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Godwin's Corollary - Everything Is Nothing

I read liberal (or "progressive" if you prefer) blogs. One of my regular stops is MyDD. I was pleasantly surprised to see this quote from Chris Bowers Jerome Armstrong today in his Things I Hate About The Progressive Blogosphere story.

Sometimes, the casual references to Republicans, the Pope, or whoever as Nazis and Democrats, bloggers, of whoever as "Vichy" make me want to quit politics and live in the woods. Who are the ignorant assholes that use such terms casually anyway? The Nazis killed twelve million people, half of whom were Jewish, in concentration camps or other mass executions. Their armies killed another forty million. The Vichy government in France helped them. It is nice to see, however, that so many people on the blogosphere have no problem conflating something like a vote on the bankruptcy bill as the equivalent of these ghastly deeds. Calling everything the same thing is to call everything nothing. Calling everything the worst thing is to exonerate all those who are guilty, no matter what they are guilty of, as it flattens out the important differences between them.
Well said.

The Godwin-ization of blogosphere debate is maddening, but when it spreads to party leaders it threatens to turn off the electorate. Democratic Senator Robert Byrd and Republican Senator Rick Santorum both quickly apologized for Nazi allegories in separate speeches; it's a shame the the second ranking Senate Democrat (Dick Durbin) couldn't be more forthcoming, though he did eventually (sort of) apologize. What's makes the Durbin situation even worse was the knee-jerk defense of Durbin by Minority Leader Harry Reid.

Many have called for continued pressure on Democrats to remove Durbin from his post (as Trent Lott was), but the lesson to be learned for both parties is that the more party leaders invoke Godwin's Law the quicker people tune them out.

Perhaps the appropriate response from the blogosphere is to ensure that the Godwin tag follows unrepentant politicians for the rest of their career.


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Comments (4)

It seems the difference is ... (Below threshold)

It seems the difference is between those who care about people vs. those those care about winning at all costs.

Thanks for drawing my atten... (Below threshold)

Thanks for drawing my attention to the great Jerome Armstrong comments, Kevin. He has it exactly right.

Note that I misidentified the author of the piece. It was Chris Bowers, not Jerome.

Kevin Aylward writes... (Below threshold)

Kevin Aylward writes: Many have called for continued pressure on Democrats to remove Durbin from his post (as Trent Lott was), but the lesson to be learned for both parties is that the more party leaders invoke Godwin's Law the quicker people tune them out.

Some people may be tuning them out, but many others become more interested. Therein lies the Waiting For Godwin problem, which is basically that Quirk's Exception, i.e. the codicil that says it's always ineffectual to invoke Godwin's Law intentionally for the purpose of ending a discussion, means that avoiding hyperbole is the only way to maintain our ability to talk about real fascism sensibly.

But if you look carefully, you can easily see evidence (the MyDD post is one example) that progressives are waking up to the Waiting For Godwin problem. It remains to be seen, however, whether conservatives will do so. Paul's crowing today about Karl Rove, in a thread where he disabled comments, is a signal that conservatives may still be having a hard time learning to resist hyperbole.

(Shrug) As I recall, elemen... (Below threshold)
Anonymous Coward:

(Shrug) As I recall, elements of MyDD helped spawn dKos, which is probably the biggest single factor in creating the conditions that other elements of MyDD are now complaining about.

Ironic, that. But not particularly my problem.






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