From John Ray's shorter notes
February 18, 2015
Another attempt to whitewash Hitler's socialism
Comments on Musolff, Andreas. "Metaphor, Nation and the Holocaust: The Concept of the Body Politic". New York, NY: Routledge, 2010
There have been many attempts to explain the evils of Nazism and they almost invariably end up with a confession of failure. They find Nazism inexplicable. The best that they can usually do is to say that Hitler resented being rejected by the Jewish Rector of the Vienna art school. So he then took it out on all Jews. But that is pretty laughable if one reads Hitler's own account of the matter in Mein Kampf. He reports that the Rector told him that his real talent was in architecture so he should concentrate on that. And Hitler agreed enthusiastically with that!
The latest work by Musolff -- a German employed at an English university -- also ends with a confession of failure. He claims that Hitler's clever use of popular language lies behind the popularity of Nazism. His book is of course not available online but his book is essentially an expansion of a 2008 essay so I think the abstract from that essay gives a fair idea of Musolff's thinking:
Over the past decade several studies have been published that investigate the metaphors employed in Nazi racist ideology from the combined perspectives of Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) and Cognitive Semantics . The paper reviews these studies, and discusses their differences to earlier studies that were based on traditional rhetorical definitions of metaphor . Particular attention is paid to comparisons between Hitler’s metaphors and recent discriminatory propaganda, as well as to the interpretation of such ideological metaphors as 'viruses of the mind', and to the relationship between Hitler’s use of the Great Chain of Being and classical versions of this concept . In conclusion, it is argued that cognitively oriented CDA studies of metaphor use can contribute significantly not only to the conceptual reconstruction of metaphoric mappings but also to understanding their discursive history.
Distinguished psychohistorian Liah Greenfeld has written a scathing demolition of Musolff's ideas so I will refer readers to that rather than wade any further into Musolff myself.
Interestingly, however, Greenfield too cannot place Nazism within any general psychological and historical framework. From her conclusion:
It must be kept in mind that the only way to account for the Holocaust in the framework of the fundamental understandings of the Western civilization, within which it was committed, is to regard it as an aberration, a totally implausible, horrific episode due to the German cultural exceptionalism (which prevented Germany from being fully a part of this civilization, despite its location smack in the middle of Europe), an aberration which other countries allowed to happen precisely because they could not ever imagine and bring themselves to believe that something like that could be happening.
To explain it otherwise is to reject these fundamental understandings altogether and, with them, reject the Western civilization. This is simple logic; there is nothing more to it. The Holocaust has forever undermined this civilization’s self-confidence, and it is quite possible, judging by the political events of the last quarter century (after the fall of Communism which, while it lasted, kept the Western world’s fomenting sense of self-betrayal in check) that this rejection is already happening. The civilization is evidently under a relentless attack – from within, and it well may be in its death throes. But dying civilizations do not evolve new fundamental understandings, and our logical possibilities for making sense of the realities, including historical realities, around us, remain limited to what we have.
One has to agree with her that the Holocaust has undermined our civilization’s self-confidence but the claim that Nazism and the holocaust were an "aberration" is witting blindness. There was NOTHING aberrant about Hitler. Socialists like him littered the 20th century with mass murder -- from Lenin to Pol Pot. Hitler's ideas -- including his antisemitism -- were typical of the Leftist ideas of his day. He just applied German thoroughness to implementing them. The hate that motivates the Left makes mass murder easy for them.
It is only because they close their minds to what Hitler actually preached that historians find Nazism inexplicable. They cannot afford to admit his socialism so will forever fail at their avowed objective of understanding Nazism in a way that will prevent similar outbreaks of horror in the future. It is only an understanding of the inherent evil of Leftism that could prevent such outbreaks in the future.
The latest evidence of that evil is the way the Left whitewash Islamic supremacism. Obama even refuses to utter the words "Islam" or "Muslim" in his responses to the latest episodes of Islamic horror in Syria and elsewhere. Mass murder has just never bothered the Left and that is still so.
Islam too is largely hate-motivated. Leftists hate a world that they do not understand and Muslims hate a world that is not wholly Muslim. Borrow a copy of the Koran and start your reading of it from Surah 9. You will find there how much Mohammed hated unbelievers and how he instructed his followers to attack them. Hate breeds horror. It is as simple as that.
Footnote: The psychohistorians attach great significance to Hitler's use of the human body as an analogy for the German Volk. And it is certainly true that Hitler did indeed describe the German people as a living body infected by dangerous bacteria -- the Jews.
And the psychohistorians are aware that other people have used that sort of thinking. What they do not in my reading seem to do is connect that analogy with prewar Leftism. The organic theory of the state in fact goes back to Hegel, the founding philosopher of the Left, and is well represented in the writings of a man very prominent worldwide during Hitler's youth -- American Democrat president Woodrow Wilson, the great world government dreamer. Wilson claimed that the U.S. government was "not a machine, but a living thing. It falls, not under the theory of the universe, but under the theory of organic life..."
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