Tag Archives: Godwin

Season of the Godwin

Godwin’s Law is, roughly, that as a political discussion proceeds, the likelihood of an analogy to Hitler increases.  Long discussions have it as a relative certainty that Hitler, Stalin, Mao, or Mussolini references will not only happen but perhaps multiply. (We’ve done a number of bits on Godwining here at the NS.  I’ve tried a reconstruction of the argument form here.)

Enter our favorite Orange Furher-analogue and the variety of ways folks have made the argument.  There’s the nationalism, the militarism, the authoritarian style, threatening the free press, the racism.  And there’s the fact that even his supporters holler out ‘Heil Trump.’   So much to work with!

It’s worth paying attention to a small difference in argument criticism here — you can criticize an argument against some claim or individual without really defending the claim or person.  That is, you don’t have to be a Trump sympathizer to think that some analogies between him and Hitler are off base.  You’ve just got to think that this analogy isn’t quite right.  (See John’s older post about how to evade in these lights.)

David Harsanyi at NRO has a bit of argument criticism with the wide phenomenon Godwining/Ad Hitlering with our Great Orange Leader.   He has one line of argument that there are bad consequences to the overuse of Ad Hitlerum:

Comparing everything to 1933 is now a big part of our national discourse, not only that of angry partisans but also that of people who should know better than to habitually make these correlations. This isn’t Mel Brooks’s Springtime for Hitler. Whether you’re a fan or a detractor of Trump, these gross false equivalencies belittle the memory of millions who died in unimaginably horrifying ways. Moreover, exaggeration and historical illiteracy undermine the very cause these people claim to care about, unless that cause is desensitizing people to the terror of the Holocaust.

Well, we have to note that the argument here depends on the analogies being false.  So the main line of argument, then, depends on the case that there are relevant dissimiliarities between Trump and Hitler.  Here’s how Harsanyi breaks the analogies when they come to deportation:

[E]ven if the authorities . . . were to start deporting illegal immigrants, not one of those unfortunate people would ever be sent to anything resembling the ovens of Treblinka and Auschwitz. Not their children. Not anyone else in this country. Most often, in fact, deported illegal immigrants, who have broken the law, are going back to their home in Mexico, where they can often apply for legal entry into the United States.

Two things.  First, the Jews weren’t sent straight to the ovens.  They were sent to internment camps, which were billed to the rest of Germany is pretty nice places.  Second, given the way the laws were sold to the public, they don’t sound like matters of targeting illegal immigration, but are more matters of ethnic or religious identity.  It’s that part that merits the Hitler analogies, not whether the consequences are nicer or not.   That the policies could be worse (as in exactly like Hitler’s policies) is a very weak defense.  And, again, as we’ve said many times: analogies are not identities.

In perfect harmony

According to some recent reports, Glenn Beck, self-described super troll, has expressed remorse over the Godwin-themed clown show that enriched him.  I don’t believe him.  Here’s his reaction to the multilingual and multicultural Coca-Cola ad during last Sunday’s Super Bowl:

“So somebody tweeted last night and said, ‘Glenn, what did you think of the Coke ad?’ And I said, ‘Why did you need that to divide us politically?’ Because that’s all this ad is,” Glenn said. “It’s in your face, and if you don’t like it, if you’re offended by it, you’re a racist. If you do like it, you’re for immigration. You’re for progress. That’s all this is: To divide people. Remember when Coke used to do the thing on the top and they would all hold hands? Now it’s, have a Coke and we’ll divide you.”

What kind of divisions are we talking about?  Here’s one from a Fox News type:

So was Coca-Cola saying America is beautiful because new immigrants don’t learn to speak English?

And there are more, of course.  The logic of Beck’s argument is a marvel, however.  I’m not sure how to reconstruct it, but here goes: People disagree about stuff, among this stuff is immigration, if I mention something related to immigration, and drive racists into a racist frenzy, then I’m dividing us by reminding others of their racism.  So I’m the real racist, or something.

Maybe, however, I want to be divided from people who cannot stomach the very sound of Spanish (or English, Keres Pueblo, Tagalog, Hindi, Senegalese French, or Hebrew) in America.