• LibraryThing
  • Book discussions
  • Your LibraryThing
  • Join to start using.

Book burning in Troy Michigan

Pro and Con

Join LibraryThing to post.

This topic is currently marked as "dormant"—the last message is more than 90 days old. You can revive it by posting a reply.

Jun 18, 2012, 2:39pm Top


I'm not sure where to post this, but it is my favorite political action so far this year perhaps!

Edited: Jun 18, 2012, 4:25pm Top


There actually are some books worth burning IMO. The character of Pepe Carvalho--the private detective in a series of noir novels by Manuel Vasquez Montalban quite often throughout that series picks a book or books out of his library that he's taken a disliking to and uses them in his fireplace. Now if I owned a fireplace and there were any of Ayn Rand's torturous works hanging about the house they would be prime candidates for conflagration.

I've also thought of the preacher down in Florida who likes to burn the Koran--something that led to riots and deaths--maybe someone should burn a bible in front of his church. Or the other preacher who likes to go about disrupting military funerals.

All in all books are objects of paper and ink. It's what you carry in your heart that is really important. Someone could take my library and destroy it but those those things that I've gotten from them that are important to me will still be there.

Jun 18, 2012, 4:41pm Top

If you buy a book, you're entitled to do whatever you wish with it; read it, burn it, shred it and use for kitty litter, whatever.

Bibliophiles (such as myself) will be appalled and horrified; but it's your right to dispose of YOUR property as you see fit.

Jun 18, 2012, 6:05pm Top

Well 'words' are not sacred and neither is life--which can be taken away with a breath. Truth isn't sacred either--at least when you consider that almost anything these days can be spun. I don't like being cynical. These things are what they are. All the self serving lies published by the likes of Gore, Palin, the Clintons, Thatcher, Kissinger, Limbaugh, Beck, Cheney etc. etc.--in book form. No great loss if they disappeared.

Jun 18, 2012, 6:35pm Top

They're part of the record; the sort of thing that was said, printed, and believed by millions of people. If they suddenly disappeared, we would be left with the spectacle of people behaving madly and badly without any reason as to why they might have thought this acceptable behavior.

This is nothing to do with 'sacredness'; it's a wish to preserve documents that might provide insights to future generations as to why the present one acted and thought as it did.

With that said, many individual copies can no doubt be considered superfluous.

Jun 18, 2012, 7:08pm Top

If I knew how to forward us to a new thread, perhaps we need "Books that should be burned" but of course now I have to read Montalban. Unless you want to do my work for me and just post a list.

Jun 18, 2012, 9:02pm Top

I love that campaign. Brilliant bit of political drama. And a good way to shift the conversation. Thanks for posting it.

Jun 18, 2012, 9:43pm Top

It's a great ad campaign. And, in fact, incineration might have been the fate of many of the books if the library had closed.

>3 BruceCoulson: I do think there is a difference between burning a book and some other piece of 'personal property'. Especially if it is done in public, and/or the book is considered sacred by others.

Edited: Jun 19, 2012, 3:43am Top

I wouldn't be complimenting a campaign that relies on fearmongering by comparing tax opponents to book burners. I'm sure Godwin's Law applies. If we could ignore left-wing paranoid fantasies for a change, real life libraries have sales to unload their books.

And I happened to notice that Troy, Michigan is just outside Detroit, whose municipal government is literally collapsing from chronic overspending. They don't even provide police protection overnight in Detroit's outlying areas, though on the bright side this has spurred a local boom in affordable private security services.

Jun 19, 2012, 11:33am Top

>10 Lunar:: Alright, everybody stop what you're doing. Godric's Law has been invoked! No more conversation is allowed! Some man named Goodwimple has declared our conversation out of bounds!

Jun 19, 2012, 1:32pm Top

#10--not sure how a little bonfire equates to fear mongering. No doubt it makes those who would just as soon not have a library in their community look like a bunch of dolts but if they can live with those outside perceptions of their community--so be it. Austerity came to the local Corning NY library about 10-15 years ago--the community decided they didn't want to pay people to work there when they might be able to get volunteers to work there for nothing. Apparently it all began when some smaller communities linked to that city decided they no longer wanted to pay the share that they had up to that time. Local news reporting more or less that a much greater proportion of the community never or hardly ever used the library at all than those who did. They were much more busy watching television after a hard day on the job--or even all day long if they didn't have a job. Talk about a dumbed down society. More interested in chintzing on a small amount of taxes than challenging their intellects. Well--that library is not better off for it--IMO it's much worse.

Jun 19, 2012, 5:41pm Top

>10 Lunar: this has spurred a local boom in affordable private security services.

Lunar, that's freakin awesome. Gimmee a source?

Jun 19, 2012, 8:48pm Top

>10 Lunar: I think Detroit's fiscal problems might have more to do with the decline of the city's main industry, and a diminished tax base, rather than municipal overspending.

Edited: Jun 20, 2012, 4:11am Top

#11: You might want to consider just sticking to your tirade against Ockham's Razor.

#12: "not sure how a little bonfire equates to fear mongering."

And that's exactly why it was necessary for me to point it out. Just exchange "tax cuts" with "smoking gun" and "book burning party" with "mushroom cloud." It's the same old retardo-Bush logic with the same fearmongering bullcrap.

#13: Here's a Time article from 2009 and there's a decent RT news video here from earlier this year. The security guy profiled in the Time article works for $30 per home per month and the security company profiled on RT patrols poor neighborhoods for free. But that doesn't mean they've learned anything 'cause it looks like a new law would provide for the cartelization of security companies in specially formed districts with a compulsory fee of $50-$100. The comments in that last article are gold, and not just for the Robocop references.

#14: When taxpayers move away, that's also fewer people that need city services. But when you promise spending you can't afford, forestall bankruptcy, and each public sector union doesn't want to put up with any cuts in their own corners of the pie, that's about out-of-control spending.

Jun 20, 2012, 9:24am Top

#15--Hmmm---if you say so but maybe if more people would start perusing more reading material and maybe watch a little less television they wouldn't see as many of the 'retardo-Bush' ads or soundbites and they wouldn't jump to all these 'smoking gun'-'mushroom cloud' conclusions--or at least not so quickly.

Jun 20, 2012, 9:30am Top

15> And that's exactly why it was necessary for me to point it out. Just exchange "tax cuts" with "smoking gun" and "book burning party" with "mushroom cloud."

Yes, but words have meaning and fear-mongering implies that there's some fear to be mongered. I think the burning of books incites righteous indignation among book-lovers but not fear, especially when compared against a mushroom cloud.

Jun 20, 2012, 9:36am Top

15> When taxpayers move away, that's also fewer people that need city services.

Somewhat fewer services. But what are a cities major services on a cost basis. Police and fire? It's certainly conceivable that most of the citizens lose their jobs that a large number of them might turn to crime, even if others move away. And empty buildings burn just as well as occupied ones.

And even if a city does lay off employees, it's still on the hook for the pensions it owes them.

Jun 20, 2012, 1:23pm Top

>15 Lunar: Cool, thanks.

Jun 21, 2012, 1:47am Top

#16: You don't have to be an illiterate couch potato to recognize fearmongering.

#17: That's only a difference of scale. It was a city ballot. You really think a city-wide vote is going to concern itself fearmongering about mushroom clouds? No. They'll fearmonger about prostitutes, immigrants and book-burning mobs.

Edited: Jun 21, 2012, 6:51am Top

#20--I think you are making more out of this than it is worth Lunar. Do you think for instance that this is comparable in the least to the ideology driven Nazi burning of books in the 30's with its anti-Jewish overtones and which targeted certain writers or even the occasional dictatorship sponsored event (say for instance in Pinochet's Chile) since that time? Or even the burning of Beatles records in the late 60's after Lennon made his offhand remark equating his group with God? Because to me it's not even in the same ball park. It might embarrass some of these clowns who prefer their own ignorance for a few $'s saved a year to taxes--but what of it?

Truly--the state sponsored stuff is also a form of censorship--often with an element of physical violence lurking and those elements are altogether missing here.

Jun 22, 2012, 1:10am Top

#21: Truly--the state sponsored stuff is also a form of censorship--often with an element of physical violence lurking and those elements are altogether missing here.

You could say the same about a cross burning party. But I get it. You think that as long as you can hold your nose up at other people for not appreciating the divine nature of a public library, likening them to book burners is just innocent rhetoric.

Jun 22, 2012, 6:09am Top

#22--Really?--I think you're jumping to all kinds of conclusions. Where in the United States these days would a cross burning party be sanctioned by any sort of governmental body? What kind of racial or religious profiling are these library people partaking in? I take it that what miffs you about the Troy library's stratagem is that it doesn't appeal to rugged libertarian individuals--it set its sights on a broader public spectrum and won over the 'let's not pay any taxes for anything' crowd and if you think I think the anti-tax bozos are on the ignorant side of this debate--well yeah I do.

Edited: Jun 22, 2012, 10:13am Top

>23 lriley:: I think you missed the fact that Lunar invoked Godwinkle's Law in post 10, thereby declaring any further discussion invalid. Once you've been Godwinked, you are obligated by the terms of service of Internet memes to be silent about whatever you were discussing, no matter how reasonable your point may be.

(I'd also point out that Lunar was the one who compared the folks in Troy to Nazis, so technically, it was Lunar who violated Godwin's Law -- or is it "fulfilled" Godwinkydink's Law?)

Jun 22, 2012, 10:05am Top


Where in the United States would a cross-burning party be sanctioned by a government? Does an attitude of 'well, it was jest funnin' count? Because if it does, my home county certainly would count. I don't think the local police, etc. would actually officially sanction or attend such a thing; but I doubt they would think it was worth any interest on their part.

Edited: Jun 22, 2012, 10:34am Top

#24--yeah I have a habit of skimming sometimes and to be honest (even though Lunar thinks I'm holding my nose up) I have never even heard of Godwin's law--so respecting it is another thing entirely. Anyway if it will make him feel better I'd like for him to know that I'm not really an educated person so I have no good reason to look down on anyone here. I have never been to college or university except maybe to visit mostly on college trips for my kids. If he'd rather debate this on a higher intellectual level I'm sure he can find lots and lots of other people here who have progressed further down the intellectual road than I have. Of course, however intellectual a conclusion can be--still doesn't mean I'm going to agree and/or not pick pieces of it apart.

Jun 22, 2012, 10:42am Top

>26 lriley:: Yeah, I had never heard of Godwin's Law either. After Lunar had hurled it my way a few too many times, I finally googled it and learned that it is essentially "in-speak" for people who have been heavily involved with the Internet from its early days. Those of us whose lives don't revolve around everything technocratic aren't on the "in" with these types of things, so it makes the Internet-memers feel better about themselves that they can talk in this code that leaves the rest of us clueless.

Anyway, just so you know: some early Internet guru named Godwin noted in some email or chatroom or somewhere that at some point in most heated debates, one side or the other would end up comparing their opponents to the Nazis. From this has come this "Law" that you violate whenever you bring up the Nazis, even if your point is entirely reasonable. Rather than discussing the merits of the argument--or explaining why the comparison is specious--Lunar and his ilk will simply yell at you about Godwin's Law and go on their way, as if some Internet guru most of us have never heard from is the great arbiter in the sky of all debates.

Jun 22, 2012, 1:54pm Top

#28--I guess that clears that up. Ignore at your peril--I've become the proverbial bull in the china shop.

Jun 22, 2012, 2:54pm Top

Well, usually by the time someone has brought up Nazis the arguments are no longer reasonable. But book burning does not equate unequivocally with Nazis so Lunar was incorrect in invoking Godwin.

Edited: Jun 22, 2012, 3:56pm Top

>29 jjwilson61:: Actually (and ironically), since Lunar was the first person in the thread to mention Nazis by invoking Godwin, I believe he technically is the one who crossed the Godwinian boundary.

Jun 22, 2012, 5:02pm Top

#31--and then here's Ockham's Razor--I mean from my POV--it's WTF!

Edited: Jun 22, 2012, 11:23pm Top

Regardless of the applicability to Lunar's original post, I think Godwin's law is actually a pretty good one. What REALLY makes the Nazi's a particularly standout evil? I'd have to say it was very likely to extermination of millions of unarmed human beings as if they were rats.

Now, think of all the times someone is compared to the Nazis or Hitler. Unless they're out there committing genocide, are they really that much like the Nazis? I mean, burning books is pretty awful and all, but you know the Nazis didn't invent it, right? Might as well compare people to Alexander the Great (look it up).

And book burning is probably the top rung of the Godwin latter. It has a lot of lower rungs, like getting people to tell on each other, gun control, acting without a democratic majority all the way down to being a vegetarian (Hitler was, after all!).

And that's why we have Godwin's law. It's a "law" much like gravity is a law. It's not a law in that it tells you what to do, it's a law in that it describes what you are probably already doing.

And actually, Godwin's law is:
"As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1."
See how amazingly descriptive that is? It doesn't say the conversation is over or that the comparison is never appropriate. It just says the more people keep going in a heated discussion, the more likely someone will eventually trot out the comparison. All Godwin said in addition to that is you should probably save that comparison for when it is actually true on the big stuff. Return to beginning of the post.

Jun 23, 2012, 1:52am Top

#23: You seem to be very confused. You claimed that the aspersion of book burning lacked censorship and violence, which you could also claim for cross burning.

#24: "I'd also point out that Lunar was the one who compared the folks in Troy to Nazis"

Wow. Care to substantiate your fetid bullshit? You'll observe that any posts of mine above have not been edited after your senseless accusation in #24.

#27: "Yeah, I had never heard of Godwin's Law either. After Lunar had hurled it my way a few too many times..."

"A few too many times" directly implies that it happened more than once. And this one time here it wasn't even "hurled at" you, as you claim, since you hadn't even entered the discussion before I mentioned it. But with your wild penchant for imgination I'm sure it felt true for you. In any case, anyone who bothered to notice the kind of "anti-book-burner" invective this campaign generated wouldn't be questioning the applicability of Godwin's Law.

Edited: Jun 23, 2012, 9:09am Top

#33--I can't speak to how confused or not I appear to others but I can say you don't always seem coherent to me either.

But anyway my historical read of Nazi book burning in the 30's--the ideology that drove it anyway differs sharply from the ideology of those trying to save their library in Troy Michigan by torching some of their own catalogue. For instance--the Nazi's of the 30's very explicitly targeted certain writers--particularly Jewish ones but also those with political and/or social viewpoints not friendly towards their own. They didn't just want to burn say some of Alfred Doblin's (one of the targeted writers) works--they wanted to exterminate every single copy in existence. And if they could have got their hands on Doblin as well--he was dead meat. Which is a far cry from the campaign initiated by the Troy Michigan library--which as far as I know did not destroy a single thing--to bring attention to its own plight of public indifference--and/or public hostility towards funding it through local taxes. You might not agree with the tactics--might think it unfair that these anti-tax crusaders get tarred by some (mostly Troy outsiders) as neanderthals but no author's complete works are truly being removed from the face of the earth nor is anyone being tortured in a dungeon or decapitated in or out of the public eye.

The cross burning stuff is your comparable by the way. It has in the past targeted people particularly black people. It's a direct form of intimidation and has been a prelude to violence and murder. It doesn't equate to the Troy Michigan event.

So I'll go to the integrity of a book. At the end of the day it is a material object--like a house, like a car, like a television set, like the flag of the country you live in. What all these things might represent to any single individual is personal to that individual. If an Atlas shrugged were to inexplicably appear in my home and I needed something to get my burn barrel going I'd feel absolutely no guilt using it for fuel. And why should I worry about it?--there's got to be about 80 million more of them out there. No one's going to wipe out her despicable legacy no matter what I think or do.

Edited: Jun 23, 2012, 10:36am Top

>33 Lunar: (Lunar): You've accused me of violating / fulfilling (being not an expert in Internet memes, I'm still not sure of the correct vocabulary to use here) Godwin's Law several times in the past; it was in response to one of those that I googled it to figure out just what I was being accused of (since you never bother to explain what it means when you say, as in post 10 above, "I'm sure Godwin's Law applies." What does that mean?).

You were the first person in this thread to raise the specter of the almighty Godwin, which is (once you've looked it up to see what it means) an explicit statement about the use of Nazis as comparanda in an argument. Thus, you were the first person in this thread to suggest that comparisons to Nazis were being made. Yet, you never explained (1) why you were led to invoke this comparison or (2) why it would be significant that you see a such a comparison. This leads me to offer the following corollary to Godwin's Law:

Campbell's Law: As internet discussions grow longer, the probability of someone invoking Godwin's Law approaches 1.

>32 brightcopy:: You do understand how spectacularly ridiculous it is to compare some Internet meme half of us have never heard of to the "law of gravity", right?

Furthermore, the use of Godwin's Law that I have frequently seen on LT (the only place, by the way, where I have ever encountered this supposedly universal Law -- you'd think that, given its vaunted status up there with gravity, it would at least have been mentioned in grad school) is to castigate someone for using the Nazis as a point of historical comparison. When one is accused of invoking/breaking/fulfilling Godwin's Law, it comes across as a rebuke -- and often one whose context is never explained. After all, if you don't know what Godwin's Law is (likely since it hasn't found its way into school curricula or textbooks), you would have absolutely no idea what Lunar was trying to say in post 10. He simply said, "I'm sure Godwin's Law applies", without ever explaining why it applies or why this would be significant.

While you may like to think that Godwin's Law is an observation of behavior, it is in fact used by folks on LT as a rhetorical strategy to avoid having to actually engage with history and ideas. I will grant you that frequently (especially when used as insult), comparisons to Nazis are specious -- but instead of using some cryptic Law nobody's heard of, you should explain why the comparison is specious.

However, there are other times (as in previous threads where I was accused of violating/fulfilling the Law) when the Nazis can, in fact, be a valid point of historical comparison -- when talking about human rights and how we understand and identify what makes a human person worthy of fundamental rights; or when discussing mass cult behavior; or when analyzing the use of propaganda.

Yet, I have seen Godwin's Law deployed to derail just such valid discussions -- an indication that it's use is often designed to avoid having to discuss a difficult point in human history. Just because someone brings up the Nazis doesn't mean the comparison isn't valid or revealing. And I can understand why one might be reticent to join such a discussion. From my years living and studying in Germany, I came away with a profound sense of the deep and lasting scars the Nazi era left on the German psyche. And in trying to think through and analyze what could have led a nation to such abominations, it can take you to some dark places in your own psyche as you realize how much you could have been complicit in such a scheme had you been there.

But instead of invoking the false rhetorical strategy that heads off any substantive discussion of the relationship of the Nazis to human nature and human history with a simple "Godwin's Law", it would be better for all of us either to honestly admit that we are not comfortable engaging in that discussion, or--if we are ready--to honestly make that dark but revealing examination of souls.

Edited: Jun 23, 2012, 11:16am Top

#35 by nathanielcampbell> You do understand how spectacularly ridiculous it is to compare some Internet meme half of us have never heard of to the "law of gravity", right?

Not really. Both describe something that happens. Yes, I agree that it's not a law in the same sense of guaranteed cause and effect, though. But just because you've never heard it doesn't mean it doesn't happen.

But I agree with you that lot's of people who think they know what Godwin's law means are actually wrong. And a lot of them also use it to quash discussion. And they don't understand that by the time it the Nazi comparison is used, that it usually means both sides of the argument have probably gotten a bit silly. Some people misunderstand and abuse it to try to mean that they "win".

If you like, you can now feel superior to this set of people because you actually know more about Godwin's Law than they do! :)

That's not what I'm trying to do here. I was just observing that if you look at the actual Godwin's law, it makes sense. It's like the "no true Scotsman" argument. Google that one, too, if you're not aware of it. It describes something that goes on all the time. The interesting thing is that once you have a "label" for such a thing, you'll be surprised how much more often you recognize it happening.

I like your Campbell's Law. But they've already beaten you to the punch and called that the "Godwin's Law Law". :D


And no, this isn't some "in-speak". I figured it had probably came up, so I just googled "probability of invoking godwin's law" and there it was as the first hit. Sometimes the internet makes me feel rather unoriginal. It seems like every time I think of something clever and I google it, I'm probably years late to the game.

Edited: Jun 24, 2012, 1:48am Top

#34: "...but no author's complete works are truly being removed from the face of the earth nor is anyone being tortured in a dungeon or decapitated in or out of the public eye."

Your confusion persists. Now you seem to think it's not fearmongering because there never really was a mushroom cloud. It's all much simpler than your prevarication would entail (though I suspect you don't even really believe in your own argument). Fearmongering is when you try to get people to support a cause by concocting an imaginary or exaggerated threat. It has nothing to do with whether the imaginary threat would be a perfect reenactment of some past atrocity.

#35: You've accused me of violating / fulfilling Godwin's Law several times in the past

Nope. Not now and never before. You made that up. And that's the only thing I've accused you of: Making shit up. Just like you made shit up about me comparing the people of Troy to Nazis. Stop making shit up.

#35: You were the first person in this thread to raise the specter of the almighty Godwin, which is (once you've looked it up to see what it means) an explicit statement about the use of Nazis as comparanda in an argument.

Here's a thought experiment: Compile a list of all the famous book burners of history. Now out of all of those, do you really think any of the outraged voters who got duped by the campaign would be most likely to call the tax opponents they imagined to be planning the book burning party "Macedonian wackos!"? Not a chance. Out of all them, only one group has the status in the public imagination as the archetypal book burners. Nazis. And if the fearmongers who set up this spoof campaign didn't realize that was what they were drawing upon, no number of libraries in the world could cure them of their ignorance.

Jun 24, 2012, 8:18am Top

#37--lunacy. I'm suspecting your getting even less sleep than me and drinking more. Leave that to the professionals.

Jun 24, 2012, 4:50pm Top


"Regardless of the applicability to Lunar's original post, I think Godwin's law is actually a pretty good one. What REALLY makes the Nazi's a particularly standout evil? I'd have to say it was very likely to extermination of millions of unarmed human beings as if they were rats.

"Now, think of all the times someone is compared to the Nazis or Hitler. Unless they're out there committing genocide, are they really that much like the Nazis? I mean, burning books is pretty awful and all, but you know the Nazis didn't invent it, right? Might as well compare people to Alexander the Great (look it up)."

I think that this is very confuse. Many people and movements have previously engaged in mass killings. Mao killed many times the number of people that Hitler killed. You mention Alexander the Great, another good example. From the perspective of mass murder what made Hitler deplorable was only that he was on the loosing side.

OTOH the Nazis were different. They were different because they arose in what was previously considered to be the most advanced and civilized country on the European continent.

They were different, as you yourself mention, not because they considered their "enemy" as evil or barbarian or any of the synonyms that are often used for the oft used "us good," "you bad" distinction, but because they considered their "enemy" to be literally vermin - another species that had to be exterminated for the Progress of the human race, lest it and its degenerate allies overwhelm mankind.

You see, Hitler was an evangelical progressive. He preached the doctrine of New Men discarding the old worn out traditions, of embracing the New Knowledge of the Master Race and war for survival of the fittest. The "Western" ideals were not only wrong, they were propaganda tools devised by the vermin to weaken the New Strong Men.

These conclusions were not a matter of argument or evidence, however, they were a matter of the Blood of the Racial Consciousness speaking through its members.

Sadly, the elements of this ideology have not "gone away." Their advocates may be slightly more reserved these days, or sometimes not, but they are still very much among us. Book burning - or more accurately attempts to suppress contrary facts - are, as you point out, not specifically Nazi. But there are values and ideological patterns that are specifically Nazi.

Because Hitler was basically right, because the war between his values and traditional Western values is a war of extermination, references to him should not be avoided where appropriate.

Jun 24, 2012, 8:30pm Top

3439--generally I like the drift of your posts. They seem to start at least to me with a premise that humanity is inherently flawed. I think it sticks in the craw of a lot of folks but what is--is. I don't know if you've ever read Curzio Malaparte's Kaputt. He started as a journalist and he was a bit of a what we might call now a jetsetter and helped bring Mussolini into power. There was some kind of uneasy relationship between the two. Kaputt is an interesting book--maybe even a self serving book--but the commentary on ideology--the descriptions of atrocity is brutally depicted and at least almost heartbreaking.

When I talk about book burning at least for me I mean to separate the human from an object. A person is a person and a thing is a thing and trying to combine the person with a thing as a thing is not something I would do. I can't speak for other people though and how they might think or how they might want to construe something. In all fairness to Lunar I imagine if I met him/her I would like him/her but probably not agree on very much.

Jun 24, 2012, 8:38pm Top

#40 by lriley> In all fairness to Lunar I imagine if I met him/her I would like him/her but probably not agree on very much.

That's always the problem with interacting on the internet. You strip out so much of what makes a person the person they are. What's left is a series of ideas, sometimes imperfectly communicated (I speak for myself, at least). And it's so much memorable when you disagree with one idea out of ten than when you agree or have no opinion on the other nine.

Jun 24, 2012, 8:49pm Top

>41 brightcopy:: One of my greatest online weaknesses is the complete inability to discern sarcasm in electronic communication ... it has led to many terrible misunderstandings over the years.

Jun 24, 2012, 9:03pm Top

#42 by nathanielcampbell> It's not just yours, friend. Science!


They found people had only about a 56% success rate in detecting tone in emails. So pretty much slightly better than chance. Compared to 78% in a verbal recording.

And I think the same thing applies to message boards.

The internet: Where everyone thinks everyone else is being a total dick to them; and where everyone is baffled that everyone else thinks they're being a total dick.

Jun 25, 2012, 6:36am Top

Shrug, if there is no distinction by content made in the books being, burned and I don't see that as likely in a local library,then I do not make a connection with nazi Germany but with fahrenheit 451 fear-mongering i think implies that this campaign brings up the spectre of these associations being true. I think rather it is pointing out the unpalitability of these associations, encouraging the community to disassociate itself from such images.

If it is fear-mongering then so is any ad that mentions dandruff or halitosis.

Jun 25, 2012, 10:43am Top


"The internet: Where everyone thinks everyone else is being a total dick to them; and where everyone is baffled that everyone else thinks they're being a total dick."

Of course, the alternative explanation is that they're each correct.

Jun 25, 2012, 11:36am Top


No country or culture has ever attempted to exterminate 'human beings'. Because each culture and society that does such a thing has already reached the (fairly easy) conclusion that their opposition or obstruction isn't human. (This is tribalism in action; members of your tribe are human; everyone else is either Other or Enemy, and not human.)

So, in this regard, the National Socialist Party wasn't that different from Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, or any other example you would care to name. Those that must be exterminated aren't human; therefore, removing them is not a crime. It is a service to the State.

Jun 25, 2012, 11:55am Top

To me, there's an extra bit of evil in the Nazis because they killed people for what they were born as rather than who they were. Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot directly or indirectly murdered plenty. So did Kim Il Sung, etc. But the murders were generally about getting rid of political dissidents and classes of society (intellectuals, scientists, teachers, etc.) On the other hand, under the Nazis as well as those in Rwanda or in Turkey, committed wholesale organized slaughter based on ethnic groups. For better or worse, that's more memorable to us that purges. It's like if the Republicans decided to murder all the Democrats (or vice versa) versus if all the white people decided to murder all the non-whites in the US.

I think the Holocaust also stands out because of the incredibly mechanized way in which it was carried out. It was genocide in the industrial age. People were given serial numbers like they were inanimate objects. They were efficiently herded into "showers" and gassed en masse. Then the next batch went in. Their bodies were shoveled into mass graves or put into ovens for more efficient "disposal". It was a mechanized conveyor belt of death. And yet, it was for the most part done so dispassionately. I think that's a big part of the horror for us as well.

Finally, Hitler stands out is he was a strong, vocal leader whose speeches are heavily documented and even filmed. It's much easier to demonize a person when you have a good mental image of them. And lets face it, Hitler could get pretty worked up and angry in his speeches.

Jun 25, 2012, 12:13pm Top

To me one of the most repulsive aspects of the German Nazi's was their attempt to spin their atrocities--particularly against the Jewish but also East Europeans--into scientific proofs and theories and in moral philosophic tones.

Edited: Jun 25, 2012, 12:45pm Top


Utter BS. You are using the confused meaning of "human" that equates being "human" with being humane. The Nazis engaged in no such confusion. Their victims weren't human, they were vermin like cockroaches or mice.

~47 has it right.

~48 It wasn't a spin, they actually believed this stuff - just like Marx actually believed phrenology or some of our contemporaries are convinced that the sun stopped in the sky for a day because the Book of Joshua says so.

Edited: Jun 25, 2012, 1:30pm Top


I believe I stated just that. Homosexuals, gypsies, slavs, and Jews weren't human, according to Nazi ideology. Therefore, removing them was of no more consequence than destroying termites. This is tribalism; the 'pure' Aryans were human; the others were not, and therefore removing them was a duty to help preserve the 'humans' in Germany.

This is SOP for most cultures and societies. Those within the tribe (however that is defined) are human, and deserving of some consideration and rights. Those within the territory, but not of the tribe, are not human. Treatment of non-humans is based solely on what is perceived to be of most benefit to the humans/tribe.

I'm not sure it's any more or less evil to kill people based on what they were born as as opposed to professions, political parties, or class. The fact that it may seem more acceptable (marginally, as in degrees of evil) says more about how we view matters rather than the intrinsic evil of the actions.

By the same token, the efficiency of the extermination is more a function of the available technology and organized society. I'm quite sure that if such technology and organization had been available in Rwanda, Serbia, or Cambodia, the same thing would have happened.

Jun 25, 2012, 3:18pm Top

#50 by BruceCoulson> The fact that it may seem more acceptable (marginally, as in degrees of evil) says more about how we view matters rather than the intrinsic evil of the actions.

Hard for me to say what I think on that one. I mean, there's the obvious example that most people would consider it more "evil" to shoot a schoolteacher than a guerilla leader, or an enemy medic as opposed to an enemy soldier. I get your point, but I'm hard pressed to try to figure out why there shouldn't be some distinction in those cases.

Likewise, the killing of people for who they are rather than what they are seems like it opens the door more to killing children. Children of Jews are still Jews. Children of political dissidents? Not really political dissidents. Though I'm not claiming that the people involved in purges of the latter class always or even usually made that distinction. But it definitely shades the emotion a bit differently for me. And when we're talking about "evil" and such, it's all emotion. If you removed emotion from it, some dictator on the other side of the world killing a bunch of people and then dying 50 years ago is a neutral act to someone who isn't affected by it.

And I see your point on the available technology argument. And it's possible we'll see another instance of it in the future that somehow compares to the mechanization of Hitler's plan. But so far we haven't so he kind of sticks out like a sore thumb, no?

I imagine a hypothetical where a leader decides to drop a nuke on the neighboring country and kills a hundred million people. I wouldn't shrug it off and say, "Meh, it was bound to happen. People are always going to war and the only reason it hasn't happened is because they didn't have access to the technology."

Again, I think most of this is kind of hard to argue based on pure logic because we're talking about our emotional responses.

Jun 25, 2012, 4:04pm Top


Granted; it's always harder to think rationally about issues that are emotionally charged, and there are few matters with more emotional impact than genocide.

However, killing someone unjustly (that is to say, without any prior provocation or act on the part of the victim) is hard to weigh in terms of 'more or 'less' unjust. Is a schoolteacher under Pol Pot somehow less dead than a Gypsy tinker under Hitler? Is the act of killing them less evil because the schoolteacher chose to become a teacher, whereas the Gypsy was born that way? And if so, then why?

The pioneer is always the exceptional one in any field. So, in those terms, then yes, Hitler was indeed the first to do such things in such a way. But I don't hold any hope that he will be the last.

(And as a side note; is it more evil to kill children for what they are, or to make them orphans and raise them hating themselves and the memories of their parents? I don't think there is an answer to that question, either.)

Jun 25, 2012, 4:24pm Top

But we're not talking about the single schoolteacher or the single gypsy. We're talking about the entire thing. I think when you zoom down that far, you lose the details. We consider Jeffrey Dahmer a fairly evil guy because he murdered at least 17 people, dismembering them, eating them, raping them both dead and alive. But in the end, all those people were dead just like every other person who was ever murdered. Does that make him less evil? If he'd just murdered them and skipped the other stuff, would that have done the trick?

I just think you're really missing out, there. And when you say it's "always harder to think rationally about issues that are emotionally charged", I think you're missing what I mentioned earlier about the whole concept of evil being strongly rooted in emotion. Take the emotional context out of it, and there's no point in "thinking rationally". "Rationally" speaking, murder isn't good or evil.

Jun 25, 2012, 5:10pm Top

Ultimately, I think we are talking about that single victim; even if magnified by millions of times. If murder is evil, then it is evil no matter how many (or how few) victims there are. And if it is based solely on emotion, then how do you quantify an emotion? How do you weigh evil when if it's solely an emotional reaction to an event?

What you're describing (it appears) is the visceral shock to realizing just how many people someone has killed (or authorized the killing of, in the case of leaders; no matter how dedicated someone is, there's a physical limit to how many people you can personally exterminate). But by the same token, there's a limit to the extent of human justice. The earliest written legal code was 'an eye for an eye', but you can't very well execute someone several million times.

I think that by looking at murders en masse you de-humanize the event and distance yourself from the details, rather than missing them by focusing on the individuals. It's this that let Stalin make his famous statement, "The murder of one man is a tragedy; of millions, a mere statistic."

If genocide is wrong (and I don't think that we disagree on that), then the reasons for it; either 'race', profession, or political affiliation only matter in terms of building a case against the perpetrators. It's no more wrong to attempt genocide based on a faulty theory of race than it is to do so based on religion (cf Serbia). And no less.

Jun 25, 2012, 5:11pm Top

I think we're just going to have to agree to disagree on a few of those points.

Take care.

Jun 25, 2012, 5:35pm Top


"I believe I stated just that. Homosexuals, gypsies, slavs, and Jews weren't human, according to Nazi ideology. Therefore, removing them was of no more consequence than destroying termites. This is tribalism..."

No, that is not tribalism. Tribalism is treating those outside the tribe by different rules, it isn't treating them as a different species.

Jun 25, 2012, 6:48pm Top


Fair enough; I think that the general agreement is enough for people of good heart and good will.


And why, pray tell, do tribes treat those outside the tribe by different rules? Because anyone outside the tribe isn't truly human, and therefore the rules that apply to humans don't apply to them.

Tribes think of tribe members as 'human', and everyone outside as 'other'. How broadly (or narrowly) you define your tribe dictates how many people you're obligated to treat as fellow humans. Now, in many cases, treating (more or less) fairly with the Other benefits the People, and so tribes may appear from the outside to be open-minded. But this isn't a hard and fast rule. Let the 'Other' be seen as a menace, and you quickly see where the true tribal lines are drawn.

Edited: Jun 25, 2012, 7:51pm Top


"Because anyone outside the tribe isn't truly human, and therefore the rules that apply to humans don't apply to them."

Yept, that is what I thought you were doing. Not "truly human" isn't the same thing as "not human." If you want to obscure the difference that is up to you, but then I think you then necessarily fail to distinguish between the tyrannical acts of Americans toward other Americans of Japanese descent during WWII and what Hitler did to Jews and Gypsies. But whatever makes you feel comfortable........

Jun 25, 2012, 9:12pm Top

Another counter-example is that in many countries, there are different sets of rights for citizens and non-citizens (example: USA). I disagree that this is because they're not considered "human" or even "truly human". I think you can have an "us" and "them" mentality without going anywhere near that far.

Jun 25, 2012, 9:38pm Top


Yes, I agree, there are many gradations of this "in group" vs "out group" distinction.

But it is still reasonably clear that gradations of an "in group" vs. "out group" distinction (which is fairly universal, particularly in high school) is not the same thing as a human vs. vermin distinction. At least some of us can perceive a definite difference. It is kinda sad that some of us can't.

Jun 25, 2012, 10:00pm Top

#60 by lawecon> Be nice, now. I don't think it's fair to say Bruce can't tell the difference in the differing shades of this subject. This seems more like a debate on whether you want to call the extreme version "tribalism" or not, which a little googling shows people arguing both for an against. I'm not as interested in what you label it.

I'm also not interested in falling into it in this thread, either. We're all human beings; let's treat each other with a bit of respect even if we disagree on points of philosophy or definitions. :)

Edited: Jun 26, 2012, 1:46am Top

#44: I do not make a connection with nazi Germany but with fahrenheit 451

Some people may, but they're not mutually exclusive. And it's fearmongering either way.

fear-mongering i think implies that this campaign brings up the spectre of these associations being true

I could interpret the above a couple different ways. If you mean the campaign deceived people into believing the threat was real, then I agree with you, but then that's exactly what fearmongering is. If you mean to say that it's only fearmongering if the alleged threat is actually true, then you clearly don't know what fearmongering is and belong in the same play pen as Iriley who seems to think that Bush talking out of his ass about mushroom clouds isn't fearmongering.

I think rather it is pointing out the unpalitability of these associations, encouraging the community to disassociate itself from such images.

Now that's just sophistry. Only those who have conveniently forgotten the kind of comments the book-burning campaign evoked from paranoid voters would buy into that argument.

If it is fear-mongering then so is any ad that mentions dandruff or halitosis.

I'm not sure if you noticed, but dandruff and halitosis are real. The book-burning party wasn't real. It was fabricated to rile up the electorate.

Why the sudden difficulty in recognizing fearmongering?

ETA: And before Iriley decides to bring back the charge of "lunacy," I admit it's entirely within the realm of possibility that I'm being a little too inclusive of the term "fearmongering" (though I don't think so). But if it really were about me, we wouldn't have people trying to redefine the term "fearmongering" so radically to mean the opposite of what it actually means. You don't argue that someone is a little off the mark by going so completely off the map.

Jun 26, 2012, 8:39am Top


Well put. But here is my problem with your call for respect: respect is a good thing so long as each person has some regard for the opinions of each other person. So long as they listen and consider. Given my past interactions with Bruce, where he knew with absolute and unconditional certainty that anarchism was an advocacy of chaos, that direct democracy was utopian, and, now, that Naziism is merely a form of tribalism, I have real doubts that he is listening (or perhaps that he is psychologically capable of listening).

None of these exchanges were merely quibbles over definitions. They were situations where Bruce claimed to have an intuitive and unquestionable intuition of how reality worked, and simply wouldn't look at contrary evidence. I suspect that is also true here.

To get to the specifics of the topic at hand, I don't think that "tribalism" qua tribalism is necessarily bad. It has been the traditional way in which people expressed their value configurations, made alliance with like minded people, and taught their values to their children. It did not even necessarily involve viewing "the other" as lesser or evil, just as wrong. Personally, I don't see how you come to grips with competing value positions unless you start out with your own and contrast the one with the other.

So, once again (as in the other instances mentioned above), I have a dog in this race, and it is a dog that conflicts with the notion that Nazism is MERELY another form of tribalism. To say nothing of the fact that it is a dog that conflicts with such a radical misunderstanding of what Nazism was about (a distorted form of evolution rather than mere tribalism or even racialism).

Jun 26, 2012, 12:59pm Top

Nationalism is a form of tribalism, so yes, you are correct in a sense. Nationalism is a psychological technique that allows people who have little to no direct interaction to regard (or at least pretend that they do) that those 'others' are still people.

A related technique has been practiced by militaries for thousands of years. Take a group of young men, break their normal social bonds with their village, deny them any interaction outside your new group, subject them to physical and mental stress, and most of them will become members of a new gang..err.. tribe called the military, and will treat other members of that military as part of their tribe, even if they've never met them before.

And given your propensity for mis-stating my positions, I think that your accusations could well be turned upon you. But we'll let that go for now.

Simply put, you feel that the Nazis are somehow 'different' than other groups that have engaged in similar practices in the past. But your argument was that the Nazis regarded their targets as 'sub-humans' (untermensch). Are you then contending that the Turks, Serbs, Rwandans (can't think of the tribal name), and Americans (re vs. original inhabitants) thought that their targets were truly, fully human? Or is it that the Nazis could articulate a (flawed) philosophy justifying their actions?

Jun 27, 2012, 8:36pm Top


Once again, Bruce, you try to redefine an issue in your own terms. The terms are human and vermin, not human and subhuman. You do know what vermin are? They are what you get rid of by calling an exterminator. They are not human in any sense of the term "human."

Jun 28, 2012, 12:04am Top

Vermin is also used in a figurative sense when referring to other humans that you think are reprehensible in some way. You don't think that the Nazi's literally believed that the Jews were tiny rodents do you?

Edited: Jun 28, 2012, 10:30am Top


Yes, this is exactly the problem you and Bruce are having. The Nazis did literally believe that Jews and certain other people (Gypsies, homosexuals, etc.) were vermin.

They were not human. They were a plague weakening and threatening to destroy humanity - that is, the Aryans.

Your American mindset confuses you on this issue. You want to use terms like "truly human" or "fully human." But those terms are not an accurate presentation of the ideology. The ideology was one of biological differentiation and war of species against species.

Nazi doctrine did not classify the vermin as lesser humans, it classified them as vermin. Perhaps the Slavs would fit into the category you are trying to impose on this ideology, since Slavs were generally acknowledged as at least fit as slaves, but not the Jews and Gypsies.

Jun 28, 2012, 11:01am Top


Would you like me to find similar sentiments expressed re Native Americans, Blacks, Armenians, Tutsis, Moslem Serbs, etc.? Because I'm quite sure that such statements were made about all of those groups as part of the justification for their removal or enslavement.

And statements are what we have to go on; there aren't many Nazis of that era left to interview, and no guarantees that they would answer such questions honestly at this point.

So, if we are to accept Nazi statements as to their opinions of the untermensch as truth, then we must accept such statements made by other oppressors.

Which means that no oppressor regards unwanted non-humans in their domain as human, or anything other than an obstacle to their desires. This is tribalism; there are humans, and there are 'others'. The others, by tribal definition, are not human. Not 'lesser humans'; quite literally, not human. Vermin is a derogatory term to convey exactly those sentiments, but even a not-other group that is tolerated is not regarded as human.

Jun 28, 2012, 11:10am Top

Round and round you guys go.

Isn't it time to realize no one is going to be convinced and switch viewpoints?

Jun 28, 2012, 1:28pm Top



Would you like me to find similar sentiments expressed re Native Americans, Blacks, Armenians, Tutsis, Moslem Serbs, etc.? Because I'm quite sure that such statements were made about all of those groups as part of the justification for their removal or enslavement."

Yes, I would very much like you to find explicit statements by a party that state that a group is vermin to be exterminated. The Nazi Conscience When might we expect those citations?

Jun 28, 2012, 5:13pm Top

"Adam Jones explains, in his book Genocide: A Comprehensive Introduction, that people throughout history have always had the ability to see other groups as alien; he quotes Chalk and Jonassohn: "Historically and anthropologically peoples have always had a name for themselves. In a great many cases, that name meant 'the people' to set the owners of that name off against all other people who were considered of lesser quality in some way. If the differences between the people and some other society were particularly large in terms of religion, language, manners, customs, and so on, then such others were seen as less than fully human: pagans, savages, or even animals. (Chalk and Jonassohn, The History and Sociology of Genocide, p. 28.)"8"

"The Roman Catholic church taught that going to war against the "Infidels" was an act of Christian penance. If a believer was killed during a crusade, he would bypass purgatory, and be taken directly to heaven." Going to war necessitates killing, hardly an act of penance...if done against Christians/human beings.

"All the people like us are we, and everyone else is They." Kipling

"Khamenei announced that Iran will support any nation or group that attacks the “cancerous tumor” of Israel." I think being called a 'cancerous tumor' is at least equivalent to being vermin...

Further quotes will require a few days of research; I'm sure that as a legal graduate, you understand that proper research does take some time.

Jun 28, 2012, 9:31pm Top

Well, at least you're consistent, Bruce.

Jul 2, 2012, 1:54pm Top

The Battle Cry of Freedom The Civil War Era pg 68:

"...the power to dictate what sort of property the State may allow a citizen to own...whether oxen, horses, or negroes..."
(Alabama congressman, from Thornton's Politics and Power in a Slave Society)

Albert Gallatin Brown, U.S. Senator: "We claim that there is property in slaves..."

Senator Wigfall, "I said that one of the causes, and the one that has created more excitement and dissatisfaction than any other, is, that the Government will not hereafter, and when it is necessary, interpose to protect slaves as property ..."

From the Confederate Constitution:
Article I, Section 9, Paragraph 4: "No bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law denying or impairing the right of property in negro slaves shall be passed."
Article IV, Section 3, Paragraph 3: "The Confederate States may acquire new territory . . . In all such territory, the institution of negro slavery, as it now exists in the Confederate States, shall be recognized and protected by Congress and the territorial government."

Numerous references to negroes as property; not human beings, not even 'lesser' or 'inferior' human beings; property.

" the U.S. Supreme Court said in Lynch v. Household Finance Corporation (1972):

The dichotomy between personal liberties and property rights is a false one. Property does not have rights. People have rights."

Negroes were not regarded, at least by many, as human, but as property. Now, granted, property does have a higher value than vermin; but it's still not human.

Edited: Jul 3, 2012, 11:42pm Top


Now you're getting a little nearer to making sense, but, of course, you're still not there. Slaves in the United States were property, not persons. However, that didn't mean that any but the most extreme Southerners thought that it was proper for, say, an owner to just beat a slave to death because he was drunk and felt like beating on someone. (That is, as WFB once put it, they were somewhat between the Greek and Roman slaves in "rights.")

But of course no one, Bruce, believed that the definitely lower status of American slaves as people implied that they were vermin or should be exterminated in mass. In fact, the general attitude was that the owner who did not take sufficient care of his slaves so that they increased was a poor manger of his property.

That is the point you keep evading and avoiding, Bruce. The Nazis believed, as a matter of principle, that Jews and Gypsies should be either driven, temporarily, out of their societies (until, of course, such societies expanded to their "natural limits" of ruling the world) or, better and more permanently, killed wherever you found them.

Further, there was really no issue about most of the Jews initially killed being nonGermans. Many of the older Jewish men in Germany had earned Iron Crosses in WWI. So your analogy to what one does to an enemy charging across the battlefield also doesn't work. Most of the Jews who the Nazis initially killed were citizens of Germany, many of whom had previously been honored by German society The Pity of It All. They weren't waging war against Germany. They weren't slaves, by heredity or otherwise. But the Nazis, nevertheless, decided they were vermin and dealt with them as vermin, by extermination. You have yet to come up with one similar example.

Oh, one other thing, Bruce:

"i"Khamenei announced that Iran will support any nation or group that attacks the “cancerous tumor” of Israel." I think being called a 'cancerous tumor' is at least equivalent to being vermin..."

Actually it isn't the same. The Ayatollah was talking about Israel, not Jews. Iran is about the only nation in the Middle East that still has a fair sized Jewish community, after all the Arab nations ran their 800,000 Jews out of their countries. No one in Iran that I know of has ever suggested that Iranian Jews be exterminated. Further, Bruce, about 20% of the citizenry of Israel is Palestinian Arabs, with most of the remaining citizenry being Jews that are purely secular - and thus not Jews in the sense generally understood in the U.S.

Of course, the Arabs in the Middle East, particularly the Palestinians, were greatly influenced by Herr Hitler, as the leader of their dominate family was for sometime his friend http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mohammad_Amin_al-Husayni. You do know the difference between Arabs in general, Palestinians in particular and Persians, don't you Bruce? I ask because you seem to be rather confused between Nazis and xenophobes in general.

Jul 4, 2012, 9:20am Top

Anti-Jewish antipathy has been rooted in Europe for well over a 1000 years. It links to the growth of christianity. The Jews murdered Jesus Christ--so the theory goes--and it was a widely accepted theory and it went off into tangents--the bankers (all Jews) controlling the wealth of nations--it's why you don't have a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out of--keeping resentment always fresh. The Nazis just played on all that and took everything into new virgin territory--looking for scientific justifications to exterminate--a new means to a final end.

But really in Eastern Europe--Russia particularly comes to mind there were always pogroms--and almost always with popular support. Citizens would look past the corruption and arrogance of their own royalty/aristocracy and take it out on an easier target. I don't think much has really changed.

Edited: Jul 4, 2012, 12:57pm Top


Again, there is considerable confusion here. The "old antisemitism" was based, initially, on religious grounds. The ancient Jews kept telling Christians that they were mistaken in many of their characterizations and doctrines, and, hence, what they believed couldn't be of divine origin.

Then, when Constantine and his successors made Christianity the state religion, this motivation was combined with the Roman (yes, the Byzantines thought they were Roman although they were geographically separate from Rome and spoke Greek) hatred of a people that had revolted against their rule on three major occasions.

Later, after they had largely been run out of their homeland and were a small minority everywhere, Jews just became a convenient scapegoat for everything from plague to subversion.

None of that has anything to do with the Nazis' pseudo-biological theories that they were literally a plague - that they were vermin.

Jul 5, 2012, 5:52am Top

75> mmm it Predates Christianity, Jewish Monotheism did not play well with the Roman's syncretic Pantheism. Christian echoed this antipathy in atempt to dissasociate themselves.

personally i think when a man is smashing a babies head against tree it makes little difference to the enormity whether he is muttering "Jew" or "trash", "Girl" or "Intellectual", call them Hutu, Tutsi, or vermin all are merely labels used to dehumanise the victim.

I see little evidence that the choice of label makes much difference to its effectiveness. the Nazi for example made a point of making sure their victims were out of sight. something that would have been unnessary if their labels of choice were more effective in degree or kind.

Jul 5, 2012, 6:21am Top

#76--what you're saying about the Nazis is true enough and maybe I said what I said badly--but the atmosphere in Europe for centuries was always prepped for something like that to happen. Spain and Portugal were two countries that pretty much drove all their Jewish people out of their countries--confiscating all their property and if I'm remembering correctly there were many deaths involved and that would be around the time that Columbus first sailed for the Americas. It brings to mind as well the English Penal laws instituted in Ireland which drove the mass of the native population into the western province of Connacht literally the worst land on the Island for growing food. Took away all civil rights, property rights etc.--outlawed the Roman Catholic religion.

Jul 5, 2012, 8:58am Top


Yes, you are right. There has been a long history of antisemitism - particularly in "the West." But it is important, whether you are a Jew or a nonJew, to understand the different reasons for this phenomena in different times and places. Otherwise Jews get caught up in entirely unproductive victimhood and nonJews get caught up in some sort of mysticism about Jews being punished by G-d for killing G-d or being the perpetual scapegoats. None of that is true.

Jews have, and have had for millenia, cultural views that don't make them popular. Among those views are those having to do with tyranny, views that make them particularly unpopular with tyrants. It is too bad when some people hate you for being right, but that is one of the costs of being right. You live with it and don't become wrong to make it better (at least not any more than is required to survive).

Jul 5, 2012, 11:30am Top


"However, that didn't mean that any but the most extreme Southerners thought that it was proper for, say, an owner to just beat a slave to death because he was drunk and felt like beating on someone."

Now, here you are putting your interpretation on what people mean when they said 'x'. Which, if I turned that around, could easily lead to me pointing out that Nazis may have said that Jews were vermin, but some (perhaps many) of them didn't believe that to be literally true.

This is putting your beliefs onto the speaker; speaker A is saying what you want to be true, so you believe them; speaker B is saying something contrary to what you wish to be true, so they are being rhetorical, using hyperbole, or even lying.

In fact, your post even contradicts itself; "In fact, the general attitude was that the owner who did not take sufficient care of his slaves so that they increased was a poor manger of his property." Just as a hunter who got drunk and mad as his poor performance and shot his hunting dogs would be considered a poor excuse for a hunter. But his right to do so was not in question, was it?

And no, I'm not 'evading' the fact that the Nazis in general felt that jews and other 'undesirables' (something that you keep omitting, btw) should be removed or eliminated, whichever was more efficient and practical. That has never been in dispute, so I'm not sure why you keep bringing it up. Your claim was that the Nazis were unique, singular, in human history; that no other people or culture had ever believed that another group/tribe was literally inhuman. This is not correct. And the fact that many of the jews (and others) were Germans has nothing to do with the concept of tribalism; there are plenty of contemporary examples where nationalism fails in the face of tribalism. (Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Turkey, etc....)

Yes, I'm sure that the long European history of anti-semitism had something to do with the Nazi's views of jews (although that doesn't explain their identical views on gypsies, homosexuals, and Slavs); just as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion had a great deal of influence on developing the Nazi philosophy/justification for their acts. But sadly, the Nazis are not a unique form of evil in history; merely the most recent and one of the better documented.

Edited: Jul 5, 2012, 11:54am Top

#79--The old testament as a cultural and ethical reference to fall back upon rather than a self serving egomaniac on the best looking horse, living in the biggest palace and with the army to back him, a code of laws that can be changed at a whim administered by a bunch of lackey judges and another bunch of macho 'police' thugs to keep order and spies all over the place? I can see their point of view. And that egomaniac whoever he or she is is not going to like being second banana in the eyes of his or her 'subjects'. Your Jews and my Irish have some things in common--but really even if we don't have very many official kings or queens in this world still so many people create personality cults around the rich and powerful as if they don't have to hit the toilet so many times a day or are going eventually die someday of some of the same illnesses or diseases the rest of us die from. And when people create individuals to look up to they inevitably look for people to look down on--the poor (or poorer), the beaten or downtrodden or racial or religious minorities,

Creating some kind of universal moral standard--whether from a holy book--or by tyrannical decree is pretty near impossible though. Even in our society of government supposedly of the people, by the people and for the people--the benevolence (of which the thing was founded --or we would like to think that anyway) over time slowly seeps away.

As an aside I'm a non believer. I don't have a problem with people who do unless they're trying to shove it down my throat.

Jul 5, 2012, 11:58am Top

Not to pick one side or the other, but I just wanted to mention Jehovah's Witnesses. They were also a persecuted group, but it had nothing to do with them being "inhuman" or "vermin". Their religious beliefs (including refusing compulsory military service) simply weren't tolerated. They were arrested and often tortured. Many died in concentration camps, though there was not a systematic plan for murdering them as their had been with the Jews.

And they had the ability to end their persecution at any time simply be renouncing their faith and playing ball with the Nazis. Like I said, they weren't considered "vermin" the way the Jews were. Their children were taken away from them and adopted and brought up as good Nazis. They were basically political prisoners.

I bring this up because I think there wasn't a bright line between "human"/"inhuman" when it came to all the groups the Nazis persecuted. They had a whole hierarchy formalized in their very complicated system of badges. At the very bottom were gay Jews.

Jul 5, 2012, 4:59pm Top


There isn't a 'bright line' in tribalism generally; each group of 'others' are judged/rated/assessed by the tribe as to what their response should be to these others. It can range from tolerance/acceptance, to social exclusion, up to extermination. And whether an 'other' can become 'sort of' human is also on that same sliding scale. Jehovah's Witnesses could become 'good Germans' just be disavowing their faith. Jews could not. (Note that I'm not approving of any of this.)

Jul 5, 2012, 5:06pm Top

But when you start going down that line of argument, I think you lose your original argument, which you started with "This is tribalism in action; members of your tribe are human; everyone else is either Other or Enemy, and not human.)" That's not really a sliding scale. You seem to be switching between an argument for "human"/"not human" and a different one for "sliding scale" wherever it seems to best suite your purposes.

Jul 6, 2012, 9:21am Top


Yept, all that is true. The Nazis "persecuted" (usually just killed in one way or another) a number of different groups.The Jehovah's Witnesses were a very consistent example. Being a Nazi did not require you NOT to kill those people who you found "troublesome" for a variety of reasons. No one is maintaining that the Nazis killed only vermin. But they did kill vermin because they were vermin.

Those with materially lower IQs, and homosexuals were killed because they were "defective." Jehovah's Witnesses and some socialists were killed because they opposed the State and its Leader, etc. As Bruce has pointed out, shooting at Nazi troops could get you killed. ALSO, being vermin could get you killed. There were different reasons why a Nazi would kill you. That doesn't mean that they were equivalent reasons.

Jul 6, 2012, 10:58am Top


I must disagree. Thinking that someone is 'not human' is far different from how you act towards them. Some 'not humans' are valuable, useful, or simply too dangerous to be meddled with. Other 'not humans' can be disposed of, or are a convenient scapegoat to blame the problems of the tribe on. ("If we just stop illegal immigration, everything will be okay in America.") It's a question of 'what is best for the tribe?' Sometimes, dealing with a 'not-human' equitably is the best thing for the tribe's (perceived) welfare.

Slavery is a good example. Although slaves are property, and therefore not human, it's stupid (as lawecon observed) to kill them indiscriminately. However, in the case of slave uprisings, some indiscriminate killing did take place. How you treated your slaves depended in great part on how you viewed their value to you. But this rarely translated into ever thinking they were truly human. Even the 'best', most obedient slaves were property; just like a trusted riding horse.

Jul 6, 2012, 11:29am Top

#86 by BruceCoulson> But I think your premise is faulty. I simply do not see how you can argue that they saw Jehovah's Witnesses as "not human". They simply saw them as criminals, just like they saw members of their own race/society who were otherwise against the Nazis as criminals. You don't have to go to some kind of tribalism/human/not-human argument for that.

The only reason I bring it up is because you insisted in lumping them together with the Jews in #80. In fact, you faulted lawecon for leaving them out. I just do not believe the human/not-human argument applies to them.

Jul 6, 2012, 1:37pm Top

Jumping back to the original thread or what I hope was the original thread,

Iriley>2 lriley:

A man who's had two different homes burned out from under him, losing everything, would probably disagree with

"All in all books are objects of paper and ink. It's what you carry in your heart that is really important. Someone could take my library and destroy it but those those things that I've gotten from them that are important to me will still be there."

(A recent human-interest article, in light of wildfires which have burned hundreds of homes in Colorado, brought this to mind. The man who wrote the article, whose houses burned 18 years apart, and who lost everything, explains just how traumatic it is, and I believe him.)

Periodically, I think, should I get rid of the thousands of books I've lovingly collected, or continue to enjoy them. Their very existence in my house is important to me, not just their contents, because, after all, I haven't memorized everything in them, nor could I reproduce them, or in some cases, ever find a copy again.

Jul 6, 2012, 4:05pm Top


And what would make you think that criminals are members of 'your' tribe? Or, for that matter, members of a religion other than your own?

Jul 6, 2012, 4:09pm Top

You've lost the essence of "tribe" in your attempts to keep applying your "tribalism" argument. You can keep playing that game until all that's left is just YOU. This seems to be devolving to pure sophistry.

Jul 6, 2012, 6:41pm Top

Back to my reading anyway. I don't know how many people here have read Jerzy Kosinski's The painted bird. It's a novel I suppose but it drew from Kosinski's own experiences as a young Jewish child in Poland during the WWII years. It is very harrowing. As horrible as the Nazi program was in Western Europe in France for instance--it was much, much worse in Eastern Europe and in Poland especially and the Poles weren't a very Jewish sympathetic people to begin with. A Polish community protecting a Jewish person (even a child) was subject to extermination. When you have a natural born antipathy and some child wanders into your village and you're living under such a tyrannical decree it's a cause for concern. Doing the right thing doesn't even enter into it. That was Kosinski's dilemma as a child (with obvious Jewish features) wandering around war torn Poland among belligerent Polish citizens and a demoniacal Nazi program. No doubt it haunted him the rest of his life. He was a suicide--as was Arthur Koestler as was Primo Levi both Jewish survivors of the camps and they're not the only ones.

The idea of Civilization to me doesn't amount to much. Hitler was preceded by egomaniacal madmen and there's been egomaniacal world leaders that have followed after him. No matter how sophisticated we become technologically we are still subject to the same egomaniacal ideas and dreams. Even in this country with the stroke of a pen we can send hundreds of thousands of soldiers and trillions of dollars somewhere overseas to serve someone's personal ideological agenda. Hitler and his people kind of set the benchmark though for who could be the most evil.

#88--I have probably around 2000 + books in my house. I understand Vasquez Montalban's Carvalho very easily though. They are objects--even the house-the bank accounts, cars etc. They are secondary to other things--my wife and children for instance but also the way I think and/or believe. We tie ourselves to things--and what I think is if necessary we have to be able to untie ourselves from them. However important to us we do not own the words or the writers of books--however important those books or writers will be proven over time. I came into this world naked and that is how I will leave.

Jul 6, 2012, 7:25pm Top


You are, of course, absolutely right. The Nazis were not simple, and were not like all other totalitarians.

Unlike Bruce, who seems to think that all of human history is reducible to in-group out-group distinctions, they had distinctions regarding unapproved actions, unapproved identity, less than fully human identity and vermin.

The Jehovah's Witnesses opposed the Will of the Fuhrer, which was, of course, the will of G-d. They were thus, as you say, criminals. People with low IQs or lesser races were less than fully human, and, as with humans, could be disposed of for the good of the Reich.That they were not capable of being harmful in their selves did not mean that they did not use resources that could better be used for full humans, but some of them could also be used as slaves.

Jews and Gypsies were vermin - that is, their continued existence was harmful to human beings. The Jews in particular were super-vermin, because they not only actively conspired against full humans but they also organized and directed the subhumans (e.g. the Slavs) in their otherwise ineffective warfare against full humans, thus tending to upset the natural course of evolution. In the natural course of things, the true humans would enslave and use (eventually use up and replace) the subhumans. With the Jews in the picture there was a threat that they might not.

Jul 6, 2012, 11:06pm Top

Thinking about the German National Socialist party--which hated socialists, anarchists, communists by the way as well--a question comes to mind about how they came out of almost a vacuum and a time of ideology. Not just the fact that there was an antipathetic outlook on Jews worldwide in general but in Europe particularly--but the aftermath of a bitterly fought WWI followed by the Versailles reparations (and truthfully I'm a bit weak on the history of that) and then a worldwide depression. The Nazis scapegoated Jewish people right off the bat--used them as a lever to gain power. Sometimes things take on a momentum of their own and there's almost no going back without admitting 'I was wrong'--which is too much for most people and it's worth saying at least to me because I think even here in the United States--the land of the free and home of the brave the same thing can very easily happen that happened in 1930's era Germany--and it doesn't have to be people of the Jewish faith--it can be somebody else. Mexicans. Muslims. You don't have to go very far to find a kind of mindless anger and hate from this person or that.

Group: Pro and Con

401 members

113,060 messages


This topic is not marked as primarily about any work, author or other topic.

You are using the new servers! | About | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 114,418,756 books! | Top bar: Always visible