14 November 2008

Fascism or Ignorance?

Here is a recent note by the Diesmeister:

As the Republican Party mulls its recent defeat and seeks the road forward, discordant notes emerge from leading conservative voices. Some have made useful calls for moderation, patience, or a refocus on core values. All of these are legitimate parts of a discourse for renewal. Amid these have appeared some articles which are either terrifying or merely tone deaf in precisely the register that presaged the most recent Republican debacle.

The National Review Online posted an article, Restoring Reaganism, by Deroy Murdock in which the author issued a call for the Republican Party to reenact a famous Nazi purge, which resulted in at least 80 deaths and 1000 arrests. Murdock wrote: “What the Republican party today badly needs is a Night of the Long Knives.” By this he meant the party should eliminate heretics from its ranks and return to the purity of conservative principles. We may charitably assume he did not advocate the actual murder of dissenting voices within party ranks.

The political merit of expelling moderate voices is dubious and the language used in this instance is reprehensible. Advocating a Night of Long Knives is terrifying for the intolerance and violence it implies. It is precisely intolerance which hung like an albatross about the neck of the Republican ticket. Does the conservative movement in America truly intend to invoke fascist images as it seeks renewal?

The timing for this article could hardly have been worse. According to the website it was posted the day after the 70th anniversary of another famous Nazi purge, Krystallnacht when about 100 Jews were killed outright and 30,000 more were sent to prison or into camps. We might forgive Mr. Murdock for not keeping a clear knowledge of important events in world history, but the editorial board of the National Review should not be excused for failing to make the connection. Surely someone must have the historical knowledge to recognize a singularly ill-timed reference.

Is the editorial board sufficiently comfortable with the images of fascism that neither the reference nor the timing struck them as ill-conceived. Given this editorial lapse will Mr. Murdock next deploy the image of Krystallnacht itself in some future paean of political wisdom?

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