Even in the midst of an epidemic of false Nazi analogies, Roger Ailes’ salvo against NPR was a doozy. The Fox News chief was discussing NPR’s ill-considered dismissal of commentator Juan Williams and said of the public radio leadership, “They are, of course, Nazis. They have a kind of Nazi attitude. They are the left wing of Nazism. These guys don’t want any other point of view. They don’t even feel guilty using tax dollars to spout their propaganda.”
There’s a lot to unpack there, but his thrust is repugnant even if you share his contempt for NPR. But Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League had it right when he called such wildly off-base analogies “clearly inappropriate and offensive.” He accepted Ailes’ apology, calling it “sincere as well as heartfelt.”
But even as we share ADL’s disgust with inappropriate Nazi analogies — when those so described are not actually engaged in acts of genocide — we wonder if the ADL remains the best address for calling them out. Such analogies are a crime against the language, the historical record, and the targets of the remarks themselves, but not necessarily against the Jews.
The ritualistic apologies to Foxman, himself a Holocaust survivor, can suggest that this is a Jewish thing and that the only reason to apologize is to assuage Jewish feelings. In fact, the analogies are an insult to everyone who understands history and resents the sullying of the civic debate.
We’re not sure how someone goes about apologizing to everybody on earth for his or her incredible lack of proportion. Of course, the best thing would be to strike the offensive analogy from one’s vocabulary in the first place.