Calling a Nazi a Nazi

Following the violence (from armed Nazis, and the one side they represent) in Charlottesville, some people have suggested that the perpetrators only acted like brutal, thuggish Nazis, because people had been calling them brutal, thuggish Nazis for so long. Of course they’re going to act like Nazis if you keep calling them Nazis! Obviously it’s an attempt to take the blame away from the actual Nazis committing the violence. It’s an attempt to say, Look, these are just troubled young men not happy with the way they’re country’s going. But they’ve been demonized by SJWs, and that’s made them lash out in frustration! What do you expect when you call someone a Nazi!

There a couple of assumptions being made here. The first is that if you label someone with a negative name often enough, they’ll become what you call them. And that seems logical enough. Imagine how angry it would make you to unfairly labelled as something as terrible as a Nazi!? Except, that only really works when the label is applied unfairly, doesn’t it? So let’s take a moment to have a look at some of the people being called Nazis:


Ok, you might say, they’re Nazis now, but they weren’t before people started calling them Nazis! But can someone really adopt such an extreme position just by being called names? I can understand someone going off the rails a little, or having an outburst after getting repeatedly and unfairly labelled. But how do you get to be a Nazi – an actual Nazi – in 21st-century America from a moderate position? Nazism’s ideology is simply far too extreme and filled with hate for that, especially without the excuse of economic depression and charismatic leadership, which can help to explain the rise of Nazism in Germany in the 30s.

And I don’t buy the argument that these people arrived at their position from legitimate grievances or at least more moderate views. What’s the more moderate version of thinking that white people are naturally superior to other races? What’s the legitimate grievance behind that? No, being a Nazi is a choice to express one’s hatred deliberately clothed in the trappings of the most hated, offensive political group. Those people in Charlottesville knew exactly what they were doing.

Another assumption at work is that Nazi is a taboo term that should never be used as an insult. Again, that seems fairly logical. What the Nazis did and believed was so atrocious that we shouldn’t trivialise them by overusing the term Nazi, or using it for less serious offences and beliefs. But I have two problems with that idea. The first is that I don’t really see the term Nazi thrown around a lot. People often claim it is, but these people are usually the people with horrible views who are being called Nazis. Of course they’re going to exaggerate how often they’re called Nazis. More importantly though, is my second problem with the idea of Nazi as a taboo term:



What the hell are we supposed to call these people then? They look, act, and think like Nazis. They simply are Nazis by any definition. Sure, I get the general logic behind not using extreme terms. We shouldn’t stoop to the level of discourse of those who use hate speech, because that just increases the level of animosity in political discourse and leads us into a vicious cycle. Except that these people are actually Nazis, so it’s perfectly appropriate to call them Nazis. Not calling them Nazis would only legitimize them, give them a veneer of respectability.

And Trump has done enough of that already. It’s sadly not such a surprise that armed and armoured Nazis feel they can openly walk the streets en masse under the regime of a man who has so lowered the level of political discourse. From the beginning of his presidential campaign, Trump has used aggressive, blunt language, often referencing physical or sexual violence. And he seems to have got only more brazen. It’s no wonder that Nazis feel empowered when they have a president who refused to distance himself from the support of the KKK, who mocks the disabled, who enacts openly prejudiced policies, who advocates police brutality, who talks about grabbing women by the pussy, and who refuses to condemn Nazi violence and instead like a coward talks about violence on “many sides.” He’s very directly responsible for the horrors we saw in Charlottesville, including the killing of Heather Heyer. He’s shown these awful people that it’s ok to be hateful towards your fellow human beings through his actions and his words.

Yes, language can be a powerful tool. Yes, we have to be careful about how we use terms like Nazi. It’s a powerful thing, not to be taken lightly. But if we see a Nazi, we need to call it a Nazi, and not give them more respect than they deserve. And if the President of the United States inspires violence through his rhetoric, we need to condemn that. Equally, we need to condemn him when he uses language carefully to avoid offending the Nazis who voted for him (it’s no surprise that white supremacists online were delighted that he avoided specifically condemning them on Saturday). Words like Nazi are dangerous when we use them as weapons, but also when we refuse to use them when we should.

32 thoughts on “Calling a Nazi a Nazi

  1. Great post. We should never be afraid to call out evil where we see it – and to call it by its name. If it walks like a Nazi and talks like a Nazi – it’s a Nazi and it has no place in decent society.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I was thinking about this this morning – thank you for posting my exact thoughts!

    There’s a lot of people commenting on things blaming the left for not being tolerant enough of other viewpoints. But racism isn’t a valid viewpoint; we must continue to call it out.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. That we even have to have a discussion about whether to call a Nazi a Nazi is ridiculous.
    It’s funny how racists appeal to a fair, and liberal mindset when it serves them.

    In reference to the photos: In Germany the Nazi salute is considered an element of crime (incitement of the people, and using signs of an unconstitutional organisation) and is punishable, as it should be.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I usually avoid politics, because no one listens to anyone else’s arguments unless they already agree. However, I have to respond to this one, because I believe you’re using a very wide brush to paint all conservatives a very ugly color.

    I am a conservative. I do NOT approve of or participate in the kind of ugliness that happened. My heart grieves for those who were victimized by these ugly people with their ugly hatred and their ugly behavior.

    My political convictions do not embrace hatred for other races, religions, or beliefs. It is my opinion that most of us who adhere to a “small government/reduced spending” platform do not share in the extremism of those people last weekend. I also believe that those people are using what has come to be called Alt-Right as an excuse to demonstrate how ugly they really are.

    On the other side of the coin, however, there are those on the Alt-Left who would remove my right to free speech because my opinions differ from theirs. Neither of these factions can honestly, ethically or morally claim the high ground. They are belligerent, hateful; they do NOT represent me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Please note that I’m not referring to conservatives in general: I’m very specifically referring to people who identify as white supremacists. I respect that conservatism is a legitimate ideology with a clear logic behind its ideas, and that these thugs don’t represent conservatism as a whole. Though while there are extremists across the political spectrum, I don’t think there’s anything on the extreme left to compare to the hatred and violence on display from the white supremacists.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I don’t think the White Supremacists are a legitimate part of conservatism. And yes, I do understand that you weren’t labelling all conservatives as white supremacists, and I thank you for that. We use too many ugly, vitriolic names to excoriate those we don’t agree with. It’s awful.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I agree that they have nothing to do with mainstream conservatism. The problem is they’re getting bolder because they feel Trump’s on their side. And then they’re more visible and some take them to be the face of conservatism.

          Liked by 1 person

          • I think some WANT them to be the face of conservatism. I also think Mr. Trump needs to clarify his position on the whole race issue. Trouble is, of course, the MSM will manage to construe whatever he says into something he didn’t say.

            I had to smile at an article I read earlier today, saying that Trump was out playing golf when the mess was going on, clearly implying that he didn’t care. Let’s see, what was Mr. Obama doing on the countless occasions of possible crisis for our country? Oh, that’s right–playing golf.

            Look, I’m no worshipper of Donald Trump. He wasn’t my first pick, by any means. But now that he’s in the Oval Office, it sure would be nice if his own party would give him some support.

            Blech. Politics.


            • But how can they possibly support him when he reveals how hateful and cowardly he is, as he has this evening? He’s simply deplorable and indefensible. And honestly, I’ve never seen the mainstream media twist his words: just report him. He’s simply full of hate, and a cynical willingness to exploit the hate of others for his own gain. Yes, people are primed to hate him, but only because he’s long since proven himself to be hateful. Just as so many hate the alt-right because they’re sexist, racist, homophobes who continuously demonstrate and willingness to use violence. Hate doesn’t fix hate, but hate for the hateful is entirely understandable. And Trump’s spent a lot more time on the golf course than Obama ever did.

              Liked by 1 person

  5. I have a problem. I am a Celto-Anglo-Saxon-Norman descended male. Sometimes I think about the Gothic cathedrals, Chaucer, Gutenberg, Luther (like it or not, the Reformation irrevocably shaped the modern world), Shakespeare, Beethoven, Newton, Jenner, Stevenson, Benz, Daimler, Ford, the Wrights, Baird, Babbage, Turing, the Apollo project, Berners-Lee, (gritted teeth) Gates, the Football Association, the Royal and Ancient Golf Club, the Marylebone Cricket Club, The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, the International Olympic Committee, the Red Cross, the United Nations, almost every stable liberal democracy in the modern world, highest standards of living, freedom of speech, freedom of the press etc etc – all of whom/which are (predominantly) Celto-Normo-Germanic (and I’m sure there’s many more), and I’m pretty damn proud about all that. Quietly.

    Of course, there’s lots of bad things as well.

    I remarked on Facebook a few days ago that I suspect that truly superior people don’t go around telling everyone else that they are superior.


    • There’s nothing wrong with being proud of individual achievements, but I don’t see how any of that is linked to whiteness. They’re all from such different cultures and historical contexts that I at least can’t feel any sense of pride in them. I think Shakespeare is incredible but I don’t feel proud of his writing because I don’t feel our shared skin colour gives us anything in common. African Americans can refer to a black culture because being black in the United States has a short recent history and set of specific shared experiences. Being white is much broader than that, and can’t claim a single culture. It’s a skin colour and nothing more, and I therefore think it’s ludicrous to be proud of that.
      It’s also important to remember that much of the technological advancements of the later modern era were made possible by the class and racial exploitation and plundering of colonialism. Of course we can look at advancements in Europe and the US because they operated systems in which white people had far greater privileges and access to opportunities.
      And if there are superior people out there, I like to think they don’t see themselves as superior, and their superiority is based on their character and not their skin colour.


      • You make a number of very fair points; I don’t dispute any and would even have raised some of them myself if I’d written a longer and more balanced comment. My point remains that no matter how you slice and dice the human race through history, and what you call those groups, some groups have accomplished disproportionately.

        I fully agree with you that no-one is ‘superior’ purely because of the colour of their skin.

        Liked by 1 person

    • It’s interesting how the term “alt-left” was presumably coined as an insult to the Charlottesville counter-protesters. By positioning them as the left’s equivalent of the alt-right, it therefore seems to assume that “alt-right” is a pejorative term too. That the negative aspect lies in the “alt” part. It’s so hard to coin terms for your political opponents in an age when information is exchanged so quickly. As soon as a term is successful enough to become well known, it’s adopted ironically by those it’s intended to attack.


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