But what I was trying to point out, is that some people are incapable of achieving compleat personhood. These humans are sometimes called psychopaths, and at least one of them was in the nazi party. And I have reviewed my internet diagnoses of Hitler and conclude that he was an absolute monster.
I'm saying he was a human being - not a shining example of humanity, to put it mildly, but part of the human race, and any time you resort to "but he was just a psychopath" you lose the ability to understand how he built a widely-supported movement that allowed him to take control of a large and powerful country. Otherwise, the next one comes along, and we reassure ourselves that they aren't a total psychopath, they can't be that bad...
(Of course, I'm sure plenty of genuine psychopaths were attracted to and part of the Nazi party, but they hardly made up the whole of it - and that's rather the point.)
Do you disagree?
I think that 1) diagnosing people with mental illness over the internet (especially the dead type) is always a losing game and 2) from what I know of Hitler, he was many things (charismatic, obsessed, not a very good artist), but I’ve never heard anyone seriously proposing he had a specific mental disorder. And even if he did, that disorder wouldn’t have caused what he did.
Do you think every person in Rwanda who took part in the genocide there, as a perpetrator or abettor, was “not complete” as a human? They were actually hacking people to death with machetes, not just ordering deaths - and there were rather more than one of them. The nasty secret about humanity is that we don’t need mental illness to explain the awful things we do. In some circumstances, they come pretty naturally. That’s why it’s so important to remember how, and why – otherwise we stumble into it all over again. Genocide isn’t a twentieth-century invention. The twentieth century is just when we bothered to come up with a name for it.
Portraying the Nazis as anything other than fully human seems to be an attempt to absolve ourselves of the possibility of such evil, and that, to me, is far more dangerous than any multimillionaire owning a book that creeps people out.
The one WWII-related museum I visited in Germany - the exhibit associated with the rally grounds in Nuremberg - was designed to explain exactly how the Nazis had become popular and widely-supported in Germany over the course of the 1930s, and that had progressed into WWII and the Holocaust. It was thorough and interesting and pretty hard to deal with, but it never lost sight of the fact that ordinary people had enabled and accepted what the Nazis became.
In the process, they’re being diluted and turned into something fantastic (as in, a group of non-human fantasy creatures), by being turned into zombies, magicians, space aliens, etc.
I have been fascinated by the way that genre fiction over the last decade has come to the universal agreement that the Nazis were not just bad humans but literally demonic in some way, or at least trying to conjure some up. (C.f.: Hellboy, Charles Stross, Ben Aaronovitch...) It's almost medieval in the way it resorts to supernatural evil to explain human horror. And it's probably only possible, as you say, because most people who dealt with them as human beings doing evil to other human beings are dead, or very old. They're retreating into myth, in a weird way.
It’s like the people who wander around saying that the Waffen-SS were, you know and after all, excellent professional soldiers etc. Sure, fine, whatevers, weird military historiography’s not my bag etc, but it’s also pretty damn suspicious.
Absent other evidence I find this sort of attitude less suspicious and more evidence of contrarianism above all else - "The rest of you just aren't capable of putting your emotional responses aside and judging them on their merits!", etc. People, find something else to be more-discerning-than-thou fanboys about, kthx?
I dislike this whole thing of confusing someone’s (admittedly extreme) collecting tastes, and deciding that this is somehow worthy of public or political note.
I don't think this should have been muckracked into the public sphere in the way it was, but now it *has*, it's going to get discussed. But in my opinion it isn't (and shouldn't) be a dealbreaker for his political participation in this country, although it will probably lose (and gain) him a few votes here and there.
He’s also clearly an A-grade mischief maker – he just loves to throw a jolt into the squares (like teenage boys do). He’s made an entire lifestyle and career out of it.
That should be fine to have an opinion huh?
I am pretty confident that it’s OK for me to hold opinions, yes, weirdly enough. I don’t think that my opinions are reasons for real-world consequences, however – people are entitled to collect these books* and there’s no reason they shouldn’t be. But I find it weird and creepy and I’m also entitled to do so.
*Again: the weird and creepy bit for me is the autograph, although if someone made a habit of collecting works by genocidal dictators in general, and wasn't making an academic study of them (or possibly even if they were) I would find that creepy, yep.
So what about his Churchill and Stalin books?
I'd pretty much feel the same way about an autographed book by Stalin, for the record. Or Pol Pot, etc, etc.
Admittedly, they are likely to be unripe, which perhaps puts them on the other side of the culinary fruit–vegetable divide.
Yeah, it's not quite the same thing as sultanas or ripe banana - different flavour profile entirely.
But huge material harm flowed from each of those. What material harm comes of Dotcom owning a rare, if clearly controversial, book?
No material harm comes from investing in companies that have stopped doing the harmful things – the spill has happened, the subprime mortgages are largely no longer offered – but you’re still investing in a company that has value partially because of actions they took that led to that harm, and the book has value because of, well, Hitler. It might not be technically unethical but at best, from my point of view, it’s utterly tasteless. That doesn’t mean it should be illegal – but like I said, any time you have to explicitly deny you agree with the Nazis…
(Note: for me, it’s not the fact he owns Mein Kampf, it’s a historical text, whatever; it’s the autographed copy bit that crosses whatever line there is to cross for an individual book.)