Why is it that every single issue and politician in the world must, at some point, get compared to Nazi Germany? Godwin’s Law predicts this sort of thing, but he was talking about online discussions; this is now happening with major political figures.
According to the wikipedia article on Reductio ad Hitlerum, Presidents Reagan, Bush I, Bush II, and Obama, as well as McCain have all had this type of argument used against them.
It seems to me that this is a fairly recent development. It’d be interesting to know who was the first President to be compared to Hitler while in office. However, another question this raises is: before the Nazis, what was the considered the most evil government ever, and did politicians constantly get accused of being like it?
I’ve read some books from the late 1800’s, and it seems like Napoleon was considered by the British to be an example of a dangerously ambitious leader, and a mad tyrant, but I don’t know if anyone in Britain was thought to be like that.
Part of this may be that the concept of human rights wasn’t as advanced then as it was immediately after WWII and continuing to the present day. Back in the days of extreme Nationalism, one might hate another nation’s leader for the same qualities one prized in one’s own. After the appalling acts of Nazi Germany, and the Nuremburg Trials, this was no longer the case.
Another point is that news of various atrocities did not spread nearly as far as it does today. This, I think, dulled much of the public perception of just what other governments were up to. Still, it is not unheard of, even in ancient times, to assume the worst about other nations, and even to make up myths of their barbarism.
The only thing that I can think of which bothered Western civilization so much in the pre-Nazi era is probably the Devil. It was not unheard of for people and programs to be said to be the work of the Devil, though this was declining by the end 1800’s.
The Nazis are, of course, far more terrible than the Devil, mostly because an Atheist or an Agnostic need not fear the Devil. But the Nazis are all too real, their evil so well-known, that no one can deny the hideousness of what they did.
And yet, it seems, just as Godwin predicted, that the sheer repetition of the accusations of Nazism has eroded the seriousness the claim ought to carry. Now, when seemingly all prominent politicians are compared to Hitler, when legislation on national security is compared to the Gestapo, when every media figure with an opinion is said to be the Goebbels of his side, I cannot help but think that soon these claims will cease to be even outrageous and, if they haven’t already, be merely “boilerplate”. This is not a good trend.