ANN ALTHOUSE: “The cry of ‘eugenics’ always goes up, but what are the people who raise it really worrying about? Not the return of the Nazis. It’s all-too-convenient the way the Nazis pop up to assist in making the argument you already wanted to make.”
The existence of the Nazis and the barbarian savagery they epitomized offends people like Althouse on a basic, almost primal level, because the Germans who so readily and willingly subsumed themselves in that brute paroxysm were, in folks like Althouse’s eyes, people. They were cultured Europeans with a high civilization and a millennia’s worth of major contributions to the western intellectual, spiritual, and moral canon. Yet they turned into animals almost literally overnight, and deep in their frightened little souls, the Althouses of the world fear the same thing could happen to them. It’s one of the reasons they, along with their European brothers and sisters, crave the strong, smothering hand of the all-powerful state – because the socialist nanny will protect them from their most evil and fearful impulses. It is also why Germany, cradle of the Nazis, did the ideological heavy lifting for much of socialism and communism as well.
They don’t fear the savagery of the communist cossacks, or the slant-eyed invaders from the far east, or the bedouins from the Saharan wastes. What are those people to such as they but animals and devils anyway? And how else would you expect the wogs and sand naggers to act except as savages?
But Germans. Ah, the people of Bach, Goethe, and Planck! And at the same time, the willing people of Hitler, Goering, and Goebbels. That is simply incomprehensible to people like Althouse. In her world, people don’t turn into animals in the span of a few years. But Germany did.
Best to sweep them under history’s rug. Best to pretend such an aberration could never occur again.
Best to pretend that if the Nazis hadn’t existed, we’d have to invent them.
Yes, that’s it. Let’s pretend the Nazis were just an invention, a bad dream, a inadmissible debating device. And let’s never mention them in polite society.
That’s best for everybody concerned, isn’t it?
UPDATE: I have corrected the link to Glenn Reyolds’ post, which was wrong all day today. And since Glenn has responded to this post, (click the repaired link) I’d like to try to clarify my position as best I can.
First, my objection is to the claiming that any use of any aspect of German fascism in a discussion dealing with any contemporary issue is almost invariably dismissed as “trivializing” the horror of the Nazis, as if Godwin’s ridiculous “Law” actually had the status of law.
Nothing can trivialize the Nazis. Their barbaric savagery cannot be trivialized. (But it can be forgotten, especially if any mention of it in polite (or other) debate is verboten). But let us remember there was more to the Nazis than the death camps. In fact, the most remarkable thing about the German fascists is how utterly banal they were, and how deeply they warped even the smallest aspects of daily life. They passed gun control laws, for instance, that bear a remarkable resemblance to gun control laws later passed here in the United States. Is to note that fact to be automatically regarded as “trivializing” the deeds of the Nazis?
Further, it is a common misconception that the eugenics programs practiced by the German fascists were all brutal affairs inflicted on the unwilling innocent. Far from it. In tandem with their eugenics programs involving forced sterilization or murder of “undesirables,” there were also programs that encouraged “desirables” to have as many children as possible, with such practices encouraged by government subsidies and propaganda programs designed to generate public approval of those who partook.
Now what raised Ann Althouse’s ire was this:
Before contracting for the embryos, clients can evaluate the egg and sperm donors, and can even see pictures of them as babies, children and sometimes adults….
“People have long warned we were moving toward a ‘Brave New World,’ ” said Robert P. George of Princeton University, who serves on the President’s Council on Bioethics. “This is just more evidence that we haven’t been able to restrain this move towards treating human life like a commodity. This buying and selling of eggs and sperm and now embryos based on IQ points and PhDs and other traits really moves us in the direction of eugenics.”…
“People can say, ‘Oh, this is the new Hitler.’ That’s not the case,” [said Jennalee Ryan of the Abraham Center of Life.] “I don’t take orders. I say ‘This is what I have’ and send them the background. If they don’t think it’s right for them, they don’t have to take them.”…
To which Althouse responds by decrying the use of the term “eugenics” as if it were synonymous with Nazis (it isn’t, and the Hitler reference was from somebody who supports the contemporary practice at issue), and then goes on to beat that horse into pudding by adding some snark about the “convenience” of the “Nazi argument.”
Question for Ann: Did the Nazis practice, as part of their eugenics efforts, a voluntary selective breeding program in which the goal were in many ways identical to the issue she was citing? Yes, they did. Is it then to be forbidden to mention that fact because it drags the dreaded Nazis into the discussion?
The problem with this sort of taboo is that we are bidden to “Never forget” what was done by the Nazis. But how can we do that, when we are forbidden ever to make reference to what they did?
Aside to Glenn: Part of my response attempted to delineate why I think there is such an aversion to referencing the Nazis, and part of it was, frankly, my exasperation at the taboo itself.