Graphics by Rodney Hazard (Click to enlarge)
It happens dozens, hundreds, maybe thousands of times every day: Someone compares someone else to Adolf Hitler. Sometimes this accusation is leveled as a result of a dictatorial strongman invading a country or a public figure advocating genocide—behavior that is, admittedly, at least a little bit Hitler-ish. But more often, the person accused of being Hitler just acted bossy or cruel while, for example, making Transformers 3.
Some who play the Hitler card are trying to be funny or controversial in order to get attention; others are just trying to say, “This person is very, very, very bad.” Usually, the comparison backfires horribly and the comparer inevitably has to issue a public statement that says something like, “That person who I said was like Hitler is very, very, very bad—but he or she is not Hitler-esque. I’m sorry.” A good rule of thumb is to never, ever call anyone Hitler, since you’ll end up apologizing and there are far more creative and specific ways to insult your enemies. (And anyway, Hitler is often just a generic term meant to connote ultimate evil rather than an accurate comparison with the real, historical German dictator.)
These individual accusations of Hitler-dom are pretty boring, but their sheer quantity points to an interesting question: Who in world history is the most like Hitler? That’s a complicated, subjective, probably unanswerable query, and like all such queries, it can only be solved through a March Madness–style bracket. In honor of the college basketball tournament that begins this week, we made just such a bracket, utilizing a complex formula to seed the potential Hitlers and an even more complex formula to determine the winners of each matchup (that is, we just sort of made the whole thing up).
Here is how that imaginary tournament played out:
DEAD PERSON REGION
Adolf Hitler (1) – What can you say about Adolf Hitler that hasn’t already been said? He's responsible for the deaths of tens of millions and started the worst war of the 20th century. People hate him so much that they fantasize about traveling back in time and killing him. A strong number-one seed.
Slobodan Milosevic (8) – This war-crimes-committing asshole was widely compared to Hitler in the lead-up to the NATO intervention in Kosovo in the late 90s, but he was more of a Hitler wannabe than anything—and being a failed genocidal maniac is almost worse than being a successful one.
Joseph Stalin (2) – Stalin never quite achieved the status of legendary evil in the popular imagination that the Third Reich's leader did, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. He murdered even more people than Hitler, through purges and starvation, and even changed the official version of history after he executed former allies for treason—a practice chillingly echoed by a modern-day Russian textbook that called the dictator’s acts “rational.” Maybe his mustache wasn’t distinctive enough for him to receive icon status?
Saddam Hussein (7) – Back in 1990, George H. W. Bush gave a speech in which he implied that the Iraqi dictator was worse than Hitler in some respects. Years later, George W. Bush picked up the Hitler comparisons where his dad left off, and that overblown rhetoric likely helped encourage the invasion of Iraq, which was one of the biggest foreign-policy blunders in American history. Whoops.
Mao Zedong (3) – Mao, Stalin, and Hitler are the top three mass murderers of the 20th century, and Mao is actually number one in terms of bodies buried, with 60 million. All three were evil, evil men, but Mao holds a special place in the minds of conservatives, who frequently remind everyone that a communist—a left-winger!—killed the most people of anyone ever. What’s more, that commie is still officially venerated in China, which once gave a blogger for the right-wing Heritage Foundation the opportunity to insinuate that Obama would have bowed before Hitler: “Would President Obama be so ready to kowtow to China if in the middle of Beijing there was a mausoleum of Hitler and, hanging from the gate to the Forbidden City, a giant swastika?”
Pol Pot (6) – The Khmer Rouge leader presided over a genocide that killed well over a million people, many of whom starved to death, but the event never acquired the notoriety of Hitler’s Holocaust—maybe because it was the Vietnamese and not Western forces who toppled the regime? Anyway, fuck Pol Pot.
Andrew Jackson (4) – The guy on the $20 bill is traditionally celebrated in the US—he was a champion of the common people and of giving the right to vote to all (White male) citizens! He had a big block of cheese that he let visitors eat! But he also really liked slavery and advocated Indian removal (the brutal expulsion of native peoples to lands west of the Mississippi River, a policy that amounted to massive ethnic cleansing). After a few decades of revisionist history, Jackson is sufficiently controversial that the Los Angeles Times once ran an opinion piece about him headlined “Hero or American Hitler?”
Osama bin Laden (5) – Much like Hitler, no bogeyman dominated the American public imagination as bin Laden did when he was alive. On the other hand, it wasn’t like anyone was worried the al Qaeda leader was ever going to conquer the US.
In the Dead Person region, Pol Pot makes a strong showing thanks to his brutality and his disregard for human life—few can match that level of evil. Unfortunately for him, Hitler is one of those few, and the Führer handily out-Hitlerled Pol Pot on his way to the Final Four.
LIVING POLITICIAN REGION
Kim Jong-un (1) – North Korea’s glorious leader may not be nearly as powerful as Hitler was in his heyday, but there’s no doubt Kim’s regime has committed (and continues to commit) horrific acts—including, according to a February report from the UN, “extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions and other sexual violence, persecution on political, religious, racial and gender grounds, the forcible transfer of populations, the enforced disappearance of persons, and the inhumane act of knowingly causing prolonged starvation.” No one who hasn’t been brainwashed will shed any tears if Kim meets an end similar to Hitler’s.
Michael Bloomberg (8) – The glorious former mayor of New York City sometimes made decrees like a dictator, but most of them were about banning trans fats and getting people to stop smoking cigarettes—hardly genocidal stuff. That didn’t stop Glenn Beck from depicting Bloomberg making what looked like a Nazi salute. (Beck later claimed that he was actually trying to compare the billionaire to Vladimir Lenin.)
Vladimir Putin (2) – Like Hitler, Putin is an autocrat who threatens neighboring countries; he recently caused an international outcry with his incursion into Crimea. Like Hitler, he’s also fond of using a marginalized group as a scapegoat for his country’s problems (for Putin it’s the homosexuals; for Hitler it was the Jews) and is considered by many to be a serious threat to world peace. So it’s perhaps natural that he’s been compared to the Führer by everyone from Hillary Clinton to protesters in the Czech Republic—but remember, he’s not responsible for the systematic murder of millions, which is a fairly important thing to do if you’re trying to be like Hitler.
Geert Wilders (7) – The right-wing Dutch politician subscribes to a brand of Islamophobia that bleeds over into outright racism pretty easily—during a recent speech in the Hague, he said that voters in the capital of the Netherlands would like a city with “fewer Moroccans.” This led to a politician from an opposing party comparing Wilders to Hitler, and then, predictably, retracting his statement. Wilders may not be as bad as the worst man who ever lived, but there’s no doubt he’s a shithead.
Bashar al Assad (3) – OK, yes, the embattled Syrian ruler has a little mustache and has used nerve gas on his own people—the latter of which prompted Secretary of State John Kerry to compare him to Hitler. But while al Assad is a butcher, he’s not conquering other nations as Hitler was; he can’t even hold his own country (which he inherited from his father) together. Pretty weak for a strongman if you ask me.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (6) – According to Wikileaks cables given to Der Spiegel, US officials once called the then-president of Iran “Hitler,” though it’s unclear what the context was—were the officials seriously condemning Ahmadinejad for his widely publicized view that the Holocaust was a “myth”? Or did the comments have a more sarcastic tone, like: “Pffft? That guy? Major Hitler. I mean, total Hitler.”
George W. Bush (4) – Remember the early 2000s? Staind was really popular, 90s nostalgia hadn’t really kicked in yet, and people on the left occasionally compared Bush to Hitler. You could argue that America’s 43rd president invaded another country just as the Führer did, but then you’d sound rather stupid—and the people who made that argument did the anti-war movement a huge disservice by making it look like it was full of nutjobs who couldn’t tell the difference between a murderous dictator and an American president who was merely really, really bad at his job.
Barack Obama (5) – Of course, Obama has been accused of being like Hitler far more often than Bush ever was—by rich men who hate taxes, by Republicans running for governor of California, by talk radio hosts, by Hank Williams, Jr., and even by GOP presidential hopefuls. That suggests that there’s nothing special about Bush or Obama; we’ve just entered an era in which every president from now on will get compared to Hitler. Cool.
The top three seeds were in control of this region, and the only matchup worth really paying attention to is the showdown between the genocidal but relatively weak Kim Jong-un and the merely empire-minded but powerful Vladimir Putin. In the end, Putin’s annexation of Crimea was enough to give him the victory.
Patch the Dog (1) – The "owner says no one calls him by his real name any more and Patch is starting to obey orders as ‘Adolf’ or ‘Hitler,’” according to an article in the Telegraph.
Hitler Lotion Bottle (8) – This proves the old saying, “Pretty much anything looks like Hitler if you sit around your house eating nothing but magic mushrooms for long enough.”
Kitler the Hitler Kitten (2) – “We rehome five and a half thousand animals every year but we cannot find a loving owner for Kitler. We think her unusual markings [i.e., she looks like Hitler, which is why her name is Kitler] are putting people off.” So says the spokesperson for the shelter that’s home to Kitler, who was quoted in another article in the Telegraph, the UK’s best source for looks-like-Hitler news.
Adolfish the Goldfish (7) – Patches, Kitler, and this fish are all from the UK, which makes sense—thanks to socialism, the British can spend their days sitting around and pointing out animals that look like Hitler until the sun has set and it’s acceptable to start drinking.
Hitler Teapot (3) – "Every time I see that JC Penny billboard with the teapot, I keep seeing Hitler. Seriously, the thing looks exactly like Hitler," says a Southern Californian commuter who would be right at home in the UK.
Hitler House (6) – The homeowner told the press, “I don’t really think it looks like Hitler,” but obviously he has to say that, because if people believe your house looks like Hitler, there go your property values, amirite?
Satan (4) – It’s natural to compare Hitler to Satan—heck, a Vatican exorcist once even said most Nazis were possessed by the devil—but Satan isn’t real while Hitler, sadly, is.
Lord Voldemort (5) – Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling once admitted that “Voldemort is of course a sort of Hitler,” thereby providing a helpful tip to would-be young-adult fiction moguls: Model your villains after history’s greatest monster.
Voldemort defeating Satan is maybe the biggest upset of the entire tournament. But he wasn't going to beat the Hitler Teapot, which—ha ha ha, oh, man, that thing looks just like Hitler. Even the Teapot, however, couldn't Hitler like Patch the Dog, who secretly hates Jews.
Jesus Christ (1) – “[Both Jesus and Hitler] could look you in the eye and have an answer for you. There are very few politicians right now that can look you in the eye and you believe it,” says Glenn Beck, who loves making Hitler comparisons.
A Flight Attendant (8) – Beck is so fond of playing the Hitler card that he once accused an American Airlines attendant of treating him like he was “subhuman,” implying that he (Beck) had been persecuted like the Jews in Hitler’s Europe. :/
Feminists (2) – Remember “Feminazis”? Remember how that was a popular phrase that people said and talked about? Ha ha, politically active women are basically mass murderers. I love the 90s so much, you guys.
You (7) – You’re probably wondering at this point if you’re like Hitler, so to answer your question: Yes, there is an apparently earnest online quiz you can take to see how much you resemble the Führer.
Republicans (3) – When Al Sharpton compared the entire GOP to Hitler in a 2012 soundbite that quickly made the rounds on the conservative blogosphere, it was probably just an attempt to gin up his ratings through controversy—but there are doubtless plenty of people without their own television shows who believe that anyone with a Romney bumper sticker is basically Joseph Goebbels.
Adolf Hitler the Child (6) – In 2012, Adolf Hitler was taken from his parents, a pair of self-proclaimed Nazis who had themselves been victims of child abuse. Adolf’s upbringing was so fucked up that, according to a 2012 court report, the seven-year-old child “frequently threatened to kill people.” It’s odd being put in the position of feeling sorry for Adolf Hitler, isn’t it?
Jay Leno (4) – “Jay Leno, much like Adolf Hitler, is a master of making secret demands for foreign territory and then acting like the wronged party. First he pretended that he wanted to annex only the first half-hour of [Conan] O'Brien's Tonight Show. Here he was mimicking Hitler, who insisted that he merely wanted to annex the German-speaking Sudetenland, not all of Czechoslovakia.” That's Joe Queenan writing about the late-night show wars from a few years ago in the Wall Street Journal, a publication that is sometimes crazy as shit.
Michael Bay (5) – The director “wants to be like Hitler on his sets, and he is. So he's a nightmare to work for," says actress Megan Fox, who has probably never worked with a real genocidal dictator.
There’s a major upset in this region thanks to the weakness of its top seeds. Though he’s essentially nonviolent, Jay Leno’s nearly sociopathic disregard for others in his rise to the top of the late-night-show dog pile was enough to defeat Adolf Hitler the child. As you can see at the bottom of the bracket, it turns out that you, the person reading this, are surprisingly like Hitler.
If you combined them, Patch the Dog, Jay Leno, and Vladimir Putin might make a pretty good approximation of Hitler—Patch has the looks, Putin has the dictatorial authority and world-conquering ambition, and Leno is a world-class dick. But they were no match for the real Adolf Hitler, who was not only insane and genocidal but briefly threatened to actually conquer the world. There can only be one Hitler, thankfully, and it's Hitler.
Full results of the tournament below.