that's their collective right; although I reserve the right to mercilessly ridicule them about it.

On the other hand, it's the God-given (er, apologies to the athiests out there {g}) right of every American citizen to make life a living Hell for our elected representatives, even if I don't agree with them, or they with me.

But, you see, that's the difference between Weimar Germany and classical America. They thought they had "throttled" and silenced Hitler. Hence, they were unprepared for his later popularity, and most politicians had no idea who they were dealing with. Most of them (most likely) would never have voted for that emergency decree, if they had a decent idea of his actual goals, publicly stated in Mein Kampf.

That's the bottom line. The function of free speech is to shine a bright light on every claim, every accusation, every statement made in the public arena. Only then can we contradict the obfuscation, misdirection, and unpleasant hatred of all stripes, whether from Ann Coulter, Ted Rall. Jimmy Carter, or Fred Phelps.

After all, only slugs fear the bright light of day, no?

UPDATE: added a link to Greyhawks excellent Daily Post.

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Comments (3)

I'll take Rudy Rummel's analysis over yours, pal:

"First, Hitler was never elected. He ran in two national elections in 1932. In the first, he got 30 percent of the vote, and no one got a majority. In the resulting runoff election, he increased his votes to 37 percent, while his opponent, World War I hero Field Marshall Hindenburg, got a majority. And since the Nazi party won 230 seats out of 608 in the Reichstag, it did not have the majority to make Hitler Chancellor.

"So how did this happen? By backroom backstabbing, double-crossing, threats, and promises, including among former Chancellor Franz von Papen, present Chancellor Lieutenant General Kurt von Schleicher, and the elected President Hindenburg. Their maneuvering, a rumor of a threatened military coup, and the urging von Papen, who had entered into a secret alliance with Hitler to get supporters into Cabinet positions, finally persuaded Hindenburg to reluctantly appoint that "little corporal" Hitler chancellor. Many involved in this intrigue, including von Papen, thought that this would bring Hitler under their control.

"As Chancellor, then, how did Hitler turn this functioning democracy into a bloody, totalitarian dictatorship?"

You can read his piece but he's spot on about all of it from all the history I've read.

You could argue I suppose that as a barely-democratic Republic, Germany was ripe for the plucking this way. But that's another discussion.

I would agree by the way, that had speech and other basic democratic institutions been fully protected in the Weimar Republic, most of this couldn't have happened. Although I'm not entirely sure; the Republic's real weakness seems to have been its loopholes allowing completely undemocratic actions with nothing in place to undo them.

Consider, for example, the fact that Hitler was only able to seize power by burning down the Reichstag, having the parliament meet in an alternate location of his choosing, and having his Brown Shirts prevent any members from entering the building while he held a vote that gave him unlimited power. A more stable Constitution and set of checks and balances would have made such an ersatz, obviously invalid vote impossible.

Casey Tompkins:

I suppose it comes down to whether one agrees that Hitler genuinely built a coalition, or not.

From William Shirer (who was there), Churchill, and historian H. Stuart Hughes I've gathered that Hitler did, indeed build a coaltition. True, he lied to them, and both von Papen and von Schleicher had an influence, but to claim that Hitler succeeded purely through "backstabbing, etc." is, I feel, short of the mark, unless Mr. Rummel has some documentary evidence (testimony and such) which supports his claim. Certainly the post you referred to did not include such support.

Many people seem uncomfortable with the idea that Hitler might have actually achieved success on his own strengths as a politician, as opposed to completely relying on back-room deals.

Rummel is correct in the narrow sense that a parlimentary leader is not elected to his or her post. He is also correct in that it is virtually certain the Nazis burned down the Reichstag as an excuse to stampede the representatives into voting for the emergency powers decree.

...And I think we've pretty much beaten this detail to death after this exchange. ;)

As I mentioned in email, I think the speech-control laws of inter-war Germany contributed greatly to Hitler's rise; hence they stand as evidence that contemporary "hate speech" laws are equally ill-advised.

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