Carson’s Fixation on Nazi Germany

Guess I’m going to have to read Dr. Ben Carson’s new book assuming his presidential candidacy doesn’t fold pretty soon. On an almost daily basis, the wiggy dude is making strange arguments that he says he explains and documents fully in A More Perfect Union, his longform prescription for uniting Americans by getting rid of the godless liberals who are scheming to impose socialistic tyranny, or something.

In the latest example, Carson continues to fish in the very dangerous waters of Nazi analogies and support for a right to violent revolution, per WaPo’s Vanessa Williams:

Ben Carson said Thursday that Adolf Hitler’s mass murder of Jews “would have been greatly diminished” if German citizens had not been disarmed by the Nazi regime.

The comment, which came during an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, was similar to arguments Carson made following last week’s mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Ore., in which he defended the Second Amendment and suggested that the victims should have fought the gunman….

He said Nazi Germany was one of the regimes that he used as a cautionary tale against curbing citizens’ gun rights.

“But just clarify, if there had been no gun control laws in Europe at that time, would 6 million Jews have been slaughtered?” Blitzer asked.

“I think the likelihood of Hitler being able to accomplish his goals would have been greatly diminished if the people had been armed,” Carson said.

Blitzer pushed a bit more: “Because they had a powerful military machine, as you know, the Nazis.”

“I understand that,” Carson said. “I’m telling you that there is a reason that these dictatorial people take the guns first.”

Not having read Carson’s book, I’m not sure precisely which brand of nonsense he’s peddling here. Is it that the Nazis would not have been able to seize power–which they did via initially legal means–had Germans been able to shoot at them? Or is it the even dumber idea that the Holocaust could have been avoided or abated had the Jews themselves been armed?

If it’s the first argument, it’s probably worth noting that in all the vast literature on Hitler’s rise to power, no actual historians seem to have focused on gun laws as an important factor in that rise. Nazis were the masters of extralegal violence; had an early armed resistance arisen, it would probably if anything have sped the imposition of state terror, much like the Reichstag fire did. And what about all those other countries where, unaccountably, gun laws did not produce totalitarian regimes?

But if Carson’s actually saying European Jews could have successfully defended themselves with revolvers and hunting riles against the vast Nazi machinery of extermination–which did not take place on German soil under German laws in any event–he’s being offensively ignorant.

Why does Carson keep returning to Nazi analogies in discussing gun laws and “political correctness” and all manner of other subjects that other people manage to address in Nazi-free ways? I don’t know for sure; maybe that, too, is explained in his book. But if I had to guess it’s because Nazi analogies are the crack cocaine of the antichoice movement. Much of his immediate audience is composed of people who are accustomed to talk of the American Holocaust of legalized abortion. If that’s what is inspiring Carson, his determination to link the Nazi talk to the case for a heavily armed populace is especially disturbing. After all, the “unborn” are less capable of self-defense even than the European Jews of the 1940s. Who will stand up with their firearms and stop the babykillers? I doubt Carson explicitly goes there in his book, but like much of his peculiar conspiracy-theory-laden world view, it could be pretty close to the surface.

UPDATE: As is its wont, the Anti-Defamation League told Carson to get a grip and stop making dumb and offensive Nazi analogies. And Carson wasn’t having any of it:

“That’s total foolishness,” Carson told George Stephanopoulos on Good Morning America. “I’d be happy to discuss that in depth with anybody but it is well known that in many places where tyranny has taken over they first disarm the people. There’s a reason they disarm the people. They don’t just do it arbitrarily.”

Thinking you know more about the Holocaust than the ADL is an indication either of arrogance or of attachment to some crackpot theory that is “obviously” true. Either way, it’s a bad sign.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.