Godwin’s law (or Godwin’s rule of Hitler analogies): an Internet adage asserting that as any online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 100%.
Anybody who’s trying to be a reasonable, responsible sort of blogger needs always to keep Godwin’s Law in the back of his mind. It’s just so easy, and usually so pointlessly inflammatory, to accuse anybody you dislike of being a closeted (or not so closeted) Nazi, and it behooves all of us to resist such rhetorical misdemeanours, even though the diabolical temptation to just haul off and brand this or that odious prick a devoted disciple of Hitler is often almost irresistible. For me, as my regular reader(s) will no doubt understand, this is particularly an issue when I’m discussing the
vile, Gestapo-like predations various policy initiatives of the modern Republican Party.
It’s just not right to stoop to that level of slanderous mud-slinging. Indeed, it’s often not even immediately obvious what the purported resemblance to Brown Shirts or SS Einsatzgruppen is supposed to be. Sure, a lot of the usual suspects look the part, not that that means anything. I mean, you tell me:
Or take these two:
You don’t think the guy on the left would look perfectly natural in the uniform worn by the guy on the right? Be honest. Hell, I know better, and even I sometimes mistake Mike Pence for Heinz Guderian, even without the Iron Cross.
See though? That’s just how these poor, honourable public servants happen to look. That’s not fair. That doesn’t mean anything. Give you a few minutes to mess around with Google, and you could probably dig up the image of some Waffen SS Commandant or other who looks just like anybody you want to pick, right? In fact, let’s run the experiment. Let’s see how easy it is to claim that I look like a Nazi too. Here:
Yeah, there you go. Hand a cat to the guy on the left and it’s impossible to tell us apart.
So, you see, making such facile, substanceless comparisons of Republicans to Nazis is at best sloppy and misguided, and at worst evidence of bad faith, and usually the latter. I whole-heartedly agree.
On the other hand, there’s the way they actually behave sometimes, and the company they keep. Now, let’s be clear here. I’m not asserting that, say, labelling the vast majority of Hispanic immigrants as rapists and murderers, or refusing to disavow the political endorsement of a white supremacist and former Grand Wizard of the KKK, or tweeting that non-white members of Congress should go “back where they came from”, or even declaring that there were “very good people” among a certain cheery crew of marchers that once descended upon Charlottesville, makes anybody a Nazi or anything like one.
Nor does it make anybody a Hitler-loving, goose-stepping, minority-hating, torch-carrying friend of Himmler to count these sorts of folks among your most fervent supporters:
Politicians attract the wrong sort of crowd sometimes, that’s all, it’s nobody’s fault, and they can’t control who likes them.
Fine. Agreed (let’s say). But, when you start stripping babes in arms away from their sobbing mothers and throwing them all into detention camps, there to be held incommunicado indefinitely under inhumane conditions unfit for the caging of stray dogs, well, then it starts to get a little dicey.
Too, when you’re enlisting virtual shock troops to run all over the country, nabbing otherwise law-abiding, tax-paying non-citizens in the street so they can be summarily deported, no matter if they’ve been living in the country since they were three, and have families, jobs, and a clean record with law enforcement, well, that’s not the same thing as being a Nazi, not at all, but again it’s not particularly nice, and it’s just not a good look, is it?
Does any of this merit serious comparison to the Nazis? Despite the storm trooper aesthetic, no, it doesn’t. It’s highly upsetting and frighteningly authoritarian, and if the body-armoured minions of ICE aren’t the Schutzstaffel they sure as Shinola aren’t the Salvation Army either, but no.
It’s the Republican response to the stresses of the current pandemic that really gives one pause.
The problem is how best to mitigate the huge economic impact of shutting down the whole country and telling everyone to stay at home for the duration. It’s a real conundrum. Republicans have tended to cast it as a false binary choice between economic apocalypse and public safety, but still, it’s a hugely challenging balancing act between competing and legitimate social priorities. If you’re not worried about the economics of this horrible mess, you must be sitting pretty in a way that I’m not. It’s only human to ask if all this is really necessary.
What’s become scary about the Republicans, and especially Herr Donald, is their refusal to even entertain the universally-held expert view that Hell yes, it’s going to hurt, but it’s definitely necessary. Rather than discuss how, in that case, we can do something to keep people afloat financially while the pandemic rages, they talk about getting back to business as usual. Damn the torpedoes, a robust economy (and by implication a thriving stock market) is the transcendent priority!
Some, like Trump himself, are living in a cloud cuckooland where the pandemic, left to its own devices, will only wipe out about as many people as traffic accidents do every year, or the seasonal flu, and nobody tells people to stop driving cars, or quit work because they might catch the flu. That’s not at all true – left to its own devices, and assuming that it’s about as bad as the 1919 flu, COVID-19 would kill hundreds of thousands, perhaps even millions – and anyway, that sort of talk is shockingly indifferent to human life, but still, it doesn’t make you think Jesus Christ, they’re starting to sound like f$*king Nazis! Trump is just being his usual, rapaciously greedy and idiotically lying self.
For a shocking number of others, though, the argument is that losing, say, 2-3% of the population is a small price to pay for prosperity. This is especially true, they argue – and here’s the real kick in the pants – when you consider that those in the most danger, those most likely to die in droves, are just useless old people. Look:
Here’s what I hear when I read that: Only the weak will perish! As they should! As indeed they must for the good of the Fatherland! Besides, they should be willing, and more than that, perfectly happy, to sacrifice themselves for the greater good!
I talked about this knucklehead yesterday:
Just as a refresher, here’s what he said:
Then there’s this knucklehead:
You might have expected such talk to provoke all right-thinking people everywhere, even the professional hairdos on Fox News, to recoil in horror. But no, there was the marble-mouthed Brit Hume on Tucker Carlson’s show last night, spewing the same shit!
(Apropos of nothing, is it just me, or is Brit looking more like the grille of 1955 Ford truck with every passing year?
Maybe it’s just me.)
Trump’s empty-headed economic advisor, the always misguided and infinitely hapless Larry Kudlow, was on the airwaves last night too, dancing around the issue, but admitting that for the sake of the economy, “difficult trade-offs will have to be considered”. Which is to say, so long Grandma.
Take a minute to absorb all this. Buddy in the first tweet, this guy Scott McMillan, who’s some lawyer working out of San Diego, is talking about writing off 2.5% of the population. If he was some crackpot outlier whose views weren’t echoed by anybody else, that would be one thing. He isn’t, though. Others may be a little coy about just what percentage of the country they’re willing to consign to the morgue, but when you start talking about abandoning the old folks, or simply getting back to business as usual while making no attempt to “flatten the curve” via widespread social distancing, losses on a terrifying scale are necessarily implicit. Do the arithmetic – 2.5% of the US population, a perfectly plausible estimate if no particular steps are taken to limit the spread of the virus, is about eight and a quarter million souls.
Let’s leave aside that it’s nuts to suppose that only old people will have to take one for the team. That’s what they seem to believe, and that’s what’s particularly scary. Deliberately letting the weak and the infirm fall by the wayside is what’s known as a “passive eugenics” policy – the purging of unwanted societal elements by simply refusing to help them live. Sadly, we’ve seen this sort of thing before in America, and Canada too I’m sorry to say, where governments in the early years of the 20th Century dabbled with eugenics measures such as forced sterilization of the mentally challenged. The horrifying example of what went on in Germany was supposed to have put a permanent end to that kind of thinking; but I guess if you clobber a rich guy’s pocketbook hard enough, nothing’s off the table.
Let’s be charitable, though, and conclude that the American Right has simply lost its collective mind. They’re not turning into Nazis! No, they’re just crazy mofos, driven ’round the bend by economic calamity, that’s all it is. It’s all the stress these days, you understand. The horrible pressure.
One wonders if they’re crazy enough to come next for the rest of the untermensch. Stay tuned.