Ben Stein compares environmentalists to Hitler

May 19, 2005, midnight | By Nick Falgout | 15 years, 8 months ago

Nein, Stein

The recent passing of the sixtieth anniversary of the Holocaust on May 5 triggered a memory of something that Ben Stein - tycoon, former host of "Win Ben Stein's Money" and Blair class of '62 Chips editor-in-chief and graduate - said at American University last August, and that I watched on a C-SPAN DVD entitled "Can America Survive?" a couple of months ago. What Stein said, amid a myriad of other typically rich and Republican things to say (i.e. America is the greatest nation in existence, giving breaks to the wealthy does in fact help the rest of us, etc.), was that he did not like environmentalists. I'll re-phrase: Stein intimated that he despised environmentalists. He implied that environmentalists are the root of everything that is wrong with our society, that they may eventually even cause its downfall. What Stein did was to compare environmentalists to Hitler.

Let us consider. Your average environmentalist is vitally concerned with preserving the natural environment and ecosystem surrounding him or herself so that the human race might proliferate and not fry beneath our own ozone. Your average Nazi, on the other hand, is vitally concerned with oppressing the free will of the populace and/or killing millions of innocent people.

I'm… not seeing the connection.

Perhaps Mr. Stein, who proved as elusive for a simple phone interview as he is opinionated, was alluding to a certain perceived bullying by environmentalists. Perhaps, in his esteemed opinion, environmentalists push their agenda too strongly. The word Mr. Stein would likely use in a situation like this would be "force;" that environmentalists are "forcing" their agenda on the American public. To which I say: bullpoop (it makes good fertilizer, but can cause dangerous/disgusting run-off and water contamination problems). Who here's driven in rush hour traffic lately? How many of you can't count high enough to tally the number of gas-guzzling SUVs, Hummers, and other such craft blocking your view of just about everything? And how many of you can count, on one or even zero hands, the number of hybrid-electric cars that environmentalists have "forced" upon the American public? Take a glance at the American legislative branch: What's the most recent environmentally themed piece of legislation you can think of? Is it… the extremely flawed EPA emissions regulation act that won't even go into effect until 2010? Or is it maybe the bill okaying drilling for oil in the Alaskan wilderness?

Yeah. Real fascist and controlling, those environmentalists. Good thing we have people to compare them to Hitler and keep them in check.

But the most outrageous part, the more and more that I think about it, is the way that it was phrased. "The most ardent environmentalist of the twentieth century was Adolf Hitler," said Stein. It's just so… flippant. So… dismissive. As if that's all there is to be said. As if Adolf Hitler wasn't the most horrible example of pure, unadulterated evil ever to be allowed to act upon his demented visions. As if the man's greatest offense was protecting some forests and not plotting the death of nearly half of the human race and the domination of the entire planet. Nobody, not a single person, has come close on the evil scale to Adolf Hitler, and when you take into account that Stein compared the man to a group concerned with actually saving the world's natural resources, it borders on blasphemy.

When I think of environmentalists, I think of presidents who passed the Clean Air and Water Acts, who founded the EPA and called for the creation of national parks. I think of groups organizing efforts to recycle what we use and limit the use of toxins that get harm and even kill our citizens. I do not think, and would never have thought, of Hitler. It is very troubling to me that Ben Stein, a man who graduated from the very same school as I will in a week, did.

For those still skeptical, here's a verbatim transcript:

"Environmentalism is a wonderful movement in moderation and used in the context of a free society. Let's not forget that environmentalism, or any movement that tells people how to behave for some abstract good, is dangerous. The most ardent environmentalist of the twentieth century was Adolf Hitler, a strict vegetarian, strict strict strict anti-smoker, strictly committed to defending and protecting the forests of the Reich. Dangerous guy. Environmentalists are all not all wonderful sweet nice guys. We have to remember that people who order you around and tell you you're not allowed to do things in order to protect this goal they have that you might not be able to see, those are dangerous people."

And to think: Stein was the graduation speaker in 1998. Hopefully, we'll scratch his name off the list from now on.

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