The Hitler Comparison Tradition
It seems in vogue lately to compare anyone you don't agree with 'Hitler'. You might think that the tea partiers clever photo shopped posters of Obama with a Hitler mustache are a new thing, but this seems to stretch back at least to the cocaine and pop rocks infused days of the 1980's.
Everyone from punk rockers to right wing 'patriots' seem to feel more and more free to use this choice of words. I even found a liberal blogger that seemed to think the founders were Nazi's as well. This all seems a bit of a stretch, I mean it's understandable that people can passionately disagree about issues concerning the redistribution of wealth, foreign policy, hot button issues like abortion etc., but I fail to see the correlation between political rivals and accusing someone of being a Nazi.
As I was trolling the right and left wing nut job sites for Hitler presidential pictures, a curious trend emerged. Recent presidents- Obama, W. Bush, Clinton and Bush Senior all were relatively easy to find Hitler caricatures for. As I searched for Reagan, I could only find a few punk albums from the 80's that implied Reagan was a Nazi. As I moved on to the 70's, no Carter Nazi pictures emerged (although I found several screeds by Michael Savage calling him an anti Semite). I had to cheat on this one with a picture of Carter with a Hamas head band (close enough to Nazis I guess).
Believe it or not, no Ford or Nixon caricatures were to be found. I thought was odd (Nixon and Ford were called Fascists by many protesters after all) but came up with a few possible reasons for this.
1) Language has become diluted. Swear words are common in every day speech now when they used to be reserved for the most extreme situations, maybe the willingness to pull out the Nazi or Communist card is a symptom of that trend.
2) Politics has become more 'viral' and less civilized. I don't want to make it out that politics ever was civilized- The pamphleteers of the early 1800's used to print things that would make the writers of mother jones or redstate.com blush. You have to wonder why I couldn't find the Nazi accusations about former presidents in the 70's- a much more divided decade than any time in the last 30 years.
3) The Statute of Limitations has passed on the Nazi's. Maybe the 50's, 60's and 70's didn't see a lot of the Hitler comparisons being thrown around because the war was still fresh and most veterans were still living. As the baby boomers and generation x grew up, maybe they felt less need to show the restraint the greatest generation did for this topic.
4) Less political pictures from the 70's were able to be put on the web. This really is the most boring possibility, but I'm sure that it's at least partly right.
Whatever the case, calling people Hitler is unproductive and eliminates the possibility of intelligent debate.