Edifying Irritation

The first thing I read most every morning is Clarissa’s Blog. It is a whirlwind of commentary on culture and literature and history. The folk who follow her blog chip in with animated and sometimes antagonistic discussion. It’s really really wonderful. The last couple of days Clarissa has been providing spirited critiques of the way people typically understand The Holocaust, and how they use it in public and private debates. Today she hammers those lamebrains among us who, as a rhetorical device, compare such-and-such an event to The Shoah. I am going to quote the whole post, because every sentence matters.

Middle schoolers who join debate teams are warned to avoid the “that’s just like Hitler” argument because it’s intellectually vacuous and morally unsustainable. Reaching out for an easy, tear-jerking analogy is a sign of an impotent mind.

Lazy, primitive brains love nothing as much as they do analogy. They dismiss any new information that reaches them with an, “Oh, it’s just like X” because absorbing anything new is work, and it’s much easier to sift through a limited stock of trivia tidbits than try to learn. The Hitler Analogy is the easiest one because every ignoramus on the planet feels hugely knowledgeable about the Holocaust on the basis of having heard that something vaguely bad might have happened and can be used to shame people you don’t like.

This morning, I tried scrolling through my news feed but all I saw, in about 30 articles in a row, was the comparison of Syrian refugees with European Jews in 1938. The analogy is both unsustainable and offensive. It’s also been done to death, it sheds no light on the understanding of anything, yet people repeat it with the insistence of robots who’ve had no other function programmed into them.

Have you noticed, though, that for just-like-Holocausters everything is as bad as the Holocaust except for the Holocaust? They have no sympathy for Jews but every sympathy for just-like-Jews. (One of the just-like-Holocausters in my blogroll, for instance, was the “tender-hearted Nazis” fellow I quoted yesterday.)

The reason is that their attachment to just-like-Holocausting does not only serve the purpose of faking an understanding where there is none. It also helps them trivialize the Holocaust and turn it into an ordinary, mundane occurrence which is “just like” everything else in the world.

Get thee to Clarissa’s Blog, go!

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