Let’s Talk About Hitler
Let’s Talk About Hitler
March 10, 2016
Can we agree that calling the candidate with German ancestry “Hitler” is racist? It sure feels that way to me. I’m about half German, same as Trump. And it feels like a racial insult to me.
I’m not easily offended, but I don’t see any other way to interpret the incessant Hitler analogies directed at Trump. If he were female and Asian – with exactly the same policies – would we be comparing him to Hitler every five seconds?
I don’t think so.
I’m not defending Trump’s policies. His views don’t align with my own. (None of the candidates agree with my crazy-ass opinions.) All I’m saying is that if you are calling the German guy Hitler, and you are not German (which somehow makes it okay), then I see you as a racist.
I’ll say again that I’m not defending anything Trump says or does in terms of policies. He’s on his own to defend that stuff. Consider me disavowed. My fascination with Trump is limited to his persuasion skills.
Now let’s talk about Hitler analogies in general.
As I have explained in this blog before, analogies are not part of reason. Sometimes things just remind you of other things. That’s the beginning and end of the story. So if your opinion of Trump, or any other candidate, rests on an analogy to Hitler, it would be fair to say you are not using rational thought.
Analogies are excellent tools for explaining a new situation for the first time. And sometimes analogies help you recognize situations that are potentially dangerous before you have all the facts. It is completely rational to use analogies in those two contexts. It is not rational to make a final decision based on an analogy.
Consider the Trump=Hitler analogy that is clogging the Internet. I’ll mention just a few flaws with the analogy.
For example, Hitler wanted to conquer other countries. Trump is opposed to war unless for defense. That’s sort of a big difference right there.
Also, Hitler tried to exterminate minorities. Trump’s policies lean pro-minority:
1. Veterans are disproportionately minorities.
2. Aborted babies are often minorities.
3. Trump wants to avoid people “dying in the streets” with no healthcare, and that benefit is good for minorities.
4. Trump wants to keep Social Security strong, which helps everyone, but mostly people at lower incomes.
5. Trump’s spokesperson is half African-American. Trump’s daughter converted to Judaism. And so on, and so on.
6. Stopping illegal immigration reduces job competition for lower-income families. Some say it also reduces violence to women of all ethnicities.
7. Trump wants citizens to be armed. Hitler didn’t want that.
I could go on. The point is that Trump’s policies are nearly the opposite of Hitler.
Unlike Hitler, Trump is happy to invite anyone with useful technical skills to the country, no matter their ethnicity. And unlike Hitler, Trump has never made reference to ethnicity. Trump often mentions countries of origin and also religion. But so far, not ethnicity. Not ever.
You might THINK Trump has said some ethnically insensitive things during this campaign, but that’s an illusion. He has railed against illegal aliens (regardless of ethnicity) and proposed a ban on Muslim immigration. I remind you that Islam is comprised of all types of ethnicities. Iranians are mostly non-Arabs, just to name one ethnic distinction.
Trump has indeed suggested discrimination against incoming Muslims. But I think you have to see this situation as a special case because Sharia law is incompatible with the Constitution of the United States. And conquering infidels is part of the Islamic belief system in some corners of Islam. If we can’t tell the good people from the bad, it boils down to national security and risk-management. And we also have to assume Trump’s “opening offer” on totally halting Muslim immigration would get negotiated down to something that looks more like a deep vetting process than a ban.
People have asked me whether Trump has made any mistakes in persuasion so far. The answer is yes, emphatically. Asking his crowds to raise their hands and take a voting pledge creates Nazi-looking optics. How in the world – you ask – could a Master Persuader make such an obvious mistake?
I can explain that.
For starters, and according to science, asking people to do something – no matter how minor – greatly increases the odds that those same people will do the next thing you ask of them. So from a persuasion standpoint, asking people to raise their hands and take a pledge is solid-gold persuasion. The only way it could go wrong is if the optics looked like the start of a Nazi movement. And …they do.
So how did Trump miss that?
Easily. We all see through our own filters. I assume Trump does not identify himself with Hitler. So from his perspective, nothing he does fits that analogy. It is only YOUR perspective that makes the voting pledge look ominous and dangerous. All Trump saw was a bunch of enthusiastic supporters.
If you are still hung up on the Hitler analogy with Trump, spend two minutes trying to make a Hitler analogy with Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa, and Gandhi. It’s easier than you want to believe. Confirmation bias allows us to fit any observations to any hypothesis.
Although analogies are not part of reason, people do have a lot of fear about Trump. I have witnessed that fear first-hand. I’ll blog about that another time. In my opinion – and at this writing – Trump is not qualified to be president because he scares the pants off of about half the country. That’s Trump’s third-act problem. If he can’t solve it, he can’t be president.
So you might wonder how hard it would be for a Master Persuader to remove people’s fears about him in less than a year. Answer: Easy.
Most politicians couldn’t pull off that sort of persuasion. But they don’t have Trump’s tool set. The fun hasn’t even started yet. This gets better.
On a related note, if this were a movie script, the third-act moment was when Trump asked his crowds to raise their hands and take the pledge. That turned his already-bad image into complete poison for two-thirds of the country. No one escapes from the Hitler meme.
But escape he will. That’s what makes this such a good movie. Get your popcorn.
If you hate Hitler, you might like my book because I don’t mention him once.