Sunday, April 02, 2006

"All comparisons to Adolf Hitler are not equal"

Chris Castle gets it right in his WaPo letter to the editor:
All comparisons to Adolf Hitler are not equal. Kristina Vanden Heuvel's March 26 Outlook article, "Had It With Hitler," left out an important part of the argument -- relevance.

Indeed, why shun from Nazi/Hitler analogies when they are relevant? Sure, comparisons with the "Hitler of the Holocaust" are probably not fair in most cases today. Not so with "budding Hitler/Nazism" analogies. What are the lessons of the Holocaust, and how can such events be prevented, if one cannot even compare specific trends the led to the Holocaust with specific trends in today's world?
So, yes, comparisons with Hitler's/NSDAP's early years can be legitimate.


  1. You forgot to discuss the law of arguments about contemporary (domestic) politics:

    'the first one to mention Hitler loses'

  2. Same argument applies here. This "law" is arbitrary and irrational. :-)

  3. Didn't say I endorsed it; just you should have dealt with it!

  4. Oh well, my bad. Here's my law: anybody who uses the previously mentioned law loses!


  5. But the law is useful when dealing with certain discussions; as it can be tedious to inflate things straight away to a Hitler-comparison.

    Then again, 'fascist' was devalued as a term of reference/abuse long, long ago.

  6. If reference to Hitler is irrelevant, it should be pointed out, no more, no less. If it is not applied in all cases, it is not a "law", and if it is applied in all cases, it is absurd.

  7. Aha, it is known as Godwin's Law, from Usenet discussions:

    A dynamic law, that states that the longer a heated discussion goes on, eventually someone will mention the Nazis.

    Thus, a different situation from a direct comparison made at the start.

  8. So, yes, comparisons with Hitler's/NSDAP's early years can be legitimate.

    Can't... resist... you mean Kaczynskis!

  9. "So, yes, comparisons with Hitler's/NSDAP's early years can be legitimate."

    When, specifically? That's the rub.

    You see, the problem is that such comparisons are so seldom relevant and are almost always used as a means of demonizing one's opponent's viewpoint. That was part of the reason Godwin's Law came about. In online discussions about politics, almost inevitably someone will bring up a Hitler, Nazi, or Holocaust comparison.

    For example, the "Bush=Hitler" comparisons that we see are seldom relevant or helpful. Ditto the "stem cell research=Nazi biomedical experiments" comparisons that are also favored these days. They are designed to provide lots of heat but little or no light.

  10. orac,

    a comparison between the way Lukashenko and Hitler came to power is legitimate, for example. They both won the power via democratic elections and later abolished democracy.


Please read our Comments Policy