Stephen Harper stepped in it. [REUTERS/Chris Wattie]
This past week, Stephen Harper proved that Godwin’s Law applies in the House of Commons.
The truism goes that “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1”
The discussion revolved around keeping troops in Afghanistan past 2014. Harper, seemingly bored by the question, accused his social democratic co-patriots across the floor of being soft on Hitler to guffaws on his side of the House.
The NDP, unsurprisingly, were none to pleased. They pointed out that the NDP was non-existent at the time, to which Harper returned a scoff.
This isn’t the first time. The House of Commons has somewhat of a penchant for invoking Nazi Germany in just about every debate.
In fact, this isn’t even Harper’s first time on the debate. In 2003, NDP interim leader Bill Blaikie stood of to object to Harper’s mis-characterizations of the NDP in a speech imploring the House to go to war with Iraq, to which Harper replied,
Mr. Speaker, I will not debate every historical point. I will just point out that the NDP’s tradition of pacifism has a tendency to go much farther than that. The NDP missed Saddam Hussein in 1991, just as it is missing him today. We all remember that. For much of the cold war, that party missed or downplayed the evil represented by the Soviet empire. As the member concedes, the NDP leader of the day did miss the threat posed by Adolf Hitler. I would concede the CCF voted for the war at the very end. I do not know what it did during the 1930s, but I do remember well my father and grandfather and relatives telling me how during the 1930s people of that persuasion ignored the evils of Adolf Hitler and told them that Adolf Hitler was just helping the German working man and this kind of thing.
Take, for example, in 2007 when the House was debating an opposition Liberal motion to bring the troops home from Afghanistan by 2009,
Jay Hill: Think of that, imagine, reflect back. I fashion myself to be a fairly elementary student of military history and the lessons of the past. Think about if this place had passed a motion in 1939 saying that we will engage in combat—
Some Hon. Members: Oh! Oh!
Oh! Oh! Indeed.
A lot of the references to Hitler in the House have been objections to nebulous accusations, take Bob Rae’s statement this year,
Mr. Speaker, in the last week, those of us who have taken issue with the government on certain changes to the Criminal Code have been described as Hitlers.
As a side note - does Rae intend to mean that there are many Hitlers?
But the Liberals don’t exactly have clean hands. Here’s Liberal Keith Martin asking about Iran,
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the comments from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister, but he must also recognize that this is Hitler’s shadow stalking the earth, that this is the same regime in Iran that has denied the Holocaust and has state sponsored persecution of members of the Baha’i faith. Quite frankly, words are not enough.
And here’s the ever-gracious Scott Reid, tying Liberals to Nazis,
Mr. Speaker, in 2001 the Liberal government lent Canada’s good name to a world conference against racism in Durban, South Africa, that quickly degenerated into an anti-Semitic hatefest, complete with reported displays of Hitler glorification.
But I think this exchange between Bloquist Paul Mercier and Liberal heckler Patrick Gagnon in 1997 is my favourite.
Mercier: Mr. Speaker, I will be brief. I simply want to say that for people of my generation, from my country-I was born in Europe-the money spent on flags brings to mind some unpleasant memories and unpleasant names like that of Goebbels in Germany.
When a country defends itself with flags, and I saw them all over the place, I saw thousands of them. I do not want to equate the maple leaf with the swastika-
Gagnon: The maple leaf liberated you
Mercier: I want to compare, if hon. members would show me the courtesy of letting me speak, I want to compare two policies. When you want to promote a people with thousands of flags-
Gagnon: In Holland and Belgium, the first to get there was the Canadian army
Mercier: What does that have to do with it? Obviously we are very grateful to Canadians. Let us use our common sense and see the problems for what they are. I am comparing two policies which use the same means, which is to fly flags everywhere, and this reminds me of Goebbels. Although the flags are not comparable, the policies are.
Not that the left is entirely innoncent. If I hear one more Stephen-Harper-Is-Literally-Hitler diatribe, I may lose my mind.
Can we just knock it off?
Don’t mention the war!
The solution to this madness isn’t to pull a Fawlty Towers and try to avoid mentioning World War II, resulting in hilarious slapstick.
The answer, however, is very British.
One of my favourite television shows - which I watch with obsessive regularity - is the BBC panel show QI. On it, the Nazi jokes are never-ending. The discomfort and sensitivity that we seem to have with the whole war thing, just isn’t there.
One of the best exchanges was in an episode from last season where Sandi Toksvig remarks to Henning Wehn, “This is the most fun a Danish with a German+ person since 1944.” To which Wehn responds with a “Don’t mention the war!”
Good laughs, good laughs.
What’s great about the British is that they became so traumatized by the Blitz, that they had to cope somehow. Their mechanism was to just laugh about it. Hitler - not the holocaust, mind you - has now become a source of comedic gold for the Brits.
Let’s do that here. Because if I see one more moral equivocation with Hitler, I may well throw a chair threw my window.
This #HarperHistory thing, for the record, is a step in the right direction.