There’s an old saw among veteran Internauts like myself — famously coined by Mike Godwin and known therefore as Godwin’s Law — that in any discussion, comparisons to Nazis will inevitably be invoked. A further assumption about this is that, when it happens, it’s because the person or side making the comparison, has run out of ideas, meaning the discussion is over, and that person/group lost the argument. The reductio ad Hitlerum — to give the “appeal to Nazis” a more formal name — has become commonplace in American ideological discussion. It’s also a juvenile way to make one’s point … since it rarely has any meaning or relation to reality.
During the Bush Jr administration, the Left sometimes made Nazi comparisons of the White House. But with a Democrat as president, the Right is throwing the old reductio ad Hitlerum at Obama and the Democrats. The New York Times Caucus blog mentions the increasing frequency of this phenomenon:
But [the debut of the RNC’s new Web site] got sidelined, or rather sideswiped, by some other Republican moves, that seemed to harken back to Hitler and the Nazis, yet again. In fact, Glenn Beck of Fox News, likened the feud with the White House as one that was akin to the Nazi movement that first came after the Jews?
To back up, this morning, the Republicans showed the ease with which they now put social media to work, when the National Republican Congressional Committee posted a message on Twitter directing readers to a parody video of a doctored Hitler bio-pic showing the Fuhrer on health care and thanking his lucky stars that he has Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader, on his side.
The Caucus blog entry mentions more such examples from the Right, including this:
Fox News’ Glenn Beck compared the White House decision to shun his network (remember when the President went on five Sunday talk shows and skipped Fox?) to the seeds of the Holocaust. Media Matters, the left’s watchdog against the right, captured it, with Mr. Beck saying:
When they’re done with Fox, and you decide to speak out on something. The old, “first they came for the Jews, and I wasn’t Jewish.” …
When they’re done with Fox and talk radio, do you really think they’re going to leave you alone if you want to ask a tough question? …
If you believe that, you should open up a history book, because you’ve missed the point of many brutal dictators. You missed the point on how they always start.
Mr Beck is making it seem that the White House’s feud with Fox News is a form of censorship. But it’s not, because the White House is not lifting so much as one pinky in the direction of shutting down Fox News. What it is doing is avoiding its correspondents. And they have every right to do so. They can choose who to talk to and who not to. (Because honestly, if the president were obligated to talk to everyone who wanted to talk to him, there wouldn’t be anywhere near enough hours in the day. It’s just not possible.)
Really, this is an example of fascification by the Right (i.e. declaring the Left to be Nazis in the making). It’s also emotivism (since images of Nazis is an emotional one.) If they justify it by pointing to when the Left accused Bush Jr of being a fascist, that would be an example of relativizing.
At any rate, that Glenn Beck and the rest of the crew over at Fox News is accusing Obama of being a Nazi, then you know he’s run out of useful and meaningful things to say.