Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, January 04, 2022
Post Godwin

In 1968 on US national television a political debate between conservative intellectual (those were still fashionable back then) William F. Buckley Jr. and progressive intellectual Gore Vidal took place. That debate nearly came to blows when Vidal called Buckley a Nazi. Buckley, having been in the military, albeit only stateside, during World War II had a view of himself as having fought against the Nazis. The idea that right-of-center political views could be equated with fascism and Nazis was visibly new to him, and upset him greatly. I think that progressives who watched this counted that as a victory, and the usage of this hyperbole spread.

By 1990, the early years of the internet, Mike Godwin promulgated Godwin's Law, the idea that as an online discussion grows longer (regardless of topic or scope), the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Adolf Hitler approaches 1. At the time a corollary of Godwin's Law was that, when a Hitler comparison is made, the thread is finished and whoever made the comparison loses whatever debate is in progress.

Fast forward another 30 years, and I feel that we have reached a phase on online discussion where the comparison with Nazis or Adolf Hitler is no longer the end of a debate; it is the starting point. If a public figure would say that he/she was in favor of colorblind racial equality, he/she would immediately be called a racist. If he made a comment about a woman being sexy, he would immediately be equated with a rapist. Saying that men and women are different makes you sexist. Saying that there is a difference between a trans woman and a biological woman makes you transphobic, and you will even be accused of promoting violence against trans people. And even left-of-center moderates are Nazis these days. On the other side of the political spectrum, the extreme right doesn't even bother with hyperbole anymore: If you are left-of-center, you are a child peddler, in a complete non sequitur.

The problem is that the corollary still applies, hyperbole ends the debate. And the absence of any political debate makes the alternative of political violence more likely. Especially in the USA, where political violence as a result of a presidential election already happened last time, the probability of political violence as a result of the next presidential election, regardless who wins, is very high. It isn't just the Republicans with their Big Lie that prepare for non-acceptance of the result, the Democrats also prepare by talking about gerrymandering and the difference between electoral college and the popular vote. It will be almost impossible to hold a presidential election in the USA in the future where there will not be a sizable chunk of the population who will believe the election was stolen.

Unlike the American Civil War of the 1860's, there is no clear geographical separation between the two sides this time. 34% of Californians voted for Trump, 46% of Texans voted for Biden. Whatever you believe about "blue states" and "red states" is wrong. Each state has red, rural counties, and blue, urban ones. The number of red, rural counties is higher than the number of blue, urban ones, but the population in the urban counties is obviously higher. But even at that level, there are Republicans in big cities, and Democrats in the countryside. Political violence in the future will not look like Gettysburg, it will look like Kenosha. As a result, there is not even a chance of political violence producing a winner, like the Civil War did. We will all just be losers. Unless we somehow manage to talk to each other again.

Maybe talking became irrelevant in US because even if they'd listen to each other they'd still be unable to solve problems plaguing their society as they are much deeper then Republican-Democrat divide.

And political violence already flared up in 2016 too - it was simply a lot more contained due to a lot higher police presence. They still had hundreds of people arrested... which were later released.
Increase in political violence is quite steady.

It isn't impossible that next administration could release current "insurrectionists" as "political prisoners" if belief in rigged elections doesn't die.
It's hard to talk to someone who's basis for belief is that your point of view is invalid. It only gets worse when a solid third of a political party believes that violence is justified to enforce their viewpoint.
Tobold, you have forgotten to mention that the Republicans have been calling the Democrats "Communists" and "Socialists" for quite some time. Which I have always considered a bit ironic, because on non-economic values and policies the Republican party has more in common with the former Soviet Union than the Democrats.
Actually it is hard to find a word to describe the Democrats. In the USA the term "liberal" is used, but these days the left anything but liberal. And the elite that is running the show mostly consists of people who are richer than the average Americans, and feel no connection at all to the proletariat.
The Democrats are a mash-up of different ideas and ideologies. In Europe, they would most likely have split in two or three separate parties, among them probably one social-democrat (Bernie Sanders), one center-right (Manchin, Sinema), one green (AOC), or who knows what else.

As for the "elite that does not feel connection to ordinary people" - that is true for both parties, not specific to the Dems.
> Actually it is hard to find a word to describe the Democrats.

Also, my point is not what Democrats really are, but that they ARE NOT Communists.
Calling them "Communists" is a deliberate smearing tactic used a lot by the right.
I agree. It is just that in Europe at least "socialist" isn't a swear-word. And I find it ironic that I wouldn't want anyone to call the Democrats "socialist", because that would actually be an insult to socialism.
The US right uses both "Socialists" and "Communists" interchangeably as derogatory terms against the left, although they are different things. "Socialists" includes the Western Europe social democrats, which by the way the "true communists" of the Soviet Union considered to be "traitors" of the proletariat. But I seriously doubt the majority of US population knows the distinctions between "Social democrats", "Socialists" and "Communists"
Post a Comment

<< Home
Newer›  ‹Older

  Powered by Blogger   Free Page Rank Tool