Crying Wolf When There’s a Wolf…

Godwin’s law is an Internet “meme” that recognizes a recurring phenomenon of online argumentation: as discussions get lengthier and more passionate,  a debater will eventually compare someone or something to Hitler. Godwin’s Law provides that when such a comparison is made, the guilty person has effectively forfeited the argument.

Godwin’s Law is recognition that name-calling is not productive debate. An accusation that a person or argument is “just like” Hitler is generally unconnected to any actual resemblance between the accused and Nazi Germany. (In other times, the comparison might have been to Satan or the Anti-Christ.) The person doing the name-calling is using Hitler as a stand-in for “evil” (and by falling back on an ad hominem response, demonstrating the poverty of his or her substantive argument).

As a Jew, I have always found thoughtless, almost casual use of the Nazi epithet particularly inappropriate, because it tends to minimize the historical horror that was Nazi Germany. If everyone you disagree with is a Nazi, then actual Nazis are no longer moral aberrations.

Worse, when you have habitually been describing behaviors with which you disagree as Nazi-like, what do you do when something truly Nazi-like emerges? Will the genuine threat be dismissed, as in the story of the boy who cried wolf?

Which brings me to Sebastian Gorka.

Gorka is a top aide to Donald Trump. He was previously the “national-security editor” at Breitbart, working with Steve Bannon. Bannon, of course, is now President Trump’s top strategist. Gorka’s virulently negative  views on Islam are similar to those of Bannon, the President and most of Trump’s other top aides. As an article in the Atlantic noted, however, those views are far outside the mainstream of scholarship on terrorism and Islam, and experts in the field view Gorka’s qualifications as highly questionable, at best.

Now, Slate has reported on a story uncovered by The Forward.

Reporters Lili Bayer and Larry Cohler-Esses found strong evidence that Gorka swore a lifetime oath to a far-right Hungarian group, the Vitézi Rend. The State Department classifies the Vitézi Rend as having been “under the direction of the Nazi Government of Germany” during World War II; as such, members are “presumed to be inadmissible” to America under the Immigration and Nationality Act and must disclose their membership on immigration applications. (The organization was banned in Hungary following World War II but reconstituted after the fall of communism.)

Two leaders of the Vitézi Rend told Forward that Gorka is a full member.

The disclosure of Gorka’s ties has been met with demands for an investigation from at least two Senators, and by dark humor on Facebook. (A photoshopped picture of Angela Merkel has her saying, “In the United States, you call it the ‘alt-right.’ In Germany, we refer to it as “why grandpa lives in Argentina.”)

Given the disquieting parallels between how the Nazis behaved as they were coming to power in Germany and the early actions of the Trump Administration, the Urban Dictionary has issued a notice “suspending” Godwin’s Law.

THIS IS A PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT:

With the emboldening of the Alt-Reich Fascists all over North America and Europe following the election of their cheeto-dusted Fuhrer, Donald J. Trump, The Godwin’s Law is hereby suspended in solidarity with the Anti-Fascist resisters, until further notice.

This time, there may be a real wolf…..

33 thoughts on “Crying Wolf When There’s a Wolf…

  1. Sheila: “This time, there may be a real wolf…..”

    Maybe we can now get somewhere and deal with the REAL CONTEXT [Fascism] which is a ZERO SUM GAME, as opposed to the WIN-WIN GAME still being played by our COMATOSE DEMOCRACY.

    To use an American football analogy, they’re on our one-yard line. And that means we better “HOLD THAT LINE” as time has about run out in this still scoreless contest.

  2. Wow! A whole high-toned article trying to legitimize name-calling. A good strategy, if it works. In this group it will. I would much rather have an accurate analysis of what he is doing rather than hyperbole. Example: He proposed ac16% reduction in HHS budget and Meals on Wheels is doomed.

  3. I read the story about Gorka being a member of that organization. For our country to not have thoroughly investigated his background before allowing him to come here is very frightening. We should be demanding that he be immediately expelled from our country. He claimed that his father was a member of this organization and gave him the pin that he wore to an event. Like others, I do not believe that at all.

  4. Wikipedia:
    “Full definition
    To call a spade a spade or call a spade a shovel is a figurative expression which refers to explicitly calling something as it is, by its right name. The implication is that one tells the truth about the nature of the thing, speaking frankly and directly about it, including subjects, even if coarse, or considered impolite or unpleasant. Brewer defined it in 1913 as being “outspoken, blunt, even to the point of rudeness”, adding that it implies ones calling “things by their proper names without any ‘beating about the bush'”.

    “Crying Wolf When There’s a Wolf…” We all know the story of “The Boy Who Cried Wold” when there was none. I tried to watch “Morning Joe” again this morning but with Joe interviewing Republicans who must have the same Public Speaking coach as Sean Spicer and Kellyanne Conway shortens my tolerance level considerably. They find excuses for Trump’s behavior and rarely refer to the sources (Bannon, Gorka, et al) of his outlandish views and refusal to back down when proven wrong. The “sheep’s clothing” has fallen away from our own “ravening wolf”; like “sheep following the Judas goat to the slaughter”, Trump’s continuing supporters know not yet that they are the targets in his submitted budget and his outlandish actions turning former allies against the U.S. and us. Will the hearings today bring out any actual truths regarding the Trump/Putin et al/Russian connections or refute his repeated accusations that President Obama “wire tapped” the Trump Tower? The Republican Congress, Trump and his security protected family members, along with his appointees, are relying on those pesky quotation marks to “walk back” his “alternative facts” and blame the press for “fake news”. I believe these hearings are simply more instances of “much ado about nothing” and will render the same results as Trump’s campaign. He will still be president and we will still be in deep shit.

    We, here in America, still have the right to publicly and legally call a wolf by it’s correct name, call a spade a spade and continue our efforts to trump Trump’s blatant Naziism, whoever is behind it…calling it Alt-Reich Fascism if you prefer. Are we sure that picture of Angela Merkel and the attached quote is photoshopped? It speaks a long known truths. Sweeping Trump’s words and actions “under the rug” does not make them disappear; it leave a huge, ugly lump to trip over.

  5. We should all apologize to Ken. If Trump wants Nazis on his staff that is his prerogative as our elected president. And why should there be any question about a lack of vetting for Trump appointees – he’s our president and can do whatever he wants. right? It’s not like he actually works for us.

  6. Nancy,

    “For our country to not have thoroughly investigated his background before allowing him to come here is very frightening.”

    What do you expect from a fascist or neo-Nazi government? Don’t forget whether by “hook or crook” Donald Trump was elected President.

  7. I’ll say it once again. WITH ALL DUE RESPECT, we better do a lot better than an “Intelligence Report” from the Southern Poverty Law Center or a lawsuit by the A.C.L.U. or we will have lost whatever freedoms we have left.

  8. What I find most amusing is the Western European countries have created the refugee crisis with their consistent bombing in the Middle East. All the fears associated with “dark-skinned non-Christians” were exacerbated by our foreign policy blunders.

    Also, if you think Trump is bad, you should read about Marine Le Pen campaigning for the French presidency. 😉

    Hitler didn’t think much of the public. From Hitler’s Mein Kampf:

    “The receptivity of the masses is very limited, their intelligence is small, but their power of forgetting is enormous. In consequence of these facts, all effective propaganda must be limited to very few points and must harp on these in slogans until the last member of the public understands what you want him to understand by your slogan.” ~ Adolf Hitler

    Wait a minute…that sounds like our media in the USA. 😉

    Slowly, we are waking up to the fact it’s all been a lie.

  9. Todd,

    “All the fears associated with “dark-skinned non-Christians” were exacerbated by our foreign policy blunders.”

    Thanks. Right on the money. Excuse me, OIL MONEY.

  10. As citizens, we and our current President would do well to think about the following quote from President Lincoln, “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”

  11. “it has all been a lie.” Yes, the lies poured over the world by power hungry politicians, industrial leaders, religious leaders, and every would be leader that each add to the delusions of this era. Worst of all, however, are the lies we tell ourselves and each other in order to avoid facing the human doomsday that fast approaches. I do not write here of a doomsday brought about by fascism, but by overpopulation and the wasting of the planet.

  12. “A Last Chance For Resistance” is the title of Chris Hedges’ column today in Truthdig. Powerful, but offers no remedy, no action. Marv says we must do a lot better than what the SPLC or ACLU offer. What shall we the readers and pontificaters here published DO? How do we reverse course, revolve to ‘before Trump’?

  13. I’m with Todd and Mark. Isn’t it about time we start asking questions about what the worldview is of Bannon, Gorka et al? Indeed, of this administration? What kind of world do they see in 10, 20, 50 years? Given that they are Neo-Nazis (the real term for Alt-Right), that should give us a clue, no? Let’s not get bogged down in minutiae as Ken suggest we do. MoW is important but there are bigger fish to fry.

  14. What if we each start a book group using Timothy Synder’s On Tyranny? It is a thoughtfull little slip of a book, a collection of short essays that illuminate the similarities of Nazi Germany and our current environment. It is not hyperbole and offers a reasoned and academic approach to this issue.

  15. President Trump is like a fire chief who enjoys setting fires, watching the destruction of the fire, watching
    other people deal with the extensive consequences.

    It’s difficult, but not impossible to catch an arsonist. Much harder when he hides behind protection and money.

    Arsonists like the game of confusion and waste large amounts of time, effort and resources.

  16. Alphons – how do we get the Whale into the frying pan? Do we realistically think we can dump Trump in 2020? By then can we win the Senate and House and 30 governorships and state legislatures? Today we face our coffin being nailed shut with Scalia’s replacement being considered. Disaster is upon us.

  17. The First Amendment gives us the right (so far) of comparing our present regime with Hitler, Idi Amin, Richard Nixon or anyone else we please, but unlike Trump’s aversion to apology for calling Obama a felon, I concede that we must have evidence to support such a contrast. Look around. Evidence abounds in Bannon World.

    The Authoritarians are clearly in control of a clueless Trump (who is awaiting action under the 25th Amendment) and evidence of such is so abundant that it is useless to cite here. Suffice it to say that if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck. and acts like a duck – it’s a duck.

    Comparisons to Hitler’s power-grabbing conduct are perfectly apt and I for one will not give up my right to make such comparisons because of the twisted logic of some of the academic class who posit that I have abandoned other grounds for my position(s) by making such comparisons. Thus I can decry Trump’s budget proposals while at the same time comparing his conduct in office to that of anyone I choose, including Hitler, Genghis Khan, or Hun and Ottoman politicians of another day and age.

    In a democracy we can criticize Mother Teresa and Jesus Christ if we please to do so as citizens, and while those two are not on my list, Trump and Hitler have qualified, and anybody who doesn’t see the parallels with Miller’s pronouncement that Trump’s orders are not to be limited by the courts to Hitler’s pronouncements in Mein Kampf is not paying attention, and those who are not paying attention are not defending democracy, our most important asset held in common. As the ancient Athenians found as they were gobbled up by Roman legions, democracy is fragile, so let’s pay attention and pursue our democratic rights in robust fashion against anybody and everybody before they evaporate for disuse.

  18. Wayne,

    “Marv says we must do a lot better than what the SPLC or ACLU offer. What shall we the readers and pontificaters here published DO? How do we reverse course, revolve to ‘before Trump’?”

    Unbelievable. Maybe, we now have the ability on the blog to change the direction. I believe Chris Hedges can do that for us, as you have pointed out, “[he is]Powerful, but offers no remedy, no action.”

    No doubt Chris Hedges is brave man. He has shown that as a war correspondent. But he doesn’t have the capabilities to lead. Nevertheless, many see him as their leader. I know this for a fact as I made a special trip to New York in 2007 to confront at the major Barnes and Noble Bookstore in Manhattan. The reason for my trip was his book “American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America.”

    It was a follow-up book to Davidson Loehr’s book released in 2005, “American Fascism + God: Sermons from a Heretical Preacher” by Davidson Loehr (White River Junction, Vermont:Chelsea Green Publishing Company, 2005). Davidson Loehr has been a professional Vietnam War Combat photographer who has both an M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Chicago. At the time he wrote his book, he was senior minister of the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Austin, a 640-member congregation in Texas.

    As both a former Texan and Unitarian, I must admit I was impressed.

    Getting back to Chris Hedges. My trip was very worthwhile. Hedges discussed his personal life which left much to be desired from a leadership point of view. One problem is that you have to back up what you’re writing about if you also want to be a leader. That’s pretty much an impossibility if you can’t stand your ground physically which he can’t. He can take punishment but can’t give it out. He has no athletic ability or any military experience. Thus in this political environment he has no qualifications to lead or even suggest how it might be done.

    No doubt, he’s an exceptional observer and writer as a Pulitzer Prize winner. No doubt he has many followers but, as was pointed out by Wayne, he has no suggestions on solving the problem.

    I also had the chance to challenge him in front of a large audience at his book review It was on the fact that he never discussed Race as a problem in his book. He had no answer other than to avoid the confrontation. Like everyone else, he now can’t avoid the issue. But he is many years late and, consequently, he isn’t in front of the problem.

    Much like the Southern Poverty Law Center, you can’t be candid on all issues, even the most important ones, if you are counting on raising funds or making money selling books in a society ruled by a corporate oligarchy.

    Wayne, what you better do is find a leader who has the credentials to stand up to Donald Trump and the movement he is leading. If that’s an impossibility, then I would suggest it’s best to surrender and don’t cause the country or the world any useless misery.

  19. What I’ve been attempting to say for many months, Trump/Pence/Bannon is not the BEGINNING, they are the END. This movement is not STATIC, it’s DYNAMIC. As Gerald pointed out the other day, it started full force in 1971. It’s a war against what used to be American values.

    It’s much more than white power groups like the K.K.K. They are a major SYMPTOM, but they’re far from the major problem. Trump/Pence/Bannon are not the K.K.K. They’re much more dangerous. The “Intelligence Report” by the SPLC is only about “white power” groups. This isn’t about Civil Rights marches or “cross-burning.” It’s much, much deeper and there is no organized effort to deal with this totally different CONTEXT, since there is no money in it.

    That’s the fuck’en truth. You better believe it.

  20. I’m not sure why Ken G is comfortable with the fact of the similarities between the Bannon/Trump/Pence government and the Fascist regimes that brought Europe to its knees going on 100 years ago.

    Is it that he believes that they are being misrepresented in news media or more that he finds authoritarian personality centered government in these days of wealth centric culture an improvement in social stability?

    Or perhaps he’s fallen for their sales pitch that government is guilty of over-reach so cutting back on serving we the people will step towards we the people serving government which is so, hmmmm, orderly. Yes Fascists are so orderly all in rows with their identical uniforms and uniform blond hair.

    We are fortunate to have those historical events as a model for what could happen whereas then it was unprecedented.

    Others here hope that our problems will be cured by shear incompetence, the collapse of our economy and the eventual dismissal of the US as any kind of world leader so we can begin the rebuild well informed about our experience with business running government rather than vice versa and return to democracy as usual renewed in the confidence of having experimented with an alternative and learned.

    Personally I believe that incompetence will prevail in shaping post Bannon/Trump/Pence America.

    I do admit though that they could be diabolical and actually successfully install a new world order in order to protect government from the people.

  21. Pete,

    “We are fortunate to have those historical events[and personalities] as a model for what could happen whereas then it was unprecedented.”

    Great. That’s our TRUMP CARD. Hope you don’t mind my adding PERSONALITIES. The most important of which is Hans Oster, the second in command of German military intelligence. We need to follow his lead.

  22. When I say that I’m betting that incompetence will rule the day before we’ve cured our teenage like experimentation with risk, it’s based on previous neoliberal administrations who have actually demonstrated its failure to thrive.

    How many cycles do we need before we believe that repeating behaviors repeats results?

  23. For anyone interested in freedom these days, I strongly recommend, however, only for understanding a strong personality and not for assassination: “The Oster Conspiracy of 1938: The Unknown Story of the Military Plot to Kill Hitler and Avert World War II” by Terry Parssinen (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2003) p.vii.

    Hans Oster was a man after God’s own heart, of irreproachable character, great lucidity, and iron nerve in the face of danger.
    ~Fabian von Schlabrendorff, Historian

    This [German Resistance] movement was not only not encouraged, but was indirectly opposed by Germany’s enemies. For anyone who could not convince himself to become an emigrant, there remained no other option, if one wished to live and die as a German patriot, than to join this tenacious opposition. Fate and fault, fate and guilt, are closely intertwined here on both sides. Only a time less torn by the passions of the day will be able to judge whether the resistance was truly useless or whether it laid the foundation from within for the renewal of the German people.
    ~Theo Kordt, Conspirator

  24. Pete,

    “How many cycles do we need before we believe that repeating behaviors repeats results?”

    I’m sure Professor Albert Einstein, if he was living, would be in complete agreement with you.

  25. Wayne: “What shall we the readers and pontificaters here published DO? How do we reverse course, revolve to ‘before Trump’?”

    Limit them to just this one term by voting on November 6, 2018. Meanwhile, let patience be the watchword: they may hang themselves before then a la Nixon.

  26. OMG,

    “Wayne: Meanwhile, let patience be the watchword: they may hang themselves before then a la Nixon.”

    That would be great, except we’re not even close to being the same country as we were during the Nixon era. Ethics, democracy, and world opinion meant a lot back then. That’s all gone by the wayside NOW with the majority of Americans. Nixon wasn’t elected as a crook even if he was, that’s not the case with Trump. He’s let us know what he was from the beginning, unless someone was blind, deaf or dumb.

  27. Having read all of the above, I presume that Pinocchio is too strong a word to apply to the Fake Donald Trump. Right?

  28. Wayne – I am as discouraged as you are. My only hope is that this embarrassment of an administration will implode, soon! The damage done in just 2 months will already take a decade or so to undo.

  29. Alphons,

    What we need to remember is that this mess was there for the taking. It’s been building up for decades. Bannon just seized the opportunity.

    The problem is much greater than Donald Trump. It was there before he was elected. For the long term, Mike Pence is even more of a threat.

    That’s why CONFRONTING the root cause BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE is the only possible treatment for regaining some type of national equilibrium.

  30. Who are the dark skinned non Christians? President Obama is widely believed (correctly) to have permitted the ramping up of ISIS (“the JV team”) to enhance his own political reputation vs. G. Bush, and many in the Middle East believe it was an American ploy (by Obama) to weaken Muslims. Of course, like many arsonists found, the fire spread farther than intended. If we had done the obviously correct things when Obama took office, instead of pandering to the desires of an Illinois state senator (the first fake Trump?) with no experience in national politics, a lot of the refugee problem would have been averted. The ineptness of Hillary and Kerry didn’t help at all, of course.

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