So what’s your take on ‘gestapo tactics’?

I happened to be watching CNN yesterday and saw this exchange between host Wolf Blitzer and Katrina Pierson, Trump spokeswoman (annoyingly dubbed “spox” by the media). Various sources later characterized this exchange as Pierson’s stubborn refusal to condemn the use of the word “gestapo” in the phrase “gestapo tactics.” At the time, I saw it as Blitzer’s stubborn refusal to drop a question that meant a lot to him personally but was of no particular importance to the audience. I felt that, to a ridiculous degree, he let his personal feelings completely outweigh his role as a supposedly objective journalist. Normally I can’t stand Pierson, but I think she responded appropriately in this case.

My son and I discussed it at some length and were in agreement that “gestapo (lowercase G) tactics” is a commonly used phrase that most people understand to mean intimidating or brutal tactics, and that it is equivalent to saying “Gestapo-like tactics.”  In various internet forums, however, a number of people agree with Blitzer that the mere use of the word “gestapo” is unacceptable and offensive.

So in your opinion, what’s going on here? Did Blitzer, the son of Holocaust survivors, let his personal feelings take over? Is the word “gestapo” as verboten as the N-word? Was Pierson being evasive or was she responding appropriately? Does the G-word belong on my list of offensive, forbidden, never-to-be-uttered-aloud words?

 



Categories: language, Media, video content

24 replies

  1. First time ever for me agreeing with a Trump apologist. I think Blitzer is introducing an uncommon connotation on the use of “Gestapo tactics.” American usage in my understanding of it, would equate the term with “strong arm tactics,” not the horrific Nazi prosecution of Jews, which is what Ms. Spox said repeatedly.

    • I agree. I’ve never thought anyone was consciously invoking the Nazis when they used the term, but maybe I’ve just led a very sheltered life. Wouldn’t be the first time it’s tripped me up.

  2. Thank You for asking me my take on this topic,so here it is…The word or phrase “strong arm tactic” is an American term and has a definition of its own. The word “Gestapo” is a German word that has its own definition. The words we choose to use do matter,and these two words are light years apart in definition…in my own opinion. Trump may not be liked,but he is no Hitler.
    It seems like people in general have no regard for words,their proper definition and where and how they originated. If this issue were not in the National Political Spotlight or on National TV,News and Radio it wouldn’t be such a big deal.
    Will the rest of the world understand the point that is trying to be made? Who knows,take a poll.America loves to do that,then spin it in the direction you want it to go and see where it leads. The word “Gestapo” DOES NOT belong on the list of forbidden,never to be-uttered-aloud words. It should be heard in the right context,so it NEVER happens again. Thank You For Your Ear. V/R John

  3. I am fed up with “news” that isn’t news and the warping of messages toward a certain view.
    This is all getting like elementary school with the name calling and subtle coloring of interviews with known emotionally charged words. And all the stupid polls (cohorts are critical – those who have actually done legitimate research know what’s going on now is all a sham)
    Too many people who claim to be adults playing tattle tail and feeling proud about it. Too many people seeking and looking for a reason to be offended.
    I’m with John the Cook on the importance of vocabulary and using it appropriately – not for desired emotional response towards a certain view.
    But then again, look at the US educational system for the past 26 years. No wonder so many are swayed by shallow persuasive techniques and social media….and what was once actual “news of neutral facts, we’ll let you, the audience decide how to feel about it.” (faded into the distant mists, that)

    • I keep forgetting that journalists are no longer trained or instructed to be objective. “Objective” is boring. Advocacy journalism is the “in” thing. And cable news has become a moneymaking entertainment business. Objective news is of secondary importance.

      What I don’t know offhand and would have to look up is whether the Trump aide intentionally chose the phrase “gestapo tactics” in an effort to offend and provoke an emotional response or whether it was used simply as a synonym for intimidating, strong-arm tactics.

  4. This seems to me to be a case of a Jewish man twisting history to suit his hatred. The Gestapo had “bigger things” to do and left the extermination of the Jews, and those millions that the Nazis considered racially inferior, to lesser individuals. Eichmann was responsible to Heydrick.

    The Gestapo was run by Himmler they were two separate organizations

    The Gestapo were to Hitler what the Secret Service is to POTUS, and they got their kicks out of torturing and executing British and allied spies among other things, not that the US SS and the Nazi SS have anything in common. 🙂

  5. Using the term ‘Gestapo’ seems to be a similar tactic to calling Climate Change Skeptics ‘deniers’.

    • Sorry, Margie. I don’t understand the analogy. Maybe I’m just getting tired.

      • Then perhaps my analogy is completely off base!
        Climate Change activists are demanding punishment for those they call “deniers,” consciously linking them to being equivalent to those who deny the Holocaust.

        • Oh, now I see. Well, I don’t have much use for either group as I think both are being willfully ignorant, denying/ignoring reality to suit their own agendas. But I don’t think any punishment is in order for either. And I don’t think using the term “gestapo tactics” amounts to a denial of the Holocaust or anything llike that. Most people are well aware it happened, and using an adjective that has evolved from 70 years ago doesn’t equate to calling someone a Gestapo soldier.

  6. Using Trump’s campaign definition of “gestapo-like tactics”, I wouldn’t be surprised if Trump campaign thinks that Blitzer’s questioning of Pierson also counts as “gestapo-like tactics”.

  7. The Trump campaign is nothing, if not hyper-hyberbolic. And wait until it moves to warp speed.

    The orthodox Jews in NYC have strong ties with many in the religious evangelical right who strongly support Israel politically, as well as economically via Holy Land Tourism.

    Suggesting the Cruz campaign is capable of using Gestapo tactics leads any conversation when a Christian leader approaches the orthodox community for the support of the junior Senator’s run. Voter suppression, or a Kasich vote helps Trump in district voting. And the Gestapo kerfuffle helps schism Cruz’s tentative born again supporters. ( Tentative.. due to rumors Ted may be a pentecostal)

    And the Spox gave up the pox when she dead-paned… where we’re you Wolf when the Donald was being fingered as the Fuehrer. Going all Gestapo on Ted helps inoculate further comparisons to a CEO’s tendency to address it all as an Authoritarian. That hammer seeing all as a nail thing.

    All that said, I side with Blitzer. Gestapo evokes a far different feel for garnering political power than the hardcore days of the Daley Machine, or even the apex of Boss Tweed and Tammany Hall. The Third Reich tactics at acquiring and exercising power should not be so minimized and misperceived as equal in anyway to a third rate POTUS run by a first term U.S. Senator.

    And I could probably get about six million plus souls to agree with me.

    (Not counting the many millions more combatants.)

    Regards,
    Doug

    • I’m guessing warp speed comes at the convention when they don’t give Trump the nomination on the first ballot. Dunno how much more of him I can take.

      As for Blitzer, I think he made his point the first couple of times he asked the question. I’m all for journalists pressing for answers when the interviewee is being evasive. But after about the third time, he started looking a bit ridiculous. She’d answered the question adequately and obviously wasn’t going to let him put words in her mouth. As much as I dislike her, I think she handled this well.

  8. Gestapo is a useful and meaningful word to me. It comes from the German, “Geheime Staatspolizei”, meaning secret state police, so I agree with most commenters here that it was misused in this case. Personally, it is no more offensive to me than is the word, “communist”, although I must admit that individual words do carry emotive baggage, depending on one’s education. Hmm. I wonder if most young people understand the history behind the word?

    • I can’t speak for young people per se, but my son and I discussed it at some length and both think “gestapo” has evolved into a lowercase, generic adjective or noun like “communist.” A good parallel, I think. Thanks for mentioning it.

  9. “Gestapo” is a proper name. Merriam-Webster presently are claiming it means “a secret-police organization employing underhanded and terrorist methods against persons suspected of disloyalty”

    My name is Robert. If the word gestapo is ever offensive, then the first name on my birth certificate is an affront in perpetuity.

    -Robert Clyde Cox ;-)=

  10. Pied… It’s rational, thoughtful discussions like this that keep me interested.

"Opinion is the medium between knowledge and ignorance." ~ Plato

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