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The Nazi meme and the dumbing down of America

 White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s Twitter photograph.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s Twitter photograph.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer has apologized for saying that Adolf Hitler didn’t gas his own people and, presumably, for adding that Hitler did bring them into the “Holocaust centers” – you know, the death camps with those nifty gift shops.

Spicer, of course, was awkwardly trying to set up one of the standard ploys of his boss, President Donald J. Trump, which is to throw someone under the bus by comparing that person to someone else who represents abject evil. Apparently, Trumpet has decided that Vladdie Rootin’ Tootin’ Putin’s sell-by date has arrived and thus needs to blame Russia for backing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who has been roundly condemned for using chemical weapons on his people. It wasn’t enough that Assad had gassed men, women and even children. Remember in the narcissistic Trumpian worldview, he not only has to win, but someone else has to lose. Bigly. Hence the Spiceman stepping into it – also bigly – with his not even Hitler was as bad as Assad, because he never gassed his own people remark. (Guess those Jews, gypsies, gays, dissenters and resisters belonged to some other country.)

The Spiceman and Trumpet have to protest too much, because the heat is turning up on the Russkie investigation. Already former House Intelligence Chair Devin Nunes – who had cast himself improbably as both the Bob Woodward and Deep Throat of Russkie-gate – has had to step down from the investigation. He lost any shred of credibility when he ran to the White House with intel that he didn’t share with fellow committee members and implied that there was some surveillance of Trump and company by the Obama Administration – a suggestion that Dems and Repubs alike have dismissed.

But Spicer’s comments were not just about the Trump Administration’s need to distance itself from Assad’s ally, Russia. They speak to the lack of education in this country, in this world, specifically the inability of people to think, speak and write critically and to understand history. Without an understanding of history, you have no context. And without context, you can make no reasonable judgment.

And so you get remarks of the “so-and-so dictator is even worse than Hitler” variety – at Passover no less – when you don’t even have to go there. Assad used chemical weapons. America answered with 59 Tomahawk missiles. And the side benefit was that Trump – under suspicion of colluding with the Russians – distanced himself from them.

Period, as Spicer would say.

But the Trump Administration is a symptom of, not the cause for the dumbing down of America. This is a nation that has always had an anti-intellectual streak. Then came the counterculture of the late 1960s and early ’70s that threw out the Western civ courses, because Western civilization was the civilization of colonial oppression. Never mind that much of Western civilization is glorious and that we are the heirs of it. In the 1980s, the conservatives, not to be outdone by the liberals, decided that art was really about illicit sex, so that couldn’t be supported.

At the dawn of the new century, you had No Child Left Behind and teaching to the test. It’s no wonder formal education has lost its way, undermined as it is today by the digital revolution, which emphasizes technology over talent, training and technique, immediate gratification and faux authenticity. Some of the snarkiest posts about Spicer were the most ungrammatical, delivered with poor spelling.

Some accused him of being racist and anti-Semitic. Instead, perhaps he is merely uncaring, for the greatest casualty of ignorance is arrogance.