There are certain things that politicians and pundits should
not have to be told. The problem is that some of these very basic rules of
behavior are ignored by people to their own detriment. That was the case today
when Candace Owens told a crowd of people that Hitler wouldn’t have been such a
bad guy if he had stayed within his own country and not been a globalist.
Lest you think that Owens was set up by the fake news media,
she wasn’t asked about Hitler at all. It was her own choice to invoke Hitler in
answer to a question about nationalism. Owen’s entire statement can be seen in
context in a video posted to Twitter:
“I think the definition gets poisoned by elitists that actually want globalism. Globalism is what I don’t want, so when you think about whenever we say nationalism, the first thing people think about at least in America is Hitler. You know he was a national socialist but if Hitler just wanted to make Germany great and have things run well, okay, fine. The problem is that he had dreams outside of Germany. He wanted to globalize, he wanted everybody to be German, everybody to be speaking German, everybody to look a different way. To me, that’s not nationalism. So, in thinking about how we could go back down the line, I don’t really have an issue with nationalism. I really don’t. I think it’s okay. I think it’s important to retain your country’s identity and to make sure that what’s happening here, which I think is incredibly worrisome in terms of the decrease in the birth rate that we’re seeing in the UK is what we’re trying to avoid. I don’t have any problems with nationalism. It’s globalism that I try to avoid.”
As I listen to Owens, I’m reminded of the principle’s
assessment of Adam Sandler’s answer in Billy
Madison. “At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even
close to anything that could be considered a rational thought,” he said. “Everyone
in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points,
and may God have mercy on your soul.”
I haven’t followed Owens commentary before, but this answer
is astounding for wrongness. She employs both multiple logical fallacies and
historical ignorance. Owens packs a great many errors into two minutes of extemporaneous
speaking, but there are three main problems with her logic.
First, Owens launches into her answer with a straw man argument
against critics of nationalism with the claim that what anti-nationalists really
want is globalism. Globalism and nationalism are both vague terms that mean different
things to different people, but it is not true that everyone concerned about nationalism
is a secret proponent of globalism. Owens purposefully ignores the facts that
Hitler was a German nationalist and that he and other nationalists have caused
enormous bloodshed around the world.
Nationalism is not evil in and of itself but it can be used for
nefarious purposes. It also is not the same thing as patriotism. As George Orwell pointed out in 1945, nationalism is distinct from patriotism, the “devotion to
a particular place and a particular way of life, which one believes to be the
best in the world but has no wish to force on other people.”
“Nationalism,” Orwell wrote, “is inseparable from the desire
for power. The abiding purpose of every nationalist is to secure more power and
more prestige, not for himself but for the nation or other unit in which he has chosen to sink his own individuality.”
Orwell also identified both good and bad examples of nationalism.
He cites neo-Toryism (British nationalism)
and Zionism as examples of positive nationalism. Anglophobia and anti-Semitism
are examples of negative nationalism while communism, racism, and class warfare
are among his examples of nationalism being “transferred” to “other units.” If
nationalism is understood to be a neutral force that can either be positive or
negative, depending on the circumstances and the people involved, then it
becomes more difficult for Owens to discard concerns about nationalism on the
grounds that anyone who opposes nationalism is a globalist.
What is more alarming is Owens’ willingness to look past
Hitler’s actions inside Germany. In the view of Hitler and the Nazis, making
Germany great and running things involved
locking up and killing a lot of Germans at home, even before he got interested
in other countries. Hitler’s vision for Germany was to turn the country into a
police state where his word was law. People who were considered a burden to
German greatness were dealt with harshly in ways that make full-term abortion
laws seem humane by comparison.
Owens also seems to confuse globalism with imperialism. Hitler’s
strategy for globalizing and making everybody German was to invade neighboring
countries and kill large segments of their populations. This is a far cry from
international alliances and corporate trade deals that are entirely voluntary.
Owens makes a third point that retaining national identity
is an important part of nationalism. But America doesn’t have a static national
identity the way some countries do. Our culture was never monolithic the way Britain and France were. Like the climate,
American culture has been constantly changing for our entire history.
The United States began as British colonies but quickly
expanded to become a melting pot of cultures with the annexation of Spanish
Florida and French Louisiana. Millions of immigrants, including waves from Ireland,
Eastern Europe, and Central America, have become Americans and with each one
American culture has changed a little more. Although often looked down upon as
new immigrants, Irish, Italian, Polish, Jewish and other immigrants blended
into American culture and are now considered native Americans. More modern
Americans are descended
from German immigrants than are of British stock. American culture has always
been a moving target.
Earlier, I alluded to basic rules for politicians and
pundits. The first is that if no one else brings up Hitler, you shouldn’t either.
In a similar vein, the second rule is that if you are asked about Hitler, just
say he was an evil man and leave it at
that. It is never a good idea to defend Hitler, much less to invoke him to
defend your political beliefs.