Monday, August 29, 2011

Godwinning, Well, Anything

Because I have a love of World War II history that intersects with my love of scouring local thrift stores for unusual books, I’m currently reading “Hitler’s Social Revolution,” a published doctoral thesis by David Schoenbaum. I won’t go into the particulars of Schoenbaum’s thesis, as I’m still reading the book, but would like to point out to supercilious politicians and social scientists that this book and its treatment of National Socialism could well be used to Godwin quite a number of current political movements in the United States. Just so you know.

And what’s interesting, it could be used to inject Nazi political thought into movements ranging from the “Yes We Can” presidency and apologetics of those who follow President Barack Obama to those tri-fold hatters besotted with the Tea Party. There’s enough Godwin to go around.

For those unfamiliar with Godwin’s Law, I’ll do a cut-and-paste summation from the phenomenon’s Wikipedia page:
Godwin's law (also known as Godwin's Rule of Nazi Analogies or Godwin's Law of Nazi Analogies) is a humorous observation made by Mike Godwin in 1990 that has become an Internet adage. It states: "As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches (100%)." In other words, Godwin put forth the hyperbolic observation that, given enough time, in any online discussion—regardless of topic or scope—someone inevitably criticizes some point made in the discussion by comparing it to beliefs held by Hitler and the Nazis.
Yessir, it would be pretty easy to pick through Schoenbaum’s work to Godwin Obama or the Tea Party or, really, anyone you wanted to Godwin. It’s a gold mine for Godwinners. I provide no examples, of course, because the comparisons and analogies are at best superficial and at worst historically incorrect because to imply a 1:1 ratio of Nazis to either the Tea Party or Change We Can Believe In neglects critical historical, societal, and political context that would make the comparisons silly if held in context.

So why read the book and, above all, why write this post? Well, just trying to understand the world and how it works. Adding to my canon of obscure World War II reading material. And trying to understand what’s going on today by considering how it compares – and doesn’t – to how things went in the past. History repeating itself and such.

Linguistically this is fascinating stuff, considering how Hitler and the Nazis tried – and succeeded well – to play with the language to make words like “worker” and “soldier” take on new meanings as they worked on paper to erase class divides. It’s kinda Orwellian – to bring up another common Internet thread-killer – to see how language is often a premier tool as political and societal changes occur.

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