Whilst I applaud Gerard Henderson’s dislike of Nazi comparisons, he has a fairly one-sided way of criticising them.
Here are some recent examples he lists in his Fairfax article yesterday:
Take the past couple of days. On Insiders on Sunday the Herald Sun columnist Andrew Bolt said democracies sometimes make errors and this was the case with those Germans who voted for the Nazi party in 1933. His point was that Australians who vote Greens today also err. The NSW Greens MP Jamie Parker then upped the ante by maintaining Bolt had said that the Greens were like the initiators of Kristallnacht, the Nazis’ 1938 pogrom against the Jews.
Last week, in the Federal Court, Bolt was accused by Ron Merkel, QC, of making comments on Aboriginal identity that were akin to anti-Semitic Nuremberg laws introduced by the Nazis in 1935. Merkel declared: ”The Holocaust started with words and ended with violence.” It is difficult to imagine a more serious allegation. However, like virtually all attempts to link modern democracies with totalitarian regimes – whether by the extreme right or the extreme left – the comparison fails.
If Parker did indeed assert that it was Bolt who likened the BDS campaign to Kristallnacht being by Bolt, the new MP must’ve just mixed up his right-wing News Ltd ranters: it was David Penberthy, in his now notorious smearing of last Friday, who made that hideous claim.
So, fair point – the allegations that Bolt’s casual, shall we say, focus on skin colour, and the support by some Greens in NSW for a boycott by Marickville Council of certain Israeli government goods until there’s improvement in the area of human rights are in any way like the Nazis are offensive to anyone who lived through that period or, you know, actually knows anything about it.
Henderson is quite right – there’s a reason the Godwin is recognised as the point at which rational debate is over.
But, surprisingly, Henderson reserves explicit criticism for those who used the Godwin against conservative commentators. The only mention of the right-wing Godwin against the Greens is in the first paragraph quoted above, and immediately undermined by the claim that Parker sought to “up the ante” and made the Godwin worse himself. The remainder of the article is dedicated to a defence of Bolt and his News Ltd colleague Greg Sheridan.
Still, I don’t expect Henderson to explicitly condemn David Penberthy, the editor of News.com.au and thepunch.com.au. And, even if they weren’t directed by name, his final words are certainly something from which the Penberthys of the world could learn:
In modern Australia there are no Hitlers and no Stalins. These days the only real political violence is found in the abuse of language. This is best treated by a reading of history.
For once, Gerard and I agree.
UPDATE: As if deliberately to make Gerard look silly (or the other way around), Bolt yesterday did in fact draw the Kristallnacht comparison.