Think Benito Not Adolph!
– by David Matthews 2
It is called either “Reducto Ad Hitlerum” or - quite erroneously - “Godwin’s Law”.
It is invoking or referencing Nazi Germany or Adolph Hitler or any of his minions.
Hitler is considered to be the worst, the most despicably evil person that could ever exist. Nazi Germany is supposed to be the worst form of government that could ever exist… even worse sometimes than communism.
In truth, neither really were “the worst ever”. They just were the most recent examples of extreme evil and the abuse of power and trust.
The problem is that some people can’t help but reach for the Hitler/Nazi argument from the start. They are quick to paint anyone who disagrees with them as being evil incarnate thinking that it will immediately end the argument. It does, only not in that person’s favor.
Godwin’s Law is named after Mike Godwin, who speculated that the longer an online discussion goes, the greater the likelihood that the Hitler/Nazi argument will be invoked. This has been morphed into the 1953 “Reducto ad Hitlerum” rule which states that just because something shares certain things with Nazi Germany or Adolph Hitler doesn’t mean that they are one and the same.
So what happens when you HAVE a legitimate comparison to make and you HAVE to turn to the worst of the worst in recent history for people to understand? Even Godwin himself said that his little rule was never meant to deter people from LEGITIMATELY making the comparison when it applies, but that doesn’t stop people from invoking this rule under his name anyway.
What you do is you find a more relevant power-abuser in history, and preferably in the same year.
So who was just as evil, abusive, and vilified as Germany’s most hated leader?
Why… that would be Italy’s own Benito Mussolini.
You see, the magic word that people need to keep in mind when talking about conservative and neo-conservative factions is not “Nazism”, but FASCISM, which Mussolini was eager to champion in the 1920’s when he first took over as Italy’s Prime Minister. In fact, you’ll find that FASCISM is a far greater threat to society that Nazism ever could be, because a lot of things about fascism are being imposed today - and more so than socialism or communism EVER could!
* One Party Government - The GOP has been pushing for nothing less than this for the past decade now. Their pontificators are fixated on the idea that it is the mission of the GOP to become the ONLY political party in America. PERIOD! They don’t just want majority or super-majority or ultra-super-majority status. They want the Democratic Party to be destroyed and for all independents and third party groups to disappear. That leaves only ONE PARTY… theirs.
* Anti-Communism/Anti-Socialism - From Joe McCarthy of the 1950’s to Glenn Beck today, the conservative and neo-conservative factions sling the words “socialism” and “communism” about as frequently as liberals sling accusations of “racism” and “sexism” to describe anyone they oppose.
Bear in mind as well that Mussolini himself was expelled from the Italian Socialist Party in 1914 for his stances, and not even a decade later his new National Fascist Party were engaging in blatant terrorist attacks on socialist offices and even on the homes of socialist leaders.
* Anti-Liberal - Listen to talk radio rhetoric… liberals are described as “cancers”, “disease”, “traitors”, and “enemies of the state”. And they do so with an accusatory tone that BEGS people to start fights. Again, this comes straight out of Mussolini’s playbook.
* Anti-Intellectualism - Doctors are “bad”; lawyers are “bad”; teachers are “bad”; colleges and universities are wastelands of unrealistic dreams conducted by deadbeat slackers who couldn’t succeed in the “real world”. That is the message that they continually project. They crucify science by claiming that they can debunk climate change by turning on the Weather Channel. They glorify jiffy-pop small town mentalities and continually (and fraudulently) claim to represent “families and small businesses”, while their opponents are characterized as “stuffy elitists with their heads up academia”.
* Corporatism - Wall Street can do no wrong. Rampant foreclosures are the fault of people who wanted “something for nothing”. Bank failures are not because of greed but because of “political cronyism”. All regulations are evil and need to be eliminated. Bailouts are “blatant government takeovers” (as long as you discount the Wall Street bailouts of 2008 and the airline bailout of 2001). The private sector can do everything government services are currently doing, including fight our wars, man our prisons, and guard our streets. Those are the messages that are being delivered, and mostly from Wall Street “experts”, and then championed by the conservative and neo-conservative voices.
* Military Cultism - Mussolini was a soldier in World War I. He believed that a nation defined itself through war. Now look at the Neo-Conservative war machine march… Invade Afghanistan. Invade Iraq. Bomb Iran. Bomb North Korea. Bomb Pakistan. Bomb France (“just ‘cuz”). Bomb Mexico. Bomb San Francisco (also “just ‘cuz”). Their universal mantra is that “America is in a state of war”. But while it’s easy to say that it is just an extreme overreaction to the tragedy of 9/11, you need to understand that this particular mantra was being uttered in certain conservative and neo-conservative factions BEFORE 2001!
But it’s more than just loving war. They glorify the warrior too. They beatify the role of the soldier into this super-citizen status that can do no wrong… unless they start questioning the whole thing.
* Self-Defined As Revolutionary - Mussolini sold fascism in the 1920’s as a “third force” in politics, outside of the “traditional” politics. Likewise, today’s conservatives and neo-conservatives continually talk about wanting to herald a new “revolution” and rally against “politics-as-usual”, even though most of the people they end up supporting are career-minded statists. The “Reagan Revolution” in 1980, the “Republican Revolution” in 1994, the “Takeover” of 2000, and now the “Tea Party Revolution” of 2010… and this time around complete with 18th century costumes and rhetoric. It’s interesting, though, that many of the people they end up sending to office are career politicians who end up supporting the status quo.
* Aggressive Authoritarianism - Mussolini was an unrepentant thug. That allowed him to gain power and to keep it even through the world-wide Great Depression. That fits right in with the crowd that talks about “Second Amendment Remedies” and telling people to “Don’t retreat, reload!”
* Nationalism - Who keeps talking about “American Exceptionalism”? Who dares to sit in pious hypocritical judgment about “national honor” because their party isn’t in charge in Washington? Which party bullied states to adopt a nationalized ID system?
* Religiously-endorsed - Despite claims of atheism, Mussolini’s Fascist control was eager to use the power of the church to validate their cause to the masses. In fact a lot of their propaganda invoked church-and-state sentiments that mirror today’s theo-conservative efforts to super-impose religion into government.
But perhaps one of the more dangerous reasons why fascism is more of a threat than Nazism ever could be is that fascism has been far more accepted. In fact prior to the launch of World War II, both England’s Winston Churchill and America’s Franklin Roosevelt didn’t have a problem with Mussolini and the Italian Fascists in charge of that country. Churchill even praised Mussolini for his party’s aggressive stance on law and order.
Let’s get brutally honest here… while we have been fixated on socialism and communism and calling other people Nazis, the real corrupting force creeping into American discourse has been fascism. It’s compatible with conservative and neo-conservative needs, especially in times of crisis, and they don’t have that whole pesky “racial/ethnic/religious genocide” baggage. Plus, when conservatives and neo-conservatives start talking about the origins of Nazis and how it’s German for National SOCIALIST Party, they are actually leaning on those fascist tendencies.
So my advice to the people who criticize conservatives and neo-conservatives is this: please get your insults right. Think blackshirts instead of brown. Forget about that manipulative Austrian-born German dictator, and instead look at the Italian thug that while condemned is still cherished for “making the trains run on time.”