Social media was abuzz after an Alberta MLA quoted a quote from a Global News article. The MLA in question, Mr. Grant Hunter, deleted the tweet within an hour and re-posted the article without comment. The article, written by Bob Layton, quoted Werner Von Braun, a scientist largely credited with helping to launch NASA’s space program but who also happened to be a Nazi.
A number of commentators jumped on the fact that Hunter posted the quote. Hunter doesn’t exactly have a clean slate on making good decisions with his analogies. He deleted the tweet, however, likely after someone drew his attention to Von Braun’s other historical contributions. So let’s leave it at that.
Bob Layton, according to the “Staff Personalities” profile on the Global News website is a journalist of 47 years, has received four awards and is the news manager of the Corus Group of Edmonton Radio Stations. Layton was born during World War II and, “(a)s an infant, (he) and his family spent a considerable amount of time in a trench in their garden during air raids” before moving to Canada. The relevance of that should be obvious.
We are seeing an unprecedented increase in harmful rhetoric creeping into our everyday vocabulary. We have political leaders erecting billboards decrying “mass immigration”. We have “thought leaders” blaming feminism for women’s success. And we have people going out of their way to defend “that guy” who made immense contributions to a science program as if his leadership in the Nazi Party somehow doesn’t matter.
Don’t get me wrong; out of the torture and exploitation of hundreds of thousands of human beings came incredible knowledge in the fields of medicine and psychology as well. We have benefited in our first worlds because of atrocious treatment of Holocaust victims. You don’t see many people today refusing life-saving treatment because the medical knowledge came from inexplicably cruel treatment of our fellow humans. We should all know that history and pay it the reverence it deserves.
What we should not do, ever, is gloss over that history with a haphazard reference. We should never find ourselves in the position of saying “yes, he was a Nazi, but…”.
If you find yourself in need of a good quote, and you don’t know the author, spend the 0.002 seconds it takes to ask Google. And when you do, if you can’t bring yourself to include “former Nazi“, perhaps you should just find another quote. One should be able to expect a Google search as a minimum from a regional news manager with 47 years of experience.
This post contains a lot more fact than opinion.
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