As a professor of rhetoric writing a book about Adolf Hitler, I’m exceptionally attuned to the “Nazis-in-the-news” genre of public discourse, of which COVID has provided an unending stream of recent examples.

In one of the more preposterous specimens of late, Chicago’s Fraternal Order of Police President, John Catanzara, recently compared vaccine mandates to gas chambers. “This ain’t Nazi fucking Germany, [where they say], ‘Step into the fucking showers. The pills won’t hurt you.’ What the fuck?

Catanzara later walked his comments back, which is more than can be said for the people calling Anthony Fauci the Führer, calling the…

Sweaty Hitler was viscerally desirable to both men and women because his performance demonstrated sincerity

In 1937, Irmgard Keun published a short novel, After Midnight, which tells the story of two young women in 1930s Frankfurt who find themselves caught up in a parade and rally starring Adolf Hitler. The rally touches off a series of events in which the characters struggle to make sense of their lives, beliefs, and experiences in the darkening shadow of the Nazis’ cultural juggernaut.

Keun, an avowed anti-Nazi whose books were burned and banned in the Reich, is fascinating in her own right, but so is the picture she paints in After Midnight of characters who are committed Nazis…

In 1958, Dr. Franz Jetzinger published Hitler’s Youth, a scathing repudiation of the Führer’s adulatory backstory as advanced in Mein Kampf and August Kubizek’s The Young Hitler I Knew.

Jetzinger had been a bitter opponent of the Nazis since before Hitler became Chancellor and annexed Austria. During Hitler’s reign, Jetzinger lost multiple jobs because of his anti-Nazi allegiances, he was arrested multiple times, and he was interrogated by the Gestapo, who were looking for Hitler’s military file from Austria in 1914 (which Jetzinger had, in fact, stolen and hidden in his attic). He hated the Nazis and with good reason.

Nazi and fascism analogies are back in fashion. Rather than dismiss them, we need to learn from them.

As shocking details continue to emerge in the wake of the January 6th MAGA mutiny, Nazi and fascism analogies are suddenly fashionable again. For five years, prominent experts in fascism, Nazism, and rhetoric made similar comparisons, and they were often met with derision or dismissal. But the new wave is being powered by skeptics, for whom the January 6th insurrection was a jarring wake-up call.

The reinvigoration of such analogies among people who were initially skeptical invites its own analogy. Skeptics in Nazi Germany experienced similar wake-up calls after Hitler became Chancellor: following the suspension of the Constitution in 1933…

Jamal Khashoggi is dead. The journalist was murdered on October 2, 2018 at the Saudi consulate in Turkey. The available evidence suggests with increasing certainty that it was plotted and carried out by members of Saudi crown prince, Mohammad bin Salman’s, coterie of advisors and confidantes. The scandal over Khashoggi’s murder has only grown over the past two weeks, with new and grisly details emerging almost daily.

Saudi officials’ misdirection, quibbling, and outright lying about Khashoggi’s death are astounding. But their attempts to cover it up are hardly surprising. The same efforts at cover-up and doublespeak from American officials, particularly…

In the past week and a half, Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh has been credibly accused of attempted rape and other acts of sexual assault. One consequence is that public conversation about his confirmation has changed dramatically. But it’s important not to lose sight of arguments about Kavanaugh’s confirmation that were in play before the allegations came to light because they continue to shape how we assess his qualifications.

In the post-sexual-assault-accusation rush to attack or defend Kavanaugh, there are ample opportunities to identify doublespeak, including Mitch McConnell’s jaw-dropping assertion that Democrats have violated “ standard practice and regular order

Doctor Jill Biden wrote and defended a doctoral dissertation in 2007 — the crowning achievement of an advanced educational process that entitles a person to the professional title, “Doctor.” Hence, her title.

On December 11, 2020, noted literary arbiter and cultural critic, mister Joseph Epstein, declared Biden’s professional distinction “fraudulent, not to say a touch comic” in a Wall Street Journal screed I have no intention of linking to. In fact, I have no intention of linking to any of his pieces here, but they’re easy enough to Google.

Epstein’s newest op-ed has rightly been called elitist, sexist, and misogynistic…

Memes, rhetoric, and Russian trolls

It is election time again, which means Russia is back in the news.

In early September, Facebook and Twitter suspended multiple accounts affiliated with the Internet Research Agency, a Russian propaganda group. Then a whistleblower at the Department of Homeland Security alleged that Trump officials altered intelligence reports about Russian disinformation to make it seem less threatening. That was followed up by Microsoft issuing a warning that, among other things, hackers connected to Russia’s Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) were revving up in the run up to the election. …

At the beginning of September, Facebook announced that they suspended five accounts affiliated with “Peace Data,” a news website launched by Russia’s social media propaganda wing, the Internet Research Agency. The IRA, of course, was instrumental in the Russian disinformation campaigns in the run-up to the 2016 election. This year, they even hired unwitting American freelance journalists to write for Peace Data.

Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, Nathaniel Gleicher, acknowledged that “Russian actors are trying to target the 2020 elections and public debate in the U.S.,” but he also sought to reassure Americans that “it’s not really working.”

Maybe he’s…

In 1953, famed political philosopher and Jewish-German exile, Leo Strauss, coined a term to describe a trope that he increasingly saw circulating in public discourse: reductio ad Hilterum. Reductio ad Hitlerum is a fallacy used in arguments to discredit anything that can be associated with or compared to Hitler. Hitler liked dogs? Then liking dogs is discredited. Hitler was a vegetarian? Discredited. A teetotaler? Discredited. And so on.

Strauss’s identification of reductio ad Hitlerum was little more than a footnote to his main point about social science and political philosophy in the 20th century. Nevertheless, he gave us a very…

Ryan Skinnell

I know stuff about rhetoric and Nazis. Writer, speaker, professor, burrito aficionado. Public Voices Fellow w/TheOpEdProject ~views mine~

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