Friday, September 5, 2008

Avoiding the "Hitler argument"!

Recipients and Publicity's comment "Chabad - Every criticism is perceived as a vile in...":
Meet the "Hitler argument" or "Godwin's law" and Reductio ad Hitlerum or "playing the Nazi card" c/o Wikipedia

According to Wikipedia, the Hitler argument/Godwin's law: "Godwin's Rule of Nazi Analogies is an adage formulated by Mike Godwin in 1990. The law states:

"As a Usenet discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one."

Godwin's Law is often cited in online discussions as a deterrent against the use of arguments in the reductio ad Hitlerum form.

The rule does not make any statement whether any particular reference or comparison to Hitler or the Nazis might be appropriate, but only asserts that one arising is increasingly probable. It is precisely because such a comparison or reference may sometimes be appropriate, Godwin has argued that overuse of Nazi and Hitler comparisons should be avoided, because it robs the valid comparisons of their impact. Although in one of its early forms Godwin's Law referred specifically to Usenet newsgroup discussions, the law is now applied to any threaded online discussion: electronic mailing lists, message boards, chat rooms, and more recently blog comment threads and wiki talk pages..."

"Reductio ad Hitlerum" is even more complicated: "Reductio ad Hitlerum, also argumentum ad Hitlerum, or reductio (or argumentum) ad Nazium – dog Latin for "reduction (or argument) to Adolf Hitler (or the Nazis)" – is a modern informal fallacy in logic. It is a variety of both questionable cause and association fallacy. The phrase reductio ad Hitlerum was coined by an academic ethicist, Leo Strauss, in 1953. Engaging in this fallacy is sometimes known as playing the Nazi card.

The fallacy most often assumes the form of "Hitler (or the Nazis) supported X, therefore X must be evil/undesirable/bad" The argument carries emotional weight as rhetoric, since in most cultures anything relating to Hitler or Nazis is automatically condemned. The tactic is often used to derail arguments, as such a comparison tends to distract and to result in angry and less reasoned responses. A subtype of the fallacy is the comparison of an opponent's propositions to the Holocaust. Other variants include comparisons to the Gestapo (the Nazi secret police), to fascism and totalitarianism more generally, and even more vaguely to terrorism. An inverted variant can take the form "Hitler was against X, therefore X must be good."..."

Therefore for the purposes of the discussion on this blog about Chabd, the Rebbe and Rav Shach, the insertion of "Hitler" into heated discussions between frum Jews yet is really out of line.

Wikipedia, which also hosts lots of heated debates between conflicting editors on its article's talk pages, has helped teach about the absurdity of such "Hitler" argumentation "techniques" and how useless and non-scholarly and illogical they are. It's a rule from in academic circles that is worthwhile noting and learning about for all concerned here, whether Chabad Chasidim trying to knock Rav Shach ztk"l for flimsy reasons or if it's non-Lubavitchers with a hatchet to grind against the last Lubavitcher Rebbe based on anti-Chabad outlooks, at ALL costs never to reach for the "Hitler" button because it NEVER solves any arguments but just drags down the conversation, usually stopping it, and making all normal human communication almost impossible.

In discussions about the Holocaust or World War II or about Nazism or Fascism,or about Hitler y"sh himself, that is if you know something about those subjects, by all means feel free to insert the "Hitler" factor, otherwise KEEP IT OUT OF ALL OTHER DISCUSSIONS especially if those discussions are about otherwise respectable rabbis with tens of thousands of followers who have provably nothing to do with Hitler by any objective standard or by any stretch of the imagination.

So again, take a close look at the Hitler argument/Godwin's law and at Reductio ad Hitlerum , read it and study it and let's all apply it to our dicussions on this blog and everywhere else.

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