Euro-Trash-Talk: Silvio Berlusconi, Contemporary Germany, And The Holocaust

Hitler
Hitler

Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is a very colorful figure in European politics, to put it in the most friendly way possible. In fact, he is a convicted criminal, sentenced for tax fraud. But that is not my topic here.

Silvio’s assorted Nazi comparisons

Berlusconi has a record of inflammatory statements regarding contemporary Germany’s dealing with its Nazi past.

In 2003, Berlusconi addressed German social democratic MEP Martin Schulz, suggesting he might be a good fit for playing a concentration camp guard in a Holocaust movie.

Now, in the context of the 2014 elections for the European Parliament, Berlusconi claimed that “[for] the Germans, [. . .], concentration camps never existed.”

Mainstream contemporary Germany does not deny the Holocaust

This is of course factually wrong when talking about Germany in 2014—which Berlusconi did. And frankly, it is quite offensive to the majority of contemporary Germans who are not Holocaust deniers (including myself). If you should happen to be in Germany, just turn on a TV and you will notice that public television stations regularly broadcast documentaries about all kinds of aspects of Nazi Germany, including the Holocaust.

In case you did not know, Holocaust denial is also a punishable offence under German law.

Now there are actual valid debates about Germany’s dealings with its past and reasonable criticisms of phenomena like racism and antisemitism in contemporary Germany. There are, for instance, discussions about the ‘unburdening’ function the official national ‘culture of remembrance’ serves for the wider German society.

Berlusconi, apologist of Italian fascism

That being said, Silvio Berlusconi is neither a man interested in nor qualified to contribute to those debates. As a chief apologist for Italian fascism—his convenient narrative claiming that ‘good’ Italian fascists were merely misled by Hitler and the German Nazis—Berlusconi discredits himself from the get-go.

This is a cheap provocation, a misrepresentation of history, and a vulgar spewing of bile by perhaps the most pompuous political clown of Europe.

What repulses me especially is that Berlusconi is not above exploiting this most serious issue for cheap political points. I think the political culture of Italy and Europe would improve if he did us all a favor and moved on into retirement.

 

Insane Nazi Comparisons, Delusional Billionaire Edition

Insane Nazi comparisons, delusional billionaire edition

“As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.” – Godwin’s Law, 1990

And now to one of my favorite subjects: inappropriate comparisons of something one does not like to the horrors of the Nazi regime (Hint: They are inappropriate almost all of the time). When a person claims that something they experience is “just like in Nazi Germany” or that politician X is “just like Hitler,” it is a sure recipe for disaster.

This time it is American billionaire Thomas Perkins, who whines in a letter to the Wall Street Journal about the treatment of his class, the “one percent” or super-rich, by “progressive radical[s].”

On planet Perkins, criticism and calls for tax increases are just like antisemitic pogroms

Notably disgusted by the idea of being surrounded by a leftish counter-culture vibe, he starts his rant with this:

Writing from the epicenter of progressive thought, San Francisco, I would call attention to the parallels of fascist Nazi Germany to its war on its “one percent,” namely its Jews, to the progressive war on the American one percent, namely the “rich.”

In all seriousness, Perkins writes:

Kristallnacht was unthinkable in 1930; is its descendent ‘progressive’ radicalism unthinkable now?

First of all, the claim about a direct connection between Nazism and what he calls “progressive radicalism” seems quite dubious to me.

Mind you, he compares criticisms of the financial industry and demands for a higher marginal tax rate to the eliminatory antisemitism of the Nazis. And this guy went to Harvard and MIT. I do not know if this is more embarrassing for these institutions or the man himself. Assuming that he actually believes what he is saying, Perkins must suffer from a serious persecution complex.

There might be valuable things to be said about a regressive strain of anti-capitalism, but Mr. Perkins has none of these to offer.

In ‘communist America,’ you can still own $150 million yachts

Second, the last time I checked, radical progressivism/fascism/communism—these are interchangeably thrown around— had not exactly taken over America. To claim otherwise is either pure propaganda or plain delusional.

Consider this: In the imagined country that is supposedly as hostile towards the wealthy as the Nazis were towards the Jews, Perkins is still able to enjoy his extravagant $150 million yacht without being dragged from it and murdered by jackbooted thugs or pitchfork-wielding peasant mobs. Being a billionaire in today’s America is not exactly the same experience as being a Jew in Nazi Germany, after all.

You might dislike the idea of having to pay slightly higher taxes (even though it certainly would not hurt you), but if you seriously claim that this is in any way comparable to the suffering caused by the Nazis, then you, Sir, are an idiot.

 

Hungarian Prime Minister Orbán Compares German Chancellor Merkel To Nazis

Hungarian Prime Minister Orbán Compares German Chancellor Merkel To Nazis

Nazi comparisons remain popular, but in most cases they are absolutely inappropriate and not based on facts.

Latest case in point: Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán made a thinly veiled reference linking German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s criticism of Orban’s authoritarian tendencies to Nazi Germany’s invasion of Hungary in 1944.

To be fair, Merkel’s rhetoric about not bringing in the cavalry was perhaps not the best wording against the historical background.

Nevertheless, in my opinion, Orbán’s remark was absolutely absurd and willfully deceptive, coming from a politician whose party has been actively working to erode democracy in Hungary while tolerating open antisemitism and violent neo-fascist movements.

There are valid criticisms of Angela Merkel and her party, for sure, but comparing her to the Nazis is certainly not one of those. Judging by the recent political record, it is instead Viktor Orbán and Fidesz, who have exposed themselves as some of the true enemies of democracy in the midst of Europe.

Viktor Orbán may score some political points with his nationalist base using such rhetoric, but he should make no mistake: the rest of Europe knows what he is up to.

The slipping of Hungary into authoritarianism must be stopped.

Read more:

The Fog of Amendment.” (Kim Lane Scheppele, New York Times, 2013/03/12) – On the Hungarian parliament’s constitutional amendment that does away with an independent judiciary.

Auf deutsch:

Reaktionen auf Nazi-Vergleich: Vereint gegen Orbán“. (Florian Gathmann, Spiegel Online, 20.05.2013)

Ungarns Regierungschef brüskiert Deutschland mit Nazi-Vergleich” (tagesschau.de, 20.05.2013)

Ungarn: Parlament entmachtet Verfassungsgericht.” (Stern.de, 11.03.2013)