What’s in a Name, What’s in a Nazi?

What’s in a name? Well, when the name happens to be “Nazi,” some might say a heck of  a lot! For some reason unbeknownst to those of us who don’t make a living on talk radio, it seems to be en vogue to refer to your political opponents as Nazis.

Those who are semi-competent students of history will know, however, that Nazis (the German word for the National Socialist Party headed by Hitler) and current United States political parties look almost nothing alike. In fact, some argue (such as this group of rabbis) that using the term Nazi in political debate is an insult to the millions of Jews, and others, who actually suffered under the Nazis’ genocidal rule.

At first glance, it seems that the “Nazi card” is thrown around most often by Republicans—especially Fox News. Bill O’Reilly, Megyn Kelly, Glenn Beck and others on the conservative-leaning network have compared Obama or his policies to Nazis on more than one occasion. Jon Stewart, the famous satirical comedian who delivers the “news” on Comedy Central, ran a hilarious segment pointing out Fox News’s hypocrisy in using Nazi repeatedly on their network:

Before you think I have it out for Fox and conservatives, however, here’s the big twist in the story: just a few weeks after Stewart aired that piece, Wisconsin Democrats pulled out the ole Nazi card themselves. The recent Wisconsin Democratic senators’ walkout from the state legislature has caused quite a stir in both local and national politics. In once instance thousands of protesters gathered outside the capitol, likening Gov. Scott Walker to, that’s right, a Nazi for his anti-union policies.

We can all agree that free speech is a crucial part of American democracy, and a recent Supreme Court decision guarantees that even disruptive speech that nearly everyone condemns is still protected by the First Amendment. So, sure, we have the “right,” in the legal sense, to call our political opponents Nazis. But don’t you think it’s both distasteful and extremely inappropriate? After all, as Jon Stewart says, “Being a heartless douche isn’t exactly the same as being a Nazi propagandist.”