Authors Note: I have a tendency to notice patterns in both a macro and micro universes. I’ve been watching this one brew for a while now.
FIRST, WHAT IS GODWIN’S LAW?
Reformulated in the Net.Legends FAQs “Usenet Rule #4”:
“Any off-topic mention of Hitler or Nazis will cause the thread it is mentioned in to come to an irrelevant and off-topic end very soon; every thread on Usenet has a constantly-increasing probability to contain such a mention.”
It is generally accepted that whoever is the first to play the “Hitler card” has lost the argument as well as any trace of respect, as having to resort to comparing your adversary to the most infamous mass-murdering dictator in history generally means you’ve run out of better arguments. Thus, once such a comparison is made, the thread is finished and whoever mentioned the Nazis has automatically lost whatever debate was in progress. This principle is itself frequently referred to as Godwin’s law.
Disclaimer: This blog post does not take a position on racism, it’s prevalence, who is or isn’t or might be racist and my position on this subject. Aristotle noted that the mark of an educated mind is to entertain a thought without accepting it. Therefore I am observing a speech and behavioral pattern of the public. In other words it’s on them, not me.
It is also noted that a trait of people with a higher IQ is that you can argue from multiple perspectives (unfortunately so can lawyers and politicians who may or may not be of higher intelligence – especially politicians and especially millennial politicians).
The original Godwin’s Law has lost its’ sting since everyone is now Hitler, so the new talking point is racism or white supremacy. Rather than argue on the merits of the position of the person (political candidates mostly since they dominate the news) the go to is now calling the other person one of these two pejorative names. This constant overuse has devalued the meaning of the words and rendered them ineffective at worst and boring at best.
Here is a quick search that shows views from multiple points doing just this:
This is in direct conflict with Martin Luther King’s evocative phrase: “I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” Now, it is common to hear you are a racist or white supremacist because you don’t agree with me. It greatly devalues MLK’s position.
A General Definition of racism
While I could list any or all of the comments that have been made in public themselves could be racist in tone, one could make the case for or against whether the accused are really racist. Calling someone a racist is easy but proving most of these ad hominem attacks is harder.
One would need to know what is inside the person making the statements to know if it were really true or just talking points. I won’t and am not even sure if I can make that value judgement. These attacks are easy enough to find (see the media below).
This is not the point of this post. I am not here to call someone a racist or White supremacist (or Hitler), rather to point out a trend.
In the department of redundancy department, this discussion is that the replacement for Godwin’s Law is that you are not Hitler, instead you are racist for whatever reason or whatever you say.
Why is this the case? The overuse of Godwin’s Law has made it impotent in political circles, the media and on social media platforms. Hitler stands with few others in history, perhaps Mao, Stalin or Pol Pot as true villains. Nobody really believes that the other person is like Hitler, they are just trying to make the worst case as they flush their argument down the toilet due to lack of substance.
HOW TO WIN YOUR POLITICAL RACE OR PUT YOUR OPPONENT ON THE DEFENSIVE WITHOUT TAKING A POSITION
What most of the accusers are doing is described in Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals numbers 7-13 as follows:
- “Keep the pressure on.”
- “The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself.”
- “The major premise for tactics is the development of operations that will maintain a constant pressure upon the opposition.”
- “If you push a negative hard and deep enough it will break through into its counterside.”
- “The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative.”
Rather than argue on a platform, beliefs and issues, it is far easier to make your opponent defend themselves, and put them off their talking points.
Example: Candidate 1) If elected, I’ll lower taxes if elected (insert any issue here because it’s about to be destroyed).
Candidate 2) my opponent is Hitler and molests collies.
Press coverage: Candidate 1 is a well known collie molester. How long has this person been molesting Collies? The first question in the next debate; Candidate 1, are you still molesting Collies?
Now insert the word racist or white supremacist for molesting collies and you get the point of why this is effective.
- “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.”
HOW THE PRESS BECOMES AN ENABLER
A common adage is that sex sells, as do murders, rapes, political embarrassments and anything not good news. Guess what they will print (hint: collie molester)?
A not so recent trend is that there is a common thread where a preponderance of reporters has similar talking points concurrently. There is a groupthink that causes the media to focus on a particular phrase, word or subject. Like piranha on carcass, they hammer it home. https://www.google.com/search?q=why+do+news+anchors+say+the+same+thing&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwim9dyQxv3jAhWFB80KHeyQAE0Q1QIoAHoECAsQAQ&biw=1440&bih=825
Since the new go to in Godwin’s Law is you are a racist and/or white supremacist, it makes for headlines that sell advertising. I can also be taken as ideological. This is the de-facto statement now to the point that it has lost effectiveness.
Having spent decades working with (and against) all forms of media, they have a tendency to take the position of them being right, even if proven wrong. A correction is meaningless as once a statement is printed, it is still in the minds of the reader. Almost no one reads the corrections.
Most are journalists who write about a topic because it is assigned to them. In the case of social media everyone thinks they have the moral high ground.
I’m not going to spend much time here, because most people have gotten into an Internet argument. Nobody wins unless the motive of one of the combatants is to piss off the other. It won’t matter how factual your argument is because it is just Internet road rage.
If you go to the above link, you see the outcome and great advice on how to handle this.
So the net result of overusing this theme is the same thing that happens with all overuse. Godwin’s Law is becoming meaningless. The definition of what racism really is and when the word should be used to protect the oppressed has been damaged. Even Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals suffers from overuse and tediousness.
The political landscape is a train wreck of who can sling the most mud. Watch the ratings nosedive for upcoming debates.
Stay out of it on Social Media except to observe who isn’t smart enough to stay out of this pool. With each use of the attack, the meaning becomes less valid and meaningful.
I thought about calling someone a racist instead of Hitler the Simonds Law, since I haven’t found this discussion fully hashed out, but I’d rather be associated with something more positive.
Everyone is a loser who engages in this behavior. My advice is grow up or be better educated to discuss your position better than: you are Hitler/racist/white supremacist and whatever the next insult is.
It used to be that to call someone Hitler was the ultimate insult, albeit the indication that the argument is lost. Has calling them a racist and/or a white supremacist suffered the same fate?