A variation on Godwin's law has it that a discussion thread is finished and a debater has lost when he turns to inappropriate Nazi comparisons. Enter Michael Gerson. Today he writes an entire meditation on the following argument:
1. The Nazis exploited advanced communication technologies (bullhorns, leaflets, radio, etc.) for their own evil purposes;
2. The internet is an advanced communication technology;
3. Ergo, the internet is a tool of Nazism.
Or something like that (they also used books, newspapers, and other media as well folks). Here's a sample:
But it was radio that proved the most powerful tool. The Nazis worked with radio manufacturers to provide Germans with free or low-cost "people's receivers." This new technology was disorienting, taking the public sphere, for the first time, into private places — homes, schools and factories. "If you tuned in," says Steve Luckert, curator of the exhibit, "you heard strangers' voices all the time. The style had a heavy emphasis on emotion, tapping into a mass psychology. You were bombarded by information that you were unable to verify or critically evaluate. It was the Internet of its time."
I think it's funny that he mentions the radio while blaming the internet for factually-challenged, hyperbolic, demagogic rhetoric, when, we have in fact the radio–and of course television, to blame for that.
Anyway. Here is the justification for the comparison:
This comparison to the Internet is apt. The Nazis would have found much to admire in the adaptation of their message on neo-Nazi, white supremacist and Holocaust-denial Web sites.
The comparison is apt because there are actual neo-Nazis using the internet! This justification misses the point of the original comparison. The point is that the internet is Nazi-like (but not necessarily Nazi in content). The Nazi content cited by Gerson as evidence of Nazi-likeness of the medium doesn't establish, however, that the internet itself is Nazi-like. The Nazis printed books as well. At most this establishes the bland theory that the internet is a communication medium, which can be used and accessed by many people. That fact, I think, is not very surprising.