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PostPosted: Mon Jun 25, 2018 6:51 pm 
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A very interesting editorial, from the founder of Godwin's Law, Mike Godwin, about whether recent events require an updating of Godwin's Law (which he points out is often itself misused).

Do we need to update Godwin's Law about the probability of comparison to Nazis?

My personal opinion is that Mussolini is better historical comparison for Trump than Hitler is (with a strong dose of another former Italian leader, Silvio Berlusconi, thrown in), but that is something that I would need to elaborate on at a future time. Neither comparison bodes well for the immediate or long-term future of the U.S.

In gratitude forever … .

PostPosted: Mon Jun 25, 2018 8:20 pm 
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Joined: Sat Dec 03, 2005 8:37 am
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Location: Melbourne, Victoria
From the article:

By all means cite GL if you think some Nazi comparison is baseless, needlessly inflammatory or hyperbolic. But Godwin’s Law was never meant to block us from challenging the institutionalization of cruelty or the callousness of officials who claim to be just following the law. It definitely wasn’t meant to shield our leaders from being slammed for the current fashion of pitching falsehoods as fact. These behaviors, distressing as they are, may not yet add up to a new Reich, but please forgive me for worrying that they’re the “embryonic form” of a horror we hoped we had put behind us.

This is, and remains, as valid a point as it was when Godwin first made it.

Comparing modern western governments to the Third Reich is specious for two reasons. The first, and most obvious, is that no modern western government is totalitarian and genocidal. Nor, without a massive shift, is one likely to become so. This is not impossible, but I don’t think it’s significantly more likely now than it was when people were trying to paint Bush as the new Hitler, or Reagan.

The debate over family separation provides an interesting case. The Nazis did forcibly and permanently separate families, but this was not considered an extreme policy by the standards of the 1930s and 1940s. The western democracies did so at the time as well – it was seen as being a normal and even enlightened policy in some cases. For example, removing children from unwed mothers in Ireland, the forcible removal of indigenous children in Australia and Canada, or the sending out of child migrants from the U.K. And in these cases, the separation was permanent. What the U.S. is doing now on its southern border is not only mild by Nazi standards, but mild by the standards of the liberal democracies of the same time. This doesn’t make it right, as there’s a whole range of things which we accepted in 1940 (racial segregation, fire-bombing cities, gaoling gays) which we now rightly find abhorrent. But it does make criticising it by comparing it to Nazism absurd. It’d be like criticising some neo-segregationist policy by comparing it to the Holocaust rather than simply pointing to the same arguments used successfully against segregation in the 1960s.

The second reason is that Nazism represents a single and version of totalitarianism specific to Germany in the early 20th century. Most authoritarian or totalitarian regimes are not like the Third Reich. For example, the concentration of power into the hands of Xi Jinping in China, Vladimir Putin in Russia and Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey are troubling to liberal-minded people everywhere (and obviously, far beyond anything currently happening in the U.S.) but none of those leaders is a Nazi, or even a Fascist in the traditional sense. Mid-20th century Fascism was never popular in the English-speaking world, and I suspect an English-speaking totalitarian state would be very different from the likes of Fascist Germany, Italy and Japan.

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