Nearly everyone who is an expert in the history of concentration camps agrees: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s use of the term, describing how migrant detainees are being held by the United States, is wholly appropriate.
Per previous reporting from HillReporter.com, experts have demonstrated that the New York Democrat’s description of “concentration camps” to describe the conditions those migrants currently face is accurate — and that the term is not exclusively for Nazi concentration camps alone. In fact, the first use of the words “concentration camps” dates back to 1897.
Ocasio-Cortez did not compare detention centers at the U.S. southern border to specifically Nazi concentration camps, but rather used the broader term (sans Nazi) to describe conditions at those places.
Merrian-Webster Diction defines a concentration camp as “a place where large numbers of people (such as prisoners of war, political prisoners, refugees, or the members of an ethnic or religious minority) are detained or confined under armed guard.” And historian Andrea Pitzer, who has written a book describing the history of concentration camps, agrees, per reporting from Esquire.
“Concentration camps in general have always been designed — at the most basic level — to separate one group of people from another group. Usually, because the majority group, or the creators of the camp, deem the people they’re putting in it to be dangerous or undesirable in some way,” Pitzer said.
But MSNBC’s Chuck Todd didn’t seem to get the memo. He went on the attack against Ocasio-Cortez this week, deriding her use of the term and invoking Nazi concentration camps.
“If you want to criticize the shameful treatment of people at our southern border, fine — you’ll have plenty of company. But be careful comparing them to Nazi concentration camps, because they’re not at all comparable in the slightest,” Todd said in his remarks.
Ocasio-Cortez's comparison of ICE detentions to concentration camps did border detainees "a tremendous disservice" #MTPDaily
"She said she didn't use those words lightly," Chuck Todd said. "Well, neither did I." pic.twitter.com/5CIOfWn7BQ
— Meet the Press (@MeetThePress) June 19, 2019
But again, Ocasio-Cortez did not use the word “Nazi” in her remarks — a point she made clear when she responded to Todd on Twitter hours later.
Citing another tweet by The Intercept’s Mehdi Hasan, in which the journalist said Todd’s argument “makes no sense,” Ocasio-Cortez took Todd to task for using the word ‘Nazi’ when she, in fact, never did.
“Well, @chucktodd – the fact that you slipped in ‘Nazi’ when I never said that is pretty unfortunate,” Ocasio-Cortez wrote, noting deplorable conditions of immigrants in U.S.-run compounds that have occurred since mass detention has occurred under President Donald Trump’s administration.
Well, @chucktodd – the fact that you slipped in “Nazi” when I never said that is pretty unfortunate.
Almost as unfortunate as the fact that you spent this whole time w/o discussing DHS freezers, “dog pounds,” missing children, & human rights abuses that uphold use of this term. https://t.co/1eNuW1ZR0f
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) June 19, 2019
It’s unclear where the debate goes from here — whether Todd or others will acknowledge that other forms of concentration camps exist or not, or whether AOC will drop the use of the term.