Godwin’s Law is Fascist

June 7th, 2014   Submitted by Davi Barker

GodwinYou can’t debate online for long before tripping over a specious little adage that anyone who makes a comparison to Germany under National Socialism has automatically forfeited the argument. This is often referred to as “Godwin’s Law” or “playing the Hitler card.” Some people even refer to it by the mock Latin, “reductio ad Hitlerum,” as if it qualified as some kind of formal logical fallacy. Quite the opposite is true. Godwin’s Law, when used as an argument, is dangerously fallacious, and using it to break down legitimate bulwarks against fascism can only escalate totalitarian trends in the modern era.

In fairness to Mike Godwin, this is not how his law was originally formulated, nor how he intended it to be used. Godwin’s Law was originally coined on Usenet in 1990 and read:

“As a Usenet discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.”

This of course has no bearing on the truth content of the comparison, and was devised as a satirical mathematical proof, not a logical one. Or, as comedian Lewis Black puts it:

”It’s like Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, except there’s just one degree, and Kevin Bacon is Hitler!”

As an aside, there are only three degrees of separation between Kevin Bacon and Adolf Hitler.

  • Adolf Hitler was in Der Ewige Jude (The Eternal Jew) with Curt Bois
  • Curt Bois was in The Great Sinner with Kenneth Tobey
  • Kenneth Tobey was in Hero at Large with Kevin Bacon

See that? Godwin’s Law, by way of Kevin Bacon, disproves all arguments everywhere. That’s what’s known as the argumentum ad absurdum fallacy. But I digress.

Mike Godwin’s original intention was to curb gratuitous comparisons to Nazis so that valid comparisons could retain their explanatory and cautionary power. It was never intended to be invoked as a complete ban on such comparisons. It seems that unnatural laws, even unenforceable internet laws, always achieve the opposite of their intention. As Godwin himself wrote in 2008:

“When I saw the photographs from Abu Ghraib, for example, I understood instantly the connection between the humiliations inflicted there and the ones the Nazis imposed upon death camp inmates—but I am the one person in the world least able to draw attention to that valid comparison.”

In fact, I have personally had Patriots invoke Godwin’s Law against me when I made comparisons of Abu Ghraib to Auschwitz.

There’s already a name for hyperbolic comparisons to Hitler. That’s an ad hominem fallacy. There’s also a name for applying the ad hominem fallacy, or any fallacy, inappropriately. That’s the argumentum ad logicam fallacy, also known as the fallacy fallacy.

In fact, Godwin didn’t invent Godwin’s law. He just named it. The mock latin reductio ad Hitlerum was actually coined in 1951 by political philosopher Leo Strauss. He claimed it was an informal fallacy, and was apparently more concerned with politics than philosophy. His fallacy was used to defend things like eugenics, which is the attempt to perfect human genetic traits through scientific and often state control of reproduction. Come up with some new Latin sounding phrase and suddenly fascist policies seem more palatable.

Leo Strauss was born in Germany in 1899 to Jewish parents and after brief employment in England emigrated to the United States in 1937. He spent most of his career as a professor of political science at the University of Chicago.

According to Strauss, modern political philosophy was flawed when it stressed individual liberty as its highest goal. Strauss had a greater interest in “human excellence” and “political virtue.” Throughout his writings he returned repeatedly to the quandary of whether freedom and excellence could coexist. Not surprisingly, Strauss was a political Zionist. I’ll refrain from committing the fallacy which he invented.

Leo Strauss died in 1973, but Shadia Drury, a Canadian academic and political columnist, has labeled his adherents “Straussians.” She argues that the Straussians are dangerous, that they inculcate imperialist militarism, neoconservatism and Christian fundamentalism. Drury argues that the Straussians teach that “perpetual deception of the citizens by those in power is critical because they need to be led, and they need strong rulers to tell them what’s good for them.” What does that remind you of?
Nicholas Xenos, a Professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts, similarly argues that, “Strauss was somebody who wanted to go back to a previous, pre-liberal, pre-bourgeois era of blood and guts, of imperial domination, of authoritarian rule, of pure fascism.”

But you can’t call it fascism… because Godwin’s Law.

Do you see how absurd this all is? A bogus axiom against comparisons to fascism was initiated by a man whose political ramblings have inspired fascist political trends and policies in the modern era. It’s as idiotic as oxymoronic slogans like “ban bossy.” And how could it be any other way? Who else but the fascists does it serve if we can’t point at them and call them what they are? They say the greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist. Well there’s nothing supernatural about Hitler. Nazi’s didn’t occupy another dimension. They didn’t experience different laws of physics or economics. The atrocities committed in Germany under National Socialism happened right here on Earth, and refusing to heed the warnings of those who know how it happened is the surest way of seeing it happen again.

George Orwell once said, “Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows.” As a corollary I say, fascism is the ban on calling a fascist a fascist. If that is not granted, all else follows.

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20 Responses to “Godwin’s Law is Fascist”

  1. Foo QuuxmanNo Gravatar says:

    You have to understand the context in which Godwin formulated his meme. People were comparing anything and everything to nazis and it needed to stop.

    http://archive.wired.com/wired/archive/2.10/godwin.if_pr.html

    • Davi BarkerNo Gravatar says:

      I mentioned that:

      “Mike Godwin’s original intention was to curb gratuitous comparisons to Nazis so that valid comparisons could retain their explanatory and cautionary power. It was never intended to be invoked as a complete ban on such comparisons. “

  2. HReardenNo Gravatar says:

    The situation is that there are people (generally leftists) who rather than engage in debate attempt to stop debate be claiming that those who disagree with them are racists, or homophobes, woman haters, etc… they hope that they will win the debate and stop opposition simply by branding those who disagree with them as racists, Nazis, etc… The truth to them is irrelevant because what is important to them is their ideology. Btw, I think will make comparisons to Mussolini. There is as far as I know no rule or “law” against making comparisons to Mussolini or Italian fascism. There probably would be if that became popular. Had Hitler not been born I think perhaps Mussolini would have taken his place as the worst man in history. I wonder if that would be the case.

    • KeithNo Gravatar says:

      Benny M, was incredibly popular with leftists -including Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky, Mussolini exchanged friendly letters with both of them, up until their deaths, and Trotsky is widely represented as having come to believe that Mussolini’s route to socialism was superior to the route adopted by the Bolsheviks.

      Mussolini’s popularity with leftists included starring as himself in a fawning Hollywood bio-pic, and glowing references (now generally acted as being ironic) to his social experiments in contemporary novels by fabian socialist authors (eg in the closing pages of H.G. Wells* “The Time Machine”).

      Mussolini was also highly scornful of Hitler and Germany in general.

      All of that ended with international isolation following the Mussolini regime’s invasion of Abbysinia (Ethiopia). Politically isolated he condescended to make friends with the little man whom he had previously dismissed for originating north of the Alps, where the residents had been naked and illiterate savages at the time when Rome had the likes of Virgil, Cicero and Ovid.

      I don’t want to appear to be condoning the murderous, raping, statist brute, but Musolini was no where near the same league as Hitler – who in turn was no where near as evil as Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin or Mao.

      Mussolini’s “chosen people”, his “volk” were residents of Italy, regardless or religious or ethnic origin (he called for a “classless society”), the architects of Mussolini’s fascism included his pre WWi mistress, Margherita Sarfati (a secular jew) and indeed Mussolini’s decendants who are still active in interventionist politics in Italy are decended from the Jewish female line, and are technically “Jews”. Mussolini also put Italian soldiers into harms way in order to protect Italian Jews.

      Mussolini certainly has plenty of red on the balance sheet of his activities, but in a century of state sector mass grave filling, “Il Duce” comes a long way down the list of bad guys, a narcissistic also-ran.
      ======================
      *H G Wells’ sometime lover, American eugenicist Margaret Sanger and her British counterpart Marie Stopes (who was part funded by J M Keynes) were frequent correspondents with the Hitler regime – Stopes even used to sent Hitler poetry which she had composed.

      Wells’ contemporary fabian socialist writer G B Shaw, is recorded on film (there’s a clip of it shown in Edvins Snore’s “Soviet Story”) calling for scientists to invent a humane poisonous gas which could be used to humanely kill people whom he dis-approved of. A few years later – the Hitler regime did just that.

  3. VanmindNo Gravatar says:

    Thanks very much, Mr. Barker, for the tie-in with Straussians. Such seldom-noticed fractal connections, the “six degrees” stuff, could continue (making the article ever-more difficult to follow) by tying in others like Trotskyites and Prussians and even Spartans.

    The Divine Comedy, for example, marked a propaganda turning point between Old World Order and New World Order agendas, a transition from composing poetry in Latin to composing poetry in “dumbed down” modern languages. It also marked the beginning of an early-days NWO period of “Great Man Humanitarianism” that centered around Italian city states and culminated in the writings of Machiavelli. Such “humanitarians” were the NWO forefathers of today’s neo-cons (while simultaneously being ideological descendants of “double-eagle strong” Roman fraudsters and even the older Spartan communists that this avatar mentioned already).

    This avatar won’t even go into the nimrods of history, but it’s all very fascinating in a “their days of make-believe magic are numbered” kind of way — indeed it hints toward a tell-tale symbol of the mass-murderous hermaphrodite known as “there isn’t a hair’s breadth of difference between communism and mercantilism.” Anarchy will prevail, of course, because it alone represents a return to civilized nature.

  4. Mark Corbett WilsonNo Gravatar says:

    Thank you for an other insight-filled post. This one is particularly well argued and will be useful in anti-fascist dialog.
    Peace and Resistance.

  5. XenophonJonesNo Gravatar says:

    HRearden:

    Respectfully,

    People easily and unquestionably worse than Mussolini:

    1. Stalin. In fact, for sheer body count, he should take the crown as worst human being ever over Hitler – and that’s even controlling for years active. With a career that spanned many more years than Hitler, he still killed more people during the period in which their careers coincided.

    2. Mao

    3. Lenin

    4. The Kims of N. Korea.

    One might even make an argument for lower-level officials of the Soviet or Nazi regimes – Beria, Goebbels, Mengele.

    Mussolini was a nationalist war-mongering thug, but he wasn’t a psychopath filling mass graves.

  6. Seth KingNo Gravatar says:

    For some bizarre reason people seem to think that fascism died when the US won WWII. They either are guilty of forgetting that a lot of true believing Nazis survived and procreated after WWII or they think that all of the survivors magically realized their folly and disavowed their fascist beliefs after Hitler died.

    As libertarians frequently say “you can kill a man, but you cannot kill an idea.”

    Well, a lot of fascists got killed, but the idea is as strong as ever.

    • Seth KingNo Gravatar says:

      Actually, a lot of people completely ignorant of history and political philosophy seem to think that fascism equals killing lots of jews, and nothing more.

      Those are the people that shut you down when you point out all of the fascism in modern America. They think that until there is a holocaust against jews, that it’s not fascism.

      • KeithNo Gravatar says:

        Hi Seth,
        One popular modern definition of fascism is anyone or any thing a lefty finds themselves loosing an argument against.

        I found a very good essay covering the intellectual background to fascism, complete with a discussion of heavier academic works on the subject. http://www.la-articles.org.uk/fascism.htm#n1

        Although not mentioned in the David Ramsay Steele essay, far from anti semitism being a defining feature of fascism, Jews were over represented (compared to their numbers in the wider population) in many of the fascist movements – and in all other political and intellectual fields too (Menger, Bohm-Barwerke and Mises for example).

        Unfortunately even texts which set out to correct common misconceptions about fascism, fall foul of some gratuitous howlers; https://mises.org/daily/2871

      • HReardenNo Gravatar says:

        The same thing is the case about socialism in general. There are people who think that socialism does not exist in the USA. The fact is that to one degree or another nearly all of the planks of Marx’s Communist Manifesto have been adopted in the USA. The USA government today is larger than the government of the USSR at it’s peak.

    • HReardenNo Gravatar says:

      Some people also mistakenly think that communism died when the USSR collapsed.

    • Scott Thomas OutlarNo Gravatar says:

      To Seth’s point about fascists surviving WWII, I would say that we need only look to Operation Paperclip here in the United States to understand how many of the Nazi collaborators were brought/smuggled over to help the NASA program. In the Soviet Union, the same tactics were being employed to get as many of the scum bags implemented into their ABC agencies as possible after the war ended.

      To HRearden’s point about the planks of the communist manifesto having already been implemented in the U.S., all there is to say is that it is true. A central bank. A graduated income tax. Propertry tax. Control of highways and communication. etc..

      An article I wrote recently, http://www.strike-the-root.com/fundamentally-flawed-federal-fleec e actually describes these exact points.

  7. Jim DaviesNo Gravatar says:

    Thanks Davi for the brain-stretcher. It’s a timely reminder. Only today in another forum I tripped over some idiot who likened Putin to Hitler because of his “lebensraum tactics.” Living space, for Russia! So Hitler has become a name for anyone disliked or opposed.

    Earlier this year I wrote A Monster in the Making in the hope of helping clarify what Hitler was, and what he was not.

  8. Ugh, had hoped this was about William Godwin, founder of philosophical anarchism.
    I’ll search for another article that better suits. Cheers.

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