How Many Pinocchios Should Glenn Kessler Get?
By David Henderson
If you read the Washington Post regularly, you’re probably familiar with Glenn Kessler, the Post‘s official fact checker. Kessler analyzes various statements and claims to determine whether they are true. If he finds them false, he awards them Pinocchios, with the number of Pinocchios depending on the degree of falsehood. The highest number of Pinocchios he awards is 4.
On May 29, Glenn Kessler earned his own Pinocchios. At issue was a statement that Rep. Marjorie Taylor-Greene (R-GA) made at an America First rally in Georgia on May 27. Here’s what he quoted:
You know, Nazis were the National Socialist Party. Just like the Democrats are now a national socialist party.
Now Kessler would have been on good grounds had he challenged her second statement. The Democrats are nationalists to some degree, although probably somewhat less than Republicans and way less than the Nazis. They’re also socialists to some degree, more so than Republicans, but way less so than the Nazis.
But that’s not the route Kessler took. Instead he challenged her first statement. Under a section titled “The Facts,” Kessler writes:
The full name of Hitler’s party was Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei. In English, that translates to National Socialist German Workers’ Party. But it was not a socialist party; it was a right-wing, ultranationalist party dedicated to racial purity, territorial expansion and anti-Semitism — and total political control.
His first 2 sentences are fine; 0 Pinocchios. But the first clause of his last sentence is false. They really were a socialist party. They were also, as Kessler says, ultranationalist and dedicated to racial purity, territorial expansion, and anti-Semitism. They also wanted total political control. None of that contradicts the claim that they were socialist. Stalin was dedicated to territorial expansion and many of the leading Soviets were also anti-Semitic. Stalin also wanted total political control and achieved more of it than Hitler did. Stalin was also a socialist. Would Kessler say that Stalin was not a socialist? If so, I think we would need to award him 5 Pinocchios.
Kessler attempts to buttress his case by listing the first 8 of 25 planks in the 1920 Nazi Party platform. Those planks do help his case that the Nazis were anti-Semitic (duh) and nationalists (ditto duh). But what about the other 17 planks? Kessler doesn’t list them but instead quotes Ronald Granieri’s analysis of them.
Space is cheap on the web so I will quote the remaining 17:
9. All citizens must have equal rights and obligations.
10. The first obligation of every citizen must be to work both spiritually and physically. The activity of individuals is not to counteract the interests of the universality, but must have its result within the framework of the whole for the benefit of all Consequently we demand:
11. Abolition of unearned (work and labour) incomes. Breaking of rent-slavery.
12. In consideration of the monstrous sacrifice in property and blood that each war demands of the people personal enrichment through a war must be designated as a crime against the people. Therefore we demand the total confiscation of all war profits.
13. We demand the nationalization of all (previous) associated industries (trusts).
14. We demand a division of profits of all heavy industries.
15. We demand an expansion on a large scale of old age welfare.
16. We demand the creation of a healthy middle class and its conservation, immediate communalization of the great warehouses and their being leased at low cost to small firms, the utmost consideration of all small firms in contracts with the State, county or municipality.
17. We demand a land reform suitable to our needs, provision of a law for the free expropriation of land for the purposes of public utility, abolition of taxes on land and prevention of all speculation in land.
18. We demand struggle without consideration against those whose activity is injurious to the general interest. Common national criminals, usurers, Schieber and so forth are to be punished with death, without consideration of confession or race.
19. We demand substitution of a German common law in place of the Roman Law serving a materialistic world-order.
20. The state is to be responsible for a fundamental reconstruction of our whole national education program, to enable every capable and industrious German to obtain higher education and subsequently introduction into leading positions. The plans of instruction of all educational institutions are to conform with the experiences of practical life. The comprehension of the concept of the State must be striven for by the school [Staatsbuergerkunde] as early as the beginning of understanding. We demand the education at the expense of the State of outstanding intellectually gifted children of poor parents without consideration of position or profession.
21. The State is to care for the elevating national health by protecting the mother and child, by outlawing child-labor, by the encouragement of physical fitness, by means of the legal establishment of a gymnastic and sport obligation, by the utmost support of all organizations concerned with the physical instruction of the young.
22. We demand abolition of the mercenary troops and formation of a national army.
23. We demand legal opposition to known lies and their promulgation through the press. In order to enable the provision of a German press, we demand, that: a. All writers and employees of the newspapers appearing in the German language be members of the race: b. Non-German newspapers be required to have the express permission of the State to be published. They may not be printed in the German language: c. Non-Germans are forbidden by law any financial interest in German publications, or any influence on them, and as punishment for violations the closing of such a publication as well as the immediate expulsion from the Reich of the non-German concerned. Publications which are counter to the general good are to be forbidden. We demand legal prosecution of artistic and literary forms which exert a destructive influence on our national life, and the closure of organizations opposing the above made demands.
24. We demand freedom of religion for all religious denominations within the state so long as they do not endanger its existence or oppose the moral senses of the Germanic race. The Party as such advocates the standpoint of a positive Christianity without binding itself confessionally to any one denomination. It combats the Jewish-materialistic spirit within and around us, and is convinced that a lasting recovery of our nation can only succeed from within on the framework: common utility precedes individual utility.
25. For the execution of all of this we demand the formation of a strong central power in the Reich. Unlimited authority of the central parliament over the whole Reich and its organizations in general. The forming of state and profession chambers for the execution of the laws made by the Reich within the various states of the confederation. The leaders of the Party promise, if necessary by sacrificing their own lives, to support by the execution of the points set forth above without consideration.
Planks 13, 14, and 17 seem pretty socialistic.
Finally, Kessler tries to make his case by quoting the famous quote by Lutheran pastor Martin Niemoller. He does it by quoting the version used at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. It goes:
First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
The words, says Kessler, “provide a flavor of what the Nazis thought about socialists.”
There are 2 things to note, though. First, the way I had always heard it and seen it written, the first line is:
First they came for the C0mmunists, and I did not speak out–because I was not a Communist.
Which is right? The major expert on this is UC Santa Barbara history professor Harold Marcuse. (Is that name familiar? He’s the grandson of Herbert Marcuse.) According to Harold Marcuse, “In the narrative versions directly traceable to Niemöller he always started with ‘the Communists.'” (bold in original)
Second, you know who else “came for the Communists” or at least some of the Communists and many of the socialists? Joseph Stalin. Does that mean that Stalin was not a socialist?
Finally, Kessler’s methodology proves too much. Hitler came for (murdered) Ernst Rohm and many top officials in Rohm’s SA on the night of the long knives. They were Nazis. If Kessler were to apply his methodology consistently, he would have to conclude that Hitler was not a Nazi. That makes zero sense. That’s the problem with Kessler’s methodology.
The Nazis really were nationalists and socialists. So Glenn Kessler deserves some Pinocchios. How many does he deserve?