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Michael S. Lofgren Headshot

The 'Führer' Over Gun Control

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Wait for it... three... two... one... now! It was bound to happen. Just in case you thought political discourse in this country couldn't get any lower, Matt Drudge, the quasi-mainstream bellwether of the lunatic fringe, drags Adolf Hitler into the gun control policy debate.

The gun lobby's repeated use of Hitler (and also Stalin, when it suits them) is a recurring cliché in its propaganda and parallels the right's more general use of Hitler (or Stalin) memes to describe everything from Obamacare to HPV vaccine. Remember the death panels? That was the right's tasteful allusion to the Nazis' T-4 program. Such verbiage is intended to evoke a Pavlovian response. Curiously, these folks never use the Hitler meme when the subject is unconstitutional surveillance or denial of due process: Subjects in which the comparison, however far-fetched for now, just might be imaginable by rational people at least as the possible end point of a slippery slope.

What makes the use of Hitler in particular almost comically ironic -- if it weren't so serious -- is that if you go to a gun show, the presence of Nazi memorabilia for sale is unmistakable. Under the guise of being a "history buff" or "World War II buff," quite a lot of not-so veiled admiration of the late Führer goes on in those circles. The book shop at the NRA firearms museum in Northern Virginia abounds with books in the "Memoirs of a Waffen-SS Major on the Russian Front" vein.

Also, don't kid yourself about the admiration slyly expressed for the Third Reich among some right wingers, usually when they think they're not being overheard -- or after a few drinks. That is not a universal or even majority tendency, to be sure, but it happens often enough to be noticed. And remember the controversy over the GOP congressional candidate in 2010 who was a Waffen-SS re-enactor? I suppose the mere Wehrmacht just wasn't old school enough for him. One begins to wonder whether silly right-wing screeds like Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning (with its cover's ever-so subtle use of a toothbrush moustache on a smiley face) are simply Karl Rove tactics: Hide your true intent by accusing your opponent of the same intent. Or, if you prefer the Freudian approach, call it psychological projection.

This time, I suspect all the projection theatrics won't work. Dragging the Austrian corporal into an issue involving a lunatic's massacring 6-year-old children shows not just a serious miscalculation of the emotional dynamics of the situation, it showcases the lunacy of gun nuts like Alex Jones in a manner so bizarre that it will not only repel the undecided but even de-convert some of the converted.

Perhaps we need another negotiation between Joe Biden and Mitch McConnell, this time to place a national moratorium on Nazi metaphors. Otherwise, in order to obey the logic of the right, because Hitler was a vegetarian, we must shun green beans; because he built the Autobahn, we must tear up the interstate system; and because he liked dogs, we must euthanize Fido.