The Hitler Slur and Making New Enemies

A favorite tactic to get Americans and Europeans ready for another war is to liken some foreign “enemy” to Hitler, no matter how ill-fitting or absurd the comparison. But once the Hitler slur is slung all rational debate ends, as Danny Schechter explains.

By Danny Schechter

The ISIS gang makes great enemies. They dress in black, wear Halloween masks, wave flags, act viciously, and cut off the heads of journalists. Never mind that the Saudis beheaded ten dissidents on the night that journalist Jack Foley became first American victim of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. We didn’t know the Saudi victims and didn’t want to embarrass our ally. But chop the heads of people we do know and you are asking for a drone up your keister.

Nothing like a grotesque atrocity to pump up Vice President Joe Biden to vow to chase ISIS “to the gates of hell,” a war cry designed to get the Christian Right behind him since ISIS detests Jesus too. President Barack Obama’s vow to destroy and “degrade” ISIS did not have the same populist appeal.

British Prime Minister David Cameron.

British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Every evangelical activist who has been singing “Onward Christian Soldiers” has a new cause now, even if ISIS’ last victim was an Israeli-American, Steven Sotloff.

Never mind the role we may have played in training and funding this latest face of Islamic terror (when ISIS was trying to overthrow the Syrian government); the group has managed to do what  few maniacs have, unite Iran and the United States on the field of battle. The scary presence of ISIS has also buried all discussion of the failures of U.S. policy that destroyed Iraq and assisted the emergence of ISIS in the first place. (The group originated as “al-Qaeda in Iraq” in response to President George W. Bush’s invasion and occupation of Iraq.)

When you don’t understand the culture of countries you invade, it’s easy to demonize what springs from those invasion. And, just in time, since al-Qaeda had lost its sting and fear appeal, we needed a new enemy to detest, and, poof, here they are!

It is a bit trickier giving Russian President Vladimir Putin the same treatment, not just because “the facts” and factions in the Ukraine, including oligarchs, real Nazis, democrats and demagogues, are harder to define. And, also because Americans are not that familiar with the country’s latest savior, the billionaire “Chocolate King” Petro Poroshenko.

Ukraine is a harder conflict to sell. It’s complex: you have got the East and the West, a blizzard of languages and minorities, and the fact that it seems clear that Putin has not been calling all the shots even though we want to portray the situation as if he is and has.

So what to call Putin to make him really scary? Let’s recycle a name that is more evil than bin Laden, more memorable than ISIS and one that everyone in England of a certain age, certainly, and the U.S. hates.

How about Hitler? Can we get that monster to goosestep across the world stage one more time? When you say Hitler, you don’t have to say much more.

Who can we get to make Vlad seem really bad? How about British Prime Minister David Cameron? He will do anything to sound like Churchill and get his puss in the papers. Cameron reached into his little book of historical clichés to compare the mistakes made by the West in Munich in 1938 with those being made now. Even the debaters at the Oxford Union would see this parallel as a stretch.

Here’s how it went down, at first in secret, then as a leak. Reported the Guardian: “David Cameron has told European leaders that the west risks making similar mistakes in appeasing Vladimir Putin over Ukraine as Britain and France did with Adolf Hitler in the run-up to the second world war.

“In a heated debate about the crisis behind closed doors in Brussels on Saturday, the prime minister told an EU summit that Putin had to be stopped from seizing all of Ukraine, according to La Repubblica, the Italian newspaper, which obtained details of the confidential discussion.”

Wow, a British politician reviving the despised memory of a dead German leader in an Italian newspaper. “We run the risk of repeating the mistakes made in Munich in ’38. We cannot know what will happen next,” Cameron was reported as warning.

No, he did not make any mention of the U.S. corporations that funded the Nazis, or the fact that it was the Russians, not the Brits, who stopped their blitzkrieg or, for that matter, all the Nazi war criminals who escaped prosecution (often with the help of the U.S. government).
Owen Jones of the Guardian was disgusted by what he read in his own paper. “Here we go again,’ he wrote, adding, “The west comparing its latest enemy number to the German Fuhrer has been a standard tactic for decades. When Egypt’s General Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal in 1956, Britain’s prime minister, Anthony Eden, compared him to Hitler, while Labour’s Hugh Gaitskell opted for a comparison with Benito Mussolini. Serbia’s Slobodan Milosevic was the Hitler of the late 1990s, and the US dabbled with describing former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in these terms too.

“On the eve of the Iraq war, Saddam Hussein was repeatedly compared to Hitler, with Donald Rumsfeld even casting George W Bush in the role of Winston Churchill. The media abounded with such parallels in the build-up to the Iraq disaster, with one Telegraph article headlined ‘Appeasement won’t stop Saddam any more than Hitler’ and even suggesting Iraq could bomb Southampton. On either sides of his rapprochement with the west, Libya’s Colonel Gaddafi faced the Hitler treatment, too.

In and of themselves, these comparisons are self-evidently ludicrous.”

But, why let historical facts get in the way in a conflict that seems to have real Hitler lovers in the ranks of Ukraine’s hard-right bully boys, the very people Putin has been denouncing. Talk about twisting reality inside out.

JP Sottle writes that this tactic has spread across the ocean: “when it’s time to fire up the Great American Fear Factory for another ‘lobbying blitz’ and bellicose ‘product launch’, America’s policymakers conjure up the darkest star of human history. They say ‘Hitler’. Evoking Hitler is the foreign policy equivalent of yelling ‘fire’ in a crowded theater.”

How did this all start? Listen to someone who has been paying attention to the details. Former AP reporter, Robert Parry of Consortium News reports facts, not contrived historical comparisons, in addressing how the crisis in Ukraine began:

“The original lie behind Official Washington’s latest ‘group think’ was that Russian President Vladimir Putin instigated the crisis in Ukraine as part of some diabolical scheme to reclaim the territory of the defunct Soviet Union, including Estonia and other Baltic states. Though not a shred of U.S. intelligence supported this scenario, all the ‘smart people’ of Washington just ‘knew’ it to be true.

“The once-acknowledged though soon forgotten reality was that the crisis was provoked last year by the European Union proposing an association agreement with Ukraine while U.S. neocons and other hawkish politicos and pundits envisioned using the Ukraine gambit as a way to undermine Putin inside Russia. In other words, from the start, Putin was the target of the Ukraine initiative, not the instigator.”

The Guardian’s Jones appealed to the public that’s heard it all before. “Let’s resist the Hitler comparisons, which intend simply to shut down any reasoned discussion, to demonize all those who are not hawks, and to ratchet up tension,” he asks. “Soon enough, though, western leaders will settle on a new enemy number one, and the Hitler comparisons will begin all over again.”

Sure, it’s pathetic, and cynical, but, wink, wink, what’s a little Seig Heiling! among friends?

News Dissector Danny Schechter blogs at and works on Comments to [email protected].

19 comments for “The Hitler Slur and Making New Enemies

  1. RobinGrace
    September 15, 2014 at 14:48

    I would like some backup information from points made in this article.
    1. Which US companies backed Nazi’s, how many people worked in that company, what did they actually do to assist Nazi’s
    2. Why is it okay to start War without Congress and Zero’ Countrys. But GWBUSH gets trashed for War, which Congress approved of, and had 40 Countries behind him and with him.

    Thank you. Will look for answers from you soon.

  2. RobinGrace
    September 15, 2014 at 14:44

    I would like some backup information from points made in this article.
    1. Which US companies backed Nazi’s, how many people worked in that company, what did they actually do to assist Nazi’s
    2. Why is it okay to start War without Congress and Zero’ Countrys. But GWBUSH gets trashed for War, which Congress approved of, and had 40 Countries behind him and with him.

    Thank you. Will look for answers from you soon.

  3. Epiphany
    September 9, 2014 at 17:11

    “Support MH17 Truth”: OSCE Monitors Identify “Shrapnel and Machine Gun-Like Holes” indicating Shelling. No Evidence of a Missile Attack. Shot Down by a Military Aircraft?

  4. Joe Tedesky
    September 6, 2014 at 09:01

    Instigation, and having set goals is not the same as searching for a solution. Putin appears to be offering a solution, if you listen to him. The Ukraine Nazi’s are instigating and then some. The US as usual seems to have a set of goals. I don’t know what the US goals are, maybe moving NATO missiles in up against Russia’s border, or maybe capturing European energy markets, and then again it’s possible the US wants to hurt Europe. Who knows? Rhetoric is a weapon that no one is in short supply of. Comparing people or policies to Hitler is popular, because it works well on a sound bite. Just ask Hillary!

  5. Julian
    September 6, 2014 at 06:15

    Rhetoric like this only further convices me that politicians in the USA and Great Britain are down to “name calling”, beyond anything which one would describe as a proper argument.
    “You’re stupid!” “No, you’re stupid!” “You’re even stupider!” “You’re the stupidest of all time!” And so on… I’ve seen kindergardeners argue in a more civilized manner.

    But then again there is no real argument to be had, since Putin’s guilt has already been decided upon, like in some rigged, mock court case only to prop up a sham of a legal system already undermined by political ideologies. The law is only the basic guideline, the political agenda determines the true outcome.

    Putin is no altar boy, let’s be clear on that and there are many points on which he and I would disagree (actually I’d love to talk to him in German, him being an ex-KGB agent in Berlin) on. But compared to what “our” politicians are spewing (their inner bullshit-filter has probably gone the way of the dodo) he’s downright sane. Cool headed, rational, calculating and even comprimising.

  6. SDCulp
    September 5, 2014 at 22:45

    Your commentary is accurate and precise. I would add one more name to the conversation. That of Ho Chi Minh, who was also called the next Hitler. A man who wanted to model the US as his future country after the Japanese onslaught.

    History unfolds itself in such mysterios ways. After our attempt to “convert” Viet Nam to democracy, they seem to be doing fine.

    In 1999, NPR asked who was the most influential person in the 20th Century. Hitler was not mentioned. And yet his name continues, when it is convienent.

    What other persons’s name seems to appear from the ashes whenever it’s convient for a Western power to assert its military power abroad?

  7. Abe
    September 5, 2014 at 19:52

    Reductio ad Stalinum is as great a fallacy of irrelevance as the ever popular Reductio ad Hitlerum. But as sure as Reductio ad Maoum will rise in East, the Empire of Chaos will demonize all challengers to its fading global hegemony.

  8. dahoit
    September 5, 2014 at 15:00

    I’ve recently read somewhere that Putin’s brother was killed,and his father wounded by the Germans,so this accusation is an grievous affront and another feeble(to informed people,not the boob tube idoits)) attempt at propaganda from dishonorable hydrophobic criminals.

    September 5, 2014 at 13:12

    The truly horrifying appeasement of World War II took place not at Munich in 1938 but at Yalta in 1945. A feeble, dying FDR approached the conference with no clear agenda save apparently to give Stalin everything he demanded – in return for promises the Soviet dictator never kept. These offerings included keeping the eastern half of Poland that the Soviet Union invaded in 1940, abandoning the Polish government-in-exile and Poles fighting in Allied armies, and the ethnic cleansing of nine million German civilians living on land claimed by Stalin in eastern Europe. (More than two million of them would die on their trail of tears to their shattered ancestral homeland in 1945-46). Also conceded was the victorious allies’ right to “reparations by forced labor” by which over four million German POWs would be exploited as slave laborers by Britain, France, and the Soviet Union. The tiny handful of survivors of this grievous violation of international law was not repatriated until 1955. In the Far East, Stalin demanded, and got, Manchuria, the most developed region of China (due to Japanese investment during the occupation), and the beachhead from which the Soviets would direct and supply the Chinese Communist revolution.

    You may recall that preserving Poland’s “territorial integrity” was the excuse Britain gave for declaring its second war against Germany in 1939, and the presence of foreign forces restricting American commercial exploitation of China was why the United States commenced the aggressively hostile diplomacy toward Japan that led to Pearl Harbor.

    In contrast, the issue decided at Munich was the peaceful return of the Sudeten Germans to their homeland, from which they had been exiled by the Versailles treaty in clear violation of Woodrow Wilson’s promise to Europe of self determination for all her peoples. The Czechoslovakia to which they had been assigned was created by the victors of World War I out of parts of Germany, Hungary, Austria and Roumania. It had no historical existence until 1919 and was brought into being, like Poland, specifically to surround a territorially reduced Germany within a ring of hostile militarized states.

    • Abe
      September 5, 2014 at 20:00

      So tonight we’re gonna party like it’s 1919 instead of 1939 or 1945.

      I was dreamin’ when I wrote this.
      Forgive me if it goes astray.

  10. Hillary
    September 5, 2014 at 11:11

    The cost of the first world war to Britain in blood and treasure was catastrophic, and it left the British empire at the end of it all in a much weakened state .
    20,000 English soldiers dead on 1st day of the Somme WWI .’
    Likewise WWII (another un-necessary war ) finished the UK off but try explaining that to the Brits.

  11. Brendan
    September 5, 2014 at 09:41

    The Russian people must be either bemused or bewildered when they hear these Hitler analogies from the west. It must be like how we would react if Putin were to compare David Cameron to Hitler.

    I guess the Russians aren’t familiar with the western version of history where Hitler was defeated by Churchill with the help of the Americans and where the main role of Russia was the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact. That version gives us westerners the right to compare anyone to Hitler if they don’t do what we tell them to do.

  12. John
    September 5, 2014 at 08:43

    This is a great article with great comments so far. Thanks to all.

  13. jer
    September 5, 2014 at 03:42

    Nato is actually the heir to Hitler’s WW2-era unfulfilled dream of gaining total global domination and conquest and it (Nato) is definitely stuffed full of hitlerites. Such hitlerites born of the current rapidly-rising Nato-US-Islamic nexus have just recently tasted defeat – in eastern Ukraine. Thus they are now yelping and screaming obscenities at Russia which is the real or genuine bulwark against global fascism.

  14. Joe Tedesky
    September 5, 2014 at 01:19


    Godwin’s law (or Godwin’s Rule of Nazi Analogies) is an Internet adage asserting that “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches”…​ that is, if an online discussion (regardless of topic or scope) goes on long enough, sooner or later someone will compare someone or something to Hitler or Nazism.

    “I wanted folks who glibly compared someone else to Hitler or to Nazis to think a bit harder about the Holocaust”, Godwin has written.

  15. Abe
    September 4, 2014 at 23:36

    Michel Collon, a Belgian journalist and author, has outlined how mass media and governments apply the “Five Principles of War Propaganda”:
    1. Obscure economic interests.
    2. Invert the victim and the aggressor.
    3. Hide history.
    4. Demonize.
    5. Monopolize the news.

    The US, UK andEU have all used the Hitler slur to demonize the leadership of Iraq, Serbia, Iran, Syria and Russia.

    • TheSkepticalCynic
      September 6, 2014 at 16:48

      Collon is “spot on”. The formula has been in place in the U.S. for 140 years or more. Add Gaddafy and Libya to the list of those slandered and slimed.

  16. Abe
    September 4, 2014 at 23:09

    “It’s like Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon,
    except there’s just one degree,
    and Kevin Bacon is Hitler!”
    – Lewis Black—glenn-beck-s-nazi-tourette-s

Comments are closed.