The Republican National Committee today excitedly announced the launch of a new startup lab to bring techies and creatives together, Silicon Valley-style, to get Republicans elected. Oh, and they named it for a Nazi gun, a type of ammo, and a philosophy that puts war before peace.
Welcome to Para Bellum Labs, America! "Para Bellum Labs will help create a culture to allow the RNC to innovate faster and recruit more talented people who can build digital platforms to understand public opinion, engage voters and power elections," RNC Chairman Reince Priebus gushed in a press release this morning. Para Bellum plans to recruit on top engineering school campuses and hold fun hackathons.
The charm offensive all starts with the video above, which makes Para Bellum look like a much cooler place than DeVry Institute to get your associate's degree in IT. "I chose to be a part of Para Bellum Labs because this is something that has never been done before," says new employee Lauren. (By Republicans, no, this has not been done before. Not successfully. But by Democrats, well, um. Yeah.)
The thing about Para Bellum, though, is that name. In Latin, it literally means "(prepare)* for war." That's dumb enough, probably: Hey, idealistic young programmers! Let's save the world by crushing our enemies, seeing them driven before us, and hearing the lamentation of their women.
In fact, it's part of an old Roman cliche, "Si vis pacem, para bellum"—if you seek peace, prepare for war. That's been quite an inspiring little phrase through history, at least to militarists. It was especially inspiring to Deutsche Waffen und Munitionsfabriken, the German government's arms manufacturer from the late imperial era to World War II.
DWM started using the "parabellum" phrase as a name for its signature guns—first, the light machine gun used by the Kaiser's best during World War I, and then its most iconic gun: the Parabellum Pistole, or the Luger pistol. You know, this one:
Gosh, why's that look so familiar? Maybe from the movies:
Yep, Nazi parabellum! The gun was so popular in the Third Reich that its ammunition—one of the first to use a slug that was 9 millimeters in diameter—became known as "9 mm parabellum," which you can find now at your local gun store. Assuming, of course, that Obama and FEMA aren't buying it all up for the upcoming counter-revolution.
All of which begs the question: Republicans, if you could name your new hip millennial programmer lab anything, why'd you settle on a Latin phrase that carries some serious Hitlerite baggage?
Sure, sure, you're trying to separate yourselves from the pack, as new employee Jesse explains in the Para Bellum video: "You could go try to work on the west coast and potentially make a cool app, or you could actually physically change history."
Yeah. But Jesse: You know who else actually physically changed history?
*Update: The RNC has responded to this story, thanks to the inimitable Dave Weigel:
I irritated RNC spokesman Sean Spicer, asking him to respond to the story. He responded with this link to a definition of "gawker."
"Interestingly, a spectator who stares stupidly without intelligent awareness."
Interestingly, Spicer used a definition of "gawker" from Princeton's WordNet, which is sustained by a grant from the National Science Foundation—an agency that Republicans have tried mightily to defund, as writers like Weigel have noted. Next, look up "irony," Sean!