Comparing things to Hitler is the national pastime on the internet. If someone doesn’t like something, you can be sure they’ll find a way to rope Hitler into the conversation. “You know who else forced people to wear masks?” these people shout, knowing that once they invoke Hitler, everyone else is on the defensive. It’s called Godwin’s Law, an informal internet rule that states the longer a conversation goes on, the greater the likelihood of Hitler getting involved. It’s not always bad — we should be on the lookout for fascist behavior of all stripes, for sure — but the more tenuous the connection, the less helpful the comparison. And reader, Skillet’s Jon Cooper has drawn a tenuous connection.
On his video podcast Cooper Stuff, the Christian rock band frontman went off on American culture in general and last Sunday’s Grammy Awards in particular, Godwin Lawing the whole affair with a frankly bizarre analogy to Nazi Germany. “If you go back and you read some of Hitler’s speeches, he’s, like, ‘I’m gonna set people free — free from the bondage of the Ten Commandments,'” Cooper says, as noted by Consequence of Sound. “In his mind, he’s a liberator. It’s always like that, you guys. All you do is you just redefine evil and you redefine good. That’s what’s happening right now on the Grammys.”
OK, let’s back up. The source of Cooper’s ire here appears to be two unconnected things: Megan Thee Stallion and Cardi B’s performance of “WAP” and the Dr. Seuss estate’s decision to stop publishing a handful of Seuss’ works. He said that this is an example of “calling good evil and evil good,” as Isaiah puts it, since six Dr. Seuss books have been pulled from public view while the Grammy performance, which you’re undoubtedly aware of, was not. Here’s how he puts it.
“We’re living in a world right now where there are certain Dr. Seuss books that you cannot sell on eBay. They are just too much for anybody to even be allowed to buy; they’re being yanked down from all the bookstores and stuff like that. It’s just too much; it’s too evil. … But you can, and must, applaud the sexual degradation of Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion simulating sex together on the Grammys. This is the perfect example. You must celebrate it. In fact, if you don’t celebrate it, then you’re actually a bad person, and you kind of, like, don’t love people. You’re actually not nice.”
You can watch the whole video here.
It’s telling that Cooper yada yada‘s the Dr. Seuss situation but finds precise language to describe his problem with Cardi and Megan. If he really wants to draw this analogy, he should be able to explicitly state the relevant issues with both examples. The reason Dr. Seuss’ books were delisted on eBay was because of imagery and language that was deemed racist. One of the more egregious examples was a racist stereotype of an Asian man in If I Ran the Zoo — a subject of enormous and tragic consequence right now.
Does Cooper think that Seuss’ estate was wrong to pull the books from publication? Does he think Cardi and Megan should have been censored more and Dr. Seuss censored less? Should racist caricatures be under less scrutiny than salacious stage performances? Cooper doesn’t say either way but by glossing over the real issue with Dr. Seuss while explicitly describing the Grammy performance, he can paint the former as cancel culture gone out of control instead of one company’s decision to stop profiting off of racist imagery.
This is all taking Cooper’s argument on its own terms, which assumes that the Recording Academy’s broadcasting decisions and Dr. Seuss Enterprises’ publishing strategy fall into any sort of morally and even practically comparable playing field.
So the argument is already spurious even before we get to Hitler setting people free “from the bondage of the Ten Commandments.” It’s true that some extremist Protestant theologians in Germany proposed rewriting the Bible to remove the Old Testament and Pauline epistles because of their “Jewish authorship,” but that was part of an attempt to isolate Christianity from any Jewish connection, driven by deranged antisemitism. Untold numbers Black people were persecuted, imprisoned, sterilized and even executed in Nazi Germany, so saying that Hitler’s goals are happening “right now at the Grammys” is an offensive stretch on several fronts.
Every year, at least one awards show contains at least one performance that seems designed to get some people shrieking about sexualization in media, bad words in pop music, the children and so on. It’s tradition. Sometimes, the outrage has a genuine moral core. Other times, it’s just reactionary tut-tutting. Christians should be wise enough to parse know which is which, lest we — as Isaiah warns — start mistaking good for evil. But inciting moral panic by dragging Hitler into a conversation about Dr. Seuss, Cardi B, Megan Thee Stallion and the Grammys brings confusion instead of clarity and paranoia instead of peace. There’s a way to talk about this stuff with reason and wisdom. It’s important that we do so. And generally speaking, that cause is not helped by bringing Hitler into it.