Tag Archive | "Hitler"

Racism Under the Microscope

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In thumbing through the Orthodox English Dictionary the other day in search of a word, I came upon the definition for another word, “racism:”

a.)  the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics, abilities, or qualities specific to that race , especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races

b.)  prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on such a belief:  a programme to combat racism.

The phrase “to combat racism” led me to investigate the term further.  According to my research, the usage of the word “racism” as we have come to know it, can be traced back to descriptions of Lawrence Dennis, an American who had aligned himself with the Fascist movement. He is also the author of the book, The Coming American Fascism.  Written in 1936, it portended the rise of Fascism in this nation.

If your history is a bit rusty, The Fascists were those who embraced Hitler’s philosophy of racial superiority, and who put those beliefs into practice in order to suppress and ultimately, extinguish certain races deemed “inferior.”  While the Jewish race figured most prominently on this list, and while 6 million Jewish people suffered horribly and died at the hands of Hitler and his twisted followers, it is a lesser-known fact — and a fact nonetheless — that another 3 million Italians Greeks were also tortured and murdered during Hitler’s reign of terror. 

However, the creation of the word “racist” was originally accredited to Magnus Hirschfeld (1868-1935), who’d coined it with a completely different meaning.  A German scientist of Jewish heritage, his primary field became known as Sexology (the study of sexual behavior).  Other groundbreaking researchers and behaviorists in this field were Havelock Ellis of England and Alfred Kinsey of the United States.  While their studies were broad-based, encompassing mainstream society, Hirschfield’s research focused upon homosexuality and sexual liberation: topics that comprised the meat of his books and five films.

Hirschfield’s polemic states that the definition of a racist is he or she who makes “a strong verbal or written attack on someone or something.”  Created to indicate those who were intolerant toward homosexuals and others seeking sexual liberation, and in a broader sense, those who have come to be known as The Far Right, the word was never intended to specifically label individuals who discriminate against others based upon skin color, cultural background, or religious affiliation.  Hirschfield envisioned a freer society than the one that existed in his time; he wished to see a kind of global communism, or Pan-Humanism, established. Because of his convictions, the term “racist” may have evolved, or perhaps devolved, to indicate an entire society disposed toward sexual repression (i.e., more traditional forms of sexual behavior).

“Racism” as we have come to understand that word, is actually an invention of The Left.  With the word now loaded like a pair of dice, supporters of white racial consciousness cannot use it without painting themselves narrow-minded and repressive.  Anyone who uses the term in a self-descriptive manner — from the perspective of Hirschfield and not those who broadened the term — now finds himself in a political quagmire.  He has, in effect, allowed himself to be maneuvered onto his opponent’s ground and thus, has lost his debate.  Gee.  And here I thought this was a democratic society that gave full support to the freedom of speech!

The Tyranny of Words

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“A rose is a rose is a rose is a rose.”  The familiar expression coined by American writer Gertrude Stein conveys a simple truth: no matter what something is called, its inherent qualities remain the same.  In Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare expressed a similar view through the utterance of Juliet – “What’s in a name? that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

And yet, today, we live in an age in which a new form of language is utilized, often to circumvent the truth or conceal the fact that nothing much is actually being stated.  Who can forget the Presidency of William Jefferson Clinton.  A master of circumlocution and the parsing of words, President Clinton will forever be remembered for remarks like “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky” and “It depends on what the meaning of ‘is’ is.”  Of course, politicians have long been noted for “stretching” if not “shredding” the truth.  And, this behavior is not confined to one political ideology.  Consider that when Richard Nixon was found to have lied, his handlers characterized his remarks as “inoperative,” or that, in attempting to justify war with Iraq, George W. Bush stated that a search of Iraq uncovered “weapons of mass destruction-related program activities” – whatever it is that that means.  Today, as Congress debates healthcare reform, Democrats and Republicans alike choose their words with extreme care as they explain or answer questions regarding their respective positions on this issue, lest they reveal the unvarnished truth.

Totalitarian regimes have long known that by controlling language, they can control the thinking of their subjects.  Those who disagreed with political oppression were branded “enemies of the revolution” in Stalinist Russia and “enemies of the Reich” in Hitler’s Germany.

In free societies, framing the terms of debate facilitates political gain.  And so, adroit politicians such as Ronald Reagan demonized the term “Liberal” at the expense of their political opponents.  Likewise, Congressmen give euphemistic titles to their bills that belie the actual content of the legislation.

Of course, political expression owes much of its development to Madison Avenue where advertising think-tanks continually find new ways to promote products that separate consumers from their hard-earned money.  Using colorful adjectives and adverbs, advertising language can create in the mind of the consumer significant differences between essentially homogeneous products like gasoline or bottled water.

In the classic dystopian novel, 1984, George Orwell describes a fictional language that he terms “Newspeak.”  “Newspeak” is a scaled-down form of English employed by the despotic regime in power to maintain control over its subjects.  By narrowing the vocabulary of the language, the government could limit alternative ways of thinking and consolidate its power by eliminating words describing concepts such as freedom and revolution.  One wonders how close our language of today comes to the fictional “Newspeak” of 1984.

And so, when you read or hear a statement that you do not understand because the language employed is purposefully evasive, question the writer or speaker.  Force him to state his position in more concrete terms.  You may be striking a blow for freedom, or at the very least clarity.

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