Godwin’s law was coined by the US attorney Mike Godwin in 1990. It states that an online discussion will, if it lasts long enough, result in someone comparing someone else to Hitler or his deeds. The end result of such a discussion is referred to as reduction to Hitler, or playing the Nazi card. It’s a way to derail arguments or stop someone from arguing with you. It may work because no one wants to be regarded as Hitler’s equal. I think it’s also an indication of desperation. It’s an inadequate rhetorical trick indicating that your arguments are weak. Besides, if you compare someone to Hitler you have to make sure you really know history well. I don’t think you do if you equate Donald Trump to Hitler.
There was a Neo-Nazi march in the Norwegian town Kristiansand a few weeks ago. They had planned to march in Fredrikstad, but moved the event on short notice. Many wanted to deny them the right to express their hatred in Kristiansand as well, and maybe we should silence extremist views in a democracy, but I think the response was blown out of proportions. Don’t get me wrong, I believe these Nazis should be met with strong condemnation, and we should all tell these few individuals what we think about them, but don’t pretend that this popped up from nowhere. This dominated the news and blogosphere for days, but I wonder how big this really was. This was presented as a march for Neo-Nazis from all the Nordic countries, a region with 27 million people, but they only managed to gather 60 people. They want attention, so why do media keep giving them what they want?
Then there was Charlottesville, and in both places people seemed shocked, as if this was totally unexpected. How could this happen in America? This country was based on, or at least supposed to be based on, the best physical and intellectual architecture the Western civilization could produce. It was supposed to ensure free thinking and not the state controlled (by king or church) regimes of Europe. Things went horribly wrong with slavery and what was probably the worst civil war in any country.
The beautiful idea America was inspired other people, including my own. Norway’s Constitution from 1814 was inspired by different documents, but perhaps most of all the revolutionary US Deceleration of Independence from 1776. Not that any of the documents were perfect, but what followed was a lot less so. I don’t recall enough US history to pinpoint exactly when things went wrong, but I am pretty sure it was a long time before Donald Trump. From being a refuge for Catholics, Quakers, Jews and many others that were persecuted in Europe, America became a country that raped, tortured, sold and murdered people. It was no longer the house the architects designed. Some like to think that it was, that the haters went away. They didn’t!
There has always been members of KKK in position of influence, and no one has more influence than politicians. The documentary series Codes and Conspiracies showed footage of a big Nazi rally in Madison Square garden in 1939 (there are clips available on you tube), so it’s ignorant to assume that these ideologies went away.
Norway is no better. Our constitution from 1814 stated that Jews, Jesuits and monk orders were not to be tolerated. This law was removed in 1851, but there were many just as bad things to come. Hitler’s ideas must have had a certain amount of support because many countries kept their eugenics laws after World War II. The Norwegian law from 1934 was removed as late as 1977. During this period 44 000 people had been sterilized, 7 000 of them forcibly. They were gypsies, mentally ill and “social misfits.” You can add 2 500 people to that list because that’s the number of people that were lobotomized between 1941 and 1974 in Norway. There was also a strong attempt to get rid of the Sami culture. There are many things we should be ashamed of, but as we never discuss it, it’s more or less like playing the Hitler card.
We all know that the beautiful house we once built is a wreck. By all means, speak out against racism and other forms of hate, but don’t pretend that this happened on someone else’s watch. You may play the Nazi card because you want to kill the discussion, but we are all a part of this. Today we are afraid of saying something that could be considered intolerant.
The Norwegian Minister of Immigration, Sylvi Listhaug, is frequently compared to Hitler. Most of the high profile politicians have been campaigning this summer because we have a parliamentary election next month. Listhaug was one of the speakers at a Muslim peace conference for Muslim youth from all over Europe, and she shocked media by challenging the main speaker to say what he thought about stoning, death penalty for blasphemy and the idea that sharia law is above our national law. She did this because, although Tahir ul Qadri is considered to be a moderate Muslim, he has given contradictory statements before. The Pakistani born, now Canadian citizen, said once in an English statement that the blasphemy law is not applicable to non-Muslims. He has stated in Urdu that everyone, either they are Muslim, Jew, Christian, Hindu, or anything else must be sentenced to death.
This is important. There are a few Muslim countries, some of them our allies, that execute people for blasphemy or for choosing to leave Islam. Europe is known for multiculturalism, which means that we don’t expect immigrants to follow our traditions. That is in fact seen as discrimination, and it went so far in some countries that they considered introducing Sharia Law just for Muslims.
I think it’s a bad sign when you apply the law unevenly or when the laws don’t give all groups the same protection. That’s why I think all governments should stop this forbearance that tends to produce parallel societies.