Godwin’s Law has become an internet staple. “As an online discussion continues, the probability of a reference or comparison to Hitler or Nazis approaches 1.” Mike Godwin created this rule around 1990, when Saddam Hussein was the official next Hitler.
GL filled a need, and has flourished. GL is also misused, as when people say GL has been “proved” or “violated.” Mr. Godwin does not “personally believe all rational discourse has ended when Nazis or the Holocaust are invoked.” GL hopefully sparks critical thinking, and enables people to see through the smoky rhetoric. Maybe, if you act appropriately, you can put out the fire that causes that smoke.
The Washington Post published the article cited above. Recently, a Post reporter found an article praising Donald Trump in The Crusader. This is a 12 page newspaper, published in Harrison, Arkansas. It calls itself “The official Newspaper of The Knights Party.”
Once the Post got wind of this, it morphed into KKK’s official newspaper supports Donald Trump for president. This chestnut got into the national political discussion, where it was accepted without question. The KKK endorses Donald Trump!!! Surely, he is the next Hitler. Orange hair has replaced the little mustache. The national pearl clutching grew so intense that the pearls fell off the string.
Mr. Godwin made a mistake. “It’s still true, of course, that the worst thing you can say about your opponents, in our culture, is that they’re like Hitler or the Nazis.” No, the worst thing you can say about someone today is that they are RACIST. The scarlet R is a damaging charge. Those accused are guilty until proven innocent. The fact that many say RACISM as a thoughtless reflex action does not diminish the power. Some would say that Mr. Godwin’s assertion that the Nazi label is the worst possible insult… that it is worse than saying RACIST … that this statement itself is RACIST.
Maybe this is an extension of Godwin’s Law. As any discussion of american life progresses, the likelihood of invoking the KKK, and the R word, increases. Many see Hitler comparisons as the end of rationality in a discussion. What do white sheet jokes say about the person making the charge?
While researching this post, I dug up an article, Racism In America Is Over. The feature was published December 30, 2008. A charismatic son-of-a-white-mother had just been elected POTUS. The salient quote is more true today than ever: “When decrying racism opens no door and teaches no skill, it becomes a schoolroom tattletale affair. It is unworthy of all of us: “He’s just a racist” intoned like “nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah!””
Twitter hosted a recent exchange. It refers to a comment made by the ex-wife of Steve Bannon, during a divorce. @carlreiner “I, a Jew, was willing to give Trump a chance til I heard his cheif of staff say he’d not allow his kids to go to a school if Jews attended.” @hausmuva “translation: I was willing to empower whiteness/white supremacy until I learned that I may not be considered white in the white imagination.” Maybe this twitteration can be included in a future edition of Reductio ad hitlerum : Une théorie du point Godwin.
Maybe it is time to calm down the name calling… be it Der Führer or Grand Dragon … and get down to the hard work of getting along with each other. Pictures today are from “The Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library”.