BOSTON (CBS) – It’s the most incendiary historical comparison you can draw, an analogy that invariably brings public wrath down on the person who makes it.
I’m talking about the often-repeated gaffe of comparing someone or something to history’s worst criminal, Adolf Hitler.
There’s even a dictionary term for when Hitler is invoked during online political debate, Godwin’s law, created by an attorney named Mike Godwin who observed “as an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Hitler approaches.”
Of course, there is no comparison to be made with Hitler, who banned all political opposition and killed and exiled dissidents before launching a war that killed millions with unparalleled savagery.
Why do people still go there? Because they think they can end whatever debate they’re engaging in by doing so.
Presidential press secretary Sean Spicer apparently thought he was definitively justifying the U.S. bombing of a Syrian airfield by claiming Syrian President Assad was worse than Hitler because the Nazi leader didn’t use chemical weapons, when, in fact, that was a hallmark of the Third Reich. What Spicer said was stupid on every level, but he’s hardly the first political type to go there.
Just last year, Massachusetts Congressman Seth Moulton compared candidate Trump’s rise to Hitler’s.
Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois had to apologize after he called prisoner treatment at Guantanamo to something that could have been done by the Nazis. And so on, and so on.
Moral of the story – there is plenty of violence and amorality in the world. But we’re never seen anything like Hitler, and I hope we never will again.