Adolf Hitler featured so repeatedly and tiresomely in the British newspapers during the late 1930s that the Daily Express ran a story about him under the headline “It’s That Man Again.” (The headline was so well known it was picked up in 1939 for the title of a radio comedy show that ran for a whole decade.) The British public wondered if the annoying fellow with the permanent frown and the Charlie Chaplin mustache would ever go away.
He never has. Today, seventy years on, it’s a rare week that someone or other doesn’t trot out Hitler’s name in some cause or other. Rob Reiner was on TV the other day with one of the smirky guys—Colbert, Stewart, Maher: their smirking, sneering faces blur together in my mind—telling us that: “You never get into a political discussion unless you bring the word ‘Hitler’ in.” (At 0:56 in this clip.)
If you insert the words “with people like me” between the seventh and eighth words of that sentence, I’m sure Reiner is right. Those of us who conduct our political discussions outside showbiz-airhead circles usually arrive at our conclusions without having made any use of the H-word, though. I guess Reiner would find this surprising. As one of Oscar Wilde’s characters remarks: “It is obvious that our social spheres have been widely different.”
A couple of days later there was Joy Behar on The View, saying of a Sharron Angle campaign ad that: “Yikes, it’s like a Hitler Youth commercial!” (At 0:55 here.) The Angle ad wasn’t actually the least bit like a Hitler Youth commercial. (Here’s one for comparison.) It’s just that when you’re an ignorant lefty hyperventilating about the Bad—Tea Partiers, George W. Bush, The Bell Curve, supply-side economics—you reach for the Baddest of the Bad to make your point. And there he always is, waiting to be reached for: It’s That Man Again. Don’t go to lefties for a sense of proportion.
That Man is still in the newspapers, too. This past weekend he got some extensive coverage in the London Daily Mail. A researcher for the British Legion, a charity that supports ex-military personnel, turned up an album of photographs from a visit Legion officers made to Germany in 1935. The photos showed a posse of very respectable English gents hobnobbing with…yes, It’s That Man Again. (The lead Legionnaire rejoices in the name Francis Fetherston-Godley. I don’t see how you can get any more respectable than that. He probably pronounced his surname as “Fewley.”)
The researcher, who is also the Mail‘s reporter on the story, is all in a tither about the embarrassment caused to the Legion by his find, though plenty of British people, including some highly placed ones—such as, for instance, the then-proprietor of the Daily Mail—thought well of Hitler in 1935.
“To refrain from admiring Hitler or Stalin,” said George Orwell after WWII, “should not require an enormous intellectual effort.” To see the 20th century’s mass-murdering dictators in their historical context, as we see Napoleon or Genghis Khan, does require some intellectual effort beyond the capabilities of lefty bubbleheads such as Rob Reiner or Joy Behar. With the Reiners and Behars, we are probably in the presence of people who have never heard of Stalin or think he was some kind of agrarian reformer.
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