This article was cross-posted at Open.Salon.
Recently, I witnessed an interesting discussion in the comments section of our local news station's website, inspired by a news article covering the then-proposed and since passed extension of the unemployment benefits by the Obama Administration. The first combatant, proudly brandishing his teabags, was a young graduate of Texas A&M University (2003, to be exact). His opponent was a reader who goes by the name JW. JW is not me, though I will say we share the same strong liberal views.
Because the article was about unemployment benefits, the Aggie's comments naturally turned to the perils of communism, because we all know that first comes the dole, and then come the tractors and waiting in line for borscht at the local collective. At some point, the Aggie Tea Bagger wrote the following comment (this is a direct quote, typos and dodgy grammar included):
"JW, since you're so fond of trying to use history, then why have you not learned that communism has never worked and is not going to work this time simply because Obama, Pelosi, and Reid are in charge. Communism and extreme socialism do not work and can never work. it leads to only one of two possible outcomes. Either the nation completely implodes as what happens to the Soviet Union, or a megalomaniac rises to power as what happened in 1930s Germany."
A free beer on me to the first person who can point out the major blunder!
Meet me at the bar if you noticed the wee historical inaccuracy of stating that because Hitler's political party in the 30s Germany contained the word "Socialist," it had to have been based on extreme socialism. Sorry, Aggie, but that's wrong.
Unfortunately, like so many Tea Baggers who like to toss the word socialism and communism around like rice at a wedding, The A&M grad--who has claimed to hold a master's degree in history, no less--has no clue about the historical contexts of the words he's using. Can it get any dumber than this? Perhaps, if we include Jonah Goldberg.
The truth is that Adolf Hitler, the head of the National Socialist German Workers Party, despised everything that remotely resembled Marxism, socialism, communism and liberalism (even democracy). It's a known fact that Hitler actually regretted having used the word 'socialist' in the party name. Furthermore, when he came into power in the 30s, he quickly destroyed both the German Communist Party and the "true" socialist party at the time, the Social Democratic Party. His hatred towards these political systems was clearly documented in Mein Kampf.
Maybe the Aggie slept through all his 20th century history courses while he was getting that master's degree. Of course, he's not exactly alone. What I don't understand is why so very many people here are confused about the fundamental differences in these political ideologies.
When I was in high school in Montreal, we were required to learn about all the political systems from fascism (on the right) to communism (on the left). I also took a 20th century history course in grade 11, which discussed all these political systems extensively. So when I see people claiming that Obama is a socialist, communist and fascist, often all three at the same time, I'm dumfounded at this lack of knowledge. Using these words like knee-jerk reflexes without understanding what they mean prevents the dissemination of truth and cripples useful dialogue.
For those interested, I also discussed a similar issue almost a year ago: