So, I just saw this campaign video from Joe “The Plumber” Worzelbacher (He’s Running for a House Seat in Ohio), and I swear a little part of me just died. It’s not like I was expecting much from Joe, or from the political opportunists intent on helping him stretch his fifteen minutes (and the collective Hell that goes with it) just a little longer. But Damn! If stupid really does burn, then the state of Ohio needs to open a new hospital wing just to deal the fall-out from this particular idiot-bomb.
So, Godwin’s Law aside, what’s wrong with this ad?
I’m going to say right off the bat that I don’t know enough about the Armenian Holocaust to really deal with it properly. I will add that I would be damned surprised if Joe did either, or the idiot who wrote his speech in this video, whoever that may have been and whatever drug he may have been taking at the time.
On one level, Joe’s argument really presents a very simple exercise in fallacy recognition. He mentions two laws followed by two genocides. Joe offers no analysis in support of his contention that they are linked, but he does fire off a couple rounds while giving us time to let the obvious connection sink in. …and my gosh golly aren’t we all impressed!
This is a Post Hoc fallacy, pure and simple. Done.
It should be added that Joe has subsequently denied he was claiming gun control caused the Holocaust, and then he went on to explain that it could never have happened without disarming the people first. (Actually, Joe attributes this particular claim to Hitler, so I suppose he still has grounds for plausible deniability on the matter, but of course the question is why does he bring it up if he doesn’t intend to advance the claim?) Seriously, this is the rhetoric of a complete coward. If he can’t make up his mind whether or not he means to say gun control made the Holocaust possible, then he really ought to shut his festering gob.
Irony of Ironies, Joe thinks his critics are pushing a political agenda. (And seriously, how lacking in self-consciousness do you have to be to make such an accusation about people critical of YOUR OWN POLITICAL CAMPAIGN ADD?) Joe also says that his critics must hate history, because apparently they don’t want to hear it. One of Joe’s spokesman (Phil Christofanelli) adds that Joe is a student of history. …yeah right! The prospect that Joe’s critics may just know more about the subject than he or his speech writer does seems to escape these guys, …or perhaps they are simply hoping that prospect will escape Ohio voters.
But of course Joe isn’t the only happy hustler to trot this line of powdered camel dung out and offer us a straw. It’s a fairly conventional line of bullshit from the gun lobby and assorted gun enthusiasts, …actually, I should say from the less intelligent and completely dishonest members of gun-toting crowd. Seriously, there are decent and intelligent gun-owning folks out there. You can tell who they are because they are not the ones laying this line of crap down on the table and expecting you tor snort it.
But lets sort through a few specifics, shall we? Near as I can tell Joe was actually talking about a gun control law passed in 1938, but let’s not quibble over that detail. No, let’s quibble over the fact that Germany had already passed gun control laws in 1919, 1920, and 1928. Each of these laws modified the legal options for gun ownership in different ways, and there is no clear reason to choose the 1938 law as the smoking gun (pun intended) for Nazi gun control. Joe’s sophisticated periodization is little other than an ad hoc choice of the date most convenient to his own narrative (much as his choice of 1939 as the beginning of the holocaust-according-to-Joe). Joe picked the most convenient date for his own story, and that was about it.
Did I mention this argument is pure camel dung?
Okay, but let’s think about this for a minute. 1938(9)? What had already happened in Germany by that point? Well, let’s see. On the basis of the 1932 elections, Hitler had been appointed Chancellor in January of 1933. This was followed soon after by a suspicious fire in the Reichstag (German parliamentary building) that February. The following day President Hindenburg granted Hitler emergency powers, and in March the German Parliament (under great pressure from the Nazi party) signed away the bulk of its powers to Hitler in a law known as the Enabling Act. In effect, the democratic institutions of Weimar Germany had already come to a pretty full stop by the end of 1934, 5 years before the key to everything in Joe’s gun-induced euphoria.
…and of course by this time the Nazis were already locking up their political enemies.
In late June and early July of 1934, Nazi leadership killed about a hundred of their own in a fascinating little purge known as the “Night of the Long Knives.” By early August Hitler had fused the offices of President and Chancellor, thus making himself, …well, der Fuhrer. And with that Nazi leadership is in pretty much full swing, the law is what they say it is at this point in history, …4-5 years before the law Joe offers as the key to it all.
The Nuremberg Laws were passed in 1935, installing legal repression of Jews throughout Germany, 4 years before the terrible law which Joe wants us to believe made it all possible.
By 1939, the Nazis had already been using concentration camps for 6 years. They weren’t killing people in mass yet, but they were already working them to death in large numbers, and when push came to shove, yes, they were already killing people. Italy had already invaded Ethiopia, the Japanese had already taken Manchuria, and Francisco Franco had already seized power in Spain, all with the support of Germany. Hitler had already seized Austria and begun his push for the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia.
Despite all the crimes the Nazis had already committed, all the freedoms they had already taken away, Joe wants us to think a law passed in 1938(9) made it all possible. It’s amazing! It is completely asinine to suggest that private German citizens were in a position to stop Nazi atrocities in 1938, let alone to suggest the largely unarmed Jewish population, could have managed it. This is not history. This is fantasy.
So, just remember this the next time one of these smug little idiots decides to illustrate the Dunning-Kruger Effect by giving you the pop-gun and bubble-gum history of the Holocaust, conveniently simplified for the benefit of the American gun-lobby. There is only one way to make that argument, and that is to be so damned ignorant about the history in question that you just don’t know any better.
Apparently, Joe doesn’t know any better.
He’s hoping a lot of people in Ohio don’t either.