Tuesday, March 01, 2016

March 1, 2016--Godwin's Law

Do you know Godwin's Law?

More formally it is Godwin's Rule of Nazi Analogies and was coined in 1990 by Mike Godwin, former general counsel for the Wikimedia Foundation.

It states that "as an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches."

That is, if any discussion, regardless of topic or scope, goes on long enough, sooner or later someone will compare someone or something to Nazism.

Godwin's Law, when invoked, effectively shuts down the possibility of two or more parties continuing a discussion, even one that started out fairly benignly.

These days, Godwin's Law is working overtime during an increasingly contentious political season. We have candidates--exclusively Republicans--casually accusing each other of Nazi-like ideas and proposals.

Just last week, the reenergized Ted Cruz said that Donald Trump's preposterous promise to deport 11 or 12 million illegal immigrants was the equivalent of sending troops in "hobnailed boots" to round them up.

And I must say that in more and more of my attempts to engage in civil discourse with friends who have been critical of my paying serious attention to the campaign of Donald Trump--not endorsing him but seeing what can be learned about the current state of America from his disquieting run--that after two or three e-mail exchanges, the conversation gets shut down by friends comparing Trump to Hitler or more frequently Mussolini, to whom he does bear some physical resemblance. (Just as Ted Cruz looks so much like Senator Joseph McCarthy.)

I have attempted to push back against this use of Godwin's Law, but unsuccessfully. And as a result we stop talking about politics and agree to chat about the upcoming baseball season, which is fine.

But then, over the weekend, Donald Trump may have really stepped in it and as a result may have disqualified himself from any longer being considered a feasible candidate for the presidency.

When pressed by Jake Tapper on CNN to disavow white-supremisisit Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke's support, Trump, who two days earlier had done so, hemmed and hawed, finally saying, actually lying, that he had no idea who Duke is and did not want to disavow anyone or any group until he knew for certain what they were about.

That latter point is not unreasonable except for one thing--anyone older than 50, anyone who knows anything at all about American social or racial history knows about David Duke. He is not some obscure figure living under a rock (though he probably does) but someone of great prominence who even ran for president back in 1988.

So, Trump was either lying and pandering to white-supremisist voters (unacceptable enough) or he really never heard of Duke--his ignorance is also beyond disturbing as is his craven attempt to blame his equivocation on a faulty ear piece--that he couldn't hear the question.

Beyond terrible.

But as bad as he is, he is no Fascist , no Nazi.

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