HOME



Digby's Hullabaloo
2801 Ocean Park Blvd.
Box 157
Santa Monica, Ca 90405



Facebook: Digby Parton

Twitter:
@digby56
@Gaius_Publius
@BloggersRUs (Tom Sullivan)
@spockosbrain



emails:
Digby:
thedigbyblog at gmail
Dennis:
satniteflix at gmail
Gaius:
publius.gaius at gmail
Tom:
tpostsully at gmail
Spocko:
Spockosbrain at gmail
tristero:
Richardein at me.com








Infomania

Salon
Buzzflash
Mother Jones
Raw Story
Huffington Post
Slate
Crooks and Liars
American Prospect
New Republic


Denofcinema.com: Saturday Night at the Movies by Dennis Hartley review archive

January 2003 February 2003 March 2003 April 2003 May 2003 June 2003 July 2003 August 2003 September 2003 October 2003 November 2003 December 2003 January 2004 February 2004 March 2004 April 2004 May 2004 June 2004 July 2004 August 2004 September 2004 October 2004 November 2004 December 2004 January 2005 February 2005 March 2005 April 2005 May 2005 June 2005 July 2005 August 2005 September 2005 October 2005 November 2005 December 2005 January 2006 February 2006 March 2006 April 2006 May 2006 June 2006 July 2006 August 2006 September 2006 October 2006 November 2006 December 2006 January 2007 February 2007 March 2007 April 2007 May 2007 June 2007 July 2007 August 2007 September 2007 October 2007 November 2007 December 2007 January 2008 February 2008 March 2008 April 2008 May 2008 June 2008 July 2008 August 2008 September 2008 October 2008 November 2008 December 2008 January 2009 February 2009 March 2009 April 2009 May 2009 June 2009 July 2009 August 2009 September 2009 October 2009 November 2009 December 2009 January 2010 February 2010 March 2010 April 2010 May 2010 June 2010 July 2010 August 2010 September 2010 October 2010 November 2010 December 2010 January 2011 February 2011 March 2011 April 2011 May 2011 June 2011 July 2011 August 2011 September 2011 October 2011 November 2011 December 2011 January 2012 February 2012 March 2012 April 2012 May 2012 June 2012 July 2012 August 2012 September 2012 October 2012 November 2012 December 2012 January 2013 February 2013 March 2013 April 2013 May 2013 June 2013 July 2013 August 2013 September 2013 October 2013 November 2013 December 2013 January 2014 February 2014 March 2014 April 2014 May 2014 June 2014 July 2014 August 2014 September 2014 October 2014 November 2014 December 2014 January 2015 February 2015 March 2015 April 2015 May 2015 June 2015 July 2015 August 2015 September 2015 October 2015 November 2015 December 2015 January 2016 February 2016 March 2016 April 2016 May 2016 June 2016 July 2016 August 2016 September 2016 October 2016 November 2016 December 2016 January 2017 February 2017 March 2017 April 2017 May 2017 June 2017 July 2017 August 2017 September 2017 October 2017 November 2017 December 2017 January 2018 February 2018 March 2018 April 2018 May 2018 June 2018 July 2018


 

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Hullabaloo


Sunday, June 24, 2018

 
Godwin speaks

by digby



I'm getting very tired of people telling me and others who are screaming as this slow motion neo-fascim unfolds to shut up and don't make trouble. Liberals love to argue over tactics and strategies endlessly and worry constantly about a "backlash."  The news this morning is all about how the Trump base is getting riled up because their opponents are getting riled up. 





That is fascism,  my friends.

The man who coined the concept of Godwin's Law has something to say:

Does Godwin’s Law need to be updated? Suspended? Repealed? I get asked this question from time to time because I’m the guy who came up with it more than a quarter century ago.

In its original simple form, Godwin’s Law goes like this: “As an online discussion continues, the probability of a comparison to Hitler or to Nazis approaches one.” It’s deliberately pseudo-scientific — meant to evoke the Second Law of Thermodynamics and the inevitable decay of physical systems over time. My goal was to hint that those who escalate a debate into Adolf Hitler or Nazi comparisons may be thinking lazily, not adding clarity or wisdom, and contributing to the decay of an argument over time.

Godwin’s Law doesn’t belong to me, and nobody elected me to be in charge of it. Although I’m sometimes thought to be referee for its use, I’m not. That said, I do have thoughts about how it is being invoked nowadays.

Since it was released into the wilds of the internet in 1991, Godwin’s Law (which I nowadays abbreviate to “GL”) has been frequently reduced to a blurrier notion: that whenever someone compares anything current to Nazis or Hitler it means the discussion is over, or that that person lost the argument. It’s also sometimes used (reflexively, lazily) to suggest that anyone who invokes a comparison to Nazis or Hitler has somehow “broken” the Law, and thus demonstrated their failure to grasp what made the Holocaust uniquely horrific.

Most recently GL has been invoked in response to the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” border policy that resulted in the traumatic separation of would-be immigrants from their children, many of whom are now warehoused in tent cities or the occasional repurposed Walmart. For example, former CIA and NSA director Michael Hayden — no squishy bleeding heart — posted a couple of tweets on June 16 that likened that policy to the Nazis’ treatment of children in Germany’s concentration camps. California Sen. Dianne Feinstein (a Democrat but also a security hawk) has made the comparison as well.

The response has been predictable: Debate for some people has been derailed by the trivial objection that, even if it is terrible to separate children from their parents (and sometimes lose track of them, or make it impossible for their parents contact them, or even deprive them of the comfort of human touch), it’s not as awful as what the Nazis did. Or as bad as the slave trade. Or as bad as what the expansion of the United States westward did to Native Americans.

My name gets cited in a lot of these discussions. And of course my ears are burning. It hasn’t mattered that I’ve explained GL countless times. Some critics on the left have blamed me for (supposedly) having shut down valid comparisons to the Holocaust or previous atrocities. Some on the right have insisted that I’m “PC” for having tweeted (a bit profanely) that it’s just fine to compare the white nationalists who plagued Charlottesville, Va., last year to Nazis. (I think they were mostly aspirational Nazi cos players.)

I don’t take either strain of criticism too seriously. But I do want to stress that the question of evil, understood historically, is bigger than party politics. GL is about remembering history well enough to draw parallels — sometimes with Hitler or with Nazis, sure — that are deeply considered. That matter. Sometimes those comparisons are going to be appropriate, and on those occasions GL should function less as a conversation ender and more as a conversation starter.

So let me start another conversation here. Take the argument that our treatment of those seeking asylum at our border, including children, is not as monstrous as institutionalized genocide. That may be true, but it’s not what you’d call a compelling defense. Similarly, saying (disingenuously) that the administration is just doing what immigration law demands sounds suspiciously like “we were just following orders.” That argument isn’t a good look on anyone.

The seeds of future horrors are sometimes visible in the first steps a government takes toward institutionalizing cruelty. In his 1957 book “Language of the Third Reich,” Victor Klemperer recounted how, at the beginning of the Nazi regime, he “was still so used to living in a state governed by the rule of law” that he couldn’t imagine the horrors yet to come. “Regardless of how much worse it was going to get,” he added, “everything which was later to emerge in terms of National Socialist attitudes, actions and language was already apparent in embryonic form in these first months.”

So I don’t think GL needs to be updated or amended. It still serves us as a tool to recognize specious comparisons to Nazism — but also, by contrast, to recognize comparisons that aren’t. And sometimes the comparisons can spot the earliest symptoms of horrific “attitudes, actions and language” well before our society falls prey to the full-blown disease.

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.