When All Trust Is Lost: 75 People and a Cat Who've Been Compared to Hitler
Published: Jun 1, 2020
Last Updated: Jan 11, 2021
Years ago, attorney Mike Godwin asserted what became known as "Godwin's Law": "As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Hitler approaches."
Likening those we disagree with to Adolf Hitler, sadly, is par for the course in the extreme political discourse that dominates social media today. Among other things, it demonstrates a basic failure of trust in others.
The Use and Abuse of Hitler's Name in Online Rhetoric
Why the fixation with Hitler in attacking others online? One reason why Hitler remains a fixture on the History Channel -- and in our online discourse -- relates to the first public relations art: rhetoric.
The original PR practitioners were rhetoricians. The sophists of ancient Greece were thinker-philosophers who taught noblemen seeking public office the art of persuasion through rhetoric.
From the beginning, rhetoric (which simply means the art of persuasive speaking or writing) has been viewed with suspicion. The sophists were mercilessly criticized by Socrates, and the result is the word "sophistry," meaning the use of fallacious arguments to deceive.
The nature of Hitler's rise and fall uniquely lends itself to sophistry, as is evident in all manner of public discourse today. And sophistry breaks down trust online.
When Hitler Comparisons Lose Their Meaning
I've been tracking Hitler comparisons online off and on in the media for the past decade. Following are just a small portion of the folks who've been compared to Hitler by various commentators, along with relevant links. There's something about seeing the full list at once that demonstrates just how ridiculous the use of Hitler as a rhetorical tool has become.
Have you found one to add to the list? Share it in comments.
Leave a Comment
Scott is founder and CEO of Idea Grove, one of the most forward-looking public relations agencies in the United States. Idea Grove focuses on helping technology companies reach media and buyers, with clients ranging from venture-backed startups to Fortune 100 companies.