Ben Carson recently invoked the Holocaust in support of his position against gun control in America, telling CNN's Wolf Blitzer: "I think the likelihood of Hitler being able to accomplish his goals would have been greatly diminished if the people had been armed."
These comments and others he has made in defense of his connecting gun control to the Nazis have rightfully drawn a lot of criticism. Jonathan A. Greenblatt, National Director, of the Anti-Defamation League released a response:
Ben Carson has a right to his views on gun control, but the notion that Hitler's gun-control policy contributed to the Holocaust is historically inaccurate. The small number of personal firearms available to Germany's Jews in 1938 could in no way have stopped the totalitarian power of the Nazi German state. When they had weapons, Jews could symbolically resist, as they did in the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and elsewhere, but they could not stop the Nazi genocide machine. In short, gun control did not cause the Holocaust; Nazism and anti-Semitism did."
Saying 'this is like the Nazis' or 'that is like the Holocaust' is one of the great rhetorical temptations around and, unfortunately, too many succumb to it's allure. Instead of saying clearly the characteristics of a certain person or policy you vehemently disagree with, pundits and politicians just lump it in with the Holocaust and call it a day.
This is lazy and disingenuous. No matter how much you might hate President Obama, or, if you flip the switch, President Bush before him, neither one of them are Hitler, and their policies have basically zero resemblance to the Holocaust. Most people know that once someone invokes Hitler, the conversation is over.
So, as a useful reminder. I asked the Anti-Defamation League to provide me with 10 times that pundits have used the Holocaust and Nazis in a way that is manipulative, self-serving, and dishonors the lives that were lost, those that survived, and distracts from a true commitment to make sure such a horrific event as the actual Holocaust will never happen again.
So, here is a non-partisan, chronological sampling of casual Nazi/Holocaust references. May we learn from this list and... just stop it.
1. January 2004. MoveOn.org published on its website an outrageous and highly offensive political ad that directly compared President George W. Bush to Adolf Hitler.
2. June 2004. Al Gore, in a speech at Georgetown University Law Center, used the term "digital Brown Shirts" when referring to Bush administration supporters who "pressure reporters and their editors for undermining support for our troops."
3. June 2005. U.S. Rep. Charlie Rangel likened U.S. military action in Iraq to the Holocaust in World War II. He said the Iraq war was, "The biggest fraud ever committed on the people of this country ... "This is just as bad as the six million Jews being killed."
4. June 2005. In a speech on the Senate floor, U.S. Sen. Richard J. Durbin, D-IL, likened American treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay to "what must have been done by Nazis ... that had no concern for human beings." He later apologized for the remark.
5. July 2006. MSNBC's Keith Olbermann was criticized for his use of the Nazi "Sieg Heil" salute, both on his program and in public appearances while holding up a mask of Fox News commentator Bill O'Reilly.
6. May 2007. Radio personality Glenn Beck compared efforts to raise awareness about global warming to Hitler's plans to exterminate Jews during the Holocaust.
7. October 2007. Gov. Mike Huckabee, speaking at the Family Research Council's Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C., referred to "The Holocaust of liberalized abortion." He later suggested that President Obama was "leading Israel to the door of the oven," in striking a nuclear accord with Iran (June 2015).
8. October 2010. Rob Reiner, appearing on Bill Maher's "Real Time" on HBO, compared members of the Tea Party to followers of the Nazis. "My fear," he said, "is that the Tea Party Gets a charismatic leader. Because all they're selling is fear and anger. And that's all Hitler sold."
9. October 2011. In an interview on Fox News Channel, country music singer Hank Williams Jr. remarked that President Obama's playing golf with House Speaker John Boehner was like "Hitler playing gold with Netanyahu." His remarked prompted ESPN to pull his musical opening to "Monday Night Football."
10. December 2011. U.S. Rep Allen West, R-FL, blamed reports of public disaffection with Congressional Republicans on propaganda promoted by Democrats. He told reporters, "If Joseph Goebbels was around, he'd be very proud of the Democrat party, because they have an incredible propaganda machine."