Anyone who isn’t politically demented or arguing in bad faith might pause before concluding from that snippet that French is actually a closeted Nazi sympathizer.
After all, French never has advocated for Lebensraum for the German people, for the ethnic cleansing of Jews, or for any other policy position uniquely associated with the National Socialist German Workers Party.
Far more likely, the quoted words above from French were presented radically out of context. But by French’s own standards, this is sufficient proof to smear him.
We say this because last week French jumped on board one of the most brain-dead outrage cycles of 2023—the effort to smear Moms for Liberty, a parental rights group, as hateful fascists.
The smear job began when the far-left Southern Poverty Law Center added Moms for Liberty and other parental rights groups such as Parents Defending Education to its “hate map” alongside groups including the Ku Klux Klan—a gross libel that garnered condemnation in a congressional resolution.
The smear went viral after one of Moms for Liberty’s 300 chapters sent an email containing this pull quote: “He alone, who OWNS the youth, GAINS the future.”
Given that Moms for Liberty’s cri de coeur is “We do not co-parent with the government,” any thoughtful individual would recognize that this quote was not a mission statement, but rather a warning about the danger of educational indoctrination. This was made all the more clear by the historical figure credited with the quote: Adolf Hitler.
“Gasp! They quoted Hitler! That proves they’re basically Nazis!”
That was about the level of argumentative sophistication evinced by Twitter leftists, corporate journalists, and, finally, a New York Times columnist.
Ideally, we all would stop using Nazi analogies unless we’re talking about genocide, ethnic cleansing, or industrialized crimes against humanity. As Jonathan Tobin wrote at the Jewish News Syndicate in a piece defending Moms for Liberty, the idea that “progressives are following a Hitler-type game plan is a mistake and itself inappropriate, no matter how wrong or dangerous their efforts may be.”
Moms for Liberty acknowledged as much in an apology, noting: “Parents are passionate about protecting future generations from tyranny, but Hitler did not need to be quoted to make that point.”
Given that most members of Moms for Liberty are political neophytes, not seasoned public affairs operatives, that should have been that. Instead, dishonest journalists used the moms’ apology against them, insisting that it was evidence they knew they had endorsed, rather than inaptly condemned, Hitler.
After weeks of being pummeled in the media, Moms for Liberty co-founder Tiffany Justice addressed the issue in a speech at the organization’s annual summit. That gathering in Philadelphia featured prominent Jewish thinkers such as Dennis Prager and Rabbi Yaakov Menken of the Coalition for Jewish Values—as well as extra security due to all the death threats the group received in the wake of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s smear.
A viral clip showed Justice saying, “One of our moms in a newsletter quoted Hitler. I stand with that mom.”
Never mind that immediately afterward, Justice went on to say: “No one, no one thought she was quoting Hitler. No one. That’s a lie. I don’t believe them. … I still think we’ll win them over. … I feel that in my heart.”
The Moms for Liberty leader added: “But to stand with the communists, to stand with Hitler, to stand with that—that’s not who we are. And we know that. So, they’re going to come for you. They’re going to say stuff. They’re going to be in your face.”
Of course, none of that context made it into the clip shared by French and others.
Justice clearly was defending a member who obviously had been unfairly smeared, and she in turn was unfairly smeared for it. Her point was that the smears will come, and that moms must stand bold despite the attacks from partisan hacks.
When we teach students about the Holocaust, we always say “Never Forget.” But there is something almost as bad as—or perhaps even worse than—forgetting.
And that’s taking Nazi Germany’s systematic slaughter of 6 million Jews (and its responsibility for the deaths of around 80 million others) and leveraging it as a cudgel to bash your political opponents based on whatever random excuse the news cycle provides.
Ironically, in the podcast cited above, French was arguing that we need to understand the full context before labeling people as Nazis.
After a Stanford University student faced academic discipline based on a picture of her reading Hitler’s “Mein Kampf,” which is assigned in at least one Stanford course, French advised against rushing to judgment:
There are a lot of academic reasons to study and read Mein Kampf. To understand authoritarianism, to understand fascism, just to understand the history of the rise of Nazi Germany. I mean, there are countless reasons to read the book that have nothing to do with saying, ‘I like Hitler.’
Yet French’s statements can—without doctoring a word—be made to appear as though he were endorsing Hitler.
Indeed, that’s what French—and a host of journalists and Twitterati—did to Moms for Liberty.
It is morally repugnant to take statements out of context to smear political adversaries as Nazis. But for too many American opinion-makers, this sick strategy is simply par for the course.
This piece originally appeared in The Daily Signal