When it comes to humanity’s potential for evil, you can’t get a better prime example than Adolf Hitler. He killed millions of innocent people and started another world war just so that he could attempt to seize control for himself. With the internet being what it is, comparing someone to Hitler has become commonplace. Whenever someone does something that you don’t approve of, see if you can find a way to link it to Hitler to make it seem that much worse.
This is a ridiculous tactic for a variety of reasons. For one thing, it’s blatant hyperbole. Second, it does come off as being in poor taste comparing someone who you’re debating to a mass murdering, genocidal madman.
As such, the internet banded together and passed something that is referred to as “Godwin’s Law”. It even has its own page on TVtropes. Basically, Godwin’s Law decrees that anyone who compares a person or action to either Hitler or the Nazis, automatically loses the argument.
For example, if a meat eater and a vegetarian were to get into an argument over which diet choice is better, the meat eater might point out that Hitler was a vegetarian. It has nothing to do with anything and just sounds weird. Oddly enough, people cite his vegetarianism as a redeeming quality more than a condemning one.
He was also quite fond of his dog, and animals in general, so if you were arguing with someone who had a beloved pet, or an avid animal rights activist, you might bring that up if you wanted to invoke the law.
Ironically, for as many people out there who equate their bad boss with the dictator, the man was apparently quite pleasant in that regard.
Sadly, as with other laws, people still insist on breaking it. There was a point where shock jock Howard Stern compared Jay Leno to Hitler (Stern isn’t a fan of the late night comedian to say the least). When George W. Bush was in office, the far left was throwing out Hitler comparisons every chance they could get.
Now that Barack Obama is in office, it’s the far right that is throwing out the Hitler comparisons.
Regardless of your political affiliation, I would like to believe that a vast majority of the populace finds both comparisons absolutely ridiculous.
It should be noted that simply invoking the name of Hitler isn’t necessarily breaking the aforementioned law. If you were discussing history, then Nazi Germany would be an appropriate thing to discuss. Every once in a while, a dictator will come along and maybe…maybe you could get away with making a parallel, but by and large, the Hitler comparison is over the top and will result in a fail on your part.
If you are actually talking about the man and his time in power, all is well and good. It’s when you use the comparison to insult someone or to advance your own argument that you fail.
While the trope is gaining some exposure, it clearly needs to be brought up more as people continue to make ridiculous Hitler comparisons and it just makes everyone look ridiculous.