It’s an old “rule” of internet debates that the first person to compare the opposing side to the Nazis has lost the argument. If somebody criticises the government, for example, by calling them Nazis, most people won’t take them seriously. It’s understandable. Most people that make this argument aren’t from countries where people are being sent to extermination camps while they wage war on the rest of the world. But I think there’s a lot more nuance to these Nazi comparisons which, perhaps, a lot of people don’t realise – perhaps not even people making them.
The story of Hitler and Nazi Germany is one of the best known stories of a horrible dictatorship from history. But it didn’t happen overnight. People didn’t vote for a horrible dictatorship, it was introduced very gradually. When people compare the actions of the government to the Nazis, I don’t think they necessarily mean that the people in power are just as bad as those in charge of the Nazi party and they also are probably not talking about what the Nazi party became. What I believe the concern is, is that the government are setting new precedents – each time something bad is done for the first time, a new precedent is set and later leaders are likely to do the same things… and a little more. It’s a very slow and gradual snowball effect, but one that I believe is a very valid concern. To look back at history, consider that the Nazi party was founded in 1920… 19 years before the outbreak of the Second World War.
Looking at Donald Trump, for example: the people of America have now gotten used to an American President being so openly corrupt and lying constantly. Thankfully, Trump appears to be hindered by his own incompetence – his lies are obvious, he often behaves in childish, petty ways and he finds it very difficult to speak coherently in front of others. But how many people have been watching what he’s ‘achieved’ in shifting the American political spectrum? People who are, perhaps, more charismatic and articulate? People who are better at covering their tracks? People who think they could do what he did… and more? It may never happen, but it’s definitely something people should be conscious of.
Of course, it’s not just America – in the UK, the rate at which Boris Johnson lies is quite alarming and the fact that his actions have costs thousands and thousands of lives is very distressing – what more could a prime minister get away with without consequence? I just thought it was easier to illustrate the point with Donald Trump. Simply calling someone a Nazi doesn’t really achieve anything, but there is definitely a reasonable argument to be made if you actually unpack the statement to explain the nuance behind it. Otherwise, it’s just left-wing people calling right-wing people Nazis, while right-wing people call left-wing people Stalinist and nothing is achieved, other than a few people getting stressed out online.