Friday, May 30

You'd Expect Obama To Have A Better Grasp of American History. And You'd Expect The American Right To Be More Familiar With Nazi Operations.

SHEESH, it's like a garden.  You can sweat into the ground all day (I don't, but you can), dry and put away the tools, get a good night's sleep, and wake up at dawn to find everything's infested with chafers.

And so it was that we walked away from The Internet Thing yesterday before R. Porrofatto, whom we heart, in case we haven't pointed it out recently, points out that Kernfluffle II's own Steve Gilbert has entered the "But Ohrdruf was more of a work-release program than a death camp" sweepstakes, along with Rand Simberg whom we find via Brave Indiana Blogger Doug Masson. Let's go right to the post-post illuminations Simberg was forced to provide since everyone else is an idiot:

[Late evening update]
Some have taken issue of my characterization of Buchenwald as "merely a slave labor camp."
This has to be taken in context. I'm not sure what part of "atrocious beyond human understanding" with regard to that camp the commenters don't understand.
I wasn't excusing it in any way. I was simply pointing out that in the historical context of war, in which civilians were generally enslaved or killed, and disposed of when they could no longer work, it was hardly abnormal. Auschwitz (and Treblinka, and Sobibor, and Chelmo, and Betzec, and Majdenek) were in a separate class, previously unknown, which gave rise to the term "genocide," in which the intent was to wipe out an entire people. I'm sorry that some don't get the point.
[Thursday morning update]
Well, I certainly seem to have stirred up a hornet's nest among some. Let me pick up the remains of the straw men that were strewn around and kicked apart here overnight.
For the record, I did not say, or imply, that Buchenwald was a summer camp. I did not say, or imply, that the leftist Hitler's crimes were a "drop in the bucket" compared to the leftist Stalin's. I did not say, or imply, that working people to death is not murdering them. I did not say, or imply, that anyone's death (including Anne Frank's) was less tragic because it occurred at Bergen-Belsen than at Auschitz. I did not say, or imply, that I would "smile with satisfaction" if I were at Buchenwald instead of Auschwitz.
I'm not sure how to have a rational discussion with anyone nutty enough to have managed to infer any of the above from what I actually wrote.
Also, for the record, I am not now, and have never been a Republican, or (AFAIK) a "right winger," unless by that phrase one means a classical liberal. As for "sitting down with my Jewish friends and discussing this," I not only have Jewish friends, but Jewish relatives by blood, or perhaps I should say had, because they include many who doubtless died in both types of camps.
[Update a few minutes later]
One other straw man. I did not say, or imply, that because of this single incident Barack Obama was unfit to be president of the United States. But it is part, albeit a small one, of a much larger tapestry.
[One more update]
To the people in comments asking me what I meant by this, or why I wrote it, I don't know how to better explain my points than I already have. If after having actually read it carefully, for comprehension, you still don't get it, or willfully choose to misinterpret it, I can't help you.
[Update again]
OK, I'll make one attempt, for those who think that I am somehow "minimizing" what happened at Buchenwald. Perhaps they don't understand the true meaning of the word "atrocious," as in the phrase I used, "atrocious beyond human understanding."
I wasn't using it in perhaps a more popular (and trivial) sense as "that movie or meal was atrocious." I was using it in its most literal sense, as in a place where actual atrocities occurred. The two words are related, you know?
[Update about 9:30]
If I change the phrase "merely a slave labor camp," which is what seems to be generating such irrational fury and umbrage, to "not a site for the extermination of a people on an industrial scale," will that mollify people? Probably not, but I'll do it anyway.
[Afternoon update]
I'm wondering how much of the rampant insanity, straw mannery and outrage in comments would have been avoided had I merely omitted the word "merely".
Funny. I was gonna suggest you keep "merely" and omit the rest of it.  


As we're fond of noting here, Mr. Simberg, words ain't cudgels. You have emerged from all this no more, and surely no less, astute in your own mind than you already were. The point of all the flapdoodle in-between escapes me.


Work-release applicants at Buchenwald.

I'm not sure where it is that "I'm not a right-winger, I'm a classical liberal" is the sort of riposte that wins bar bets, but then even supposing you believe it it's the opposite of convincing. Learn to speak the donkey's language, if you would; he'll never learn yours. Similarly, the business of "but I said it was atrocious beyond human understanding!" does not actually fool people who understood why you said it in the first place. This is not the sort of thing one should convince himself can be sidetracked by claims of misunderstanding, difference of opinion, or one's superior powers of intellect. That particular dodge has been worked ten thousand times, whether you know it or not. Nobody's a simple seeker of Truth; everybody's a Liar, but we all prefer other Liars to acknowledge it. You do not want to be the guy settin' up his tripes and keister, offering a little friendly sidewalk demonstration of what a simple game Three Card Monte is, when someone else just cleaned out the same crowd and skedaddled three minutes earlier. Respect the audience, even when it's hard to hide your own vastly superior abilities.

And don't try it if you've got more tells than Herbert Ross.

See, thing is, you already answered your own complaint in the original post, but you decided to keep on typing:
But it's not that easy to ignore Auschwitz.
That's because "Auschwitz" has become one of the most emotionally charged words in the English (well, OK, it's not English--it's German) language. It's one of the most emotionally charged words in any language, for anyone who is aware of what happened there, and few educated people aren't, regardless of their native language.

Indeed, though we suggest you take it easy on the fangs. "Auschwitz" has come to represent the Nazi extermination program, in part because only it and Majdanek among the extermination camps exist in some familiar physical form anymore.  Which, as I suggested, answers your complaint. Every believer in reincarnation was once Caesar, or Cleopatra, or--if they're aware those two were already taken--one of their top associates. Every owner of a pot-metal lamp with a glass shade on Antiques Roadshow has a Tiffany, and every cowboy statuette is a Remington. The simple fact, Mr. Simberg is, No, "educated" people are not all aware of what happened at Auschwitz, nor were they aware of whatever distinction you or Adolph Eichmann want to make between the death camps and the labor camps; looking around the internets over the past 48 hours proves this. For them "Auschwitz" is the most familiar symbol of the entire Nazi genocidal program. And, to that extent, they are correct and you are wrong, no matter what "facts" you try to marshal. Just as they were correct in seeing through your little charade. It's abundantly clear that a family tradition might ascribe to Auschwitz a relative's war experiences that took place somewhere else. It's even possible for the whole thing to have begun as a lie, but to have been propagated honestly thereafter.

It might surprise you, assuming you found this little speck of a site, to learn that we are, at least superficially, in some agreement. I think it should have occurred to Barack Obama that Auschwitz would have been liberated by the Soviets. Or if not him, someone on his staff. But then, I haven't been particularly enamored of his staff or his campaign, and it's particularly grating for me to listen to someone who insists he'll reform Our Failing Schools demonstrate he's something of a captive to one of their very worst features, namely, the pathetic job we do teaching history, aka, introducing students to a fictional stroll among European New World settlers, with footnotes for everybody else. Lots of Americans believe We won WWII on the beaches of Normandy. Lots believe We won WWI. Many apparently think treasonous slaveholding southerners in the 19th were behaving nobly. Our history curriculum does nothing to disabuse them of the notion. And the fact is that this enforced notion of a shared sense of America as always right, always victorious, and the Beacon of International Altruism has led us into colossal error time and again, and that it has been mostly--but not entirely--insisted upon by wingnuts classical liberals. And so, while I believe that the substitution of "Auschwitz" for "Buchenwald satellite camp" is entirely understandable in the everyday sense, I think that in theory, at least, it represents the continuation of ahistorical attitudes we need to begin to correct; however, as I personally see little risk that the next President intends to invade Germany out of some unfortunate intention to Set the Record Straight, I believe I'll save any concern for more serious misstatements, like imagining the Iranians are aiding Sunni insurgents, or calling Ronald Reagan "a great leader".

6 comments:

R. Porrofatto said...

Back atcha, Doghouse. I'm rapidly approaching geezerhood so I've seen a few campaigns, and while they were just as lunatic in their own way, I don't remember them being this fucking infantile. Was there always this ridiculous need to digest every sentence spoken by a candidate, with an army of zealots ready to parse and pounce on the most inconsequential mistake in language, memory, whatever? I understand the do-anything-for-an-edge mentality, but this stuff stems from what seems to me a recent phenomenon: a deeply implanted playground cynicism in which all opposition candidates (read:Democrats) are abject liars easily unmasked by Citizen Sleuths armed with a sentence diagrammer and Google. Jeebus, Obama was speaking off the cuff about post-traumatic stress disorder afflicting veterans, and his uncle was just a small but handy anecdote whose entire controversial story was told in the first clause of one sentence.

Sure, if this was vetted in advance, or part of a speech, someone should have pointed out his error, and yes, if he were thinking about what he was saying he should have known who liberated Auschwitz. But Google Obama + Auschwitz and you'll get half-a million separate pages. That's insane. Fer chrissakes, when fucking Ronald Reagan vividly recalled liberating the camps himself despite his never having so much as poked a toe out of Hollywood during the war, nobody even blinked.

Jaye Ramsey Sutter said...

A person can be admitted to law school, graduate from it, and be admitted to the Bar without knowing the difference between Aushcwitz and Buchenwald or that we would not have won WWII without the Soviet Union. Hell, you can teach at a law school and not know any of the above, either.

What will America do with the anti-intellectualism, as if one needs to be an intellectual to know any of the above, possessed by our great leaders from our great schools?

Nothing.

What worries me isn't that he got the camp wrong, but that he got is great uncle's story wrong. Did the great uncle tell him the story with the wrong camp name? That is one thing. It is quite another to repeat the story with the wrong name.

Remember their are 57 states in Obama's America.

Anonymous said...

I also like the part where he writes "the leftist Hitler" - the wingnuts, sorry, classical liberals, have really taken Goldberg's "book" to heart, havent' they?

Donna said...

"Obama was speaking off the cuff about post-traumatic stress disorder afflicting veterans"

and that very important part, the state of our most recent vets and those still stuck in W's custom made hell, has been completely lost.

"It is quite another to repeat the story with the wrong name."

or in HRC's case, an entire fiction about sniper fire.

wouldn't it be nice if the supposed left wing media and HRC's most ardent supporters focused on the real issues. They will but only in my dreams, I suppose.

Jaye Ramsey Sutter said...

I will ask in four years if we are still churning out shitty health care for veterans. And in four more years perhaps he will have the experience to understand the value of getting history correct. Unless of course he gets elected and reelected by those who don't care about history. Reagan didn't care and he was supported by people who didn't care and see how much better the world is when we just don't care about that history thing.

Don't bother the man, he is on a roll.

Anonymous said...

JRS, please come back to us, you sound so bitter. Please think -- you're a fellow human, no? If someone parsed your every word and remark for spot-on accuracy would you get a 100% pass? Not everyone carries a meticulously detailed history of WWII in their mental rolodex.

I truly feel that in regards to pulling politicians and the media back to reality, we proles out here in bloggoland are the ones who started the fire. I also believe that we know we are a force that can continue to pressure the next gestalt of elected officials to do the right things to enable a continued future for humankind. I'm also sure they'll need to constantly feel the pressure. I don't think that we will sit back and mindlessly go along with whatever is politically convenient no matter who is in our national driver's seat. We know from politicians, and I seem to recall that neither Obama nor Clinton were our personal first-choices. And unlike movie-fan Reaganites, we do not see ourselves as followers of Obama, or any other politician for that matter.

Your thoughtful participation in this process of keeping the pressure on is most needed.

Aloha Jane

Pookapooka