Response to Scott Adams on Tom Perkins, Godwin’s Law and Stigmatizing the Wealthy

What the heck. I know I don’t update this place enough, and here’s a ready-made thing I was already ranting about over there, dashed off after I read the article in question.

This is the post I’m replying to:

Scott Adams Blog: Nerds Are Taking Your Lunch Money

And here‘s a example of the stuff he’s responding to – it’s among the most popular examples, and it’s from the Huffington Post. In case the words “Godwin’s Law and Stigmatizing the Wealthy” in the title doesn’t let you predict what they’ll write. In other words, it’s not all wrong, but … pretty much content-free stuff you could generate by the page without needing to know the issue in question or believe a word of it, and possibly without human intervention – never let it be said I didn’t represent an opposing side in an argument fairly.

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“For starters, using a Hitler analogy is almost always a self-refuting argument. And by that I mean that if you need to invoke a Hitler analogy, there’s probably something deeply wrong with your point of view in the first place.

“But I said “almost always.” Interestingly, the Hitler analogy actually works in this particular case.”

Scott, the problem with Hitler parallels isn’t that they’re factually incorrect – they’re usually true – it’s that the negative connotations are just noise, noise that drowns out any information that was present in the discussion. That’s why they’re the last refuge of the desperate.

The poor and middle-class rising up and dragging the wealthy and powerful from their homes to answer to sham “justice” – this is a legitimate concern (obviously). But if that was his point, he would have used the French Revolution, not Nazi Germany.

Instead, he tried to FORCE the point that demonizing a subsection of your population = BAD BAD BAD, using a cheap trick. No-one can seriously argue that the Nazis were right, and as long as you’re factually correct, arguing that they didn’t do it is doomed. An argument that can’t be defended against no matter if the thing under discussion is actually bad or no – rendering what could be a valuable discussion utterly useless for determining something.

And everyone knows it, so it backfired immensely. Tricking people who know they’re being tricked is hard, especially when you’re too busy tricking them to notice how obvious you’re being.

Now, in my fairly certain opinion, it IS bad bad bad BAD. And while I don’t share your assessment of the odds, there are clearly serious points in favour that need to be discussed – maybe even enough to raise the probability to 5% from the prior.

But that’s not what he tried, is it?

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This simple comment is already way too long, so I may as well put my money where my mouth is and actually discuss some of those points that need discussion. Read the rest of this entry »