Frequent readers of National Review Online's The Corner might have stumbled over this odd foreign word in contributor Michael Walsh's column about Chief Justice John Roberts: Dolchstoss, which Walsh uses to refer to Roberts' ruling that the Affordable Care Act is constitutional. Literally translated, Dolchstoss means something like "dagger-thrust," but, like so many other words, this one has a particularly interesting valence. Let's take a look at Kevin Baker's 2006 Harper's article "Stabbed in the back! The past and future of a right-wing myth," shall we?
The word dolchstoss — "dagger thrust" — had been popularized... in Wagner's Götterdämmerung. After swallowing a potion that causes him to reveal a shocking truth, the invincible Teutonic hero, Siegfried, is fatally stabbed in the back by Hagen, son of the archvillain, Alberich.
The Siegfried legend... has nuances that would mesh perfectly with right-wing mythology in the twentieth century, both in Germany and in the United States. [...] It was an iconography easily transferable to Germany's new, postwar republic. Hitler himself would claim that while recuperating behind the lines from a leg wound, he found Jewish "slackers" dominating the war-production bureaucracy and that "the Jew robbed the whole nation and pressed it beneath his domination." The rape imagery is revolting but vivid; Hitler was already attuned to the zeitgeist of his adopted country. Even before the war had been decided, a soldier in his company recalled how Corporal Hitler would "leap up and, running about excitedly, say that in spite of our big guns, victory would be denied us, for the invisible foes of the German people were a greater danger than the biggest cannon of the enemy."
The Dolchstosslegende, or stab-in-the-back myth, was a cornerstone of right-wing and Nazi propaganda during the Interbellum.
Now, to be fair, Walsh is not deploying the word in order to accuse the (Jewish/leftist) citizenry of this country of betraying its military — he's just using it to mean "betrayal." The thing is, well, Dolchstoss is not really a word that people just toss around as a synonym for "betrayal," especially because there are a number of English words and phrases that will do just fine, and were not used by Nazis to effect the murder of millions of people, words such as "betrayal."
So maybe Michael Walsh is just tossing around German words he likes. Which is fine! Free speech, or whatever! There are a lot of great German words! Have a thought about Arizona's immigration law? Umvolkung! Rap music? Entartete Kunst! MSNBC? Feindsender! You could go on and on!
Also the rest of his column is totally insane.
[NRO, image via AP]