“If I had a gun with two bullets and I was in a room with Hitler, Bin Laden and Toby, I would shoot Toby twice.” One of the funniest quotes from “The Office” protagonist Michael Scott is also the prototype for a common “Would You Rather” trope: being stuck in a room with Adolf Hitler and two other villainous dictators and having to kill one of them. The formula almost always calls for the assassination of the former chancellor of Germany and mastermind of the Holocaust, Hitler.
As the pinnacle of evil, Hitler and his Nazi party are frequently reported “the worst” by our popular culture. Decrying someone as “worse than Hitler” has become a cliche in discourse in the United States. When it’s not used in jest, it’s used to lambast political opponents. A mere Google search will yield dozens of articles lamenting the parallels between President Donald Trump and Hitler. Yet the president has also employed similar rhetoric, comparing an investigation of him by intelligence agencies as “living in Nazi Germany” in a 2017 tweet.
While the right likewise touts the word “feminazis” to circulate among “cucks,” “snowflakes” and other uninspired insults to degrade the left, the threat is not as potent as when it is directed toward the current president. Because Trump has espoused racist views, vilified the media and ushered an advent of fake news, it’s not entirely a stretch to make comparisons to Hitler’s rise to power. Trump, however, has never ordered or enacted the eviction and eventual eradication of the Jewish people. This is what Hitler is primarily remembered for and we are reminded of this notion every time we reflect on the Holocaust and its lingering consequences.
Referring to Trump as a Nazi not only undermines any legitimate argument against the president, but distracts from the actual concerns of neo-Nazis and their recent prominence. While the protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, last summer reached a boiling point, modern Nazism continues to flourish through online forums and more overt meeting places, along with the existence of fraternal organizations like the Aryan Brotherhood and the Traditionalist Worker Party.
These viable threats can be found on any blog, gaming forum or YouTube channel from which teenagers are susceptible to adopting their rhetoric and ideals. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution described the ways in which young men and women are manipulated to direct their fear, personal insecurity and loneliness toward hate with the promise of developing a connection with a community they perceive as misunderstood.
Anti-Black, anti-Mexican, anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic and anti-Asian racism have a common thread of hatred, but each is predicated on a unique history and tradition. Anti-Semitism in its modern context perceives Jewish people as a powerful and oppressive group, without recognizing a vivid history of enslavement, pogroms, ethnic cleansing, genocide and a blockade to social mobility. Just last month, Councilmember Trayon White Sr. of the District of Columbia suggested that the prominent Rothschild family was responsible for a winter storm. It’s not unusual to describe Jewish people as possessing almost supernatural powers and influence. White was later invited to a Passover Seder by several Jewish leaders, including a fellow council member.
Last week, we reflected on the tragedy through Yom Hashoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day. Volunteers on the Spine read the names of those who perished in camps, reminding everyone of the magnitude of the Third Reich. I wondered how people who lost family members in the camps feel about casting the president into the role of the most villainous political party of the 20th century. While Trump has antagonized other ethnic groups, he has not overtly declared war on the Jewish people. People who have difficulty articulating their anger with the president resort to “Nazi” as a synonym for fascist or demagogue.
Kristen DiPietra is a senior double-majoring in English and human development.