Why Hitler, Candace?

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During a congressional hearing on white nationalism, well-known conservative firebrand and conspiracy theorist Candace Owens was challenged by Congressman Ted Lieu (D CA33), when he played an audio recording of Owens seemingly defending Hitler. In the recording, she stated the following

I actually don’t have any problems at all with the word ‘nationalism.’ I think that it gets, the definition gets poisoned by elitists that actually want globalism. Globalism is what I don’t want. So when you think about, whenever we say ‘nationalism,’ the first thing people thing about, at least in America, is Hitler. You know, he was a national socialist, but if Hitler just wanted to make Germany great and have things run well, okay fine. The problem is … he had dreams outside of Germany. He wanted to globalize. He wanted everybody to be German. Everybody to be speaking German. Everybody to look a different way. … To me that’s not nationalism

This is the excerpt that was played. In her words, and her voice. A clip widely available on the internet as it understandably went viral.

Immediately, her defenders attacked Lieu. Claims that he mischaracterized her quote (he clearly stated that he was not characterizing it at all) and claims that it was taken out of context, even claims that the audio was somehow doctored. The Owens Defense Force pleaded for people to watch the entire video, and it would fairly explain more.

Well, here is the entire video for your edification.

I watched it, to be honest I did skip through it a bit. It was full of pablum and platitudes and right-wing canards that I have already heard but I think I watched enough to be confident that there was no context provided which would ameliorate the profound ignorance of her aforementioned quote.

Honestly, I think I understand what she was trying to say. Her implication was that Hitler wasn’t a nationalist, because “he had dreams outside of Germany. He wanted to globalize”, therefore he was a globalist. A specious and reductionist premise in my opinion, but could be an opening for debate. Obviously, that is not the part of the quote which people find so egregious. What she said was “if Hitler just wanted to make Germany great and have things run well, okay fine”, which seems to imply that everything Hitler did within his own country was “fine”, either willfully ignoring or woefully ignorant of the 165,000 Jews that were killed inside the borders of Germany and the tens of thousands of Roma, mentally disabled, homosexual and members of political opposition who were also killed. That may or may not be what she meant to say, but no matter, that was the implication of what she actually did say.

This whole exchange begs the question, why then did she bring up Hitler in the first place? If her message was to extol the positive virtues of nationalism, and then say Hitler wasn’t a nationalist, why bring him up in the first place? Why not find a positive historical example of of a nationalist leader?

I mean, surely history is full of good examples of nationalist leaders, right? Francisco Franco, Augusto Pinochet, Suharto, Benito Mussolini, Manuel Noriega, Georgios Papadopoulos, Emperor Hirohito… Oh wait, perhaps those aren’t good examples. Well I am sure she could have thought of one, I mean she is the expert and all. Instead, she specifically invoked Hitler…as a bad example?

This is akin to giving a speech on weight loss and saying, “If you want to lose weight there are plenty of healthy ways to go about it, but I am just going to talk about anorexia. Anorexia will make you lose weight and quick. It is bad for you and could kill you, and its really not an example of a diet…but you will lose weight.”

In the end, here is the lesson: When you are defending something publicly, whether an ideology, a religion, or a weight loss strategy; it’s probably not good strategy to cite a bad example as your only example; particularly if there is no good example to give.

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