The Problem with Targeting Nazis, in a Nutshell

What could be wrong with ‘targeting’ Nazis for abuse? In a nutshell, Godwin’s Law, IRL.

For those of you unfamiliar with Godwin’s Law, who don’t want to click on the link, it’s this:

“As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Hitler approaches 1.”

I suggest this is particularly true online because of the way in which the limits of the medium encourage ideological polarization and what we might call hyperbolic reductionism. It’s easy to engage in a symbolic flamewar when the potential for real violence is removed. This tendency toward violent confrontation is further enabled by anonymity.

So, I’m just going to ask you to excuse me for getting right to my summary: the problem with ‘targeting Nazis’ is that the category of ‘Nazi’ is entirely prone, in polarized and polarizing environments, to expansion.

We’ve seen this play out over and over lately, IRL, where people showing up at rallies in support of free speech have been turned into valid targets by definition. This redefinition is further rationalized by those saying that anyone who resists it is just providing cover for Nazis. Thus the ideological loop is complete. If you’re not with us, you’re against us. We can’t afford “free speech”, and anyone who thinks we can is a Nazi.

As I’ve previously written, this rationalization serves as an exploit for those who have already deemed the entire society as essentially fascist. The expansion of the category of Nazi is not a bug, from this perspective, but a feature. ‘Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished.

And as I see it, such polarization cannot end well.

Oh… and if you’re wondering what seems to me a reasonable response to people parading around with swastikas, chanting “blood and soil”, it’s filming them. Picking up a Nazi flag is the quickest route to self-marginalization. Worry that people are feeling emboldened to do this seems to me misplaced. Let the dopes get taken down by their own hubris. Don’t give them cover by hubris of your own.

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