Thursday, October 20, 2016

Can we please have a two year moratorium on comparisons with Hitler and the Nazis

I have heard or read dozens of comparisons of various things to Hitler and the Nazis in the past twelve months.

Precisely two such comparisons were, in my humble opinion, reasonable and proportionate:

1) Hilary Benn and others compared DA'ESH (the so-called "Islamic State" caliphate) to the Nazis for the cruel and vicious way, including slavery, rape, and mass-murder amounting to genocide, that they treat people in their power.

2) Andrew Mitchell and others compared the bombing of civilian targets in Aleppo by Syrian government and Russian aircraft to the bombing of civilians in Guernica by Hitler's Nazis.

In these two cases, and these two cases only, specific and proportionate comparisons were made between ghastly crimes against humanity taking place now and similar actions by Nazi Germany.

All other comparisons with Hitler and the Nazis which I have heard in the past year, wherever they came from were at best unfortunate and in most cases were classic examples of Godwin's law.

Former Labour MP Tom Harris wrote an excellent article this week, called

"Can leftists please stop comparing everything they don't like to Hitler"

in which he made very pertinent criticisms of those like Ken Livingston and Britain's youngest MP, the SNP's Mhairi Black, who have effectively trivialised the Holocaust by making disproportionate or just plain wrong comparisons between their opponents, or the state of Israel, and the Nazis.

But it is not just the left who have fallen into this trap. Too many people on the right have done the same thing.

I have written many times before how disappointed I was with the behaviour and arguments put by too many people on both sides during the debate leading up to the referendum in June about British membership of the EU.

In my opinion by far the worst incident on either side in that truly dreadful campaign was when Michael Gove compared Nobel Prize-winning economists whose views on Brexit he disagreed with to German scientists who were paid by the Nazis to denounce Einstein because he was Jewish.

If I live to be a hundred I will never understand how a highly intelligent man like Michael Gove could possibly have imagined that such a grotesque comparison could be seen as anything other than incredibly offensive and grossly unjust.  He did apologise but the damage was done.

Can I suggest that everyone on both left and right, both pro and anti Brexit, should have a self imposed ban on all comparisons to Hitler and the Nazis for at least a couple of years.

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