Thursday, December 21, 2006

Oh, so now Holocaust denial is suddenly uncool.

There's a neoconservative point of view that folks are alright until they try to get the government to solve their problems. Advocate a minimum wage, an estate tax, a 55 MPH speed limit, a ban on indoor smoking, or some other meager regulation of commerce, and you've just supped from the cup of Stalin and Hitler, they say. People don't harm people, this view goes, government regs harm people.

This worldview would also have to make claims about just how things got so screwed up in Nazi Germany. It wouldn't be so much that people (average, decent, middle-class, church-going people) are inherently Fallen and corrupt, but that somehow they gave up too much power to the State and It forced an evil upon them.

Entering into the fray a few years ago came Daniel Jonah Goldhagen with his Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust. Goldhagen documented how German culture going back decades if not centuries was full of racist propaganda and violence against the Jews. I read Goldhagen as saying the holocaust may have started before the turn of the 20th century.

The neocons were livid. See some objections at the Amazon site for the book. I specifically remember Richard John Neuhuas expressing outrage at the book. For someone like Neuhaus who would have been trained in a church tradition that believes in a Fall and Original Sin, I don't see the problem. I do see how Goldhagen's thesis of a completely fallen humanity, one ready to commit genocide at the fall of a hat, confronts the political view which relies on trappings of the Noble Savage to fight government intrusion. Perhaps Goldhagen's book makes it easier to believe in Hobbes' view that man is vile and corrupt and maybe a few meager regulations of commerce are to be tolerated.

Perhaps there are other reasons for reacting in this way to Goldhagen. I see the opposition to Goldhagen as a statement that the pre-Holocaust wasn't so big a deal.

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