One of the things that is so pathetic about the demagoguery of Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck is that their understanding of history is so puerile that in any civilized debate they would be laughed off the stage. Of course they don't allow a civilized debate. The callers to their radio shows are pre-screened to maintain the echo chamber. Take their recent attempt to equate the Nazi's "National Socialism" with "Socialism". Here's Limbaugh yesterday.
But socialism is socialism, as I say. If you want me to I'll go back and give you the fascists of the Twenties and Thirties. They don't like Nazi Germany, I'll give you Mussolini's Italy. Or I can give you the Soviet Union any time in the Seventies, Eighties, and Nineties. Whatever you want, I can give you -- I can give you the North Koreans today. Socialism is socialism wherever it is, whatever you call it. But don't forget, folks, the term "Nazi" comes from the German word for National Socialism.
This equation that National Socialism was Socialism would come as a pretty big shock to the hundreds of thousands of German socialists (many of them Jewish) who were rounded up by the Nazi's in the 1930's and sent to prison camps or shot by firing squads.
In 1936, Hitler actually tried to eliminate the National Health Care system that had been set up by Bismarck (who Limbaugh amazingly called "a typical Lefty"). But his political counselors told him it would cause a public revolt, so he left it in place (except of course for "non-Aryans"). Richard Evans' definitive book on the rise of fascists in Germany, The Coming of the Third Reich, clearly lays out the true character of fascism in the year 1933. It fits Limbaugh, Beck and and Sarah Palin perfectly.
For all their aggressively egalitarian rhetoric, the Nazis were relatively indifferent, in the end, to the inequalities of society. What mattered to them above all else was race, culture and ideology. In the coming years, they would create a whole new set of institutions through which they would seek to remould the German Psyche and rebuild the German character.
The main institution used to remold the German character was of course the radio, which is why our modern day fascists like Limbaugh will fight the return of the Fairness Doctrine "til the last dog dies". 18 months ago I took on the Conservative writer Jonah Goldberg, who had just published a book called Liberal Fascism which was the Right's attempt to push back against the fascist label that had been pinned on them since the 1930's. Goldberg came back at me with a pitiful rejoinder and after I replied he took his ball and went home pouting. But now this same stupid trope has been adopted by people with a far bigger megaphone than Goldberg and with even less tolerance for dissent from their crack-brained ideology.
When ever I see a pictures of 70 year old white guys on medicare protesting at town hall meetings about "no government health care" or "socialized medicine", I have to wonder about the strange Vulcan Mind Meld Beck and Limbaugh have over their audience. And then I think about Santayana's epic quote, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." It's obvious that both Limbaugh and Beck were partying too hard in their youth to ever show up at history class. And now they are passing on their ignorance to millions of listeners a day.
Maybe Peter Orzag should challenge Glenn Beck to a debate on Health care. I'll bet you $1000 Beck wouldn't take the challenge.