Is it unfair to compare ISIS to the Nazis?
Is it time to repeal Godwin’s Law? The rise of ISIS–a fast-growing, fascistic, expansionist force that’s willing to murder any person who dares defying its strict tenets–gets many people thinking of World War II.
In 1990, Mike Godwin, a lawyer and author, observed that in online conversations someone will eventually invoke the war against fascism. As Godwin framed his law, in long strings of online debates “the probability of a reference or comparison to Hitler or to Nazis approaches 1.”
Godwin’s insight is profound. The N word (as in Nazi) in casual debate is inadequate. Hitler’s crimes were so painful that no Seinfeld-esque “soup Nazi” should introduce his name into serious discourse…
…In ISIS’s case, it seems, Godwin violations just roll off the tongue.
Godwin himself tells me that neither he nor anyone else is in charge of his eponymous “law,” so anyone can break it. “The Third Reich taught us once and for all how fragile civilization really is, and how, surprisingly, a whole society could allow and even encourage new, ‘modernized’ forms of massive death and destruction,” he said. ISIS, for now, is a “footnote to what we learned in the 20th century about how fragile civilization is.”