Thursday, April 16, 2009

Ad hominem

Reductio ad Hitlerum: A Revision of History

One of the most common Ad Hominem arguments made is oddly specific:  You're a Nazi.  On Easter Sunday, The Catholic bishop of Augsburg tried to blame the holocaust on atheists.  Never mind that the Nazi troops wore belts inscribed with “Gott Mit Uns,” and let's ignore all the Catholic signatures on the Reichskonkordat for a second.  Isn't calling everyone Nazis just a little passé yet?  If there were not audible groans when he started in on the Atheism is the cause of Nazism spiel, then the whole place ought to be ashamed.

When the term Reductio ad Hitlerum was coined in 1953 as a tongue-in-cheek rebranding of the association fallacy in logical argument, I'm not sure that anyone could have guessed there would still be a need for another tongue-in-cheek rebranding in 1990 with Godwin's Law, which states, "As a Usenet discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1."  All the modern presidents and presidential candidates have been compared to hitler, everyone who's ever seen a public debate should be familliar with the tactic.  And yet it lives on.

Not even 9/11 could kill the trend, apparently.  The comparisons to terrorists were flying at homosexuals, high school bullies, republicans, democrats, and at everyone who liked civil liberties while the site was still smoking.  So I thought the new comparison might finally overtake the old one.  The new argument (can we call it Reductio ad Terrorem?) wouldn't be any better than the old one, but at least it would be a change of scenery.  So I find myself advocating for two things:  1.  Let's put the silly comparisons behind us, or at least change them up now and then.  2. "a good rule in most discussions is that the first person to call the other a Nazi automatically loses the argument." (from The Economist in 2007).

Also.  The Catholics totally caused the Holocaust.

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