I’m not sure if people have just been forgetting their basic debate etiquette lately, but I’ve been seeing violations of Godwin’s law happening left and right (although usually right). Godwin’s law, of course, being the Internet discussion rule which mandates that the moment you compare someone to Hitler or the Nazis, you automatically lose the argument. Unless your name is Stalin, any comparison to Hitler is going to sound way over the top. One would think that we would know better by now than to exaggerate that much, but “OMG 1930s Germany” scare tactics never go away.
The most frequent victim of this kind of hyperbole over the past few years has been President Obama, because trying to provide health care access to millions of people is exactly like killing them. I’m happy to report that the Tea Party’s rhetoric has changed…somewhat. The latest political video sponsored by Foster Friess doesn’t claim Obama is like Hitler, it just claims that Hitler would have been unhappy with his insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act. But wait! If Hitler hates something, doesn’t this mean we should like it? This is so confusing…
Another Godwin’s law violation was committed by South Carolina state Senator Mike Fair who, as part of the GOP’s ongoing outreach to female voters, decided to compare Planned Parenthood to Hitler. The Senator was displeased with the results of a Planned Parenthood poll which show that over 60% of those surveyed support a legal right to late-term abortions, once they are informed that those abortions are rare and most of them happen for medical reasons. I will come right out and say that I don’t support late-term abortions myself, unless they indeed happen for medical reasons. However, that is still no excuse for the Godwin’s law infraction, which only hurts one’s cause in the eyes of rational people. Since the poll results contradict sacred conventional wisdom about the American public, the Senator reacted by stating that he would no more trust any information coming from Planned Parenthood than he would trust good old Adolf himself, and that Hitler “by the way, had the same philosophy of Planned Parenthood and that is that some people deserve to live more than other people based on what the culture says.” Hold on, you might say, a fetus, especially in the early stages of a pregnancy, is not the same thing as a full-grown person. You might say that and then you might remember that to social conservatives, a fetus is more valuable than a person. Fetuses need to be protected…people can just fend for themselves.
Speaking of guys who aren’t big fans of reproductive rights, Rick Santorum is receiving a Godwin’s law citation for comparing Iran to Nazi Germany. Yes, there is a good point to be made about the anti-Semitism of the Iranian leadership. But the hateful speeches have, as of yet, not been matched by large-scale violence, and they likely never will. So the Hitler comparison remains invalid. And, no matter how often our hawkish politicians keep suggesting it, going to war with Iran is a bad idea.
So…you know what? Since it sounds like everybody else is breaking Godwin’s law, I might as well do it myself. Hitler? Bad artist. George W. Bush? Bad artist. Just saying. See how silly that is? Still, I hope W. keeps on painting…might be safer for the world that way.