Wednesday, February 16, 2011

"Kent's Observation" (on "Godwin's Law")

Anytime "Hitler" or "Nazis" are mentioned, or even when a comparison is just hinted at, Godwin's Law will be brought up, often incorrectly, no matter how valid the comparison may be.

The mantra "Never forget" has been replace by "Never notice real similarities or Godwin's Law will be brought up in an attempt to stop the debate".

When pointing out that "I was just following orders", "I was just doing my job", "I just enforce the laws, I don't make them", or similar authoritarian excuses are the exact same ones used by Nazis on trial at Nuremberg, there is no comparison more applicable or valid. Those who will enforce a counterfeit "law" against their neighbor, whether it sends the person to a death camp or to a city jail (or even "just" subjects them to a "fine"), is not different from a Nazi in kind, but only in degree. These are the very comparisons that Godwin's Law attempts to protect by weeding out the exaggerated hysteria. People who prefer carnations over roses are not Nazis; people who will kill a person over possession of some dried leaves or other consensual behavior could accurately be compared to one.

Godwin NEVER claimed that the comparison was always inappropriate, just that it was inevitable it would crop up somewhere eventually if an online discussion went on long enough, and that making the comparison in trivial matters diluted the impact of the times the comparison was accurate. He also never claimed that mentioning Hitler or Nazis made a person automatically lose the debate. These are wishful-thinking add-ons by people who are uncomfortable with the truth. Other people may fall into this trap if they don't realize what's happening.


  1. Even the debate over 3D has been Godwinned!

  2. Agree with you. I think there's a principle called a fallacious fallacy. ;-)

    I would say though, having studied NS thought and history for quite some time, one is hard pressed to find modern discussions of Hitler or National Socialists that are not based more in WW2 propaganda (the same stuff that portrayed "Japs" as chimps in cartoons) than in fact. Almost every time "Nazis" are brought into a conversation, the facts are twisted.

    As an aside, those folks (such as WW2 Germans and some other cultures, as well as some of the ancients) who ascribe to a "Traditionalist" code (in the Julius Evola sense) did indeed see the soldier as absolved from moral responsibility for following orders. Although we tend to see it as a coward's way out, and it is unacceptable to a people who believe in complete individual responsibility, there's more to it than the modern western mind always sees.

    Likewise, the Brits who firebombed Dresden were "just following orders" as well, as were the Americans who guarded domestic concentration camps that were based on a perceived internal enemy, who was identified by race. Hmm. That sounds familiar.

    All in all though, it is one thing to point out flaws in "ad Nazium" comparisons; it is wholly another, as you said, to attempt to avoid facing realities by throwing up Godwin's law as a smokescreen. National Socialists were a wholly different people than modern liberal man, and I doubt that any of us can claim to truly understand them through the fog of 70 years of victor's propaganda.


  3. Laws do nothing. People do everything. Including using laws as distraction tactics: "Hey! Look over there! A magic document!"

  4. When I do the comparrison, I do it as a question. For example consider that Religious republicans believe in haveing a very expansive military, corporations intermingled with the government, and a government that can interfere in almost every aspect of individual and family lives such as life and death decisions, medical decisions (drugs & pain meds), sexual decisions. They also claim that government should, contrary to the teachings of Jesus, be involved in religion (prayer in schools anyone??). Also, via tort reform, we do not want ordinary citizens annoying protected corporations just because their land or lives are destroyed in the pursuit of profit.

    So other than puting Atheists in camps with the queers, instead of the Jews, how exactly does the Religious republican right differ from the Nazis? Oh wait... one more difference. You are allowed to have your AK-47. You can use that against the local cops tank when it is driven through your house.

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