Likening Trump to Hitler: a dangerous comparison
© Getty Images

Most of us have participated in perhaps the most popular time–travel thought experiment in history: if you could go back in time and kill Hitler, would you? While Immanuel Kant, whose categorical imperative averred that people must always be treated as an end and never means to an end, would not have murdered his fellow countryman if he’d been able to time-travel, he’d be in the minority according to two studies conducted last year. A paper published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin showed that 60 percent of men and 55 percent of women were willing to kill Hitler while only 30 percent in a New York Times Twitter survey said they would not kill “Baby Hitler”. Since the majority of us clearly harbor consequentialist predilections, the responses to this thought experiment have become exceedingly relevant considering the incessant comparisons being made between Adolf Hitler and presumptive Republican nominee, Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpHarris bashes Kavanaugh's 'sham' nomination process, calls for his impeachment after sexual misconduct allegation Celebrating 'Hispanic Heritage Month' in the Age of Trump Let's not play Charlie Brown to Iran's Lucy MORE.

In the past six months, long after the aforesaid studies were published, mainstream media (MSM) outlets continue to publish articles with headlines reading ‘Anne Frank's stepsister compares Donald Trump to Adolf Hitler’ (CNN), ‘Sam Altman says Trump is evoking memories of Hitler’ (CNBC), and so on. Many celebrities like Spike Lee say Trump is “like Hitler” while others like Louis C.K. say that Trump “is Hitler”. The current and former president of Mexico have both made the Hitler comparison. The list of those comparing Trump to Hitler will likely grow as the presidential election really begins to heat up this fall, but will any of them (particularly those with the ability to influence millions of minds like celebrities and MSM outlets) pause to consider the implications of such an indictment?


Seeing as how there are currently plenty of individuals who crudely believe it is 1939 in America and that Trump is in fact Hitler, it’s not unreasonable to believe the ubiquity of Trump/Hitler comparisons will help reinforce these distorted beliefs. After all, if Trump truly was Hitler, wouldn’t one be a monster to not try and kill him before he was able to start a world war that killed more than 60 million people while he obstinately endeavored to annihilate an entire religion? To be clear, I’m not a Trump supporter and don’t endorse many of his ideas, but comparing him to Hitler is not only apocryphal, it’s a dangerous comparison with very real consequences. Indeed, just last month a man tried to grab a police officer’s gun at a Trump rally so that he could kill Trump; is anyone surprised by this? According to authorities, the man had planned the assassination for nearly a year while his conviction undoubtedly grew stronger every time he heard others blithely compare Trump to Hitler.

If an individual genuinely believes Trump is Hitler, how is he or she likely to view his supporters? Several MSM outlets recently ran with the story of how Trump rallies appeared unnervingly similar to scenes from Nazi Germany, particularly after Trump asked his supporters to raise their right hand and pledge that they would vote for him. As those in attendance were in the process of raising their hands, pictures were snapped that made it appear as if they were giving the infamous Nazi salute. Thus, it’s unsurprising that Trump supporters (men, women, and even the elderly) were violently attacked after they left a Trump rally in San Jose, California last month. When dozens of Trump protesters cornered a woman wearing a Trump jersey and began spitting on her and pelting her with bottles and eggs, can you guess what they were yelling? “Nazis go home!”

To all of the Trump detractors who rightly claim that words matter and that some of his rhetoric can provoke needless violence and division within our country, I’d like to request that they look in the mirror and ask, “Am I also inciting violence and hatred by dishonestly comparing Trump to Hitler?”

You don’t like Trump? Me either, but let's speak honestly and responsibly. 

Bill Ozanick is currently a graduate student at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, D.C.  He can be followed on Twitter @BillOzanick.