The N word. The references crop up a lot; in recent times, they can come from just about anywhere.
It’s not the N word that might have first sprung to mind for you. Rather than the ugly racist slur, it’s the N word that raised its terrifying head in Germany in the 1930s … Nazi. That particular N word is a horrifying mix of fascist and racist, and which provides maximum offence.
Two recent and public examples of the use of the N word gave many of us reason to pause.
First Pope Francis compared Nicaragua’s repression of Catholics to Adolf Hitler’s rule in Germany.
Then, last week in Britain, a prominent former football star and BBC sportscaster likened Britain’s asylum policy to 1930s Germany. I’m not sure what sanction, if any, Pope Francis received, but former England captain Gary Linekar was suspended while the BBC scrambled its way around impartiality details in employee contracts.
Invoking Hitler and Nazi Germany can revive an all-too-familiar and unwelcome line of argument.
There has been plenty of debate in New Zealand about hate speech. There have been political moves to update our laws on such issues. It’s a minefield, tiptoeing around the perceived difference separating free speech and offensive discourse, but it’s a journey we must take.
We must be aware of and stand up to discrimination, hate speech and human rights abuses at home and around the world.
It’s impossible to keep track of all the wrongs going on at any one time, but we shouldn’t wave the whiter flag either just because it gets a bit tough to keep on top of said wrongdoings.
In Nicaragua, where religious leaders have been arrested, the response to the comments made by Pope Francis was to propose suspending Vatican ties.
Around the same time, Lineker tweeted that Britain’s proposed asylum policy was “immeasurably cruel” and included language “not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the 30s”.
Strong words indeed, but I can’t help but feel that the comparison might trivialise the atrocities committed by the Nazis. I have genuine doubts that Linekar has looked very deeply into the German immigration laws of the 1930s.
Nazi references online come up so often that the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington has crafted a standard response when asked about such references.
“Nazism represented a singular evil that resulted in the murder of six million Jews and the persecution and deaths of millions of others for racial and political reasons. Comparing contemporary situations to Nazism is not only offensive to its victims, but it is also inaccurate and misrepresents both Holocaust history and the present.”
Nazi references can be outlandish. The man, formerly known as Kanye West, who years ago complained of being looked at “like he was Hitler,” declared in 2022 that there were “good things about Hitler”. What a plonker.
Even worse than outlandish is the downright devious words of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who listed “denazification” of Ukraine as one of the main goals of his “special military operation,” more than a year ago, alleging that there were Nazis in Ukraine’s leadership.
Well I have an N word for him … numpty. And naff off.