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Godwin’s Law

You know Godwin’s law, the most famous of internet axioms: "As a Usenet discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1." It’s one of those eye-rolling tactical gambits. The Nazis? Really? You want to bring them into it? It’s tacitly understood that, once you invoke the Third Reich in an attempt to prove your point, you’ve lost.

This is borne out by frothing right-wing commentators and their talk of “Feminazis” and “The Fascist left”. Those incapable of framing a rational argument resort to Hitler, and the sane chuckle indulgently and go and talk to a grown up instead, because there’s just no dealing with them.

So it’s disappointing beyond belief that when, in an interview about the Scottish referendum, Gordon Brown clumsily compared the hypothetical condition of the Scottish economy to that of the Weimar Republic, the BBC reporter followed this by saying “which led to the rise of Hitler”. That’s right, a BBC reporter drew a direct link between an independent Scotland and the rise of National Socialism. That clattering noise you could hear was a thousand right-wing bloggers whipping their keyboards into a Hitlerian frenzy.

Now, you could argue that he was only contextualising Brown’s semi-obscure reference for the layman. That’s putting the most positive spin possible on it; but even with this panglossian interpretation, it was a crude device to have used, and unbecoming to a representative of a (theoretically) neutral news organisation. Once you bring Hitler into it, you’ve lost


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