April 25, 2014

"White House Youth" & the Dangers of Historical Illiteracy

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By: Amy Lutz

All I want for Christmas is a little historical literacy for my fellow Millennials. Perhaps the White House could use a bit as well? Exhibit A:

Now, to thinking-folk, this just screams “DANGER.” It’s creepy, borderline cultish, and not to mention completely ignorant of the historical connotations of the phrase “White House Youth.” Those of us with a 6th grade understanding of history will feel a little bit uneasy, to say the least, at the similarities the phrase holds with “Hitler Youth.” Yeah. That.

Is it possible that the social media staff at the White House is truly ignorant of the historical connotations of that loaded phrase? Perhaps. Considering the historical illiteracy among today’s college students (and tomorrow’s workforce), it’s not a stretch.

The more likely option, is this, however: The White House just doesn’t care. There are few, if any, strong-willed and independently minded journalists who will make mention of this hashtag and there are a limited number of people who stumble across #WHYouth who will even understand the historical connotations. Hitler Youth, what?
Any attempt from those on the right to criticize the creepiness of the hashtag will undoubtedly result in an accusation of breaking Godwin’s Law. Sure, we’re not actually comparing the White House to the Third Reich; we’re only making a passing mention of the creeping collectivism inherent in the media campaign. However, that’s irrelevant. In this 30 second news cycle world, few will pay enough attention to understand the right’s denouncements. Making even a quip about the “Hitler Youth,” will deem us crazy, extreme.

And that’s why it’s inherently brilliant, perhaps accidentally, born from the quick-thinking keystroke of an ignorant White House intern, but brilliant nonetheless. The White House is depending upon the lapdog media’s compliance with their creepy media campaigns, and the American public’s ever-growing ignorance of history. That should terrify us. We, the American people and the media tasked to bring the darker aspects of government into the light of day, are supposed to be a check upon an overreaching government, one bent on extinguishing the spark of individualism.

This begs the question, if they can “get away” with the use of such a loaded phrase as “White House Youth,” what else can they get away with? Perhaps passing a pork-laden bill in the middle of the night, outlining the structure of an immense government program despite the protests of economists, business owners and others who predicted it to fail long before it actually went into effect?

Oh wait.

While the oft-quipped Burke phrase about those “doomed to repeat history” is true, Winston Churchill put it better: “Study history, study history. In history lies all the secrets of statecraft.”

A lack of historical knowledge is not only bad when the high school report card comes around. It allows those in power, under the noses of the ignorant and uninformed, to march quickly down the dangerous path of collectivism with only but a few quiet cries of opposition.

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"White House Youth" & the Dangers of Historical Illiteracy

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