Oh, the irony!

A comment to the Confederate Rainbow flag post below reminded me that the issue of fairness is often more complicated than it seems:

Eric:

It certainly is comical to read your harumphing, if humorous outrage at Julian Bond... given your sidebar ads featuring Hillary and Kerry et al as Stalinist/Soviets... Oh, the irony.

Godwin's Law needs to be expanded to Stalinist/Soviet comparisons, and Al qaeda comparisons -- that one's worn out too.

My initial reaction was surprise, because, while I still have the "Communists for Kerry" link and logo (which I love), I've never seriously believed John Kerry was a Communist. It's obvious satire, albeit of a deliberately provocative right wing variety.

Was Julian Bond engaged in satire with the "Confederate swastika" remark? I never would have thought so, because everything about the man seems so serious.

As to "my" Hillary-as-Stalinist ad, I've never seen such a thing on this blog, and I'm not seeing it this morning but I don't control the new ad bar; did someone sneak it through? (I doubt it, because the ads appear pretty mainstream.) I just looked through the ads very carefully, and I see nothing of the sort. True, there's that picture of Dianne Feinstein holding the machine gun, but that's obvious satire. (Does anyone think she really likes machine guns?)

For what it's worth, I agree with the premise of Godwin's Law. I think it needs to be pointed out, however, that Godwin's Law is not violated by discussing a person's membership in the Nazi party, friendships with actual members of the Nazi Party, or genuine Nazi sympathies.

Dave Kopel offers this Wikipedia quote:

Godwin's Law does not dispute whether, in a particular instance, a reference or comparison to Hitler or the Nazis might be apt. It is precisely because such a reference or comparison may sometimes be appropriate, Godwin has argued, that hyperbolic overuse of the Hitler/Nazi comparison should be avoided. Avoiding such hyperbole, he argues, is a way of ensuring that when valid comparisons to Hitler or Nazis are made, such comparisons have the appropriate impact.
While I have never seriously stated that Kerry or Hillary Clinton are Communists, I have no problem with extending Godwin's Law to Communist/Stalinist comparisons.

The problem is that in real life, there are Communist Party members and sympathizers just as there are Nazi Party members and sympathizers. Thus, if despite Godwin's Law I point out someone's membership in the Nazi Party and I am right, most people will be properly disgusted with that person. If the evidence is beyond dispute, they might offer excuses (the way Byrd's past membership in the Klan was minimized), but there'd be no debating the serious nature of the charge.

Yet, if I pointed out someone's membership in or work with the Communist Party, a lot of people would be outraged -- even if I was right. The difference is that the outrage wouldn't be directed at the Communist or Communist sympathizer; it would be directed towards me. I'd be called a "red baiter" or a "McCarthyite."

Things like Communist associations are generally not mentioned in the mainstream media. A good recent example was the death of Betty Friedan; none of the MSM accounts mentioned that she was "a long-time participant in the American Communist movement." (More here, and my previous discussion is here.)

It's easy for people prone to paranoid conspiracy thinking to imagine that this is because the MSM is sympathetic to the Communist Party or working assiduously for the left, but I think that's about as simplistic as it would be to conclude they're Islamist sympathizers for refusing to print the Danish cartoons.

More likely, they're just frightened of activists.

It's not accurate to call such fears "sympathy."

But what happens when people allow themselves to be led by fear?

(As I say, it gets complicated.....)

posted by Eric on 02.08.06 at 08:04 AM










Comments

My initial reaction was surprise, because, while I still have the "Communists for Kerry" link and logo (which I love), I've never seriously believed John Kerry was a Communist. It's obvious satire, albeit of a deliberately provocative right wing variety.

Actually, it's a tired old insult that makes your blog look like a Lyndon LaRouche creation. Not only that, it was never anywhere near the truth, and thus made a lousy excuse for satire; anyone with a passing familiarity with far-left "thought" could tell you that the far left, Communists included, hate mainstream liberals almost as much -- and as pathologically -- as they hate Bush.

And if you don't believe the "statement," why do you find it funny? Would you be equally amused by a "Nazis for Bush" logo?

I'm sure a lot of people, of all persuasions, have taken one look at that old joke and written this blog off as a stupid right-wing hate-site in the tradition of Ann Coulter; which is unfair and wrong, but an unfairness you bring on yourselves.

Raging Bee   ·  February 8, 2006 9:34 AM

I think it's more of a satire of Communists than Kerry, and anyway, I still think the logo is hilarious. As for people thinking this blog is a "stupid right-wing hate-site in the tradition of Ann Coulter," if it drives them away from the blog, I'm probably better off. On the other hand, it might mislead the Coulteristas into having very different expectations. Maybe I should find a logo leading to a "Bush = Hitler" web site to be more fair.

I remember a guy who was furious about the Feinstein logo and told me I should take it down; that's why I left it up long after the event.

Eric Scheie   ·  February 8, 2006 10:28 AM

If you think it's funny, fine. It's your blog, and I'm done telling you how to run it (for today at least :-)). As a longtime regular and respectful reader, however, I find it hard to think of it as funny, when there are so many morons out there who actually believe the meme and routinely hide behind it to avoid the hard work of thinking like adults about real-world issues. Insulting decent people who have done no wrong is so much safer -- at least you know they won't do YOU any wrong!

"Polack" jokes (for example) can be funny; but in places where serious anti-Polish bigotry is present, they quickly lose their humor and get tiresome, especially since it's not always obvious that the "joker" is really joking.

Raging Bee   ·  February 8, 2006 10:58 AM

Question about Bond's Confederate Swastika comments:

What is it that you think is wrong with comparing the confederate flag to a swastika? Are you actually suggesting that it's unfair hyperbole to compare Nazi Germany with the Confederacy? And if so, why? Do you really believe that the capture, murder, and enslavement of millions of africans for 200 years has no comparability to the capture and murder of millions of Jews for 10 years?

Seems like an incredibly apt comparison to me.

dan   ·  February 11, 2006 12:57 PM

I like your site and get the humor. If others don't--their loss.

I talk about real commies--and how they're not allowed to teach in California--on my own site at
http://rightontheleftcoast.blogspot.com/2006/02/commies-under-desk.html

And no, what I wrote is not satire.

Darren   ·  February 11, 2006 1:08 PM

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