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Inflammatory political rants

‘Godwin’s law’ – or more specifically, ‘Godwin’s law [or rule] of Nazi analogies’ – is an internet adage coined by American attorney and author Mike Godwin.

Until very recently [yesterday], this writer had laboured under the misapprehension that it essentially boiled down to ‘the first person to compare the position of someone they’re disagreeing with on the world wide web to Hitler or the Nazis, loses the argument’.

Once upon a time, not so very long ago, this rhetorical rule appeared to be fairly widely adhered to [and not just on the internet], with only the occasional outlier resorting to reductio ad Hitlerum [“reduction to Hitler”] in order to dismiss any idea whatsoever that could be associated with Nazi Germany or its Führer – for instance, advocates for abstaining from eating meat might be countered with, “Well, of course, you know Hitler was a vegetarian …”

Unfortunately, these days Godwin’s law appears to be all but forgotten – and certainly more honoured in the breach than the observance – and it’s increasingly common for people to seek to smear their ideological opponents with the accusation that they’re Adolf-adjacent or “literal Nazis” by way of an opening salvo.

Suddenly it seems as though there are “Nazis” everywhere – except in the Ukrainian military, elements of which continue to venerate their forebears’ enthusiastic collaboration with the German army during WWII because, well, that might overly complicate the prevailing goodies and baddies narrative…

In any case, the reason for raising Godwin’s law is Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters reportedly comparing the previous Labour Government’s ‘co-governance’ policy with Nazi Germany.

‘Reportedly’ because Peters has since protested that he made no such direct comparison and clarified he was referencing pre-election comments by Te Pati Māori co-leader Rawiri Waititi about the ‘superior genetics’ of Māori [presumably referencing a Q+A interview from September 10 last year in which Jack Tame challenged him about a similar, since-deleted phrase in one of his party’s policies].

For the record, here’s what Peters did say: “It was not just ideological theory, it was race-based theory. Where some people’s DNA made them, sadly, according to these people, and condoned by their cultural fellow travellers, their DNA made them somehow better than others.

“I’ve seen that sort of philosophy before, I saw it in Nazi Germany, we all did. We have seen it elsewhere in the world in the horrors of history, but right here in our country tolerated by the very people whose job is to keep the system honest.”

Anyway, as it turns out, Godwin’s law is actually a bit more nuanced than previously assumed.

Rather than a prohibition about people using Nazi analogies, Godwin wanted “people to develop enough perspective to do it thoughtfully”.

“If you think the comparison is valid, and you’ve given it some thought, do it … We have to keep the magnitude of those events in mind, and not be glib.”

Good advice, you’d think. So, was Peters being inappropriately glib? And how might one compare his rhetoric to, for example, Te Pāti Māori’s co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer’s recent claim that the government’s smokefree policy changes are “deliberate … systemic genocide”?

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon has described Peters’ comments as unhelpful, while also pointing to the increasingly “inflammatory” language that’s being used across Parliamentary politics at the cost of “the civility in our politics”.

A fair point, surely? After all, isn’t what’s sauce for a conservative goose the same for a progressive gander?

1 COMMENT

  1. Yeah Right who’s taking 🙄 statements 🙄 out of context 🙄 🤣 🤔. We know what some PARTY’S can do TAKE COVID AND WHAT WAS FORCED ONTO WORKERS AND CITIZENS? 🙄 🤔 THAT’S COMMUNISM 💯.

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