For Nuxoll comment, historical context really does matter


Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Oklahoma, has released a report on wasteful government spending and Idaho projects are cited three times among the Top 100.

A story in many newspapers this week contained the headline “Idaho state senator compares Holocaust to health exchange.” The story goes on to describe how Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll, R-Cottonwood, said that insurance companies were like “the Jews boarding the trains to concentration camps.”

But like a lot of newspaper articles, it lacks the historical context needed to understand what the commentator, in this case, Nuxoll, was saying. Context is important, and is an opportunity for news organizations to educate, rather than inflame. Lacking context, the article is great at the latter.

In 1940, Germany defeated and occupied France. German forces gave full power to a puppet regime led by Marshal Philppe Pétain. This was called the “Vichy Government,” named for the government’s administrative headquarters of Vichy, located southeast of Paris. The Vichy Government actively collaborated with the Nazis. Defenders of this collaboration policy contended that it helped keep the Nazi regime at bay. This myth of resistance to German policies continued in France’s popular culture up until the 1970s. That’s when historians and filmmakers took a closer look at Vichy France and concluded that the opposite was true: the Vichy Government, and indeed, the French people collaborated to a point that they met and exceeded Nazi demands.

Historians offer differing reasons for the collaboration and the extent. In his 1972 book on the Vichy Government, historian Robert Paxton concludes that collaboration was not something that the Nazis imposed on France, but rather that France itself put in place.

Historian Stanley Hoffmann notes there were several reasons for this. For starters, some French denizens believed that Germany would win the war, and France would be better positioned if it embraced German rule. Others concluded that a content Germany would keep that foreign force out of France’s domestic affairs. Some observe that the French population felt it was spared total German occupation. Indeed, there were also opportunists, who viewed the Vichy Government as ripe for a certain level of profiteering or political positioning.

However, historians do agree on one thing: The Vichy Government was directly responsible for the oppression and deaths of thousands of Jews, even though, in the Vichy regime’s formative early years, the German government, otherwise focusing its energies on war with Britain and Russia, “preferred to leave the Vichy authorities as much as possible the expense and bother for administration,” write World War II historians. The Vichy Government gave the Nazis what it wanted—and in spades.

The French government confiscated property, restricted movements and interned Jews in special camps. In 1942, the French government, aided by the Nazis, conducted “arrests, internments and deportations to Aushwitz in Poland with increasing frequency, often with the direct complicity of the French government and administration. Ultimately, close to seventy-six thousand Jews left France in cattle cars … of these Jews only about 3 percent returned at the end of the war,” according to a 1982 book on the Vichy government and its impact on Jews.

In the context of today’s discussion, some states and businesses, including the insurance industry, contend they can “keep the federal government at bay” by putting in place the things that the federal government want, namely a health insurance exchange. That’s the parallel that Nuxoll may have been trying to draw.

Comments

comments

11 Comments

  1. fortboise

    A brave effort to distill meaning out of Nuxoll’s ignorance, as expressed in an analogy that beggars the description “poorly chosen.” Sadly, your charming history lesson does not actually amount to “historical context” that can redeem the good Senator’s gob-smacking comparison between the Holocaust and the business fortunes of health insurance companies.

  2. Kim Day

    The context was obvious. Nuxoll compared one of the most horrific events of the 20th century to helping people not be bankrupted by medical expenses. The true context is Godwin’s Law, which states that political discussions will eventually devolve to the point where Hitler or Nazism will be used.

    It is the refuge of idiots, of morons whose entire picture of history is painted by one event, normally through addiction to the History Channel and little if any true reading.

    You, helping to explain away this idiocy, simply contribute to it.

  3. James Gatz

    Stop trying to defend the indefensible, Hoffman, you sycophantic boot-licker.

    You know what is like the unlawful detainment, imprisonment, torture, and murder of millions of people by a fascist government?

    The Holocaust. End of list.

  4. sevs

    People being told to buy health insurance is not the same as being forced onto a train and then choked to death with chemicals or shot to death with a machine gun.

    If people buy insurance in the great state of Idaho. They aren’t going to end up dying to chemical weapons or bullets.

  5. Offended

    To compare any of the issues surrounding health care to the Holocaust shows complete ignorance and a desire by Sen. Nuxoll to sound educated and compassionate when all she wants is to push her own political viewpoint. Such trivializing of the real impact and roots of the Holocaust cannot be justified. Hatred is hatred and murder was murder. The attempt by the newspaper staff to “collaborate” with the Senator to remove some of the stain on her reputation is pathetic and shameful.

  6. JC

    I’m not sure exactly why the Vichy government’s collusion with the Nazis has anything to do with Sen. Nuxoll’s analogy but I think it can be said that her comments were ignorant and have no historical basis to compare insurance companies to Jews being transported to certain death. “Holocaust” gets so bandied about these days that it’s meaning and significance have become watered-down to the point where anyone can use it to buttress their point of view however incorrect it may be.

  7. Jennn

    Nuxoll at no point mentioned Vichy, France, or any other “interesting” “contextual” fact you try to proffer in your article. Stop defending stupidity and do your job as a journalist – TELL THE TRUTH. She wasn’t referencing Vichy, she probably has never even heard of it, and you know that; so why even try the claim “That’s the parallel that Nuxoll may have been trying to draw”. I’m sure (based on your writing, and knowledge of history) that you are a very intelligent person, as a result your final sentence seems pandering. I don’t even believe you believe that, so why are you trying to sell it to your reader?

  8. Stevie A

    I was pretty upset that this article was written as an attempt to “explain” what Nuxoll meant by referring to the Holocaust. Because you know, health care proposals are unjust. You know what else is unjust? The Holocaust. Good thing we have the asshats at Idahoreporter.com to point that out for us.

    But reading the comments makes me happy people are not stupid enough to buy this pathetic attempt at “news.”

  9. Glen Scott Swearingen

    FR FEB 8, 2013 In today’s Lewiston Morning Tribune, Marty Trivialhasse makes fun of a Senator for making a Holocaust analogy. In the same opinion section, Chris Carlson calls Raul Labrador, “A darling of the Tea Party types (those to the right of Attila the Hun).” Inconsistency is the worst kind of stupid.

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