Godwin’s Law: What the Creator Thinks of Hitler Comparisons | Time.com

Excerpt from an interview with Mike Godwin, the inventor of Godwin’s law (invoking Hitler means losing an argument):

It’s obvious you have a pulse on social media where the Hitler comparisons you predicted are rampant. You can’t just chalk that up to Trump right?
As far as I know, every President who has been President from the time I got on the internet has been compared by someone to Hitler. People compared President Obama to Hitler. People have forgotten there were pictures of Obama with a Hitler moustache. That talk was crazy.

I’m not going to tell people whether to compare Obama or Trump to Hitler. It’s the government of the United States, and that’s very hard to destroy with a cult of personality because we have a lot of institutional inertia by design.

Would you say Trump’s impact makes the comparisons to fascism online more frequent?
I think so. There’s always been a general upward trend, peaking at election times. I think President Trump’s campaign was so populist and so outside the political establishment that it inspired people to reach for the comparisons because we’ve never had a President like this come in as a media personality outsider.

Isn’t it lazy to go there?
Of course it is. If you want to say something more powerful than the last person who disagreed with you said, people volunteer the rhetorical comparisons because they haven’t thought hard about history and what’s different between now and Germany in the 1930s or Cambodia in the 1970s.

When do you believe it’s a fair shake?
I urge people to develop enough perspective to do it thoughtfully. If you think the comparison is valid, and you’ve given it some thought, do it. All I ask you to do is think about the human beings capable of acting very badly. We have to keep the magnitude of those events in mind, and not be glib. Our society needs to be more humane, more civilized and to grow up.

Any idea how to stop the glib references?
A lot of education reform. If I ran the world, I would strengthen both history and scientific education in the United States. If we fostered more self-criticism and self-skepticism, I think that would do much to prevent rhetorical meanness and mean spiritedness on the internet, of which Hitler comparisons are only a tiny part.

We are in mid-adolescence culturally. When you reach adolescence, you’re not fully socialized. If we’re more self-aware, we can use social media with newfound growth and muscles.

Source: Godwin’s Law: What the Creator Thinks of Hitler Comparisons | Time.com


About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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