James Delingpole: Bollocks to Godwin’s Law

Another brilliant offering from James Delingpole for his Friday column. For those who are unsure of what Godwin’s Law actually is, Wikipedia tells us the law states, ‘As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches.’

My least favourite law – and there are lots of contenders: the ones on drugs; the one on fox-hunting; the one where Tony Blair made it an imprisonable offence to sell a grey squirrel…. – is Godwin’s Law. I hate it because it’s cited so often by the people I most hate to try to stop me doing one of the things I most love, namely, telling them what a bunch of Nazis they are.

Apparently when you do that, you’ve lost the argument. Or so these interpreters of Godwin’s Law claim. But what if the people you’re calling a bunch of Nazis actually are a bunch of Nazis? What then? Should they automatically be let off the hook just because some bloke called Godwin – an American lawyer, I believe – has supposedly decided that the Reductio Ad Hitleram is a rhetorical fallacy which automatically invalidates your case regardless of its underlying truth? Bollocks to that, say I.

When I call someone a Nazi I do so advisedly. Which is to say that I don’t use it in the casual way left-liberals do to signify “someone to the right of me whose arguments I find inconvenient and wish to devalue without having to go the trouble of engaging with facts or intellectual debate.” I use it to mean: this creep has an awful lot ideologically in common with the kind of scuzzballs who thrived in Hitler’s Germany.

Obviously, metaphor being metaphor, the similarities don’t have to be exact. Were I to call, say, George Monbiot an Eco Nazi, it wouldn’t necessarily mean that he staged the occasional Nuremberg-style rally in his Machllyneth back yard, nor that he was virulently anti-semitic nor that he stomped around in jackboots with a swastika armband. (Though I’m not ruling any of these possibilities out) I call him one because, in my view, he shares just the same controlling, authoritarian instincts, the same underlying misanthropy and contempt for liberty, the same preference for the monolithic state over the individual freedom which underpinned the Nazi Weltanschauung.

Also, as I gently remind readers in my book Watermelons, the Nazis were very much the prototypes for the modern environmental movement. Himmler was so green he wanted to feed the SS on organic food only; Goering was so into animal rights he argued – in 1933 – that anyone guilty of animal cruelty or experimentation should be sent to a concentration camp; Hitler was (mostly) veggie and fiercely anti-smoking; Richard Walther Darre – Hitler’s first Minister of Agriculture – was a great champion of rugged self-sufficiency and a campaigner against urban decadence. Nazi Germany was the first modern nation to pass Clean Air Acts and environmental laws and to ban smoking on public transport.

And above all, Nazi Germany was the first country to address with rigorous planning and mechanised efficiency, the issue that tends to concern eco-minded catastrophists more than any other: what to do about the world’s population problem. Like their modern green counterparts the Nazis worried greatly about Lebensraum. Their Solution to the problem was Final.

But I really don’t want to dwell further on the parallels between the Nazis and their contemporary equivalents in the green movement. It’s all in my book, Watermelons, if you want to read more. Rather what I want to discuss here is whether such comparisons are acceptable or helpful to the debate about climate change and the culture wars generally. Is it true – as proponents of Godwin’s Law seem to imagine – that the moment you invoke Hitler you’ve lost?

Well to be fair to Godwin that isn’t what his “Law” originally said. It was more an observation that in any internet forum sooner or later the conversation will descend to invoking the Nazis. It was, in other words, an argument first against cliche; and second against the numbing effects of overuse.

Godwin’s Law only started taking on its more prohibitive usage in the aftermath of Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism: the landmark book that made it all but impossible for the liberal-left ever to use the term the Nazi as an insult again. That’s because as Goldberg painstakingly demonstrated, the Nazis themselves were on the left not the right. Nazi, as we know, was a contraction of “National Socialist”. But it went much deeper than that. The red in the Nazi flag, for example, was borrowed from the red of communism: that’s how similar the two creeds were. The vicious rivalry between Stalin’s Soviet Union and Hitler’s Germany was the rivalry between the Judaean People’s Front and the Popular Front of Judea – not of ideological opposites.

Unsurprisingly, the liberal-left didn’t much like being suddenly denied one of its favourite insults. Its cunning solution was to declare Nazi references  verboten to everyone – most especially to evil right wing bastards like James Delingpole.

I once wrote a blogpost on this subject: “I call them Eco Nazis because they are Eco Nazis.” The defiance in the title was addressed to the people on my own side of the argument rather than to the opposition. Quite a few of them, I noticed, had bought into this new idea that Nazi references are off limits – and I wanted to put them right. First, I pointed out, it is nonsensical to disallow Nazi comparisons if those comparisons are telling and accurate. And second, I argued, to buy into the liberal-left interpretation of Godwin’s Law is to play the enemy’s game.

What that game is about, ultimately, is denying their critics freedom of speech. We saw something similar going on in the aftermath of the Arizona shootings when congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (and six others) were shot by a deranged gunman. Instead of blaming the killer, the left wing commentariat (spurred on by some unfortunate remarks by both Giffords’ father, who blamed “the Tea Party”, and the investigating sheriff, who blamed “the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths”) to ascribe it to the supposedly extreme rhetoric used by politicians like Sarah Palin.

It’s a familiar left-wing tactic. I get it myself all the time. When, for example, I rechristened the Guardian’s comment pages Komment Macht Frei, I was accused by the usual lefty suspects – inevitably – of trivialising the Holocaust. When I likened the wind farm industry to a paedophile ring, a Labour MP accused me of making light of child abuse. When I mentioned on the BBC’s Daily Politics that the solution to our wind farm problem might be the judicious application of semtex, I was accused of endorsing acts of terrorism.

None of these accusations gained much traction but they could have done. With a bit of Twitter momentum behind them, maybe, or the endorsement of a few more Guardian columnists they could have been built up into the scandal of the moment: Delingpole the Holocaust-Mocker; Delingpole the Man Who Thinks Child Abuse Is Funny; Delingpole, Inciter of Acts of Terrorism.

Do you see what’s going on here? You need to be aware of it because it happens a lot. It’s the Alinskyite method in action: when your opponent has got all the best arguments, don’t engage with those arguments – try to blacken his reputation; when your opponent has the best turns of phrase and the most colourful imagery and the most brutally accurate metaphors – just feign offence and, if you possibly can, invoke Godwin’s Law.

  • Simon Roberts

    This has been the standard approach for a long time, the most significant example being the use of the term “racist” to halt any discussion on immigration or multiculturalism.

    One thing has always confused me though. Most people realise that if you have to “play the man, not the ball” it’s because your arguments aren’t strong enough. This being the case, why don’t the people who use these tactics stop and ask themselves why they are reduced to doing so?

    Is it that tribalism is so strong an instinct that it trumps critical thought? Is it that they view the opposition as inherently evil and therefore any position they take is bad, regardless of any potential merits?

    Obviously, there are clear cases of vested interest (eg Al Gore stands to make untold millions from the adoption of green technologies) but many of the foot soldiers will be as adversely affected as the rest of us.

    It can’t just be a simple case of “useful idiots”, can it?

    • johnpd

      Simon, the reason that people don’t stop to ask themselves why they are ” playing the man, not the ball”, is because for them AGW is a religion, not a reasoned scientific argument.
      Their God is ” save the planet” from the nasty human overpopulation.
      The problem is that religions are capable of anything in pursuit of their beliefs.
      Have a look at the slaughter perpetrated by the Roman Catholic Church in the Middle Ages against the Cathar heretics in the Albigensian Crusade in Southern France.
      Similar slaughter is planned for the majority of the human race,
      (~75%), back to ” Sustainable” levels.
      It’s part of UN Agenda 21.
      Luckily, the fightback has begun.
      In June this year, Alabama banned UN Agenda 21, & other states, counties & cities are following suit.
      ” The New American magazine 10 July 2012 ” is a must read.
      reason.com/reasontv/2012/05/30/zoned-out-of-business
      is UN Agenda 21 in action.

  • John Richardson

    “Obviously, there are clear cases of vested interest (eg Al Gore stands to make untold millions from the adoption of green technologies) but many of the foot soldiers will be as adversely affected as the rest of us.”
    Simon Roberts, above.

    Yes.
    Just as they were affected by the Welfare State, The Three Party System, ‘sensitive Policing’, The NHS (‘envy of the world’), the BBC etc etc.

    All these things have blighted their lives and they still vote for them all.

    Yes, the people are stupid and self destructive to a degree that ‘we’ all try to avoid admitting; even to ourselves. We must avoid admitting the truth too honestly or we will begin hold so many people in contempt.

    I am a Christian and for me, without Faith; human existence has no ‘organising principle’.
    This is now apparent in the public realm of contemporary British society.
    Madness greed and perversion have (very quickly) occupied the vacuum created by the removal of civilisation’s real, true organising principle.
    How else can anyone explain the taxpayer funded ‘art’ that placed the face of Myra Hindley, made up of a montage of all her child victims, hanging by the Thames? Right at the end of a bridge where we were obliged to ‘contemplate’ it as we walked across the water?
    Or the windmills?
    Or the Police trained in ‘trans gendered awareness’?
    Or any other example any sane person could point to?

    “………many of the foot soldiers will be as adversely affected as the rest of us.”

    Yes, but they seem to be unconsciously seeking their own destruction. They seem to be drawn to the madness to avoid a vacuum. A friend working at his Local Authority said to me 15 years ago he was used to meeting people ‘driven entirely by hatred’. He was not exaggerating.
    ‘It can’t just be a simple case of “useful idiots”, can it?’
    No it can’t be and it isn’t. It depends upon what you consider to be at stake.

    Regards.

  • John Richardson

    ‘Rather what I want to discuss here is whether such comparisons [with Nazism] are acceptable or helpful to the debate about climate change and the culture wars generally.’
    G.Delingpole, above.

    Yes.
    It is my opinion that comparing hate filled modern, anti-Christian, eugenicists with old fashioned hate filled anti-Christian eugenicists is more helpful than unhelpful.
    I will leave aside the Christian element.
    Self aware greens know they desire a transformation of civilisation and population reduction’ followed by population control. Pointless pointing out the truth to them.

    Instead, the ‘Nazi’ identification is probably helpful to those non-political people who have been lied to and misled by the MSM (regarding the true nature of the greens).

    Most non-political people are aware that there is a huge contradiction where the logic of ‘climate activism’ and ‘green’ policies should reside.
    The greens are both bossy and controling whilst always playing the underdog.
    They are vehement and driven whilst also affecting a softy ‘liberal’ caring persona. The greens know that even if every one of their policies is pursued by HM Gov. the net effect (on global CO2) would be tiny. The greens have never adequately explained why this does not seem to matter to them. The general public are aware of this weird contradiction however.
    The energy and money that seems to swirl around the never ending ‘climate change’ campaign is out of all proportion to the ‘dangers we face’ from CO2 in real life. Non-political people are instinctivly aware of this; though they are usually intimidated by this energy as well.
    Most people are aware that green political superstars live in huge houses (Gore) fly the world regularly for little reason (Gore) and live lives in direct contradiction to their stated principles (G…well you know who).
    All this adds up.
    I would say that the general population has sussed that the greens are not who they say that they are. However, people are not yet decided as to their true character or real agenda.
    Every day the MSM is exposed as ignoring reality and telling lies. People are more open to alternative/truthful information and analysis than they have been since television began. (Who thinks we bombed Libya to ‘save the people’ or ‘bring peace’ for example??)
    When someone can point out the direct historical ties between Nazis & greens, people will take note because they know they are lied to so often by the MSM about virtually everything else.
    When someone can point out the eugenecist/euthenasia terminus of green logic, people will take note because the greens seem so driven, heartless, clinical of heart and ruthless.
    Some green policies are clearly unhinged and the greens exude a contempt for simple human concerns and simple human needs. The greens cannot hide this; a clear sober link with other heartless extremists will ‘ring a chord’.
    Finally, the greens look, sound and act like a cult that wants to have total power over people’s lives. They never admit to error. They look weird and have a strange ‘distant stare’ look in their eyes.
    They are a dangerous almost pagan cult that is very similar to the last dangerous pagan cult we had to deal with.
    We should say so.

  • John Galt

    I will break the law right now and say Delingpole is Hitler.

    • nom de plume

      That’s absurd, everyone knows Hitler is alive and well in his very old people’s home.

  • David

    The whole thing is usually intellectually useless and ill thought out. Here we have another poorly thought out essay by someone who wants to argue for associations with Hitler, at the same time as complaining about it – when its, err by someone else.

    I’m a vegetarian, and I love Wagner. I must be a Nazi.
    You know what Nazi is an acronym for right? Yeah. Lefties are actually Nazis. As a kid my favorite airfix models were Fokke-Wulfs, something about that smart camouflage. Yep I am definitely a Nazis.

    Why Godwin’s law is useful is that it stops both sides trying to claim the other are Nazis, when this cheap shot actually comes from people who understand nothing about Nazis, beyond they were like the evilest dudes evarrr – so you must be one.

    The truth is the the Nazis were a difficult to understand concoction of everything that was/is shit about us all – egotism, acting on hate, acting on idolatry, acting like sheeple – and hence are the easiest insults to hand when the arguments run out of logic.