The GOP presidential candidacy of Donald Trump has been seen by many as a hilarious farce. How could this former reality TV star, a multiply-bankrupt billionaire, an all of a sudden family-values champion with four failed marriages, whose official politics have shifted loudly with the political winds NOT be seen as a ridiculous indictment of the spectacle of American electoral politics? As some have noted, his very appeal to some people is in his willingness to say things that normal politicians just don’t usually say… at least, out loud. As several commentators have observed, however, Trump is simply not funny any more. What has changed?
Some have alluded to the eerily fascist-like character of his rhetoric and policies. Many people may consider this to be a ridiculous, hyperbolic, or unthinkable comparison. After all, Hitler killed millions. While Trump may have destroyed communities through his business practices, such a comparison must be wildly inappropriate, or even disrespectful to the victims of early 20th century fascism. In internet culture, this common sense manifests itself in the idea of Godwin’s Law, which argues that “as an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1”. The implication of this is that such comparisons are toxic, abused and overused rhetorically, and intended more to de-legitimize an opponent rather than say anything of worth. While comparisons to fascism can certainly be over-used in rhetoric, they are under-used in actual analysis. Continue reading