Friday, April 21, 2006

It's not, see?

From Wikipedia:

Godwin's Law (also Godwin's Rule of Nazi Analogies) is, in Internet culture, an adage originated in 1990 by Mike Godwin that states:

As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.[1]

There is a tradition in many Usenet newsgroups that once such a comparison is made the thread in which the comment was posted is finished and whoever mentioned the Nazis has automatically lost whatever debate was in progress.
Erroneous comparisons to Nazis. Lefties have been doing this for a long time. Bush is a Nazi. Bush Sr. was a Nazi. Bush's Grandad was a Nazi account executive. PJ is a Nazi for not letting me smoke in his bar. NRA members? Nazis to a man. Rondald Reagan was a big fat senile Nazi.

But as Apostropher reminds us, it seems like every time a new war is getting pimped, the bad guy involved is sold as Hitler. And so the Righties proclaim: Husssein is as bad as Hitler. Noriega was a Latino Hitler. Bin Laden is Hitler with a beard. Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a mocha Hitler Frappuccino, and if you oppose immediate invasion of Iran then you are a weepy Neville Chamberlain.

Hey! I don't wanna be a Neville Chamberlain! Somebody start bombing Iran RIGHT NOW!

So, I try to not Godwin myself. The Guantanamo detention centers, while immoral and wrongheaded, cannot be compared to Auschwitz. Well, you can compare them to Auschwitz, but then you'd be a stupid asshole. So don't do it.

Bear with me. I'm coming to something that might be regarded as a point.

Last week I watched the BBC documentary When Hitler Fought Stalin. So I'm sitting there thinking of this Godwin thing, and learning that the Eastern front was a worse place to be in 1942 than I had previously thought. And then one of the examples of the general nastiness that was going on was the German order (signed before Germany invaded) to execute all the Soviet commissars that were captured. The documentary has a bunch of interviews, including one with Bernhard Bechler, an officer in the German Army's high command, and a signatory to the commissar order. I hope the BBC will forgive me for reproducing a part of the interview:
Interviewer: What did you feel when you issued this commissar order?

Bechler
: Nothing at all. I was proud that my name was on the order. One should not think of it as a special event. There were 20, 30 other events happening at the same time. You get it done quickly, you sign it, you send it out and the next task is was already waiting.

Interviewer: What sort of morality is this, ignoring the rules of war and issuing such orders?

Bechler: If I believe that there is a threat to the western world... if the Soviet Union is a threat to civilization, then, looked at from that point of view, if I believe this, I take a moral stance. I am morally obliged to prevent this and my morals allow me to use means which I wouldn't otherwise use.
Ya see, it's that last bit that was kind of chilling. Because in the last couple of years or so, I have also heard talk of a "threat to our civilization" and a "threat to the western world". Is there going to be a day when Hitler/Nazi analogies are not silly and misinformed?

"Means which I wouldn't otherwise use" indeed, Herr Bechler.

4 comments:

Robin said...

Well, I don't disagree that comparisons of our enemies to Hitler are overdone. However, the reality is that the Ba'ath party has a great deal of similarity to National Socialism. It took a lot of inspiration from National Socialism and represents arab nationalist ideology wedded to socialist economic thought.

Saddam himself makes a poor analog to Hitler mostly because Hitler never had the stomach for personal killing the way that Saddam did.

Red A said...

Reagan was pretty thin, not fat.

and Nazi comparisons should only be allowed for other rulers with mustaches.

Red A said...

Therefore as a corrolary, we can only compare Iran and Bin Laden to those with goatees and beards...say Lenin.

I have no idea where Mao and the Kims fit in.

BTW, that townhall guy is an idiot.

iridescent cuttlefish said...

The only important similarity between despotic regimes or tightly controlled societies is the fact that such systems have invariably been set up by small, powerful groups of people to exploit large, powerless groups of people. To imagine that the Russian Revolution was unaided by certain interests in the West, or that Hitler, or Bush for that matter, came into power on the basis of personal charm and charisma is delusional in the extreme. Who ordered the covert interventions that the US, leading champion of democracy, blah, blah, blah, has routinely used to topple democratically elected governments from Latin America to the Middle East? The same groups and interests who were behind the scenes in all the other events we call "history." The Greeks described oligarchy a very long time ago--has anything really changed, despite all the different labels?