Thursday, September 22, 2005

Godwin's Law 'Sunsets'

Well, not really. But its bastardization has done. It has long annoyed me that pointing out any qualitative similarity between an instance of American authoritarianism, and the 1930s European kind, was met first with nice English words for 'bullshit' (like 'tosh'), and then with loaded citations of Godwin's Law: hey, where I come from, it's un-American to ignore authoritarianism in our own midst! In a world in which Teddy Roosevelt's Estate Tax is the 'Death Tax', equal rights for gay people is 'special treatment', and the Executive branch thinks it makes reality, the concept of 'naming rights' takes on extra meaning. Marketing concepts like this have seeped into so many aspects of American life, not just politics. Consider this conversation I've had many times with a very knowledgeable music aficionado (the names have been changed to protect the innocent):

-(afficio) Hey man, I just got the new album by The Cheetotarians and I think you might like it.

-(me) Yeah?

-(afficio) Yeah, it's sort of a cross between Captain Beefheart and Lawrence Welk.

-(me) So, great stuff?

-(affico) Well, I can hear the influences...I think I detect some Magma in there, too.

-(me) But do you like it? Is it any good?


Sometimes naming the nameless is a vital first step towards grappling with it. But sometimes naming something means nothing at all - is actually a clever way to only appear to be saying something. 'You just think Bush's Iraq war is a mess because you're a liberal!'; 'You think Bush's and congress' transfer of vast chunks of our national wealth to rich people and big corporations is reminiscent of National Socialism? Woah dude, you are SO busted: Godwin's Law!'

But at least this last line of anti-reasoning is extinct now. Just as (yawn) it took Nixon to go to China for the first time, we've all had to wait for Andrew Sullivan to break the rhetorical ice. About time.

[UPDATE: No. Unlike Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band and Lawrence Welk and His Hotsy Totsy Boys, 'The Cheetotarians' is not a real rock and roll band. It's the name of a nacent song of mine, actually (perhaps it will end up being 'Cheatotarian' to preclude legal action). The inspiration was a legendary young woman whose story is oddly appropriate to this post. Despite being a strict - and somewhat self-rightous - vegetarian, she's very fat. She doesn't eat any meat or fish, but does eat: cheetos, doo dads, ding dongs, knick knacks, nips, cheezit (get yer own box!), poppycock, combos, doodles, corn nuts, moonpies, munch'ems, doritos, 'hot fries', nibs, and Campbell's cream of potato soup out of a can.]

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