Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Why We Need To Make the Hitler Comparisons and repeal Godwin's Law

"[Ian] Kershaw combined two ideas that underpin his approach to Nazi history. First, the sociologist Max Weber's notion of charismatic leadership – the cult of personality which grew up around Hitler, the belief that he was imbued with almost superhuman powers and should never be questioned. And second, the phrase most associated with Kershaw: "working towards the Führer", the idea that though Hitler was not dictating every aspect of policy the entire bureaucratic apparatus devoted itself to trying to interpret his wishes. "People second-guessed what he wanted," Kershaw explains. "He didn't need to command everything. People interpret 'getting rid of the Jews' in different ways, and cumulatively that then pushes along the dynamic of the persecution without Hitler having to say 'do this, do that, do the other’.””

~From Ian Kershaw: A Life In Writing, in the Guardian

“…There is growing concern in the White House about what skeletons may emerge as investigators comb through a coterie of aides, past and present, who would have done virtually anything to win favor with Trump,” or they’re preparing to mount a defense of all those contacts between Trump’s inner circle and the Russians based on the inexperience, or stupidity, as one anonymous source put it, of “the motley, freewheeling crew of lieutenants and loyalists who have long populated his entourage.”

~McKay Coppins in The Atlantic

The vagueness and contradictoriness of Trump’s ideation combined with the ruthlessness and eager inhumanity of his henchmen make the Hitler comparison increasingly necessary.

Godwin’s Law is more a theory of how things happen than a ban or a prohibition against invoking Hitler. We should not ban the Hitler comparison for one obvious reason: Hitler was himself not “Hitler” until he was able to be, until he was licensed to be by election and empowered to be by the Enabling Act of 1933 and until he was further empowered and weaponized by the devotion of his thousands of henchmen eagerly “working toward the fuhrer”.

Trump has shown an aggressive tendency to defy rules and violate norms, and the more he is criticized for doing so (but suffers no consequences) the more aggressive his violations become and the more devout his following becomes. It is a minority now but as he evades censure and removal it may grow. Impunity is very attractive, especially to the powerless, and Americans feel very powerless in this economy. Trump’s “joke” about shooting someone on 5th Ave was a trial balloon, a test. It was foreshadowing. Hitler wrote Mein Kampf; Trump tweets and blurts his intentions. When he is thwarted he says he was joking. As soon as he can, though, he violates the norm again and increases his license to violate further norms. Trump’s comical barroom blowhard persona has already begun to evolve into a mask of hate.

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