Sunday, May 28, 2006

Unnecessary and uncivil hyperbole

Yesterday, I criticized Greg Travis for not recognizing the realities of county government and the world in which county government must operate. But his error goes farther than support for foolish budgetary policy. In his editorial Travis scraped the bottom of the barrel:

There are those who still obstinately insist that both “peak oil” and anthropogenic climate change are leftist plots against American exceptionalism -- but their numbers are dwindling even as they’re increasingly being viewed by the rest of us, in the reality-based community, as little more than the intellectual heirs of Holocaust revisionists.

It is almost universally accepted that somewhere around six million Jews lost their lives in the Holocaust. (The professor who taught class I took at Indiana University in the fall of 1996 estimated the total was closer to seven million.) The Nazi regime in Germany systematically hoarded Jews into concentration camps, and murdered them as the Warmecht took over Europe. Few people in the West will go through their lives without see the pictures of the naked bodies piled high or rescued prisoners completely emaciated by starvation.

Holocaust revisionists attempt to downplay the crimes of the Nazi regime. Many of these people are Nazi sympathizers, supporters of one of the most evil governments in human history. In Europe, people have actually gone to prison for denying the Holocaust. Holocaust revisionists/deniers are generally held in contempt.

For Greg Travis to lump those who disagree with him in with sympathizers of the Nazi regime is well beyond the bounds of civil discourse. Such an unnecessarily inflammatory attack on the character and reputation of political opponents should be shunned by both political parties and especially by elected officials.

During the 2004 campaign season, the Democratic candidates for County Council (including Greg Travis' wife, Sophia Travis) took a "clean campaign" pledge that included the following points:

  • "Candidates will not engage in personal attacks on their opponents, and shall promptly and publicly repudiate any such attacks made on their behalf by supporters or interest groups.
  • "Candidates will consider this pledge as binding on their campaign staff and supporters as well as themselves, and will take responsibility for any actions by staff and supporters that are inconsistent with this pledge."

Given that Greg Travis made this personal attack in a column supporting his wife's vote on county budgetary policy, Sophia Travis should promptly and publicly repudiate her husband's uncivil remarks. If Warren Henegar, Michael Woods and Sophia Travis take their 2004 pledge seriously, there is no reason it should be limited to three months in 2004. A true commitment to civility in political discourse goes beyond the months leading up to the election.

Putting climate change or "peak oil" on the same level as the Holocaust is the height of disrespect for Holocaust victims and survivors. The Holocaust was a crime against humanity and an example of how evil man can be. Greg Travis should publicly apologize to Holocaust survivors and those who lost lives ones in the Nazi genocide for minimizing their suffering.