Anthony "Tony" Magestro--or known on the field of battle as Metzge--is an avid writer, gamer, and entrepreneur. When he's not writing, gaming, or entrepreneuring, he enjoys cooking, trippy movies, and trying to be awesome to varying degrees of success. Feel free to check out his LinkedIn page, especially if you need freelance help with content writing or digital marketing. Or just like to network, that's fine too.
In the shitshow that is 2017, of all the things that have surprised me thus far, it’s the controversy surrounding Wolfenstein and its upcoming sequel The New Colossus around killing Nazis. There’s plenty of people on the far-right — some of which are actual Nazis or Neo-Nazis — that don’t take too kindly to the idea of games where players slaughter their ideological kin. That said, I’m all about Wolfenstein and media like it (I’ve watched Inglourious Basterds at least 20 times now) because Nazis, to me, are smoldering pieces of shit that gave up their humanity once they took up a swastika and started goose-stepping around town with tiki torches like it was the 1930s.
But if you’re already warming up to spout a bunch of defensive nonsense on how I’m wrong without actually reading my points, you can save your energy; this post isn’t for you. You’ve already been lost to ignorance, and there’s no amount of logical evidence or emotional appeals to help you find some sort of empathy for your fellow humans. I do encourage intellectual debate (emphasis on intellectual), but I don’t feel there’s much to discuss on the topic of “Nazis are bad” without you trying to be pro-fascist.
More on point, I’d like to discuss specifically the controversy surrounding Wolfenstein and why the concern of killing Nazis is much more profound than… well… killing Nazis. But first, let’s make sure we know some key terms before we begin.
Understanding What Fascism Is
Believe it or not, a Nazi or fascist isn’t synonymous with “someone who disagrees with my political values.” Indeed, here’s a good definition of what fascism is:
“Fascism is a form of radical authoritarian nationalism, characterized by dictatorial power, forcible suppression of opposition, and control of industry and commerce that came to prominence in early 20th-century Europe. The first fascist movements emerged in Italy during World War I before it spread to other European countries. Opposed to liberalism, Marxism, and anarchism, fascism is usually placed on the far-right within the traditional left-right spectrum.”
Nazism, by comparison, is a form of German fascism that “incorporates scientific racism and antisemitism” while subscribing to beliefs such as racial hierarchy and Social Darwinism — that is, that some races and classes are inherently better than others. The term “Nazi” is a contraction of the German term Nationalsozialismus or “national socialism;” for those who don’t speak German, the German pronunciation of National sounds like “nah-tsee-oh-nahl,” hence Nazi.
It’s important to note that national socialism is not the same as democratic socialism. While some might argue that Nazism is actually a far-left ideology, this claim is a better example of horseshoe theory — that is, those on the far-left and far-right are actually more similar to each other than they would be a centrist or moderate. Even as a child, I couldn’t see the difference between communism and fascism given both are authoritarian one-party systems that fuck over the individuals in favor of the government. Moreover, Antifa is another example of horseshoe theory as using physical violence to intimidate others into your way of thinking under the guise of moral superiority is a pretty fascist tactic.
“Well,” you might begin, “Antifa means ‘anti-fascist’ which means if you’re not for Antifa, then you must be for fascism.” I mean… if you use that logic, one must also be against democracy if you aren’t supportive of North Korea’s regime given that the full name of that country is the “Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.”
“JUST BECAUSE IT’S IN THE NAME DOESN’T MEAN IT’S ACTUALLY TRUE,” you might retort, red in the face.
Yeah. I know… that was my point.
What’s important here is not necessarily the violence against fascists in video games that’s a problem. The problem here is how Antifa and the far-left use Nazi as a blanket term to label anyone who opposes them, thus justifying violence against them. Hell, I’ve been called a Nazi before for disagreeing with the far-left, and I’m very much against statism, racism, xenophobia, and other forms of ignorance. And as a gay man who’s had family actually interned in Auschwitz during World War II (they were labeled as religious or political dissidents), I just don’t fit the bill as a fascist.
Moreover, some people on the right who marched on Charlottesville alongside Neo-Nazis and fascists might not have been ones themselves (not that that’s an excuse). But honestly, if you’re too stupid to understand what a swastika is or that “Blood and Soil” is right out of Hitler and Goebel’s playbook… well… maybe you should just shut up, stay inside, and pass sixth-grade history before yelling a bunch of inane bullshit in public.
But in order to understand the anti-intellectualist populists, we must first understand existence at the most basic level: definition of self.
The Importance of Identity
Now identity politics are something I loathe, but that isn’t to say I don’t understand their perceived importance. Stemming from the lizard parts of the human brain, it’s crucial to define who we are in order to find others like us and others who are not like us. For some reason, we’re programmed to befriend those who are similar to us in socioeconomic standing, in appearance, in beliefs, in background, in race and creed… you name it. Sameness = good. Otherness = bad.
Don’t believe me? I can guarantee that those of you who disagree with any of my points are already building up walls and finding ways to delegitimize me beyond what’s on the page. That’s fine; just because we don’t agree doesn’t inherently damage my argument. My points only become invalid when proven to be so through logic, evidence, and thoughtful debate. Getting upset and having a different opinion or viewpoint doesn’t automatically grant you a free pass to correctness. It just means you need to stop and ask why you’re upset and if there’s a good objective reason for it.
It’s that last part though where American society has failed. We have become increasingly unwilling to listen to others with different points of view, reverting to cavemen. To quote the great Bender:
To be clear though, I don’t mean to sound like I’m preaching from my fabulous high horse. I’m often guilty of using labels to describe myself — though namely for the benefit of others. I’m gay. I’m white. I’m a cis-male. I grew up in the American suburbs in an upper-middle-class family. I’m an independent (though I lean libertarian/classical liberal). And regardless of privilege or disadvantage by any of those labels, first and foremost I’m human.
I personally do not give a shit what color a person is, where they come from, which god they pray to (if they choose to do so), how much they make, or who they love. For me, the only stipulation as to whether or not I like you is if you’re an asshole. Everything else is of no consequence to me. Just don’t be a fucking dick. Period.
However, it’s an obsession — nay, an insecurity — of identity that makes the far-left and far-right so similar. It’s that instinctual fear of otherness that makes people crazy and paranoid. It’s how the right blames immigrants simultaneously for taking up all the jobs and also being too lazy to work, soaking up all the welfare. It’s how the left accuses those outside their political and economic spheres as inherent racists or greedy capitalists while failing to acknowledge their own faults and lack of understanding of politics and economics.
I’ve dealt with straight people who treat me differently after finding out I’m gay; I’ve dealt with straight people who treat me the same regardless. I’ve dealt with conservatives and liberals who demonize me for thinking differently; I’ve dealt with conservatives and liberals who appreciate my point of view despite not adopting it themselves. It’s the latter in both examples that exhibit security in self; they realize that just because I’m different doesn’t mean I’m a threat. It’s the former groups then — the ignorant and closed-minded — that try to change who I am to fit their own vision of the world, whether that’s one of a “fascist utopia” or “communist paradise.” Neither of which can exist sustainably. History has proven this time and time again.
Mind you, I’m not saying we ought to sing kumbaya with actual Nazis. They, along with terrorists, religious radicals who poison scripture with hatred, and anyone who uses violence to forward their lopsided ideology, are nothing more than rabid dogs barking the loudest when most of us just want to live in peace. Counting those who didn’t vote, the results of the 2016 Election proves that point:
If “no one” was a candidate, they would’ve won.
Still, I’m not saying don’t be proud of who you are. Just — and say it with me — don’t be a dick about it. There’s a difference between confidence (understanding how capable you are and/or believing in yourself) and arrogance (thinking yourself most capable or that you’re better than all others). Just because your neighbor is proud of who they are isn’t an attack on you. And if they go out of their way to say they’re better or make you feel lesser, nevermind them. As long as they’re not trying to round you up into a concentration camp or assaulting you, they’re not doing you any real harm. If it bothers you, find better neighbors. After a while, once everyone else has left them because of how loud, stupid, and arrogant they are, they’ll eventually get the message. Or not and wither away alone. I don’t know which fate is worse.
Not every opinion that conflicts with yours is a personal attack; not every person who isn’t like you is out to get you. I promise.
That brings us to my last point…
Use Your Noggin
I know, I know. Critically thinking for yourself is much more energy-intensive than being spoonfed opinions by your preferred news outlet or cruising through your Facebook newsfeed reacting solely to post titles instead of the posts themselves. But remember kids: civilization has gotten to where it is based on the use of thought and reason, bringing us from our dark caves into the everlasting glow of handheld devices that connect us to billions of others. A tool that should be used to enrich and bind us to one another has been warped into a weapon used to divide and deceive. Becoming willing sheep that only repeat what your masters tell you doesn’t help much, nor does trying to exterminate those who don’t think exactly as you do.
With that said, it’s crucial to also recognize the paradox of tolerance which states that “unlimited tolerance will lead to the disappearance of tolerance.” So do not feel sorry for killing virtual Nazis or mourn the loss of the fascist Third Reich. Without resistance to such horrific regimes, the world would not enjoy the freedoms and relative peace it does now compared to any other period in history. Strangely enough, despite all the problems of today, we’re still doing better than we were a century ago, and the century before that one, and so on.
But in turn, don’t use Nazism as a crutch to denounce others who are only guilty of disagreeing with you. It is not Nazi-killing in Wolfenstein that’s such a hot topic, but likening reasonable conservatives (yes, such people exist) and damning them to the same plane as xenophobic nationalists who get off to genocide. Granted, Bethesda using Trump’s slogan to back its game is a bit in poor taste if someone was simple enough to say that all Trump supporters were Nazis (some probably are, though plenty of crazy people voted for Hillary too). However, your racist uncle who hates immigrants and rants drunkenly on social media isn’t the same as Heinrich Himmler who orchestrated the deaths of thousands.
Yeah, his rhetoric might be just as disgusting, but physical violence will only turn you into the monster you claim to be so disgusted by. And in case you doubt me, let me introduce you to the Stasi, East Germany’s own leftist version of the SS that violently silenced dissent and turned family members and neighbors against one another in the name of the State and Party. “Well, at least we’re not Nazis” doesn’t absolve these assholes of any guilt either.
Instead, figure out a way to just get your uncle’s stupid ass off the Internet and help him learn not to be such a dick. Hell, if he’s as dumb as those posts lead you to believe, set him up on an isolated intranet or teach him journaling so he can seeth in his own xenophobic filth. Maybe some introspection will do his tormented soul some good. There’s a myriad of diplomatic and innovative approaches where everyone can win without the use of violence. But damn, there’s that call for using actual effort and brainpower again.
As much as I hate talking about politics like this, if the American people — no, if everyone the world over — just calmed down and stopped being such selfish dickbags being offended by every single thing and labeling everyone else who disagrees with them as wrong, I wouldn’t have to bring this shit up. But here I am, wasting valuable gaming time talking about how maybe… just maybe… we ought to be kinder to one another. So don’t call your friends Nazis unless they’re actual Nazis. But if that’s the case, man do you need to find some better people to hang out with.
Normally, here’s where I’d ask for your reactions in the comments below, but as I mentioned, I’m not interested in listening to pro-fascist arguments. Now if you wanna argue with me how it’s okay to label people as Nazis indiscriminately, that opinion’s just batshit crazy enough to get my attention.