Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Godwin's Law

When a FB and real-life pal tried to question the overuse of "fascism" in regards to the election of Him, the results were a predictable torrent of "right" (that is, left-) thinking litanies of "outrage." I thought of the non-cosplay stormtroopers (strange as they've been co-opted by Disney into branding, but I might accuse Walt's "happiest place on earth" as a harbinger of fanaticism, pomp and parades.

Many post comparisons to Manzanar, the lagers, the tattoos on the arms, the rallies, the photo of Einstein as if he stood for every refugee. If he was, we'd have benefited by admitting far more into our increasingly sensitive campuses, where the rise of cringing and handwringing a few years ago has led now to crackdowns against any pulled trigger that will nick anyone who's faced discrimination, pain, terror, or violence. Which, in my tally, is nearly all of us. An elevation of victimization raises us to survivors and plaudits. Do we inherit the status of casualties? Is victimization our common identity?

Frank Furedi warns in Spiked:

Holocaust rhetoric relies on reading history backwards. It is an attempt by people to delegitimise their opponents or targets by associating them with the horrors of the past. This strategy is boosted by the fashionable teleological reading of history, which suggests that all the roads of modernity led to Auschwitz. This fatalistic theory of malevolence can be used to indict almost anything that occurred before the Holocaust and treat it as in some sense responsible for the Holocaust. By the same token, treating the Holocaust as the inevitable outcome of otherwise unexceptional things in history that preceded it means that events in the here and now can be held up as precursors of the next Holocaust.

Brendan O'Neill, the founder of the same free-speech fixated, and suitably contrarian (and I often disagree with it, fittingly, over its anti-ecological stance) Spiked concludes on a related subject:

It is a fantasy to claim fascism has made a comeback. And it’s a revealing fantasy. When the political and media elites speak of fascism today, what they’re really expressing is fear. Fear of the primal, unpredictable mass of society. Fear of unchecked popular opinion. Fear of what they view as the authoritarian impulses of those outside their social, bureaucratic circle. Fear of the latent fascism, as they see it, of the ordinary inhabitants of Nazi-darkened Europe or of Middle America, who apparently lack the moral and intellectual resources to resist demagoguery. As one columnist put it, today’s ‘fascistic style’ of politics is a creation not so much of wicked leaders, as of the dangerous masses. ‘Compulsive liars shouldn’t frighten you’, he says. ‘Compulsive believers, on the other hand: they should terrify you.’
In short, not leaders but the led; not the state but the people. This, precisely, is who terrifies them. This, precisely, is what they mean when they say ‘fascism’. They mean you, me, ordinary people; people who have dared to say that they want to influence politics again following years of being frozen out. When they say fascism, they mean democracy.
Inevitably, raising Godwin's Law muddies the rhetorical sludge. Those bent on seeing jackboots at every door will invoke accounts of cowed Germans and herded victims. Those opposed to a policy, an administration, or a statement will insist that if the foe is not linked to the despised predecessor, He has won. So we will be rounded up for FEMA camps or Guantanamo Bay or a religious registry.

Those such as O'Neill, Furedi, or me will be dismissed as naive. That this election, this regime, this leader, this time is unlike any other ever and that we will succumb unless the images and icons remain invoked daily to remind us of what we must never forget. The reduction of those heaps of corpses who endured more than hurt feelings or suspect looks or snide comments, the millions in so many outrages beyond the one we all study at least superficially or see when the reliable enemy is mowed down in a Hollywood blockbuster or Oscar-angled art film or documentary attest to an iconic afterlife, both of those rightfully mourned and the persistence of this facile comparison that cheapens.

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