Godwin’s law must die

Nazi Euthanasia Propaganda

On the internet we have a rule. It is called Godwin’s law. Godwin’s law states that “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1 (100%).”

In the 21 years since Godwin first made this observation, it has been quoted whenever anyone has mentioned Nazis, as a way of saying “You have mentioned Nazis, therefore your argument is ridiculous, therefore you have lost the debate.”

The use of Godwin’s law to end and win an argument by default has been helpful in keeping arguments from straying into ridiculous comparisons but it also brings a risk; the danger that when a comparable situation does arise, it will be ignored because the comparison cannot be made in argument. Godwin’s law has power because of the idea that nothing as bad as the Nazis and the holocaust will ever happen again because we have learnt from what happened in the past. I think that this assumption is foolish and dangerous. Of course such atrocities will happen again. Throughout history we have had bloodthirsty power-hungry leaders of pure evil, over and over again. Pol Pot, Pinochet, Mao, Stalin, Saddam Hussein, and many other leaders have killed thousands, even millions each. Genocides are an relatively frequent occurrence. Groups have been singled out and slaughtered for many different reasons over the centuries, and others will be in the future.

My point here is important so I will state it again. Atrocities of this sort are not rare, have happened and will happen again, and to ridicule anyone making a comparison with the Nazis is to dismiss warnings in a very dangerous way.

Godwin’s law and disability rights

I and many other disability rights activists abandoned Godwin’s law some time ago. I believe that sick and disabled people in the UK are under attack and are the subject of a government and media smear campaign with the aim of turning public opinion against them. Although the Nazis ran a eugenics programme to eradicate all incurably sick and mentally ill people, (Called Action T4) the comparison that I am drawing is mostly with the propaganda element of that programme and the attitude behind it.

Nazi Euthanasia Propaganda
English translation: 60000 RM - this is what this person suffering from hereditary defects costs the Community of Germans during his lifetime. Fellow Citizen, that is your money, too.

The poster seen here speaks of the cost of caring for the disabled person depicted, the same message that is echoed in the cries of “this is taxpayer’s money” that we hear from indignant right-wing tabloid papers today. Papers like the Daily Mail and the Express routinely publish every “benefit cheat” story that they can find, with big front page splashes about people with houses and multiple cars. Headlines claim that just 1 in 14 are unfit for workWe even have “Saints and scroungers” from the BBC spreading the hate. Otherwise nice people are being convinced that there are legions of benefit cheats faking their inability to walk or the horrendous pain that makes every activity torture. (Apart from me. For some reason they never mean me.) All of these politicians and journalists seem to be adept at twisting the facts and lying through omission just for the public outrage that they feed on. They also ignore the realities of illness, of having good days and bad days, of choosing to push through pain to have a good day out, or just to pretend to your family that you are having a good day out so as to keep them happy. As Sue Marsh said, by their standards, we are all benefit cheats now.

Black Triangle Campaign recently received an email referring to comments on their forum making comparisons with the past as “dangerous and extreme”. The email said: “I am not interested in extreme, left wing politics. I am trying to bring attention to government funded medical tyranny, copied from America, and such extreme comments are a distraction from what’s happening at government level. (…) you are playing a very, very, VERY dangerous game with desperate peoples’ lives by posting such extreme comments relating to past war time atrocities that belongs in the past. I DO understand why people feel like this but there are many, many very frail people out there and this will cause harm.

I disagree with the author of that email. I’ve talked before about how government ministers are spreading these stories and lying about the facts and how party special advisors are feeding the media frenzy in a previous blog post. No one here is suggesting that anyone be killed, but our government is focussed on ruthlessly cutting benefit costs along with healthcare and services, all while smiling and announcing that “the most vulnerable will be protected.” Well the most vulnerable are having their benefits cut, being told to shit themselves rather than receiving help to get to the toilet, being told to find jobs when they can barely leave the house, losing their homes, and committing suicide. Many of those that aren’t in that situation expect to be soon and many have talked of suicide. The policies of this government and the relentless abuse coming from newspapers have people living in fear – if what they fear hasn’t already come to pass. In Nazi Germany the killing of sick and disabled people was at first kept well hidden away from any chance of public opposition. What plans are our politicians hiding from us? Is it their intention to force all sick and disabled people out on the streets where they will helpfully freeze to death? Quite honestly, I think that they don’t even care as long as it’s not their problem. I think it is completely fair to compare this demonisation of the sick and disabled to the start of the Nazi attack on the same.


Daily Mail: Callous judges have sentenced Elaine to life without dignity (Daily Mail link. Yes, I was surprised too.)

DPAC: Elaine McDonald case: Court puts prisoners before the disabled

Purple noise: The beginning of the end (Warning, discusses suicide.)

Guardian: Jobcentre staff ‘sent guidelines on how to deal with claimants’ suicide threats’




Author: Latentexistence

The world is broken and I can't fix it because I am broken. I can, however, rant about it all and this is where I do that when I can get my thoughts together. Most of the time you'll find my words on Twitter rather than here though. I sometimes write for Where's The Benefit too.

29 thoughts on “Godwin’s law must die”

  1. I largely agree with you, but for a couple of points.

    The first is that there is a significant difference between the Nazi
    approach and the ignorant British tabloid and Tory spin machine one. The
    Nazis propaganda accepts that the person in question is disabled, and
    questions whether they are worth spending taxpayer money on. The tabloid
    MO is to claim that a vast proportion of disabled people are faking it,
    and don’t deserve the money because they don’t need it.

    What they’re saying (if only implicitly) is that genuinely disabled
    people (whose numbers they grossly underestimate of course) do deserve
    to be looked after by the state. Or at least, they make no attempt to
    challenge that – their attack on benefits is based on the idea that some
    people are not eligible, not that benefits in themselves are a waste of
    money (as the Nazis asserted).

    Now that’s not to excuse their behaviour, because it’s frankly shitty,
    but I do believe there’s a significant difference between them saying
    “these people aren’t really ill, why should we pay for them?” and saying
    “these people are legitimately ill, but why should we pay for that?”.
    Like I said, by trying to portray the majority of people on benefits as
    “fakers” and by trying to make “scounger” the default assumption about
    anybody on benefits, they’re still being bastards of the most sickening
    kind, and I’m not trying to excuse that. But I do think there’s a pretty
    wide gulf between that approach and the Nazi propaganda, and when
    people ignore that gulf in order to strengthen their point, I think it
    undermines it.

  2. The second point I wanted to make, which isn’t touched on here, is the
    connection being made in various places between ATOS and Siemens, regarding the fact that during the second world war Siemens
    were complicit in funding the Nazis and in using slave labour from
    concentration camps. Personally, I think that reminding people of that
    is unnecessary, and designed to provoke an emotive response that is
    ultimately irrelevant to the actual harm that’s being done by the system
    being put in place.

    After all, Siemens supply a great many rail operators with rolling
    stock, supply hospitals with ultrasound machines, build computers…
    They’re a multi-billion pound international business, with a great many
    benign contracts, and as far as I can tell even when they’ve been found
    guilty of wrongdoing in more recent times, none of it has involved
    sending anybody to gas chambers. So I find it difficult to accept that
    their actions seventy years ago have any relevance to whether or not
    they get a particular contract for systems today. I didn’t see people
    complaining about the government awarding the Thameslink contract to a
    Gas Chamber Firm, so I can only assume that they’re being brought into
    the ATOS debate because it’s an excuse to bring up an emotive subject,
    rather than because good people oppose Siemens in all areas of

    Bottom line is, I don’t think that Nazi parallels are entirely out of
    place, I think there are definitely ways to use them. But I think that
    often people deliberately overstate those parallels for emotive effect.
    That’s not unique to this issue, I think that all across politics,
    people are prone to hyperbole. But I think it’s fair enough that when
    people do go too far with their parallels, there will be some who’ll
    feel uncomfortable with that.

    I’m not sure I meant to ramble quite that much…..

  3. I’ve been monitoring the UK’s right-wing tabloid press for years on my blog, from a Muslim perspective. I’m not sure it reaches the extremes of Nazi Germany or pre-genocide Rwanda, but it was pretty scary seeing the drumbeat of anti-Muslim propaganda in the couple of years after 2005, particularly after the Jack Straw niqab controversy but also the accusations that Muslims were getting special treatment at the public’s expense. We should not underestimate the ability of the tabloids to foster hostility and even violence, as it has happened many times before.

    1. all hail “student gwant”
      i must go look in my closet, there could be a Nazi hiding there.
      whilst you are monitoring the uks right wing press, who’s watching the left wing fascists?

  4. The widespread belief that we should support “genuinely” disabled people rests on the assumption that they are a small minority. If there were ten disabled people (incapable of any paid work) for each one working person, then it wouldn’t work. So in a way, tabloids who seek to suggest that most people don’t need help (rather than suggesting that so many people need help that we have a _potentially_ unaffordable health time bomb, which is another active right-wing narrative), may leave room for disability campaigners to occupy some successfully high moral ground. What I’m saying is, evil as this propaganda is, you might just be able to turn it to your advantage. As you say “they never mean me”.

    FWIW the state is willing to pay £30k per year to keep you going. More than that, and you’re on your own. At least, that’s the benchmark that NICE uses (or at least used) when assessing new drugs. So drug treatments that cost more than this don’t get approved for use on the NHS. And you die. Beware the day they introduce this approach to personal care. They wouldn’t dare, but it’s an interesting thought exercise to realise why not.

    The Unknown James make an excellent point, but the juxtaposition of the nazi poster and the daily mail is still quite chilling.

  5. Well said. I do feel the Unknown James is not really at the sharp end of this debate and his view is thus skewed somewhat.

    I am an Erbkranke – a genetically diseased person and I, like the rest of my fellow autistics are scheduled to have our faulty genetics/epi-genetics removed from the human gene pool… Just like Down’s Syndrome…

    It adds piquancy to the debate for me…

  6. “Throughout history we have had bloodthirsty power-hungry leaders of pure
    evil, over and over again. Pol Pot, Pinochet, Mao, Stalin, Saddam
    Hussein, and many other leaders have killed thousands, even millions
    each.”……..and the worst of the bunch ta da….is
    Tony (weapons of mass destruction ) Blair….the most vile thing on the planet.
    funny how hes not tried for war crimes?

    1.  Tony Blair ‘the most vile thing on the planet.’ Really? My, you do have ablimkered, closed-minded outlook.

      1. does that mean you have used Godwins law?
        anyway Blair is the man who sunk England and invaded
        Iraq illegally. just to steal the oil, and kill innocents.
        i think he wins antichrist of the decade award.:)

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