To conclude my "home-school trilogy," following up on lessons I've learned from America's best days and Europe's storied history, I have some thoughts to share on the most-talked-about figure in modern world history -- Adolf Hitler -- and how he achieved and has maintained that level of historical notoriety, even 75 years after his death.
It's not just that he did monstrous things. Our world has no shortage of monsters.
Mao Zedong and Joseph Stalin killed more people than Hitler. Leopold II of Belgium killed 10 million people -- and you've probably never heard of him.
The difference actually has a lot to do with PR.
Or more precisely, the first public relations art: rhetoric.
The original PR practitioners were rhetoricians. The sophists of ancient Greece were thinker-philosophers who taught noblemen seeking public office the art of persuasion through rhetoric.
From the beginning, rhetoric (which simply means the art of persuasive speaking or writing) has been viewed with suspicion. The sophists were mercilessly criticized by Socrates, and the result is the word "sophistry," meaning the use of fallacious arguments to deceive.
The nature of Hitler's rise and fall uniquely lends itself to sophistry, as is evident in all manner of public discourse today. As attorney Mike Godwin asserted in what became known as "Godwin's Law": "As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Hitler approaches."
I've been tracking Hitler comparisons online off and on in the media for the past decade. Following are just a small portion of the folks who've been compared to Hitler by various commentators, along with relevant links. There's something about seeing the full list at once that demonstrates just how ridiculous the use of Hitler as a rhetorical tool has become.
- U.S. President Donald Trump
- Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg
- Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness
- Flint, Mich., City Council President Monica Galloway
- The kid in "EuroTrip"
- First Lady Michelle Obama
- Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi
- Hallandale Beach, Fla. Mayor Keith London
- Auckland, NZ, Mayor Phil Goff
- South African politician Julius Malema
- Movie director Michael Bay
- Conservative talk host Glenn Beck
- Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders
- Pope Benedict XVI
- German politician Björn Höcke
- Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
- Terrorist Osama bin Laden
- Concordia University Business Professor Hodai Hemami Shahla
- U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
- Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer
- U.S. President George W. Bush
- U.S. President Jimmy Carter
- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez
- Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro
- Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro
- U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney
- Ugandan Dictator Idi Amin
- U.S. President Bill Clinton
- Naturalist Charles Darwin
- Syrian Dictator Bashar Al-Assad
- Animator Walt Disney
- King Leopold II of Belgium
- Chinese President Jiang Zemin
- Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
- Climate activist Greta Thunberg
- Conservative writer Dinesh D'Souza
- Filipino kleptocrat Ferdinand Marcos
- Filipino strongman Rodrigo Duterte
- Poker champion Annie Duke
- White supremacist Richard Spencer
- Equatoguinean President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo
- Halloween celebrant Bryant Goldbach
- North Korean Dictator Kim Jong-Sung
- North Korean Dictator Kim Jong-il
- North Korean Dictator Kim Jong-un
- Nobel Peace Prize winner Al Gore
- Roman Emperor Nero
- Iraqi Dictator Saddam Hussein
- Christian Messiah Jesus
- Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones
- Parkland shooting survivor David Hogg
- U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy
- U.S. President Abraham Lincoln
- Entertainment Software Association founder Doug Lowenstein
- Financier Bernie Madoff
- Murderer Charles Manson
- Conservative Christian activist Ginny Maziarka
- U.S. Senator John McCain
- U.S. Defense Secretary Robert McNamara
- German Chancellor Angela Merkel
- PETA president Ingrid Newkirk
- U.S. President Richard Nixon
- U.S. President Barack Obama
- U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi
- Italian comedian and politician Beppe Grillo
- Russian Dictator Vladimir Putin
- Rhodesia and Rhodes Scholarship founder Cecil Rhodes
- Zimbabwean Dictator Robert Mugabe
- University of Michigan football coach Rich Rodriguez
- U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt
- U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld
- Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger
- Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
- Roman Catholic nun Mother Teresa
- Slain abortion doctor George Tiller
- Leonardo the Cat
Have you found one to add to the list? Share it in comments.