Barack Obama & Godwin’s Law: Glenn Beck, Tea Party Won’t Leave Nazis Out of It


Dana Milbank’s Sunday column in the Washington Post tackles a prickly pear cactus of a political issue: not just the Tea Party, but the connection between the amorphous political group and Nazism, specifically Hitler allusions and imagery. “Radical leaders prey on the fearful & naïve,” reads the billboard erected last week in Iowa, which serves as the opening to Milbank’s argument. The accompanying visual: “three leaders: Adolf Hitler (with swastika), Vladimir Lenin (with hammer and sickle), and Barack Obama (with 2008 campaign logo).” The most startling piece of the puzzle though, is a statistically analysis of Fox News host Glenn Beck.

Milbank’s insight depends on a certain nugget of background knowledge:

Twenty years ago, the dawn of the Internet Age gave us Godwin’s Law: If an online argument goes on long enough, somebody will eventually invoke Hitler. When that happens, it’s basically the end of the conversation, because all rational discussion ceases when one side calls the other Nazis.

Unfortunately, one chronic-conversation-ender has a prime spot on television and his battle cries are heard far and wide, by white people from sea to shining sea. His name is Glenn Back and he won’t stop mentioning Nazis.

Milbank (probably with the help of some all-star interns) has the count:

Consider these tallies from Glenn Beck’s show on Fox News since Obama’s inauguration: 202 mentions of Nazis or Nazism, according to transcripts, 147 mentions of Hitler, 193 mentions of fascism or fascist, and another 24 bonus mentions of Joseph Goebbels. Most of these were directed in some form at Obama — as were the majority of the 802 mentions of socialist or socialism on Beck’s nightly “report.”

As shocking as that nugget is, it’s far from the whole story. Check out the rest of Milbank’s column here.