On August 4th
, I made this prediction: "Sometime in the next six months, Hjelle & Co. will publicly compare their opponents to Nazis. It's the inevitable next step."
I almost was proven wrong, but at the 11th hour one of the council majority's proxies delivered the goods at the Mayor's Forum on February 3rd, in the approving presence of both Mayor Longrie and Mr. Hjelle, neither of whom voiced any disagreement with the speaker. (Mayor Longrie even stepped up to help clarify his remarks, and gave him the floor to have the last word after the meeting was scheduled to end.)
Why did I say it was the inevitable next step? Well, it's predicted by Godwin's Law
, AKA Godwin's Rule of Nazi Analogies. Godwin was talking about internet discussions, but his observation has been generalized to other public discussions as well. The longer a debate goes on, observed Godwin, the more likely someone will make a comparison to Nazis, regardless of how absurd such a comparison may be. Back in August, I figured that calling something really profoundly American -- such as exercising our first amendment rights to criticize our government -- "un-American," as Hjelle did, is a warning sign that a Nazi comparison can't be far away.
A widely accepted corollary of Godwin's Law is that once somebody brings up the Nazis, the argument is pretty much over, and the person who invoked the Nazi comparison almost certainly lost it. It's an emotional outburst, more of an expletive than an argument. The person making the comparison thinks it is very compelling and rhetorically forceful, but he usually winds up sounding silly, as he seems to argue that something like a citizen taping a public meeting deserves the same level of moral condemnation as mass murder and genocide.
There are exceptions, of course. For example, if you're talking about mass internment of political dissidents, or the extermination of entire groups on account of religion or ethnicity, a comparison to Nazis isn't absurd.
But talking about Maplewood
? Saying (I got a copy of the audio via data practices to make sure I quote this accurately), "if we fall for this baloney, these organizations [i.e., citizens who criticize the council majority] with their computers will raze our cities just like Berlin in the early 1940's" -- well, that's just the kind of hyperbole Godwin's Law is talking about.