The Other "N" Word

      15 Comments on The Other "N" Word

Jeff Morosoff, Special Asst. Professor, Hofstra University

Nazis must need a good PR campaign.  In recent weeks and months, they’ve had their leader’s famed mustache painted on Barack Obama’s image by Tea Party members; GOP tactics have been compared to Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels by Democrat Congressman Steve Cohen; and comic Joan Rivers told a talk show host that Sarah Palin is a Nazi.  A group of religious leaders slammed Glenn Beck for throwing the other “N” word around when talking about public figures; Beck and others often use the terms “Nazi propaganda” and “Hitler-like tactics” to label programs and leaders they don’t like. “Nazi” has become a word of choice for pundits, politicians and performers when they want to express anger or disgust.  They must be trying to make Nazis look bad.

But, seriously, shouldn’t they all slow down and reflect on who the Nazis really were?  National Socialism, born from the warped mind of Adolf Hitler and fashioned into a political movement, was a combination of fascism, racism, and anti-Semitism enforced by deadly tactics.  Its belief in an Aryan master race ultimately led to the Holocaust: the massacre of six million Jews, plus another 2 to 3 million Europeans, disabled persons, homosexuals, and other “undesirables.”  The Nazi regime conducted what was, undoubtedly, the most horrific era of oppression and mass murder in the history of the world.

Using provocative words to make a point is a time-honored tradition among PR professionals, the media and politicians alike.  But, noted the Examiner’s Michael Stahl, “the terms ‘Nazi’ and ‘Fascist’ have become so pervasive, and so ill-defined, that they serve no longer any real purpose other than simple pejorative sling-stones.”  So shouldn’t today’s communicators stop comparing anyone or anything to the Nazis and their heinous founder?  Throwing this particular “N” word around is careless, foul and inaccurate, to say the least.  It’s not a good way to communicate.  Your thoughts?

15 thoughts on “The Other "N" Word

  1. Charlsie

    I completely agree with you, and very much with Chelsea. For as long as I can remember I have been obsessed with war time propaganda posters, I think that the artists were extremely talented and it showed how important EVERY American was to the war effort, but that is another story.

    I think the word, like most words throughout a span of time, the meaning of the word Nazi got warped and twisted. The word does get thrown around a lot, and I don’t think anyone who we are suppose to respect and empower to lead our country should be compared to a Nazi.

  2. Ben Thompson-Star

    I respectfully beg to differ. While I agree that today’s use and at times overuse of referencing Nazism and Hitler often do not confer with underlying associated principles, I do believe that the emotional and overall symbolic affect justify their reference. Nazism should be remembered negatively. While it is also true that the Nazis actions carried out a tragic campaign of mass genocide the worst case of human genocide occurred in the Democratic Republic of Congo where King Leopold II of Belgium effectively ordered the death of 10 million people. This is a commonly unknown fact and the reason is that it had a much lesser effect on American people than did the events in the Congo. Nazism holds incredible symbolic negativity because of it’s relevance to us. Continued reference not only helps to remind people of it’s terror but provides an apt synonym for wrongdoing, and corrupt government (If used sparingly, and appropriately).

    1. jmorosoff Post author

      You make very cogent points, Ben. But for me, (for example), equating President Obama with Hitler by drawing a mustache oh his image or comparing American liberalism with Nazism is just out of whack. There is no comparison and it doesn’t belong in the political discourse. Just my opinion, of course. 🙂

  3. Briana DeLuca

    Public Relations practitioners should never use defamatory words to make a point in their own interest. The Nazis participated in horrific acts, which everyone should remember. As the word is out of context and not factual in this case, it is disgusting that they would label any politician in this way. The ethical and responsible choice is to never use hurtful and emotionally charged words to scare people into believing others. This political conversation is an example of unethical practices that unfortunately occur in the public relations world, which should be a focus for future practitioners.

  4. Paul Chauvin

    Using words like “Nazi” and other emotionally-charged phrases against opponents, both political and in every day life, hinders communication by taking the focus off the issue or meaning and resorting to name-calling to distract the other person, instead of exchanging ideas.

    Besides the fact that this practice is hurtful to those affected by the word choice, in this case those hurt by the Nazis, if the purpose of communicating is to reach a common ground then this tactic prevents that by creating a one-way conversation and excluding those who don’t want to deal with those emotionally-charged phrases.

  5. artur

    Honestly i am slightly disgusted by these people’s choice of words. What the nazi did during their reign of terror defines them as a group of people. Ive heard from countless different sources online about how Obama is using Hitler and Goebelles tactics to gain the votes of the youth primarily. The truth is the comparison is a not far from the truth. Obama used the youth to drive his campaign and his Pr team did a great job of selling the propaganda to the american public. But he didnt kill anyone in the process nor did he make an attempt to restructure the entire nation to fit his ideologies. Granted i agree that the over use of the word nazi is meant to arouse emotions from those watching. It is PR after all and all those in the field know that sometimes we do use certain words to get a certain reaction. But the word nazi carries such a historical depressing memory behind it that people should be a little more sensitive to its use. Glenn Beck is just too extreme sometimes.

  6. Caitlin Brown

    All week I’ve been trying to figure out exactly how I’d like to address this post. While using the term “Nazi” in every day speech certainly negates the historical context behind the word, it does convey a range of emotions in the peoples who hear the word spoken.
    When I first read this, my immediate thought went back to the first few seasons of Grey’s Anatomy. One of the doctors on the show, Bailey, is an African-American woman who was nicknamed “The Nazi,” mostly for being a hard-ass. The nickname conjured up fear amongst the other characters, simply based on reputation and the connontation the word “Nazi” holds.
    Glenn Beck throws around emotionally charged words left and right; it’s how he gets the attention of others. Is this good practice for PR people? Not if you care about your reputation.

  7. jmorosoff Post author

    As Chelsea said, our job is to get a reaction. We use words and images to do that. It’s also our job to do it responsibly and skillfully, tactics that are missing in the examples I cited and too many others.

  8. Chelsea Rae Simmons

    To be completely honest, I think reporters, pundits, comedians, and politicians care less about the actual meaning of words and more about the emotions they raise. The job of these people and of public relations, for that matter, is to get a reaction, and throwing a Nazi reference into a debate, speech, etc. certainly does so. Whether or not the actions and people likened to the Nazis are as extreme as the Holocaust is a completely different story, but I firmly believe people in the public eye know exactly what they’re doing when they use, as you say, “the other N word”.

  9. Kelly Cefai

    It is crazy to think about words such as “Nazi,” “Gay” and other misused terms that have come into our everyday language without many of us realizing what we are saying and who the words are being said to and offending. I do not believe it is a good way to communicate especially when you are in a high public eye because this is a big way that these terms become “popular” to use. The American language has so many different words that can be used with the same meaning, however we tend to take nationalities, race, religion, status to describe everything. When you think about it, I don’t even know why we do it.

  10. Julie Wiener

    Nazi is definitely not a word for someone to just casually throw around, especially for a public figure. They may have their own thoughts and opinions on people, but there are always better ways to state your mind than calling someone such a harsh and inaccurate term. I bet they got an earful from their PR people.

  11. Jill Archibald

    After reading this my first thought was that not all politicians are great communicators. Should they be exceptional communicators? Of course. Governors, senators, and even presidents have been defined by their speaking techniques, or their word blunders. When it comes to the word “Nazi” obviously it shouldn’t be used with the same frequency as “like” or “um”, but it’s a trend. Just like Joe the Plumber.

  12. Alanna Garone

    I completely agree that using that word carelessly is inaccurate. If it is used inappropriately, the credibility of the person who used it is decreased. It is offensive and disrespectful to all the people who were negatively affected by the Holocaust to use that word lightly and out of context. This is a good example of how powerful communication is. One word implies so many things and when used wrongly, creates great controversy.

  13. Victoria Frary

    I had honestly never thought about how commonplace the word “Nazi” had become, but this was interesting. I think that while using provocative words is common place in the entertainment/news/PR world, many people don’t stop to think about what words mean and this is a perfect example. I think that there are so many other words out there that people could use to describe government programs that they don’t like or people that they disagree with that it’s time to retire the word “Nazi” unless you’re teaching a high school history class.

  14. Cait Scungio

    Although I believe that being provocative and controversial causes attention, throwing hurtful words around is not in anyone’s best interest. Using the terms “Nazi” and “Fascist” out of context is not only wrong but cruel. The Nazi regime did horrific things and today’s news commentator and communicators should not throw the word around.


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