What a sensitive lot we’ve become. An incautious word can pierce our thin skin all the way to the internal organs.
When that happens, adrenalin begins to pump, our fists pound on the table as if by themselves, we roll on the floor frothing at the mouth and demanding instant restitution.
Steel hooks are embedded into the bottom of every verbal waterway negotiated by public figures, and one has to admire those who manage not to get impaled – while treating with compassion those whose navigation skills let them down.
One of those steel hooks caught White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, who may or may not be a Holocaust denier. And nothing he said leads to the conclusion one way or the other.
Explaining the decision to spank Assad with Tomahawks, he pointed out that even Hitler didn’t use chemical weapons on his own people. What Mr Spicer clearly meant was that Hitler didn’t drop gas shells on his enemies.
I’m sure he’s aware of the Holocaust, some of which was perpetrated with Zyklon B. There’s no reason to believe he either approves of that crime or questions that it occurred. What got him in trouble was a semantic conundrum over what constitutes a weapon.
Even those more linguistically sophisticated than Mr Spicer would be ill-advised to join this argument. For example, some of Hitler’s enemies were garrotted with piano wire. It thus acted as an execution tool, but was it a weapon? Would a plastic bag be a weapon if used to suffocate a victim? Would a pillow?
It could be argued that a weapon is something used in a military, or at least paramilitary, situation, the way Assad used poison gas and Hitler didn’t. Or, if such is our wont, we may wish to expand the meaning of the word to include anything used to kill people: a gas cooker, a pencil, a champagne bottle, you name it.
Mr Spicer clearly hadn’t pondered such subtleties before speaking and perhaps he should have done. But the ensuing outcry is totally out of proportion to the indiscretion. The shrill, gratuitous attacks on Spicer are like imprisoning someone for jaywalking.
Stephen Goldstein of the Anne Frank Centre described Spicer’s slip of the tongue as “the most evil slur upon a group of people” ever uttered by a White House Press Secretary. Mr Goldstein should calm down, have his blood pressure checked and realise that Mr Spicer is no David Irving, and nor did he say anything that should lead one to believe that he is.
All those who, unsatisfied with Mr Spicer’s grovelling apologies, are clamouring for his head should find a different conduit for their righteous indignation. May I suggest Putin’s Chechen stooge Ramzan Kadyrov, who has set up concentration camps for homosexuals, another group treated with Hitler’s Zyklon B?
“Like priest, like parish,” say the Russians, and Kadyrov, installed as Chechnya’s chieftain by Putin, is worthy of his godfather.
He’s a gangster personally implicated in murder, kidnapping and torture. Putin used this Quisling to quell the Chechen rebellion against Russian rule that started more than two centuries ago and has never really abated.
As payment for this service, Kadyrov has received the freedom of not only Chechnya but also of Moscow, where his mafia outshines the local thugs in front of the authorities’ safely shut eyes. By way of reciprocity, Kadyrov provides the odd ‘whacking’ service for his patron, as he evidently did with the murder of the opposition politician Boris Nemtsov.
Now this upstanding individual has decided to emulate Hitler, albeit so far on a smaller scale. At least 100 homosexuals have been rounded up in Chechnya, put in a concentration camp and given a free choice between leaving the republic quickly or dying slowly.
Indecisive souls a bit slow on the uptake are helped along with torture, electric shocks and beatings. Reports say three of them have been beaten to death. The actual number is probably greater.
The detainees aren’t just tortured for the hell of it. Kadyrov’s thugs demand that they reveal the names of other homosexuals, so they too can be beaten or killed. Extortion is a side benefit too, with many homosexuals only surviving by paying protection money every month.
Kadyrov’s thugs are quite advanced technologically, which is what progress is all about. They use social media to seduce homosexuals and then arrest them when they turn up for dates, presumably bearing flowers and chocolates.
Mr Artemiev, Amnesty International spokesman, says that: “The problem is people there cannot talk about it as it puts their lives and those they speak to, in danger. This is the main issue we are facing in Russia and the main challenge.”
But it’s not the main issue for American and our own PC-mad fanatics. For them, Sean Spicer’s crime is far greater.
After all, he’s neither Russian nor Chechen. Those people don’t know any better than turning the whole country into a nuclear-armed criminal gang practising murder and torture in concentration camps – they’re like naughty children.
But Mr Spicer is a grown up who should know not to speak out of turn. He ought to remember that an offence is anything anybody says it is. And punishment may be anything anyone demands.