Stab in the Back

STAB IN THE BACK….Back in February, Michael Ramirez published a cartoon in Investor’s Business Daily that showed an American soldier with a knife in his back labeled “Congress.” Ramirez, obviously, felt that plans to introduce a timeline for withdrawal from Iraq constituted a stab in the back from Democratic members of Congress.

Now, if you capitalize this you get Stab In The Back, which is famous as a popular German rationalization for their loss in World War I: i.e., the real reason they lost was because the German army was “stabbed in the back” by various actors, including politicians and the public. Hitler later adopted this as a populist rallying cry during his rise to power.

Ramirez may or may not know this history. He probably does. Nonetheless, this from Mark Kleiman seems overboard to me:

I know that supporters of the currently ruling coalition of crooks, warmongers, torturers, incompetents, and theocrats are deeply, deeply hurt when they and their pet politicians are compared to Nazis. But could someone suggest to them — politely, of course — that it would help if they stopped borrowing Nazi iconography and phraseology?

But look: the phrase “stab in the back” is a common idiom. Everyone reading this has probably used it dozens of times in their lives without once thinking about its German roots. It’s simply not a phrase like “Final Solution,” which clearly became exclusive Nazi property after the Holocaust.

God knows I have plenty of reason to dislike Ramirez since I had to put with his swill for years when he was the editorial cartoonist for the LA Times. What’s more, the “stab in the back” myth that Republican war supporters have been ginning up for the past couple of years is both odious and unsupportable. As an idea, it’s worth fighting tooth and nail. But that still doesn’t make it “Nazi iconography.” It’s a common phrase, commonly used, and I’ve never heard a suggestion that it’s no longer suitable for ordinary conversation. Unless we’re ready to make that argument, we should probably call off the language police on this one.