Friday, April 02, 2010

Twilight of the Godwins

I have to credit the rhetorical craftiness of self-anointed conservatives who often get away with dismissing inevitable and even necessary comparisons by invoking Godwin's Law. Yes, it's inevitable that when discussing sudden transitions from civilized societies, the implosion of modern, liberal democratic, constitutional governments into to absolutist and racist tyrannies and the techniques employed, Hitler will come up. It's just as likely that Albert Einstein will come up in discussions of relativity or Tomas de Torquemada in studying the Inquisition. Just try to study the Bush administration and not think of Orwell. Try it, I dare you. Invoking Godwin as though it were more than a humorous observation is simply a tactical diversion and it seems to work by embarrassing the one who brought it up.

Barack Obama is hardly the first President to be accused absurdly of tyranny, fascism or of being a socialist, for that matter. Lincoln's assassin called him a tyrant, both Roosevelts were accused of being socialists long before the current president was born and in my day, anyone who didn't think it worth millions of lives to keep Vietnam from holding free elections was simply a Commie. Remember when Ho Chi Min wanted Humphrey to win so Happy Hubert was a Communist?

Hell, anybody who Joe McCarty didn't like for quoting the Constitution or really any reason at all was carrying that invisible card and his name was on the invisible list. Too bad there wasn't an easily produced "law" telling us that the longer a right wing apologia goes on, the more likely that Stalin or Mao will come up. Too bad there still isn't one, since people likely to make such transcendentally hyperbolic comparisons between the pragmatic, cautious Mr. Obama and absolute tyrants who caused tens of millions of deaths aren't likely to listen to arguments that are factual or too long to fit on a hand lettered cardboard sign. It would be nice to shut them off with Fogg's Law, wouldn't it?

As of late, discussions of the president begin with or are preceded by the rather airborne assumption that he's Mao Zedong, Joe Stalin, Adolph Hitler and Pol Pot rolled into some bearded bin Laden burrito, but then his father was black. Bill Clinton's father was only a white drinker and perhaps a philanderer so one usually had to wait for a sentence or two before the comparisons were dredged up -- and dredged up they always were. Yes, Bill was not only a murderer, not only going to "force health care down our throats" but going to give control of our armed forces to the UN. Bill, who murdered Vince Foster and ran a Coke smuggling operation out of Little Rock was planting nuclear weapons underneath our cities while indulging in Communist free love and of course his socialist tax increase was going to bankrupt our economy within months and destroy capitalism forever!

But no, it was terribly wrong to bring up fascism when his successor made that office the most powerful it had ever been, with the power to override congress and the courts and the Constitution. Terribly wrong when his propaganda machine began to scapegoat real and invented enemies, terribly wrong when he demanded and got special emergency powers by invoking threats that were substantially imaginary if not fraudulent. Smile and say Godwin and we're done.

Obama? Of course he's Communist and Fascist and never mind the contradiction. Of course he's a tyrant for the same reason Lincoln was a tyrant, the same reason Teddy Roosevelt was and FDR and don't you dare bring up Godwin this time!

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