There are certain things that politicians and pundits should not have to be told. The problem is that some of these very basic rules of behavior are ignored by people to their own detriment. That was the case today when Candace Owens told a crowd of people that Hitler wouldn’t have been such a bad guy if he had stayed within his own country and not been a globalist.
Lest you think that Owens was set up by the fake news media, she wasn’t asked about Hitler at all. It was her own choice to invoke Hitler in answer to a question about nationalism. Owen’s entire statement can be seen in context in a video posted to Twitter:
I think the definition gets poisoned by elitists that actually want globalism. Globalism is what I don’t want, so when you think about whenever we say nationalism, the first thing people think about at least in America is Hitler. You know he was a national socialist but if Hitler just wanted to make Germany great and have things run well, okay, fine. The problem is that he had dreams outside of Germany. He wanted to globalize, he wanted everybody to be German, everybody to be speaking German, everybody to look a different way. To me, that’s not nationalism. So, in thinking about how we could go back down the line, I don’t really have an issue with nationalism. I really don’t. I think it’s okay. I think it’s important to retain your country’s identity and to make sure that what’s happening here, which I think is incredibly worrisome in terms of the decrease in the birth rate that we’re seeing in the UK is what we’re trying to avoid. I don’t have any problems with nationalism. It’s globalism that I try to avoid.
As I listen to Owens, I’m reminded of the principle’s assessment of Adam Sandler’s answer in Billy Madison. “At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought,” he said. “Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.”
I haven’t followed Owens commentary before, but this answer is astounding for wrongness. She employs both multiple logical fallacies and historical ignorance. Owens packs a great many errors into two minutes of extemporaneous speaking, but there are three main problems with her logic.
First, Owens launches into her answer with a straw man argument against critics of nationalism with the claim that what anti-nationalists really want is globalism. Globalism and nationalism are both vague terms that mean different things to different people, but it is not true that everyone concerned about nationalism is a secret proponent of globalism. Owens purposefully ignores the facts that Hitler was a German nationalist and that he and other nationalists have caused enormous bloodshed around the world.
Nationalism is not evil in and of itself but it can be used for nefarious purposes. It also is not the same thing as patriotism. As George Orwell pointed out in 1945, nationalism is distinct from patriotism, the “devotion to a particular place and a particular way of life, which one believes to be the best in the world but has no wish to force on other people.”
“Nationalism,” Orwell wrote, “is inseparable from the desire for power. The abiding purpose of every nationalist is to secure more power and more prestige, not for himself but for the nation or other unit in which he has chosen to sink his own individuality.”
Orwell also identified both good and bad examples of nationalism. He cites neo-Toryism (British nationalism) and Zionism as examples of positive nationalism. Anglophobia and anti-Semitism are examples of negative nationalism while communism, racism, and class warfare are among his examples of nationalism being “transferred” to “other units.” If nationalism is understood to be a neutral force that can either be positive or negative, depending on the circumstances and the people involved, then it becomes more difficult for Owens to discard concerns about nationalism on the grounds that anyone who opposes nationalism is a globalist.
What is more alarming is Owens’ willingness to look past Hitler’s actions inside Germany. In the view of Hitler and the Nazis, making Germany great and running things involved locking up and killing a lot of Germans at home, even before he got interested in other countries. Hitler’s vision for Germany was to turn the country into a police state where his word was law. People who were considered a burden to German greatness were dealt with harshly in ways that make full-term abortion laws seem humane by comparison.
Owens also seems to confuse globalism with imperialism. Hitler’s strategy for globalizing and making everybody German was to invade neighboring countries and kill large segments of their populations. This is a far cry from international alliances and corporate trade deals that are entirely voluntary.
Owens makes a third point that retaining national identity is an important part of nationalism. But America doesn’t have a static national identity the way some countries do. Our culture was never monolithic the way Britain and France were. Like the climate, American culture has been constantly changing for our entire history.
The United States began as British colonies but quickly expanded to become a melting pot of cultures with the annexation of Spanish Florida and French Louisiana. Millions of immigrants, including waves from Ireland, Eastern Europe, and Central America, have become Americans and with each one American culture has changed a little more. Although often looked down upon as new immigrants, Irish, Italian, Polish, Jewish and other immigrants blended into American culture and are now considered native Americans. More modern Americans are descended from German immigrants than are of British stock. American culture has always been a moving target.
Earlier, I alluded to basic rules for politicians and pundits. The first is that if no one else brings up Hitler, you shouldn’t either. In a similar vein, the second rule is that if you are asked about Hitler, just say he was an evil man and leave it at that. It is never a good idea to defend Hitler, much less to invoke him to defend your political beliefs.
Originally published on The Resurgent