Ever since Tony Abbott referred to the "suppository of wisdom," it's been clear he doesn't have the greatest relationship with words. And although we may enjoy the idea of Abbott receiving wisdom rectally, it's not just slips of the tongue that get him in trouble. It's his fundamental misunderstanding of history. This week, Tony Abbott approached, reached, and surpassed Godwin's Law when he said this in reference to ISIS: "The latest atrocity apparently was four young men being strung up and burnt alive. I mean, the Nazis did terrible evil but they had a sufficient sense of shame to try to hide it." As with most of Tony's statements, there's an awful lot to parse here. There's the underlying message that ISIS is objectively worse than the group that the world fought in what was collectively acknowledged as the most morally justifiable war in history; there's the absurd, historically-inaccurate idea that Nazis were somehow motivated to keep the horrific deaths behind closed doors due to some sense of shame; the idea that hiding your atrocities is somehow more admirable than displaying them; and, on a purely practical level, a basic lack of realization that the technology-laden world that permits these images to be instantaneously spread is nothing like the analogue world of WWII, and that if iPhones had existed in 1942 then for fuck's sake I can't even finish this analogy. It is almost impressive how much absurdity he manages to pack into a single sentence. It's not the first time he's invoked Nazis for political gain. He once suggested that Labor had presided over a "Holocaust of jobs," and referred to Bill Shorten as the "Dr. Goebbels of economic policy" in reference to the infamous Nazi propaganda minister. Labor frontbench MP Mark Dreyfus, who is Jewish, stormed out of Parliament in anger. It was a strong, principled moment for Dreyfus, only slightly undercut by the fact that he'd called Abbott the same thing four years earlier. And it's not just the Nazis that are on Abbott's mind. The strangest response to come from the Prime Minister of late has been in reference to Labor's opposition to the proposed free trade agreement with China. In Parliament and in press conferences, Abbott has been quick to refer to the opposition as "racist." Regardless of where you stand on the FTA and Labor's opposition, it's difficult not to scratch your head at this particular label. It's a very strange card to play. It's almost as if Abbott has identified that racism is often a factor in arguments against other countries and their people, and sensing that he is now on the side with another race, can finally wield that barbed sword against others. For once, that blade is pointing the other way! It's fascinating because, like his statement about the Nazis, it seems to reveal a complete misunderstanding of what the word means. It's like he sees the charge of racism as simply a tool that can be aimed at opponents. In 1945, Allied forces discovered the horrors at the Buchenwald concentration camp. They soon forced the citizens of the nearby town of Weimar to tour the camp, to see the emaciated corpses and the death factories. Escorted by armed guards, the townspeople walked through the camp. The message was clear: hidden or not, ignorance was no defense. The Allies were hardly impressed by the Nazi's "sense of shame." And that's the real Nazi comparison that leads us to the most revealing part of Abbott's comment. If his suggestion that ISIS is worse because they messily display their atrocities, and that the Nazis were somehow better by keeping them hidden away, we can fairly quickly surmise that Abbott is more concerned with appearance than with deed. As evidence grows that refugees who come to Australia are being raped, killed, and driven to suicide, all on our watch, the Abbott Government has pushed to make reporting of detention centre conditions almost impossible, has made it nearly impossible for workers to report abuse when they witness it, and gone out of its way to keep the whole horrendous affair hidden away from the public eye. By his own admission, we can only assume that Tony Abbott, when all is said and done, has a sufficient sense of shame.
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