Godwin's Cop-out

August 27, 2009

In an argument, I think people these days look forward to a comparison with Nazis because they can point to Godwin's Law, say "neener neener", and walk away thinking they've won. Godwin pointed out that overuse of comparison to Nazis would undermine valid comparisons. I agree, and not only has this happened, but unfortunately Godwin's Law has become the tool of choice to dismiss those valid comparisons. The "law" was only meant to be humorous and not an excuse to weasel out of a serious discussion.

We've lost touch with two simple facts:

  1. Some people really are following in the Nazis' footsteps
  2. Just because you have something in common with Nazis doesn't mean you are a Nazi or "just like them"

The entirety of most people's understanding of National Socialist policy is "they hated Jews", so when you point out that someone is following in Nazi footsteps, they assume you mean they want to kill Jews, when this is rarely what educated people mean. What made the Nazis so bad was not ethnic hatred. People hate other people all the time and it doesn't amount to much. Hatred isn't dangerous in a free society. Hurtful perhaps, but not dangerous. Hatred is only dangerous where men control other men. This is why National Socialism is reviled. When your crazy uncle doesn't like a group, he calls them names in his living room. When a Socialist government doesn't like a group, they can (and do) round them up and kill them.

A government should never be powerful enough to have that option. Most liberals seem to think it'll be fine here in the U.S. because we'll have "the right people" in charge. Sure we will. Forever. I'd like to refer these liberals to George W. Bush's presidency. Almost everything he did that pissed you off was only made possible because you dumb-asses had been working for decades to make the government more powerful by the time Bush took over. You can't create a monster and then complain that you don't like the guy holding the leash. The problem isn't the guy; it's the monster. Your monster. The guy can change every 4 years (and we all agree that a douche comes along here and there), so maybe don't create the monster to begin with, huh?

Where do you think Nazis came from? Most people act like the Earth just cracked open one day and spat out some evil Germans. The fact is, Germans were ordinary people who became convinced that the government could make their lives better if only it had more control. By the time anyone realized the danger, it was too late. Americans are not immune to this.

With that in mind, liberals shouldn't be upset about comparisons to the Nazis in the health care debate (or any number of other debates), nor should they dismiss them out of hand. (Well OK, you can be upset, but don't shoot the messenger.) The Nazis hated individualism. They hated Capitalism. They opposed private gun ownership. They thought the government should be in control of banks, education, health care. Any of this sound familiar?

Of course most Democrats are not genocidal anti-semites (neither were most Germans), but it's important to remember why the Jews were so hated. They were marginalized by German society and they thrived anyway. People resent the success of others, especially in those circumstances. The Nazis were able to capitalize on this resentment and even convince people that many of the country's problems were in fact caused by greedy Jews. Can you think of a party in modern times that uses resentment of others' success to sell policies? And how many of our problems do Democrats try to pin on those greedy Wall Street fat cats? The wealthy in America are a convenient scapegoat now, much like the Jews were then. I'm not suggesting a genocide of the wealthy will result, but demonizing them is automatic these days and harsh punishment is already underway. So, let me take it a step further. Instead of me listing a bunch of similarities, why don't you give us some differences between the Democratic party and the National Socialist party? I can only come up with one: During a war, Nazis support their own country. Can you come up with a second? I'll be waiting.

I'm not trying to say anything about what kind of people Democrats are here nor am I under the illusion that this, in itself, is proof of any flaw in Democratic policies. That's a topic for another day. All I'm saying is that there are deep similarities between Nazis and Democrats. Take from that whatever you will. Maybe you'll realize how much you have in common with Nazis and conclude that you're an asshole. Maybe you'll conclude that they weren't so bad after all. Whatever. Just understand that the comparison is not so easily dismissed.

To be fair, the Republicans will probably be better targets for Nazi comparison in the long run. They become more and more Socialist in an effort to compromise or compete with Democrats, and they're more inclined towards nationalism. Unfortunately, by the time Republican/Nazi similarities peak, the accusations will just be noise because liberals have been making the exact same comparison erroneously for God knows how long. Shoulda listened to Godwin instead of misunderstanding his observation.

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