A historian’s ‘toxic take on history’

My latest column has been posted at WND:

A historian’s ‘toxic take on history’
By Michael Kleen
Posted: May 03, 2010

It is rare when a historian so fragrantly engages in intellectual dishonesty, but Ron Rosenbaum, in a Slate commentary titled “The tea party’s toxic take on history,” typifies such a case. In this article, he hurls vitriol at members of the tea party, its ideology and its “historically ignorant misuse of words such as tyranny, communist, Marxist, fascist and socialist.” Because tea-party partisans often conflate the terms or use them interchangeably, Rosenbaum argues that they are “utterly uneducated in history” and mocks their imagined moment of realization that “Hitler’s party” was called the National Socialist German Workers Party.

“Historical ignorance is dangerous and can have tragic consequences,” Rosenbaum concludes, but he is engaging in some historical ignorance of his own. While many tea partiers have an excuse for their ignorance (thanks, public schools), Rosenbaum, who spent a decade researching and writing a book called “Explaining Hitler,” has no such excuse.

We already know the Nazi party and the German left were bitter enemies, as Rosenbaum illustrated in his study of social democratic opposition to Hitler in Munich, but that does not mean they were diametrically opposed. Is it ridiculous to find similarities between the National Socialists, fascists, communists and socialists? Not as much as Rosenbaum would like his readers to believe. Hannah Arendt, for example, detailed some general similarities between the structure of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union in her book “The Origins of Totalitarianism” (1951). Both were mass societies organized around party ideology and a cult of personality. Both sought total control over the individual.

Beyond these cosmetic similarities, there were plenty of ideological similarities between National Socialism and socialism as well…

Read the entire column..

About Michael Kleen

Michael Kleen is an author, raconteur, and freelance columnist. He has a M.A. in History and M.S. in Education. He lives in Rockford, Illinois, where he was the 2013 Republican candidate for mayor.

Posted on May 3, 2010, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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