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Hitler vs. Coulter, part 1

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Hitler vs. Coulter quiz . Matt Yglesius comments:

Their rhetoric does have a lot of similar themes — namely that liberals are evil and hell-bent on betraying the country — but you really can tell them apart. For one thing, they have distinctive attitudes toward the question of the bourgeoisie. For Hitler, liberals are bourgeois (Hitler was, it’s worth recalling, using liberal in the broader, European sense) and that’s part of the problem. Coulter, by contrast, sees liberals as assaulting bourgeois values that she’s defending.

Their prose is also rather different. Hitler is much more loquacious — longer, more complicated sentences and bigger words. He was primarily an orator, and wrote like one even when composing his book and so forth. One needs to understand that he came from a time when listening to public speeches was a primary form of entertainment in a world that lacked electronic media. He got his start in politics shortly after the end of World War One when higher-ups in the German Army were looking for talented orators to give morale-boosting speeches to the troops in order to keep the military together and the Communists down during the peace negotiations. Radio, obviously, became key to his political strategy but radio was so potentially mesmerizing during that time (for FDR as much as for Mussolini or Hitler) precisely because the audience was still conditioned to provide rapt attention to live speakers as a passtime.

Coulter, by contrast, is a much more contemporary figure — a product of the cable television, sound-bite era. Even in her books, she seems to have in the back of her mind the idea that if you talk for more than 90 seconds straight the host will cut your off. It’s a different world and lends itself to a different sort of polemicist.

For the record, I missed 7 of the quotes. Although I did not study the sentences too closely, the differences were not immediately apparent to me. (For one thing, Coulter’s sentences are culled from books, so Matt’s point about soundbytes doesn’t really apply). I’m not sure that rhetoric has changed so much over the decades; both still have to grab your attention and use overstatement to make their points. I’m not encouraging anyone to take lessons from these people, but effusive rhetoric can impress a gullible listener regardless of the year.

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