The Hitler Test
by Butler Shaffer
26 September 2003
In previous years, and on the
first day of class, I have given my new students a ballot,
indicating that "it is time to elect the leader of a great
nation," and offering them two candidates, A and B.
Candidate A is identified as "a well-known critic of government,
this man has been involved in tax protest movements, and
has openly advocated secession, armed rebellion against
the existing national government, and even the overthrow
of that government. He is a known member of a militia group
that was involved in a shoot-out with law enforcement authorities.
He opposes gun control efforts of the present national government,
as well as restrictions on open immigration into this country.
He is a businessman who has earned his fortune from such
businesses as alcohol, tobacco, retailing, and smuggling."
Candidate B is described thusly: "A decorated army war veteran,
this man is an avowed nonsmoker and dedicated public health
advocate. His public health interests include the fostering
of medical research and his dedication to eliminating cancer.
He opposes the use of animals in conducting such research.
He has supported restrictions on the use of asbestos, pesticides,
and radiation, and favors government-determined occupational
health and safety standards, as well as the promotion of
such foods as whole-grain bread and soybeans. He is an advocate
of government gun-control measures. An ardent opponent of
tobacco, he has supported increased restrictions on both
the use of and advertising for tobacco products. Such advertising
restrictions include:  not allowing tobacco use to be
portrayed as harmless or a sign of masculinity;  not
allowing such advertising to be directed to women; 
not drawing attention to the low nicotine content of tobacco
products; and,  limitations as to where such advertisements
may be made. This man is a champion of environmental and
conservationist programs, and believes in the importance
of sending troops into foreign countries in order to maintain
The students are asked to vote, anonymously, for either
of these two candidates. I employ this exercise only every
other year, at most, so that students will not have been
told to expect it. Over the years, the voting results have
given candidate B about 75% of the vote, while candidate
A gets the remaining 25%.
After completing the exercise and tabulating the results,
I inform the students that candidate A is a composite of
the American "founding fathers" (e.g., Sam Adams, John Hancock,
Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, etc.). Candidate B,
on the other hand, is Adolf Hitler, whose advocacy for the
programs named can be found in such works as Robert Proctor's
The Nazi War on Cancer.
In one of my classes a few years ago, we were discussing
the Schechter case, in which the United States Supreme Court
struck down the cornerstone legislation of the "New Deal,"
the National Industrial Recovery Act. I was explaining to
the students how this legislation had transformed American
commerce and industry into a system of business created
by government-enforced cartels. I also pointed out to them
how popular fascist/socialist programs were throughout much
of the world at that time. There was Stalin in the Soviet
Union, Mussolini in Italy, Hitler in Germany, Franco in
Spain, and Roosevelt in the United States. I then informed
my class how Winston Churchill had, in 1938, praised Hitler,
as had such luminaries as Ghandi, Gertrude Stein (who nominated
him for the Nobel Peace Prize), and Henry Ford (who was
pleased to work with the German leader).
One of my students could take it no more. "How can you say
that so many people could support such an evil man as Adolf
Hitler?," she pleaded. "You tell me," I responded, "just
two weeks ago 75% of you in this class voted for him!" Some
twenty seconds of pure silence settled into the classroom
before we moved on to the next case.
A couple days ago, I decided to introduce a new group of
students to this exercise. After they voted (again, anonymously)
I tabulated their votes and discovered that, once again,
Hitler had prevailed, but by a much narrower margin than
in earlier years. In my two classes, Hitler won by a 45-41
combined total of votes (nor did he require the Supreme
Court to validate his victory). His support, in other words,
had fallen from previous averages of 75% to about 52.3%.
One of my students wrote on his/her ballot "leaving ballot
blank, or writing in a socialist candidate if one exist."
At the following class meeting, I read this notation aloud
and told the class that a "socialist candidate" did exist:
candidate B, in the person of Adolf Hitler. The word "Nazi"
was derived from the formal name of Hitler's party: the
National Socialist German Workers' Party. That so many of
Hitler's policies have become the essence of modern "political
correctness," as well as "mainstream" Republocratic platforms,
is a sad reflection on just how far the American culture
has deteriorated in recent decades.
Still, there may be some basis for optimism in this latest
response from these students, who had never had a class
with me before. When close to half of these young people
were more comfortable siding with the kind of men whose
thinking was reflected in the Declaration of Independence,
there may be healthy signs that support for the Bush/Cheney/Ashcroft/Ridge
form of fascist state is starting to wane. Additional evidence
of a diminishing enthusiasm for leviathan can be seen in
the resolutions passed by over one hundred city/town councils
(plus one state legislature) stating their opposition to,
or even refusal to abide by, the Patriot Act!
The lobotomized voices that insist upon passive submission
to authority, may find themselves screeching to a rapidly
depleting audience. They, and their statist overlords, may
be able to count on the continuing complicity of a round-heeled
Congress, but many thoughtful men and women may be peeling
the "love it or leave it" bumper-stickers off their minds
Having had a brief taste of the brown-shirted culture of
the present administration, perhaps enough Americans are
rediscovering the significance of their own history. As
the media lapdogs continue to recite their scripts and slobber
on cue, it may prove to be the case that the "Spirit of
'76," with its love of liberty and distrust of governments,
is still sufficiently engrained in the fabric of our society.
August 22, 2003
Butler Shaffer teaches at the Southwestern University School
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