Is it helping or hindering our understanding of Trump to compare him to Hitler?

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7 December
13:41
December
2016

I don’t think it’s helpful to compare him to Hitler. History doesn’t just repeat itself. Sometimes it just rhymes, and people can get hung up on some similarities that turn out to be merely surface-deep. But that’s not to say that we shouldn't be aware of the things that Trump has done before he’s even got into office, which have also been done by other autocratic governments in the past.

“History doesn’t just repeat itself. Sometimes it just rhymes.”

For example he challenged freedom of expression throughout his campaign, resulting in reporters such as Katy Tur being harassed and later claiming she needed security protection to get her out of one of Trump’s rallies after he singled her out. He also personally attacks critics: the former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney called Trump a ‘fraud’ and a ‘phony’ and said that ‘trickle down racism’ would happen in the US if Trump were elected – Trump called Romney a ‘stiff’ who’d been desperate for his backing in 2012.

  • “Trump challenged freedom of expression throughout his campaign”: even post-victory, the President-Elect attacks CNN reporter Katy Tur

All this is really troubling from the future leader of the free world. But you have to understand things in historical context. The widespread unemployment and a worldwide recession of Hitler’s early 30s Weimar Germany was a completely different place to 2016 America. So in addition to it being inflammatory. I don’t think it's an analytically useful framework.

Furthermore – and most importantly – Hitler comparisons are a dime a dozen and have been for a long time. On the internet, there’s plenty of discussion of Godwin’s Law, which argues that the further an online argument progresses the closer you get to some sort of comparison to Hitler. Ultimately a comparison to Hitler is the point that automatically ends an argument because it's seen to be so trite.

Even a from a perspective that is highly critical of Trump, I don’t think it necessarily advances anyone’s analytical understanding or the ability to convince people. So in my opinion, it’s a hindrance.

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