The ‘Persecuted’ Rich

Nazi metaphors should be avoided except in the most extreme cases of human cruelty. But that metaphor is especially obscene when today’s pampered rich, like billionaire Tom Perkins, compare themselves to persecuted Jews, as Bill Moyers and Michael Winship observe.

By Bill Moyers and Michael Winship

There’s a rule of thumb in cyberspace etiquette, known as Godwin’s Law named after Mike Godwin, the Internet lawyer and activist who first came up with it. A variation of that law boils down to this: He who first compares the other side to Nazis loses, and the conversation is at an end. Unless you’re billionaire Tom Perkins, who seems dedicated to digging a deeper and deeper hole for himself.

By now you’re probably heard about Perkins’ infamous letter to The Wall Street Journal (whose editorial page is the rich man’s Pravda of class warfare) in which he wrote, “I would call attention to the parallels of fascist Nazi Germany to its war on its ‘one percent,’ namely its Jews, to the progressive war on the American one percent, namely the ‘rich…’This is a very dangerous drift in our American thinking.  Kristallnacht was unthinkable in 1930; is its descendant ‘progressive’ radicalism unthinkable now?”

Billionaire Tom Perkins showing off his expensive watch on Bloomberg TV. (From Business Insider)

Billionaire Tom Perkins showing off his expensive watch on Bloomberg TV. (From Business Insider)

It’s astonishing how ignorant (not to mention crude and cruel) the very rich can be. Surely, one of his well-paid retainers could have reminded Mr. Perkins that Kristallnacht was the opening salvo in Hitler’s extermination of the Jews, the “night of broken glass” in 1938 Germany and Austria when nearly 100 Jews were murdered, 30,000 were sent to concentration camps, and synagogues and Jewish-owned business were looted and destroyed, many of them burned to the ground. If Perkins thought his puny point survived the outrageous exaggeration, he was sadly mistaken.

Nonetheless, after a stunned world responded, venture capitalist Perkins went on Bloomberg TV to apologize for using the word “Kristallnacht” but not for the sentiment of his letter. “I don’t regret the message at all,” he said. “Anytime the majority starts to demonize the minority, no matter what it is, it’s wrong and dangerous and no good comes from it.”

Perkins also said that he has family “living in trailer parks,” but bragged like some cackling James Bond villain that he owns “an airplane that flies underwater” and a wristwatch that “could buy a six-pack of Rolexes.”

That watch, on prominent display during the Bloomberg interview, is a Richard Mille, a charming little timepiece that can retail for more than $300,000. At that price, a watch shouldn’t just tell you the time, it should allow you to travel through it, perhaps back to the Gilded Age or Versailles in 1789, just as the tumbrils rolled in. Here in the office, our $85 Timex and Seiko watches have crossed their hands over their faces in shame.

That Richard Mille watch triggered TV producer David Simon’s comment on Moyers & Company next week that it should be sold and used to open drug treatment centers in Baltimore, the city where Simon was a crime reporter and which served as the backdrop and central character of his classic HBO series The Wire.  [You can see the complete excerpt here: http://billmoyers.com/2014/01/30/advice-to-perkins-time-to-shut-up/]

By the way, the other David Simon (the CEO of Simon Property Group) is no longer the highest paid American. The title now goes to CBS Chair and CEO Leslie Moonves, who’s getting a salary of $60 million, and will always be remembered by us as the man who said of rampant political spending, “Super PACs may be bad for America, but they’re very good for CBS.”

Pity the rich their gluttony; it has made them blind.

Bill Moyers is managing editor and Michael Winship, senior writing fellow at the policy and advocacy group Demos, is senior writer of the weekly public affairs program, Moyers & Company, airing on public television. Check local airtimes or comment at www.BillMoyers.com.

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4 comments on “The ‘Persecuted’ Rich

  1. William on said:

    “I would call attention to the parallels of fascist Nazi Germany to its war on its ‘one percent,’ namely its Jews, to the progressive war on the American one percent, namely the ‘rich. . . .”

    Hitler and the Third Reich were supported by conservative members of Germany’s ruling elite, which included many industrialists and members of the aristocracy (at that time, there still was a peasantry and an aristocracy). Tom Perkins is merely repeating the false belief held by most Americans that the Nazis were leftists, when, in fact, they were ultra-right-wingers and very closely comparable to today’s so-called “one percent.” Just a few of the prominent German and Prussian names associated with the rise of Hitler and the Nazis include: the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (especially Queen Victoria’s grandson whose German estate served as a Nazi torture center), coal magnate Emil Kirdorf; Frederick Flick, Quandt (BMW), Thyssen, Krupp, etc. All of them were members of Germany’s equivalent of today’s “one percent.” Big German banks, such as Deutsch Bank, were primary recipients of properties obtained from the Jews. The rich made Hitler one of Germany’s richest men, thus he also became a member of that era’s “one percent” – by serving the one percent.

  2. Talleyrand on said:

    I agree with most of this but would like to mention something about the watch… The watch industry in Switzerland employs about 54,000 people in infrastructurally weak areas, like the Jura mountains… which by the way includes a bit of France. Mille is up there, in a little village. A lot of the big brands are there. They provide LOTS of work, well paid as well. And that means tax revenue, social compensation, etc…. It’s a family.
    How Perkins makes his money is another affair.
    But anyone buying cheap clothes made in sweatshops in Bangladesh should be ashamed…. That only makes a few people rich.

    Cheers

  3. Roger Thomas on said:

    That “Nazi metaphors should be avoided except in the most extreme cases of human cruelty” is manifestly a sound principle. It is laughable, derisory that America’s one percent should consider their treatment as such, particularly as they are the same people suborning the American government to be complicit with the extreme cases of human cruelty (ie Nazism) perpetrated by the Zionist regime on the Palestinian oppressed.

  4. Perkins has some point in calling 99% of Amricans hatred toward country’s ‘super fat cats’, as Holocaust. Because, the Jews who make 2.1% of American population, but according to Forbes, 36% of country’s billionaires are Jewish, as compared to 23% in 1987.

    http://rehmat1.com/2014/02/02/perkins-rich-american-jews-facing-holocaust/