(A review/interview about Daniel Flynn’s new book, A Conservative History of the American Left):
“The Left boasts enthusiasm and energy to spare, but its inability to learn from the past is its fatal flaw. As Flynn explains in the book’s introduction, ‘because of the suspicions of tradition inherent within radicalism, [the Left] largely ignores that past.’ After all, visionaries ‘preoccupied with the triumphal future cannot pause to learn from the mistakes of the past.’
“This refusal to check the rear-view mirror is reflected in the Left’s compulsion for coining extravagant, inapt, and frequently offensive historical analogies: these days, every conservative leader is ‘Hitler’, every war is ‘Vietnam,’ and every petulant protester is the new ‘Rosa Parks.’
“As Flynn points out to devastating effect, the sheer stupidity of such comparisons should, by rights, be enough to cripple them as rhetorical devices; alas, widespread historical illiteracy and an aversion to criticizing ‘protected’ identity groups render healthy mockery almost impossible. Hence these poor analogies metastasize, bringing the level of public discourse down yet another notch. To cite just one of many examples throughout the book:
Gay groups, for instance, were the fiercest defenders of the bathhouses that served as incubators of the [AIDS] virus. … The publisher of New York City’s main gay newspaper, once health officials managed to order the baths closed (a move opposed by all but one San Francisco gay group), castigated a Centers for Disease Control official: “Now that you’ve succeeded in closing down the baths, are you preparing boxcars for relocation?” That the baths themselves so closely paralleled the death camp “showers,” ostensibly hygienic chambers in which victims entered oblivious to the death that awaiting them, seems never to have occurred to the miasmic authors of wildly stretched analogies.