Saturday, January 08, 2022

The New Holocaust Minimization from Europe to America

It is a common cliché to claim that 21st century American antisemitism will follow the trajectory of 21st century Europe's, lagging only by a couple of years. I hear it most often in claims that the Democratic Party will inevitably Corbynify (I never hear the follow-up of what is supposed to be the American iteration of "... and then Corbyn is trounced in the general and summarily tossed from his leadership post"). Far less frequently is attention paid to how the American right can and will follow in the footsteps of its European peers.

On that note, I want to put two stories in conversation with one another. The first is a right-wing party in Romania under attack for dismissing Holocaust education as a "minor topic". The second is a Republican legislator in Indiana, State Sen. Scott Baldwin, taking flak for insisting that, under his proposed "anti-CRT' law, educators must and should take a "neutral" stance on Nazism.

The Indiana incident is hardly the first of its kind. From the outset, the anti-CRT push has undercut Holocaust education initiatives -- an utterly predictable consequence that thus far has barely even registered an iota of worry amongst Republicans who just a few months ago were holding themselves as the last hope against an incipient tidal wave of antisemitism (then again, it was barely a year ago when Republicans were still holding themselves out as defenders of free speech in education -- who can keep up?).

But it is worth putting these developments in America in conversation with what's happening in Europe, and why it is exactly that they find the Holocaust to be so disposable. For the most part, it is not that I think that the legislators in Indiana or Texas are secret Hitler admirers. However, I do think they may possess, and be acting on, a sort of annoyed indifference to the Holocaust's preeminence. Much like Republican frustration over how all political scandals end in -gate, there is frustration over how the main "shared" exemplar of pure political evil is a right-wing phenomenon. Sometimes this frustration manifests in absurd attempts to pretend that Nazism was "actually" a left-wing ideology. But another play is to seek to undercut the Holocaust as "just another" historical event, one that shouldn't receive undue attention or be subject to special condemnation. Who cares about the Holocaust when somewhere, someone is reading a book on how to provide support to LGBT youth? It's not pro-Nazi so much as it's anti- expending any resources to fight Nazism or inculcate the view that Nazism is bad. 

On the European side, the new far-right parties are not (yet) outright praising Hitler, but they're very much taking the view that we obsess too much over Hitler. Nazism is a minor blemish, an inkblot, a footnote in an otherwise glorious White European history, and bringing it up is just an obnoxious distraction from the "real" threats posed by immigrants, Muslims, and multiculturalism. And of course, the American right is increasingly lining up with these parties -- Steve King was just a touch ahead of the curve, but the snuggling up to Viktor Orban in Hungary has long since passed into the GOP mainstream. Why should the view of the Holocaust resist the trend? Indeed, the Indiana and Texas cases already show the GOP is happily galloping along with it.

1 comment:

DL said...

Holocaust distortion important to talk about, and anti-Semitism according to the USHMM.

Think this is a good time to share your opinion on President Obama casually sharing how he thought showing how he read Fanon would ingratiate his social circle? He said this just last year...

On a side note I clocked through that article and the speaker tied Nazism with Marxism, that he thought both should taught neutrally. I agree with you that the impact of Nazism should be highlighted, and that would lead a reasonable person to conclude it is an evil option. But you are very deliberate with your words - why did you skip how he wanted to give the same treatment to Marxism? Thanks.