What’s in a name?

I’m following the Damian Green case with great interest but haven’t reached any grand conclusion – the facts don’t seem to be all in yet. What I do have so far is a vague feeling of disquiet that it took NINE or TWELVE or TWENTY (depending on which news source you read) anti-terrorist (why not ordinary Plod FFS?) police to search the guy’s home and offices and that if government denials are true, the police seemed to have acted quite independently of anyone who was actively involved at the Home Office, which is where the alleged irregularities stemmed from. It’s all very curious indeed…

What has struck me is the ascendency of ‘Stasi’ as a description of totalitarian policing – sending ‘Nazi’ and ‘Gestapo’ down a few rungs in the emotive use of language charts. Everyone seems to be using it – politicians, human rights spokespeople and Joe Public on radio phone ins.

I’m guessing that it’s the interweb’s fault. For so long now, conversations and discussions in chatrooms, usenet groups and blogs have been brought to an abrupt end using Godwin’s Law that we’re now afraid of invoking it in real life  and are trying to avoid it.

Call someone a Nazi and you’ve gone that bit too far – but call them a Stasi and you’re OK. You can carry on ranting away, safe and secure in the knowledge that you’re not going to appear too hysterical or hyperbolic and that a lot of people won’t know who the Stasi were anyway.

I just hope this isn’t the thin end of the wedge and that it will still be OK to compare people with a certain mindset or agenda to the Nazis.

If we lose that word as a description then we lose its meaning and maybe its power to describe a truly evil phenomenon that would have meant that none of us would be free to sit here and spout our own particular variety of bollocks had it been successful in its ambitions.

Lose the word and you lose the lessons it should teach us all.

We’re a long, long way from a police state, so let’s keep the word ‘Nazi’ and the like for when it matters, not when we just need a cheap sound byte to impress the easily swayed.


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