Godwin's Law Trumped by the NDAA
Godwin's law is a humorous observation made by Mike Godwin in 1990 that has become an Internet adage. It states: "As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1." From Wikipedia
I've observed this law in action myself a great many times over the fifteen years since I dived into the maelstrom that is the internet. Actually, I experienced the worst of this peculiar vitriol from the internet's self styled 'experts' early on: I must confess that not only was I one of the millions of suckers who signed up in the late nineties for the "free internet" offered by America Online, I was dumb enough to sign up as one of their Community Leaders after another moderator in the Community Leader Program noticed that I was able to hold my temper and keep a diplomatic demeanor while under fire from other denizens of the politics chat rooms I gravitated to. They sure saw me coming; as a newly minted moderator I became an unpaid volunteer willing to subject myself to the slings and arrows of members with volatile personalities ready to wind themselves into a white-hot fury over seemingly trivial disputes on a daily basis.
Well, not quite 'unpaid,' as a Community Leader I got my basic AOL service without charge for the 20 plus hours a week I put in. Using dial-up, of course.
At that time I considered myself a libertarian after first learning that there were other viewpoints apart from 'Democrat' and 'Republican' only a couple of years earlier. Many if not most of the other chat room habitués hadn't quite made it that far yet and didn't know what to make of the label, but they often felt they were on solid ground to launch an attack whenever there was a doubt. If I expressed an opinion slightly to the right of, say, an Al Gore when discussing a topic with a Democrat, I fully expected it to be sneeringly dismissed as 'fascist' or 'Nazi,' and of course, the converse was true of anything I said that might be construed as leaning an inch to the left of Oliver North when chatting with a Republican. After the fortieth or so time of being called a 'pinko' or 'Commie' by members of that species I'd grown enough layers of skin that I barely noticed the barbs directed at me. These 'debates' all too often degenerated into repetitive mutual ad hominem slugfests, complete with whatever vulgarities the clever combatants could get past AOL's language filters, and it should come as no surprise that I was regularly accused of Abuse of Power and showing an 'obvious' liberal or conservative bias after warning one of these scamps to tone their hotheaded behavior down a notch.
I actually lasted for several months as a moderator before burning out and chucking the Community Leader...and AOL...mantle. The few actual substantive debates certainly held my interest, but the daily squabbles over minutiae were draining. When the vast majority of conversations consisted of conflicting personalities shouting some variation of "you're ugly and your mother dresses you funny" at one another, it gets old quickly. This experience was nonetheless valuable for two lessons it taught me:
First, it demonstrated vividly how strongly peoples' opinions could be affected by adopting the stance of one of the two mainstream political parties while also showing that their goals were surprisingly similar; their differences were mainly rhetorical. This hastened my own appraisal that the two party system in America is a false paradigm and only encouraged people to indulge their force based statist desires to support that system even when it was actively harmful to them and acting in its own interests. I'm sure I fetched up as an anarchocapitalist a lot sooner than I would have had I not seen this phenomenon for myself.
Secondly, I learned that it's almost indescribably satisfying in any internet based activity where troublemakers can disrupt the process, from chat rooms to online game play, by having admin tools at hand to effectively deal with them. After you've warned the vulgar loudmouth, team killer or griefer to knock it off several times, it feels good to be able to hit the 'Smite' button to mute them, ban them, or as I occasionally used to do when operating a Half Life 2 server and dealing with someone acting with especial malice, set them on fire. That's more of a personal reaction though, the first lesson is the important one.
During my stint as a moderator, I also saw one of the corollaries of Godwin's Law that my Wikipedia source describes in action: there is a tradition in many newsgroups and other Internet discussion forums that once such a comparison is made, the thread is finished and whoever mentioned the Nazis has automatically lost whatever debate was in progress. I've found myself in agreement with this, especially in the sort of relatively trivial arguments I've witnessed. When someone allows their anger to be stoked until it results in a violent emotional outburst, they have indeed lost the debate, and when this happens repeatedly, it's akin to the example of the boy who cried 'wolf' once too often. Humorous as it is, Godwin's Law has been a reliable guide for the acceptable parameters of online discussions, and a reminder of how easy it is to get carried away by the stormy emotionalism that is a particular hazard of these discussions.
That is, it has been until now.
Not long ago, I discussed my distress and concern over the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012, or NDAA as it's referred to in short, that was signed into law by President Obama on New Year's Eve. I have not modified my opinion of the danger this law presents to the average American in the slightest; if anything I'm even more troubled by it as time passes. The Establishment, in bipartisan accord, continues apace with its schemes, seemingly emboldened by lack of public opposition to its most egregious actions both domestically and abroad.
It beats the drums increasingly for conflict with Iran, which poses no threat to his country and is incapable of harming us directly. Much ado has been made of Iran's alleged attempts to develop a nuclear weapon, but the facts deny that it either has one or is anywhere near being able to produce one. Even if in the highly unlikely event that country was to acquire a nuclear weapon, the thought of its being used is ludicrous when one considers that Iran is surrounded by dozens of U.S. bases...that's like being terrified of a child with a penknife surrounded by dozens of heavily armed men in an alley. This situation is all too reminiscent of the war hysteria preceding the invasion of Iraq that assured the public that Saddam Hussein was sitting on an arsenal of WMDs, hysteria that was known to be absolutely false before, during and after the invasion. This doesn't discourage the war lovers in the least, even though an American attack on Iran could have devastating consequences. Not content with pushing for an attack on Iran, American hawks also have Syria in their sights. This too, is an extremely dangerous plan, yet despite warnings still appears to be pushing forward. By all accounts, this constant aggression will benefit no one in our country, yet the White House and Pentagon seem untroubled and show every indication of carrying on business as usual.
Domestically, the situation is every bit as dismal. Every American's life is now subject to the whim of the U.S. president, and I for one find Obama's assurance that he "won't use" the powers codified by NDAA utterly without credibility. In 'Mission Creepiness' I warned that duplicity and savagery have become the new norm in America even though such behavior flies in the face of both the spirit and the letter of American law. I have no claims to prescience, but I also echoed Professor R.J. Rummel's caution that there is a direct link between a government acquiring too much unaccountable power and the likelihood that it will turn on its own citizens. I must remind the reader that this postulate has been proven true time after time over the twentieth century, at an estimated cost of 262 million lives taken by governments during that time.
I suspect that apart from the fear of official consequences, many people have been discouraged from sounding the alarm over our current totalitarian government by a reluctance to do so brought on by fear of appearing unrealistic or alarmist as Godwin's Law details. Folks, I submit that this country has come a long, long way from the days when I was an AOL moderator. Our government is acting like a bunch of Nazis, complete with its over-the-top Sturmabteilung actions and attitudes. If that term still disturbs you, fine, say that it's acting like the NKVD, KGB, or East German Stasi during their heydays...pick your pejorative. Additionally, there's no way at this point that accurately referring to them as such be construed as 'crying wolf' by any stretch of the imagination; the fact of the matter is that the established order is the one that's been crying wolf in an attempt to keep the public constantly on edge, fearful of its own safety, and ready to cede even more of its liberties in the name of 'security.' Nonstop beating of the war drums, disinformation propaganda, and false flag operations are all the actions of a totalitarian State terrified of losing the power it's usurped. That fear will be turned inwards before long just as Professor Rummel warns, and having thrown logic away along with reason and morality, it is guaranteed to start consuming its own people just as totalitarian states have done so many times before.
The good news is that as intimidating as this juggernaut is, neither natural law nor U.S. law is on its side. This is the essence of what makes our Constitution...as the Framers intended...so unique in the world's history. Some things are just flat-out wrong, no matter what any politician says or how many people vote to support them. If a community decides that all left-handed red haired men with beards should be summarily enslaved or executed, for example, it doesn't matter if 99.44/100% of that community votes to make that idea law...it is an illegal and immoral idea, and would result in an illegal and immoral law. Just so with the foul NDAA, and it must be killed, decapitated, and the ground it's buried in sown with salt if we plan to survive this bizarre stage of our history. It won't take a majority of the public to accomplish this, and with the dreadful state of public morality, knowledge, and ability to reason fostered by our coerced public education system, I think we've passed the time when counting on large numbers of the public to do the right thing or even support those who would is an option anyway. All it will take is for a small number of people who are in the right to reverse this suicidal course, and luckily for us, we have some...and their numbers are increasing.
There's Congressman Ron Paul, the only candidate for the U.S. presidency who actually supports a sane foreign, domestic and fiscal public policy, and thanks to his example we're seeing more liberty minded people joining him. Recently we've seen the savvy U.S. Air Force retired Lieutenant Colonel Karen Kwiatkowski enter the Congressional race in Virginia, as well as the addition of Sheriff Richard Mack, a proven defender of liberty who plans to unseat the big-government incumbent Lamar Smith in Texas. They're just a start, you can be assured that more are coming and they all need our support. This is the time for all of us who reject the Establishment's presumption that we, our descendents, and most of the world are its property to draw the crucial line in the sand.
Interestingly enough it seems that Godwin's Law isn't obsolete after all, it's just developed another corollary: rather than name-calling or finger-pointing, when any person or government adopts the behavior or attitudes of the Nazis themselves, they end any discussion or debate right there on the spot.
They have already lost...we just have to help them realize that.