Who's Calling Who a Nazi?

September 29, 2008
Posted by Jay Livingston

Brendan Nyhan excoriates Tony Blankley for a Washington Times article accusing the mainstream press of being propagandists for Obama. Blankley writes:
This is no longer journalism — it is simply propaganda. (The American left-wing version of the Volkischer Beobachter cannot be far behind.)

This is the kind of editing one would expect from Goebbels' disciples,
(Volkischer Beobachter was the official Nazi newspaper. Goebbels was the Nazi Reich Minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda .)

We can be outraged, but we can’t really be surprised. It’s Godwin’s law:
As a Usenet discussion grows longer, the probability of a
comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.
It applies to other media, not just Usenet. Maybe it was Blankley, or maybe it was Rush ("feminazi") Limbaugh, or maybe it was my memory of William F. Buckley, Jr. on Firing Line, but I have the impression that people on the right are quicker on the draw here – more likely than liberals to whip out their Nazi weaponry. So I did a quick Google search pairing Nazi and Hitler with a few politicians. I figured that attacks on liberals would be more likely to invoke the big baddies.

I don’t know how Google’s algorithm works. I suspect the recent references carry more weight, hence the landslide victory for the current candidates, McCain and Obama. Even so, attacks on Obama were more likley to mention Nazis and Hitler than were attacks on McCain.

The big surprise was Bush. Only a relative handful of Internet writers paired him with the Third Reich. As recently as May, Bush himself was comparing Obama to those who had appeased the Nazis, so even though Bush was the one linking Obama to Nazis, articles about this incident would have turned up in a “Bush and Nazi” search.

In general, though, the data support my idea. Obama v. McCain, Gore or Kerry v. Bush. And former VP Al Gore, who hasn’t been in office or run for anything for eight years, still gets more Nazi/Hitler references than does current VP Dick Cheney.

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