It's a testament to the intelligence level of liberals that they prefer nursery rhymes to ideas. Whether it's Auden's "Those to whom evil is done, Do Evil in Return" (a verse from a Communist poet partially justifying Hitler's invasion of Poland, that he later disavowed) or "What Would Gandhi Do?" (give up and hope his enemies felt bad while cutting off his head) or the most famous nursery rhyme of them all, "First they came for the Communists."
outside the Cato Institute or maybe its liberal counterpart, the ACLU, sympathizes with sex offenders and terrorists at the same time.)
So it's completely unsurprising that the Ground Zero Mosque defenders have trotted out the "First they came for the Communists" nursery rhyme. Keith Olbermann did it, while suggesting that resisting the Ground Zero Mosque puts us on a path to the Holocaust. Olbermann went on to claim that Muslims in the US were at greater risk of terrorism than non-Muslims (which would be news to the actual recent targets of terrorism, who included soldiers in Fort Hood, airline passengers and anyone walking through Times Square.) And of course Olbermann hung it all on that infamous nursery rhyme and Martin Niemoller.
There are a number of problems with that. First Niemoller is not the author of the nursery rhyme, it's loosely based on some of his statements. Secondly, Niemoller went from being a Nazi sympathizer, to being a Communist sympathizer. That incidentally is the same message implicit in the poem itself. A man who supported Hitler and then supported Communist tyrants, including Ho Chi Minh is a spectacularly bad choice as a moral guide.
Had Niemoller come out of the war with the understanding that supporting totalitarian movements is bad, he might have been passably worth paying attention to. But instead Niemoller switched from sympathizing with Nazism, because he thought it would make for a better world, to sympathizing with Communism, because he thought it would make for a better world. He accepted the Lenin Prize, joined the World Peace Movement, and did what he could to undermine NATO, Europe and the United States.
Niemoller did not actually understand why Nazism was bad. Instead he now knew that Nazism was bad, but he was unable to apply that understanding in any meaningful way. Instead, like so many on the left, he decided that the nearest equivalent to Nazi Germany was the United States, because it was nationalistic, capitalistic and had a large military that killed a lot of people. That brand of moral idiocy led him to dub Truman, "The greatest murderer in the world" and to suggest that "the rich must be smashed in order to build human brotherhood."
The real lesson of Niemoller's story is that he went from being one kind of Nazi to being another kind of Nazi, putting off the red and black, and putting on the red and yellow instead. The common denominator was that both insisted on "One World or No World", which was also the title of Niemoller's book. If Niemoller were alive today, there is little doubt that he would endorse the "First they came for the terrorists" formulation. Which is exactly the point.
Liberals pretended that Communism was the opposite of Nazism. Today they pretend that Islam is the opposite of Nazism. The reality is that accounting for cultural and ideological differences, they are not all that far apart. The common denominator of all of them is a disdain for the individual, and a tyrannical plan to build a better world through mass murder and leader worship.
The poem attributed to Niemoller exemplifies what is wrong with that entire mindset. It begins with an act of historical revisionism, by pretending that the Nazis had come for the Communists first, then the Trade Unionists second, and the Jews third. The implication is that the Trade Unionists were complicit in Nazism because they failed to speak up for the Communists. The Jews were complicit because they had failed to speak up for either the Communists or the Trade Unionists. Niemoller himself is complicit because he failed to speak up for all three.
Meanwhile in the USSR, the Communists had come for the Trade Unionists and the Jews. Niemoller had nothing to say on this subject. Neither do the people who quote the nursery rhyme, because it upsets their narrative. It forces them to deal with the fact that the Communists were perpetrators, rather than victims. What upsets the applecart even more, is the fact that the USSR had actually helped the Nazis destroy German Communists, because it viewed the rise of Hitler as strategically helpful to them.
It was also the Communists who were in the forefront of the anti-war movement in Western countries, after the Hitler-Stalin had been signed. It was they who insisted on no intervention. Niemoller himself became complicit in that same sort of activity when he enlisted in Soviet backed "peace" groups that opposed "American militarism".
Yet didn't the anti-war movement insist on a form of silence. Silence in response to the carving up of Poland. Silence in response to the mass murder of Jews. Silence in response to the Rape of Nanking. Just as they insisted on silence in response to the Soviet Union's oppression and mass murder of millions. Just as they insist on silence in response to the Islamic mass murder and oppression of millions today.
While Olbermann pats himself on the back for not being silent when people criticize the placement of a mosque near Ground Zero, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi talks about investigating those who protest against it. Will Keith Olbermann say anything, such as, "First they came for the patriots." We all know the answer to that. Because patriots aren't on the list. In the lefty codex, patriotism is a gateway drug to Nazism. Speaking out for the rights of thugs and terrorists is moral, but not for one's own country.
Niemoller did not originate this form of perversity, no more than Olbermann did. That is a longtime value on the left, which demanded that people be loyal only to working class and progressive ideals, anything else was to be a capitalist, bourgeois, a nationalist, a jingoist and a fascist-- terms that the left had a way of using interchangeably.
Olbermann's caveats about Ground Zero, the left wing's talking points, are not the issue. Because if the mosque was actually be built in the footprint of one of the towers, is there a single left wing pundit who would not just as enthusiastically shout in support of it? If it was to be physically constructed on the ashes and earth brought back from the Fresh Kills landfill, it would not make a drop of difference to them.
It's happened before already. Freedom of Religion would never enter into it for them, as it doesn't anyway. Their empathy is not moral, it is political. Purely political.
The left has a great deal of respect for mosques, but very little respect for Ground Zero. There is a very simple reason for that. The mosque is transgressive, to them it appears to be a rejection of Western materialism. Ground Zero on the other is an area where two towers of capitalism were destroyed, as a "reaction" to American foreign policy. That is how liberals think. That the World Trade Center's capitalism was part of a system that enabled them to be free, while the mosque represents an Islamic doctrine that would have them be second class citizens, is not an idea they will ever accept.
What the left has never been able to admit, is that they have a long history of both being "Nazis" and of aiding and abetting them. Both the actual Nazis, and an older brand of genocide and leader-worship in the form of Islam. They are the ones remaining silent, as an old evil spreads anew evil spreads across the world. An evil that embodies everything they supposedly hate, yet which they are prepared to defend to their last breath. But like Niemoller, they are in denial about their own principles, beneath their self-righteousness lurks a deeper corruption. Like Niemoller, they are too in love with evil to ever abandon it.