Hank Williams Jr. and Hitler

ESPN has every right to remove Hank Williams, Jr. from the Monday Night Football introduction, but were they right to do so? Hank got in hot water for a quip about a golf “summit” between President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner. He likened it to a golf game between Hitler and Netanyahu, further stating that Obama and Biden were “the enemy.”

Hank has never been the bashful type, a trait I admire when the speaker has something worthwhile to say. Was this statement worthwhile? Oh, Hank probably won’t go down in history with Pericles and Churchill as an orator.¬†Comparing Obama to Hitler is hyperbole, strained hyperbole at that. Yet in that comparison is a grain of truth. Obama is of that cloth from which both fascism and socialism are cut. He reveres the state at the expense of the individual.

People who chafe at the thought of calling Obama a Nazi usually miss the point. It is not universally a sign of racism, though there certainly are those whose criticism of Obama stems from bigotry. Hank’s point, blunt to a fault, is that Barack Obama is the enemy. His steady buildup of an ever-encroaching state runs afoul of the deepest values of millions of Americans. In the robust context of energetic political discourse, that does make him the “enemy.”

Thus it has always been from the Founding until now. Great exception has been taken to Presidents, would-be Presidents, and former Presidents since there were Presidents. We should expect our Chief Executive to get dumped on, no matter who he/she is. Someone, somewhere is not going to like the person in the Oval Office and they are going to say so–usually without being polite about it.

This is really the issue with Hank and Hitler. We have become so childish and thin-skinned that we expect immediate punishment for anyone who offends our petty notions of propriety. I personally think our common discourse leaves a lot to be desired, but I don’t stay awake nights because someone called libertarians nasty names, and I certainly don’t expect them to be spanked by someone else.

With Obama, we have reached a new level of misguided sensitivity. Bereft of competence, he stands as an icon of everything a President should not be. He should be criticized, roundly. He should be taken to task for doing exactly the wrong things for the economy. He should be called on the carpet for his devotion to big government. If the Left and its sponsors get offended, well…they can grow up.

In fact, that is what all of us need to do–grow up. From conservatives fainting when gay couples kiss in public to liberals seeing the Stars and Bars behind every criticism of Obama, the world has become not so much silly as pathetic. We act as if we were born with the right not to endure harsh words from anyone. We expect to live not in a vigorous world in which ideas are exchanged heartily, but in a soft, inoffensive world where our feelings never get hurt and some parent-figure will make it all right for us. ESPN would have been better off to let their viewers do what adults do–form an opinion, argue about it, and then settle down for some football. No one needed their help dealing with Hank.

About Terry Noel

I am an Associate Professor of Management and Quantitative Methods at Illinois State University. My specialty is entrepreneurship.
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1 Response to Hank Williams Jr. and Hitler

  1. Tracy Doyle says:

    What seems to be missed here is that Williams absolutely did *not* compare Obama to hitler – he compared the political difference between Obama and Boehner to the political difference between Hitler and Netanyahu. It’s an analogy, and a less politically volatile analogy might have been to use “Oil and water” rather than “Hitler and Netanyahu.” Would people be screaming to the streets that he was comparing Obama to OIL? This whole issue is nothing but demagogy. I so wish the public could just take a deep breath and ask themselves if what they think they heard is really what was said, and if what was said was exactly what the speaker meant.


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