By Wil Forbis
A couple years ago, the big
tactic in ad hominin attacks was to accuse your opponent of being a
"Nazi." All the cool kids were doing it. For instance, Rush
Limbaugh, a man often maligned for supporting draconian laws was
accused of being a "Nazi gasbag*". Limbaugh in turn often railed against
feminists as "Femi-Nazis." Other attacks went further when pundits from
all sides of the political spectrum made dubious allegations that political
celebrities such as Noam
Chomsky or George
Bush actually were Nazis, or at least hung out with them. Thanks
to Hogan's Heroes, Schindler's List and that pesky old Holocaust,
Nazis were about the worst thing a person could be. (Sadly, The only
credible charges of Nazi complicity were made against Barney
Personally, I thought those
rhetorical accusations of Nazi-hood were bullshit from day one. I didn't
always agree with Limbaugh, but he certainly never advocated the extermination
of an entire race of people. Feminists never tried to occupy France.
(Thank God, or else everyone there would've had a beard!) Bush's parents
and Chomsky's cohorts may have had some vague connections with Nazis,
but so has anyone who ever bought a VW
Bug. If anything, these sorts of irresponsible attacks only went
to showcase how much we had forgotten about real Nazis, men of such
uncompromising evil the human mind can never fully grasp their atrocities.
If one takes the time to really study the Nazi horror they'll come to
find that any comparisons between the relative sedate politicos and
ideologues of our time with these German fascists are ridiculous and
Unfortunately, it's happening
This time we've got a new
enemy in out midst, the even harder to define "terrorist." It was bad
enough when Americans were seeing terrorist on every plane or
at the base of every bridge. But now we're starting to see terrorists
where there clearly aren't. And the most credible way to the defame
people or ideas you oppose is to link them to "terrorists"
or "terrorism" or just plain ol' "terror." (Though
it's clearly terror of the Osammy variety as opposed to, say, Freddy
Krueger.) For example, Salon recently published an article about how
Republicans were "terrorizing"
the environmental movement. (In reality they were trying to get
the eco-movement to denounce environmental terrorism, though they were
doing so with their usually ineffective ham-fistedness.) Another Salon
article, titled "Bush's
Jihad Against Human Rights" not only incorrectly insinuated Bush's
(admittedly questionable) security measures to be terrorism, it also
misused the term jihad.
My hometown paper, the Sacramento News and Review has a piece entitled
"Terror Corp." detailing how corporations are using the economic downturn
(caused partly by the WTC attacks) to push for an economic stimulus
package through Congress that works in their favor.
The point here is not that
we shouldn't question the persons and acts that are being cutely connected
with terror and terrorism. In times such as these we should be even
more studious in our examination of the laws the government tries to
inflict on us. But let's get real folks - not a single one of the instances
above is anything remotely close to terrorism. Have Republicans declared
a Holy Jihad against the Environment movement? (Now I'm misusing the
term, but you get my drift.) Are GOP interns flying airplanes into the
headquarters of Greenpeace? Are giant corporations releasing bio-weapons
into the air in a plea for tax breaks? These acts might be contemptible,
but they are not terrible!
You might say, "Lighten
up, Wil. Of all people, you should have a flexible attitude towards
the bastardization of the words in our modern lexicon." But that's precisely
my point. Was anyone fooled by my assertion that Harry Potter should
endorse cocaine? Did anyone think I
was earnest in my lament that that Marky Mark
couldn't get the "credit he deserves" for attacking a Vietnamese man?
Who really thought I felt MTV soap opera stars should appear
naked? (Well, actually, I was kind of set on that one.) No one takes
me seriously and I make my hyperbole painfully clear. Can the same be
said of the headlines above? And shouldn't the weight of the subject
matter make people think twice about such lax usage of words that ultimately
describe heinous, inhumane (but sadly human) acts? Keep, in mind, there
are still genuine instances of terror occurring within our borders.
The real Anthrax attacks are worrisome, as is the underreported fact
that American abortion clinics have been receiving
numerous Anthrax threats for some time. Future attacks by terrorist
networks are still very real, if not unavoidable. We're not out of the
However, by haphazardly
tossing the label "terrorists" around, it only makes it more difficult
to separate the real threats from the fake. The planes hit the buildings,
thousands of people died and now everyone wants to grab a little piece
of the pie by linking their enemies to the same kind of evil that produced
Hitler and Osama. But, pardon my pun, that just doesn't fly. Most of
the debates in our country are over relatively mundane things. Someone
might oppose welfare but it doesn't make them a mass murderer. A person
may oppose the WTO but it doesn't make them an fundamentalist assassin.
People in America are better off than 90% of the people elsewhere in
the world, we have more rights than we know what to do with, and terrorist
attacks are still extremely rare. Don't we owe the rest of the world,
including places like Belfast, Palestine, Israel and Turkey, a degree
of respect by not turning our molehills into their mountains?
* The best instance
of this being a Doonsebury cartoon where Mike Doonsebury denies that
there are any Rush Limbaugh jokes in existence. In response his wife
recounts the following:
Q: What's the difference between the Rush Limbaugh and the Hindenburgh?
A" One's a nazi gasbag and the other is just a dirigible.