Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Taking the Nazis down a notch

Though she almost ruins her piece by stretching things passed the point of credibilty at times (e.g. the "nuclear option" was not actually executed, and IMO would not have been the blow to democracy McWhorter makes it out to be), I think Diane McWhorter makes some good points about the dangers of our putting Nazism on its own unique evil pedestal.

During the Dick Durbin flap, it amazed me that the Administration and its defenders actually were trying to move Durbin's words in the direction of a direct equivalence with Nazism. Then, they could invoke Godwin's law, discredit Durbin, game, set, match.

To me, this is stunning. And it seems to create a perverse incentive. If you're going to enact policies that have somewhat fascist overtones, you may as well go all the way and get as close to the line of absolute fascism as you can. That way, you'll probably attract a comparison to Nazi Germany, which you can use to discredit not only that critic but more measured criticisms as well. You make the story about that -- the press and blogosphere will eat it up, since it's more interesting than investigating the ins and outs of legitmate criticism.

Thus, "not as bad as Nazi Germany" becomes our new moral standard. And indeed, "not quite as bad as Nazi Germany" becomes a preferable position to "somewhat questionable."

It's time to take the Nazis off the pedestal.


august said...

I see other problems as well. Nazis=evil allows a syllogism: I am not a Nazi, therefore I am not evil. So you can go and bomb, maim, torture, whatever's on the menu.

Also, Nazis=evil means that evil only exists in caracature. It's frustrating to talk with students about moral reasoning. Frustrating because I am bad at it, but also because their models are so primitive.

It's probably pretty hard to define evil (er, meaning I'm not up for it), but if we want to give it a spokesperson, I suggest Tom Hanks.