Decade of Outrageous Comparison
Future historians examining the 1990s might decide to call it
"The Decade of the Outrageous Comparison." Latest arrival
on the roster is Sam Donaldson who appeared on The Tonight Show
with Jay Leno on January 8th, and spoke about the recently re-elected
Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, third-in-line to the
Presidency of the United States. "Newt is like Lenin,"
he said. "The only difference is, Lenin shot everybody. Newt
only shoots Democrats." Shocking? For sure, but then Oliver
Stone has taken to comparing himself to Shakespeare. Liberals will
call opponents "fascist" at the drop of a hat. Any killing
of people by other people is a "Holocaust."
How did we get here?
The twentieth century produced the combination of a monstrous ideology,
human beings utterly devoid of humanity, and technology able to
kill on a mass scale. Many who know little about the history of
other times and peoples are vaguely familiar with a handful of recent
events, names, labels, and the most outstanding horrors. An appreciable
rise in the overall temperature characterizes most human interaction
in our land, followed by a proliferation of emotive words. Add to
this the "Cult of the Wronged" which dominates our society,
and the mixture turns explosive.
But none of this explains how the man recently appointed co-anchor
of This Week with David Brinkley can abuse privilege the way Mr.
Donaldson did. And it was not a momentary lapse. "After Lenin
had shot all his enemies," the top-of-the-heap journalist went
on, "he continued to shoot their relatives. Newt is like that."
Increasingly, the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United
States has been mistaken for a general license. It is nothing of
the sort. Far from prescribing what everyone can (let alone ought
to) do, it merely proscribes a specific act by specific people:
"Congress shall make no law...abridging the freedom of speech."
Nothing in this wording eliminates the requirement of a civilized
society that its members, especially when speaking in public, adhere
to the truth in stating facts, and apply due diligence before expressing
One of the most easily noted differences between the animal world
and homo sapiens is our use of articulated words, as opposed to
assorted sounds. Persons who spend too much time with animals tend
to overlook this. Commentators heard on the Discovery Channel are
given to phrases such as: "Jellyfish are every bit as successful
as humans." Or: "To value the freedom of a wild creature
is to become free ourselves." Obviously, somewhere along the
line, a separation occurred between "homo" and "sapiens."
How else does one explain that Oliver Stone, who merely converts
to celluloid the adolescent obsessions of his generation, compares
himself to William Shakespeare, whose characters and phrases represent
Humanity as a whole and Time as far as the eye can see? How does
one account for the indiscriminate use of "fascist" by
people who might be hard-put to spell it?
Yet even those who can spell it might be hard-put to define it.
Benito Mussolini, after breaking with the international Socialist
movement, formed his own Socialist party. In order to give it the
appearance of "Italian" legitimacy, he borrowed a page
from ancient Rome, where "fasces" (a bundle of rods) was
a symbol of unity and authority. That's all the word means. In all
the volumes written by Mussolini, there is not a single definition
of "Fascism." The idea to apply this word to Germany's
National Socialists was hatched by Josef Stalin in an effort to
conceal the obvious ideological link connecting his Soviet Socialism
with Hitler's German variety.
While the Soviets were making this all-out effort not to be seen
identical to the Nazis, assorted Americans took up the habit of
painting this country in the colors of the Third Reich. To wit,
"After Pearl Harbor, people of Japanese ancestry were put in
concentration camps." No one today is especially proud of the
detention of Japanese Americans, but the term "concentration
camp" was invented by, and is forever connected with the Nazi
Germany. Its purpose was to eliminate, by the forced inhalation
of gas and the use of high-temperature ovens, an entire category
of people who, incidentally, had contributed the basic law by which
our entire civilization professes to live.
Which brings us to "Holocaust." That particular word
means total destruction by fire. However strongly we wish to condemn
mass killings in Bosnia, however we abhor slavery on America's Southern
plantations, there is not the slightest comparison in either case.
Supposedly, we are working to reduce tensions between various segments
of Americans. The application of outrageous comparisons, so as to
create emotive analogies, produces the opposite effect and, worse
still, instantly destroys the credibility of the speaker.
And, speaking of the Speaker, journalist Donaldson surely knows
that Lenin's revolution, at last count, produced an aggregate of
some 100 million dead. Did he liken Newt Gingrich to Vladimir Ilych
in a lapse of good taste, or with partisan intent?