Archive for March 21st, 2006

McDowell’s Nazi Association

I saw a flustered-looking Michael McDowell on the RTE news last night calling Richard Bruton the ‘Joseph Goebbbels of propaganda’. This was a very silly thing to say. Joseph Goebbels is synonymous with propaganda. It is like calling someone the ‘Delia Smith of home cooking’, albeit rather more serious in its effect. It is also a piece of propaganda in itself, since the intent was to associate Richard Bruton, in the minds of the public, with Nazism.

Richard Bruton:

“Ten years is too long to wait in the hope that this Government can learn from
its costly blunders. The only chance of real reform lies in giving a new mandate
to a fresh government with new ideas and a commitment to deliver.”

Joseph Goebbels:

“Every Jew is our enemy in this historic struggle, regardless of whether he
vegetates in a Polish ghetto or carries on his parasitic existence in Berlin or
Hamburg or blows the trumpets of war in New York or Washington. All Jews by
virtue of their birth and their race are part of an international conspiracy
against National Socialist Germany. They want its defeat and annihilation, and
do all in their power to bring it about. That they can do nothing inside the
Reich is hardly a sign of their loyalty, but rather of the appropriate measures
we took against them.”

Spot the difference, huh?

We can be confident that Michael McDowell does not seriously believe that Richard Bruton is analogous to Joseph Goebbels. If he did, he’d be the last person you’d want as Minister for Justice. But McDowell has ‘form’ in drawing Nazi comparisons for his own ends, comparing Daily Ireland to Volkischer Beobachter. So we should ask why he might think there is something to be gained in doing so.

The first thing to say about many Nazi comparisons made in public, and this is certainly the case with McDowell, is that they presume, perhaps rightly, that the general public is pretty ignorant about history in general, but can recognise Nazism as a very bad thing indeed. The second thing is that by comparing someone else to a Nazi, you are presenting yourself, by contrast, as a virtuous and right-minded enemy of fascists, historically astute and out to protect your fellow man.

The worst thing, though, is that it diminishes Nazi crimes: if Richard Bruton is like a Nazi, then the Nazis couldn’t have been that bad at all.

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March 2006