Will's Coffee House

John Dryden, Dramatist, Critic, Poet Laureate, and my ancestor, frequented a coffee house called Will's almost daily, where he would hold forth on sundry subjects with great wit and aplomb. Same deal here, only without the wit or aplomb.

Location: Large Midwestern City, Midwestern State, United States

I am a stranger in a sane land...

Saturday, April 16, 2005

This Is So Totally Cool/Terrifying

Here's the article that's been circulating on the (buzzword alert! buzzword alert!) blogosphere lately, and it's something that will either make you laugh darkly (as I did) or make you click to a webpage explaining the procedure for transferring residence to, say, the Netherlands or Denmark or someplace far, far away from here:


Obviously, anything Phyllis Schlafly says is going to be hilarious--and frankly, doesn't this woman prove what a totally uncreative hack Ann Coulter is? Why people lose their minds over Ann's insane rantings (batsh*t loony though they are) when Phyllis has been doing this sort of thing for decades is beyond me. Ann's just following in the footsteps of the true Mistress of the Dark Side--a mere padawan of evil, if you will. And here, Phyllis doesn't disappoint, especially in her staggeringly ignorant statement "The Constitution is not what the Supreme Court says it is." Um, Phyllis? Actually, that's exactly what the Constitution is. Did you fall asleep in Civics class when they explained Marbury v. Madison? Dig out your old high school textbook and read that chapter--boy will you be in for a surprise!

But of course it's the truly jaw-droppingly evil remarks by Edwin Vieira that have all those liberal bloggers in a panty-twisting snit. (And rightly so, even if this guy is kind of a lunatic fringe non-enitity.) Referring to Stalin as "the greatest politician of the 20th century" is pretty stunning stuff--especially since, as a far-right loon, aren't you required by blood-oath to view Ronald Reagan in that position? Regardless, you gotta love a guy who equates "Marxist" and "Leninist" principles with "satanic" ones, but doesn't seem to have a problem with Stalinism. (Apparently, he hasn't cracked a history book for a while either.) And as for advocating Stalinist purges, well--you know what, I think he's done us a favor.

See, for the longest time public "discourse" (the screaming and ranting that claims to be "the free exchange of ideas") has been completely paralyzed by what's known as Godwin's Law, which started out, courtesy of Mike Godwin (former Staff Counsel for the Electronic Frontier Foundation), as the witty and largely accurate proposition that "As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one," and quickly morphed into the rhetorically reasonable proposition that "Comparing anything to Hitler or the Nazis in a debate automatically ends the discussion, giving victory to he who did not bring them up." True enough. The Nazis and Hitler were a unique phenomenon. Other murderous regimes of pure evil there have been (and will be), but the Nazis disturb like no other--they have become, almost beyond the bounds of their unspeakable actions, the symbol for pure, total, unquestionable evil--the mortal equivalent of the demonic. A symbolism they richly deserve, no doubt--though as mortals, they were confined in their evil by the bounds of certain elements of human nature, material considerations, etc. But it doesn't matter--the Nazis are simply short-hand for the absolute of evil. Thus, to compare anyone/thing to them is to equate that person/thing with absolute evil--and in the realm of the absolute, argument, discourse, and reason cannot function. So we can't use the Nazis as a point of comparison--which is a pity, because it's occasionally historically/factually appropriate to do so--but their symbolic nature trumps their historical/factual one every time.

But not Stalin, oddly enough. Even though Stalin was, I'd argue, actually much more evil than Hitler (Hitler, after all, actually believed in the cause for which he slaughtered millions--Stalin just liked the power and didn't give sh*t about Communism except insofar as it reinforced his totalitarian authority), he doesn't carry the same stamp of absolute evil as the Nazi regime. So maybe we should thank Mr Vieira. Because I think he's given us something/one to replace our Nazi comparisons. I think that instead of comparing, oh, say, Bush to Hitler, we might start comparing him to Stalin. (Actually, I think that the parallels between Karl Rove and Stalin are eerie. Paranoid, power-mad, given to purges of those who do not tow his own personal 'party-line,' oh, yeah, this guy and Dzhugashvili would see eye-to-evil-eye, I think.) I think that by publicly admitting his admiration for Stalin (admiration that won applause from the Delay crowd, mind you!), Vieira has revealed the rhetorical way for us. No more talk of Nazis or Goebbels or Hitler. No more lost arguments. We now have a new point of comparison when we need to point out the monstrous nature of our foes--and one that doesn't immediately lose us the argument. So, bloggers of the world, unite--we can now point the finger at our foes and cry "Stalin!" More evil than Hitler, and none of the 'irrational' stigma! And the internet dialogue will be a much more reasoned, logical process because of it, I've no doubt...


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