Trivializing Evil

Godwin’s law is a term that originated on Usenet, in what we now think of as the dawn of the Internet age. Godwin’s Law posits that as an online argument grows longer and more heated, it becomes increasingly likely that somebody will invoke Adolf Hitler or the Nazis.

When that happens, the guilty person is seen to have effectively forfeited both the argument and the right to be taken seriously.

Mike Huckabee is certainly not the only elected official to have employed this odious hyperbole, but he is a serial offender; he has previously compared both legal abortion and the national debt to the Holocaust. Most recently, he has said that the Iranian nuclear agreement negotiated by the U.S. and six other nations would deliver the Israelis to “the doors of the ovens.”

(Of course, Huckabee is particularly concerned about Israel, because his belief in “end times” theology requires the prior gathering of all Jews in the Holy Land, where we are to be given a choice between accepting Jesus and burning in eternal hellfire. In other words, if anyone is going to incinerate the Jews, it had better be the Christian Zionists.)

We live in a time when language has been so debased that genuine communication is increasingly difficult. Labels substitute for descriptions; words that used to have content are hurled as epithets. But Godwin’s Law identifies an especially pernicious example of this phenomenon, because the easy and thoughtless accusations of “Nazi-like” attitudes and behaviors trivializes evil and blurs critical moral distinctions.

Comparing “Obamacare” to the Holocaust (as several Republican elected officials have done), or suggesting that IRS agents are “like the gestapo” (Maine’s Governor), or claiming that the effort to regulate for-profit colleges is like the Holocaust (GOP Rep. Virginia Foxx)  is more than ludicrous, more than offensive. It is a sign of moral obtuseness so pronounced as to mark the person uttering it as someone unfit for public office.

Or, for that matter, for polite society.

 

 

25 thoughts on “Trivializing Evil

  1. Please excuse me while I briefly lower myself to make a Hitler-Nazi observation of our current political situation. The herd of Republican presidential wannabes and their owners have mesmerized their staunch Republican voters into following them and believing their every utterance…no matter how stupid, out of context or untrue it may be. I could never understand (after the fact) why or how anyone could believe and follow Hitler who appeared to be an ego-maniac on a rampage. Then I saw a movie starring that incredible talent Anthony Hopkins portray Adolph Hitler to perfection; his carriage, his movements, his seemingly intelligent solutions to all of Germany’s problem in his borderline violent speeches. Mr. Hopkins did this in English which I assume was translated from the original German; I could see how he gathered millions of followers with his observations and ultimately empty promises due to the way he presented them rather than their content. Trump comes the closest to the ranting style of Hitler; it isn’t the goals that is the lure, but Trump’s false dedication to duty to lead America to salvation along with the other candidates who feed into the fears, racism and bigotry that continues to infect too many in the county in epidemic proportions. I am not accusing these candidates of Hitlerism or Nazism beliefs or goals; only their mode of presentation of political promises they can’t possibly fulfill. By the way; I don’t believe any of the Republican candidates deserve a place in polite society.

  2. I have yet to hear any thought provoking solutions to any of our numerous issues come out of our current political dialogue. Any fool can point out problems. Solutions that have legs are what I have been waiting to hear.

  3. I don’t think it is any better or worse than it has ever been. Think about the arguments used to justify slavery. Think about the loaded language used during the red scare. We have always had masters of propaganda willing to misuse language in order to exert influence over the reason-challenged among us. We simply have to stand up to evil every time, all of the time, and always, always vote.

  4. JoAnn has thought my thoughts ahead of me. When I read that crowds chanted “USA! USA! USA!” at a Trump appearance, I shuddered.

  5. I was totally repelled by Huckbee’s comments concerning the Holocaust. No pun intended but some of these politicians have to pull out the trump card of Hitler or Stalin, that IMHO reveals more about their own extreme views and a total lack of Historical Factual Awareness on their part.

    Many in the USA has been Historically Blind to our own Military Aggression all over the World. Some where around 1.5M Southeast Asians were killed, wounded and missing during the Vietnam War. An equal number of Southwest Asians have been killed, wounded, are missing or refugees since GWB decided to invade Iraq. Will Huckbee lament these casualties brought upon by AmeriKa??? – Somehow I doubt it.

    Some Politicians and the McMega-Media were quick to label Bernie Sanders a Socialist. We know in America the simple formula for simple minds of: Left=Liberal=Socialist=Communist=Castro=Stalin=Mao.

    Pandering is one problem, but another is one word or slogan labeling, which means association with something more – Like Nixon’s Southern Strategy, or Nixon’s Law and Order.

  6. That’s the problem with Godwin’s Law JoAnn. Sometimes the comparisons to Facism are just accurate and descriptive.

    I was amazed yesterday to learn that Ted Cruz clerked for the Supreme Court. So here we have Sheila whose mastery of her profession is displayed daily and we have Cruz. Nuff said.

    What is wrong with us! Have we gone nuts?

    I have to believe that Cruz is playing a role that some packaging consultant designed to sell to Texan like voters.

    If true that means that somebody believes, probably based on good data, that the country is full of Texans just like Hitler intuited that pre-war Germany was full of Nazis.

    I find it impossible to believe that circumstance is merely the result of devolution and not contrived. Hence my war on broadcast media. The opium of the masses.

    Even if Cruz’s script writer is wrong by 50% – unlikely – that leaves me frightened to death.

  7. Oh, man, you’ve just put Bibi Netanyahu, AIPAC, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Commentary and the ADL out of business.

    The Zionist political argument works this way:

    “Israel needs X, and the world should provide it.”

    Why?

    “Because, either 1. Holocaust or 2. Second Holocaust.”

    Really? You guys still on that?

    “Anti Semite!”

    Netanyahu uses the Holocaust as a lever for all of his political goals.

    “In a speech already winning attention in Washington, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Wednesday compared Washington’s deal with Iran to Europe’s appeasement of Adolf Hitler which led to the Holocaust and world war.”

    By the way, in the Late 40’s, when the 6 million Holocaust figure was first published, they got to that number by claiming Auschwitz was responsible for over 4 million deaths. There was even a plaque on Auschwitz stating the 4 million number that was up until 1989. That number has been twice revised downward, and the new official toll for Jews killed at Auschwitz is under one million. The problem is that the 6 million overall number isn’t touched, though without the original Auschwitz 4 million, you can’t get anywhere near 6 million.

    If you want a real bad guy, skip Hitler, and use Stalin. He actually killed about 30 million.

  8. The comments from presidential hopefuls reflects the desires of the voters they are trying to attract. At this point it appears that the republicans are limited to a few issues: 1) hate Obama, 2) hate John Kerry; 3) hate foreigners and immigrants; 4) hate the poor – but all politicians hate the poor; 5) hate planned parenthood; 6) hate the Iran deal; 7) hate each other.

    This looks like it will be another great election cycle, especially for Jon Stewart and late night TV monologues.

  9. Some of these people are so off base that I will not listen to them; but many think the sun rises and sets with them. Scary times ahead, I’m afraid.

  10. I agree with JoAnn and Pete. Godwin’s Law, while generally accurate (and God knows Orwellian style abasement of fair systems of “argument” have led to many examples of Huckabee style misuse of the Nazi analogy) is still a
    gross overstatement. Hey if it walks like a duck, right? The examples today of fascist behavior abound, and they need to be called out. Mean, racist, power-hungry political movements DO resemble the Nazis, and we are in deep trouble if they ever get absolute power. Do we just let fascists rise again without pointing to what horrors they have perpetuated in the past? Seems to me that is asking us to forget our history.

  11. Way back in the 70’s I read ‘Games People Play.’ It was probably the best book I ever read explaining behavior. When someone doesn’t want to continue discussing something they play ‘uproar’ which is the red faced bellowing and name calling. Stops all discussion because the victim on the other end of that conversation usually sputters and backs away mumbling apologies.

    I would also like to point out Huckabee is nothing more than a bully. He bullied the State Police officers who were put in charge of investigating his kid torturing his dog to death and the animal control officer, and the prosecutor. Now, I am the first one to say you aren’t your parents, but I know Huckabee’s parenting style. Growing up in small town america I saw lots of examples of these brutal men who had all empathy beaten out of themselves, so they parent the same way. I hate him for it, but it is all too familiar to me. I had lots of authoritarian males in my family, and still am filled with loathing for them. But one point Berne makes is don’t retreat. It only reinforces the behavior.

  12. I keep seeing comments from conservatives on Facebook posts denying they agree with the current far-right-wing nuts also claiming to be conservatives. So…why don’t they unite and post their own messages on Facebook? Where are they, who are they, why are they mute with a few comments that say nothing except they don’t agree? Exactly what are their views; this goes for those few elected officials who aren’t “real conservatives”. We, those considered to be liberals, do not hesitate posting our views. Are they all cowards; what will they do with their conservative beliefs come election days ahead? Where were they the past few election days? Stand up and be counted or shut up; poo-poo or get off the pot! While Gopper is misled 99% of the time; he says what he believes. OMG; am I really standing up for Gopper? Shows how disgusted I am with the do-nothings who have helped bring this country to where it is today…sadly lacking in competent leadership at many state levels and in Congress.

  13. JoAnn:

    If you want to see what conservatives think, hit the gun forums. They freely post there. Conservatives also post freely on Breitbart and other conservatives sites. Facebook is lame and for losers, so that won’t be the biggest place to see what conservatives are thinking.

    Here are some sites to get you started.

    ingunowners dot com

    ar15 dot com

    glocktalk dot com

    Look for the political subforums, and get ready for a wallop of authoritarianism so powerful, you’ll think they’re all Democrats.

  14. Gopper; I am well aware of all of the gun hyperbole…my uncle is Don Davis of Don’s Guns:)

  15. JoAnn, you can miss every point as badly as Don’s shooters miss the point-blank targets at his range.

  16. Conservatism gets analyzed here daily and the reasons for its dysfunction layed out in easy to comprehend arguments. But as in science that’s all hypothetical. Backing up those arguments are reams of data from reality. Results of the application of conservative thoughtware by people who believe in it. The dysfunction hypothesis holds. Experimental proof that must be avoided by those who would like it to prove workable.

    Thus the opium of the masses. Sites like Gopper cites where those who wish it to work make up stories about it being successful and all other thoughtware failing, also made up.

    Entertainment pure and simple. Rambo and John Galt and Gordon Gecko and Gatsby and Carlton Heston and Archie Bunker strutting on stage fueling dreams of power for failures. Entertainment Tonight for those who love to hate.

    Addiction to sensory ego stroking.

    They will remain addicted because they have no desire or need for reality.

    Oligarchs will continue to fund their addiction as it maintains their minion’s compliance.

    Politicians will continue to pander to them to reap the rewards of both oligarchy service and public service if elected.

    Our choices do not include their recovery. Like the war on chemical drugs any war on sensory drugs will fail. Our only weapon is democracy. Render the whole army powerless to affect public policy.

    Only through public policy can we start pulling tooth and claw.

  17. “a wallop of authoritarianism so powerful, you’ll think they’re all Democrats.”

    Go to virtually exclusively Republican bars to learn about Democrats??????

  18. Goober, er Gooper, speaking of missing points, your only purpose seems to be using your AK47 verbal assaults to shoot down any idea rather than joining in a civil conversation on the subject of the day.

  19. Interesting how quickly commentators devolve into comparing Republicans to Nazi’s. I think many have missed your point about Godwin’s law. Or not.

  20. John in Indy; didn’t miss the point, disagreed with it on one level. Sheila expects this and encourages us to speak our mind – confront but be polite.

  21. Evil:

    The U.S. spent 13.3 million a day conducting an illegal air war on Laos Over 2 million tons of bombs on 2 million population. One plane load every 8 seconds for nine years. Look into the nearest mirror.

    You are looking at evil.

  22. Good work, Earl. People forget our secret wars.

    How about when we loaded up Korean Air 007 with spy gear and had it fly into Soviet airspace, whereupon a Sukhoi warned it then shot it down. Our intel community willingly got civilians, and particularly Larry McDonald, killed.

  23. Conspiracy theorists are a pretty easy group to manage. Give them stuff that that is remotely plauasible, no proof required, and they’ll anoint you as prophet of the year. They want so bad to be smart and informed that they will avoid both of those for the illusion.

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