Contra Rush Limbaugh, history’s actual fascists were not primarily known for their anti-smoking policies or generous social welfare programs. Fascism celebrated violence, anti-rationalism and hysterical devotion to an authoritarian leader. To date, the Obama administration has fallen rather short in these departments. Perhaps uncomfortably aware of the shortcoming, the hardliners have developed — okay, invented really — their own mythology about Obama “brownshirts.” (The popular conservative website RedState.org literally uses the term.) The complaint rests on a single case — that of conservative activist Kenneth Gladney, who got into a scuffle at a townhall in St. Louis, Missouri. The altercation was captured on video and you can watch it on YouTube. What you’ll see is a man, already on the ground, and another man stepping back in order to avoid tripping over him. The man on the ground is Gladney. Gladney walked away from the confrontation and later went to hospital, where he was treated for light injuries and released the same day. Whatever happened and whoever started it, this happily bloodless encounter bears not even the most glancing resemblance to the brutality that made Hitler’s brownshirts notorious. And yet, look up Gladney’s name online and he’s suddenly a poignant martyr. Can we get a grip here? It is possible to express opposition to a president’s policies without preposterous name-calling — without diminishing and disparaging the unique experiences of those who did actually suffer from actual persecution by actual Nazis. After all, you know who else trafficked in hysterical exaggeration? That’s right: Hitler!