Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Law of Orwell Analogies

This Blog may or may not be the first place to propose this idea, but it’s time to be addressed. Introducing the Law of Orwell Analogies.

This law is a permutation of Godwin’s Law, which states that referencing Hitler, generally but not necessarily in any of the opening rounds of a debate, is not just a hollow cheap shot but is a deliberate distraction designed to stunt a conversation. There are countless ways to compare the behavior of virtually any person in power to any other person in power, and references to Hitler work the exact same way. Is the leader of your country of choice working hard to instill a sense of nationhood, common identity, and a mandate to expand and strengthen for the good of said country? Congratulations, that leader must be either Hitler or his clone. Or, you know, George Washington or Andrew Jackson.

Everyone knows that, in a pinch, 9/11 deniers will happily resort to an Orwell reference to argue a point that isn’t otherwise supported by any actual evidence. After all, why try to figure out the subtle science of identifying the DNA of suicidal hijackers when you can just tell somebody else that they’re “falling for the OL’ DOUBLETHINK” instead? Why bother arguing with someone’s evidence at all when you can simply write him or her off as “sheeple of Big Brother?”

Perhaps no politician in history – right-wing, left-wing, libertarian, social democrat – has ever gone more than five minutes in office without saying something of dubious truthfulness. That does not give you a mandate to dismiss the numbers (that you can check yourself) in the NIST reports about the World Trade Center as “double-think;” what it does give you a mandate to do is read the news closely and sift through BS. That does not give you a mandate to accuse everyone who disagrees with you as being “sheeple;” that means you have to scrutinize their claims rationally. It’s no small irony that 9/11 deniers are the ones who shortchange a conversation about the facts and the logic of the matter by simply deciding that Popular Mechanics is a “mouthpiece for Big Brother” and that anyone who disagrees with them is complacently giving in to those, uh, three giant computers that manage all the wars in the world. Easier than explaining what those hijackers were doing on those planes there, evidently.

Never mind that Orwell analogies are almost completely incoherent in virtually every context where they’re presented. How exactly is a network of grassroots bloggers and mainstream specialty publications the same as a quasi-global police state, again? Where exactly is the doublespeak in the thousands of well-researched pages written by non-conspiracy-theorists of every stripe on the matter, versus the deliberate duplicity of virtually every denier site? Can someone explain how skeptics are making “unpersons” out of their opponents by addressing and calling them out relentlessly? (Hey, how many of these same Orwell plagiarists even read 1984 sufficiently closely to remember what an “unperson” is?)

The bad behavior of people in the Bush Administration today does not make the Republican Party the Inner Party and so far none of the various scandals to that effect have any bearing on what Osama bin Laden had been planning in the late 1990s. The fact that Popular Mechanics and Skeptic are mainstream publications that disagree with you does not make them “correctors” of the historical record in the name of computers that control all the wars in the world. What George Orwell wrote in part one of one of his many books has absolutely no bearing on the validity of the evidence for what happened on 9/11. Even all these years after the deniers got started, after this tactic played no small part in their own complete downfall as a movement, this behavior continues to run rampant in their debates. Drop it. Every time you violate the Law of Orwell Analogies, you forfeit your right to be taken seriously.

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