By: Willem Nesbitt
Each of this week’s readings all touch on the common themes of fascism and populism in our contemporary society, but a clear opposing duo emerges from Peter Gordon’s and Samuel Moyn’s articles. The two articles clearly stand opposed in view even at the phrasing of their titles, but what I found most interesting were the common opinions that the authors held. Despite their various disagreements on the topic of comparisons between Trumpism and fascism, Gordon and Moyn’s discussions do align occasionally, most prominently when discussing the idea that the use of certain terms or comparisons can result in their diminishment and meaning. Gordon, on the topic of the Holocaust Memorial Museum’s stance on the equation between Nazi concentration camps and American detention centers, believes that the museum officials “harbor the fear that the Holocaust will become little more than a polemical weapon in ideological contests between left and right,” and Moyn similarly believes that “Comparison is always a risky tool; it leads to blindness, not just insight.” For all the disagreement between the articles, the instances where the authors do agree on certain elements reveals that there is a thin line that must be tread when using a historical event as an analogy or comparison for a moment in the modern day.
These two readings reveal themselves to be an interconnected and intrinsically linked duo that tread common ground, at times in disagreement, and other times in a most interesting harmony. Given that Moyn’s article seems to be an almost direct reply to Gordon’s (especially through Moyn’s mimicking of Gordon’s Apples and Oranges theme), I am left wondering if Gordon has since read Moyn’s opposing stance, and how exactly he would feel towards it. There is certainly more of a conversation to be had between these two opposing camps one year on from the publishing of these articles, particularly with the ongoing death throes of Trump’s presidency.
Gordon, Peter E. “Why Historical Analogy Matters.” The New York Review of Books, January 7, 2020.
Moyn, Samuel. “The Trouble with Comparisons.” The New York Review of Books, May 19, 2020.