Godwin’s Law

by Michael Patrick O'Leary

A shorter version of this article appeared in Ceylon Today on February 16, 2022, under the title Analogies from Hell. It was rather unfortunate that they chose to illustrate the article with a picture of Auschwitz. I was trying to make a rather more nuanced point.


Analogies from Hell

In 2012, “Godwin’s law” became an entry in the third edition of the Oxford English Dictionary. The law was devised in 1990 by American writer and attorney Mike Godwin. Godwin’s purpose was to dissuade over-excited polemicists from bringing up fevered analogies between today’s events and what happened in Hitler’s Germany. Padraig Colman’s Law is, “the road to hell is paved with false analogies.”

Giddy Up

Esme Wren

Bernadette Wren

Esme Wren of BBC Newsnight wrote to the LRB (London Review of Books) about comments in that august journal about one of her programmes. “Bernadette Wren mentions BBC Newsnight several times in her piece on the Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) at the Tavistock Clinic (LRB, 2 December 2021). (That is not a typo. Both women are called “Wren”.  How odd is that?) In February 2020, while being interviewed live on the programme, the comedy writer Graham Linehan drew a parallel between puberty blockers and Nazi experimentation. It is false that any Newsnight producer invited Mr Linehan on in order to make this comparison, and he was immediately and robustly challenged on air when he did.”

I watched that Newsnight interview and was extremely sympathetic towards Graham Linehan. The robustness of the interviewer (Sarah Smith, the daughter of the late lamented Labour Party leader John Smith – she is now the BBC’s representative in the USA) consisted in putting words into Linehan’s mouth, talking over him and refusing to allow him to explain his comparison. The interviewer was clearly accepting without question the line promulgated by trans activists that Linehan, like JK Rowling, is transphobic.

Linehan has said, “My position is that anyone suffering from gender dysphoria needs to be helped and supported.” He says that he celebrates that trans people are at last finding acceptance: “That’s obviously wonderful.” He “of course” agrees that gender dysphoria (defined as the distress a person experiences as a result of the gender assigned to them at birth) is real but he has a problem with widening the definition of transgender. One can sense his frustration at people’s deafness to the gravity of what is going on. I can forgive him for shouting a little. Linehan told the Irish Times: “Adults can do what they want,” but “it is dangerous to offer surgery and drugs therapy to young teenagers going through puberty who are gender non-conforming.”

Godwin Speaks

Godwin’s law asserts that, as an online discussion grows longer (regardless of topic or scope), the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Adolf Hitler, reductio ad Hitlerum approaches. Mike Godwin himself has criticized the over-application of Godwin’s law, claiming he intended to reduce the frequency of inappropriate and hyperbolic comparisons. The law’s purpose “has always been rhetorical and pedagogical: I wanted folks who glibly compared someone else to Hitler to think a bit harder about the Holocaust.” In December 2015, Godwin said, “If you’re thoughtful about it and show some real awareness of history, go ahead and refer to Hitler when you talk about Trump, or any other politician.” In 2017, he endorsed and encouraged comparisons of the alt-right organizers of the Charlottesville rally to Nazis. In June 2018, Godwin wrote an opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times arguing that appropriate application of the rule “should function less as a conversation ender and more as a conversation starter.”

Hypocritic Oath

Doctors swear under the Hippocratic Oath to “do no harm.” On a day to day level, doctors should refrain from putting chemicals into patients’ bodies if they are not sick and avoid cutting people up if all the organs are in fine working order. Doctors should not involve themselves in, for example, torture or genital mutilation.

In Nazi Germany, doctors planned, supervised and participated in sterilisation, unethical experiments on humans, torture, euthanasia and genocide. This was not ethical professional practice. In Death and Deliverance, Michael Burleigh studies the character, background and motives of those who carried out the mass sterilisation and euthanasia of German mental patients in the 1930s. Between 1934 and 1945, 400,000 people were sterilised in the cause of eradicating “degenerative heredity”. The British historian Sir Ian Kershaw wrote, “The road to Auschwitz was built by hate, but paved with indifference,” Other historians have used the term “passive complicity”.

Extraordinary Medicine

It seems that, whatever about that boring old Hippocratic Oath, there will always be some doctors who go beyond curing or preventing illness and bow to ideology or mammon in order to inflict unnecessary drugs or surgery.

In more recent times, US doctors participated in GW Bush’s programme of extraordinary rendition, enhanced interrogation and torture. A US Senate report on CIA torture makes it clear that American doctors were enthusiastic participants happy to make a profit from inflicting pain. Two psychologists, Dr James Mitchell and Dr Bruce Jessen, were paid $81 million to design the torture programme, and medical officers and physicians’ assistants are cited throughout the report as consultants who advised on things like forcing detainees to stand on broken limbs and “rehydrating” via a rectal tube rather than a standard IV infusion.

Your Body in their Hands

Eliza Mondegreen writes perceptive articles on transgender madness on Medium and Substack. Like Linehan, she sees a parallel between Nazi doctors and those today who are cutting off the healthy breasts of young girls and castrating teenage (or younger) boys. A common thread is the arrogance of doctors: “For something that is hands-on with people’s flesh and blood, there’s a deep dissociation embedded in medicine that is perhaps necessary to practice medicine—breaking body taboos, taking someone’s life in your hands—and which medicine selects for in practitioners. This dissociation carries real risks. Taken to an extreme, under Nazism, the German medical profession’s belief system was effectively hacked by a racist, eugenicist ideology, such that sworn healers became killers in the name of healing (see Robert Jay Lifton’s The Nazi Doctors).”

A doctor commented on Eliza Mondegreen’s post: “Their most fundamental need, the one that guides all their decisions is their hunger for money and fame. Thus, a dramatic and costly intervention will always be chosen over a more personalized treatment that needs lots of time and empathy and is not paid half as well and not recognized as great achievement by the medical community.”

Experimenting on Children

Many institutions today are being hacked by a bizarre belief system. Doctors in the western world today are prescribing drugs to children and young adults not for the purpose of curing or preventing illness. These are drugs that are not approved by the FDA, drugs which have not been properly trialed. In the UK, a document was prepared by NICE (National Institute for Health Care and Excellence) in October 2020.The conclusion was, “Any potential benefits of gender-affirming hormones must be weighed against the largely unknown long-term safety profile of these treatments in children and adolescents with gender dysphoria.” NICE also said existing studies of the drugs were small and “subject to bias and confounding”. “The quality of evidence for all these outcomes was assessed as very low.”

Like the Nazi doctors, doctors today are experimenting on young people who are not in a position to give informed consent. Why would doctors want to block puberty? Do no harm! Puberty is a natural process. Puberty blockers, also called puberty inhibitors, are drugs used to postpone puberty. Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) agonists inhibit the release of sex hormones, including testosterone and estrogen. There is controversy about the legality of using puberty blockers on transgender youth; their use has been challenged on ethical and medical grounds.

People think they are being humanitarian by accepting the bullying of the transgender lobby. The well-meaning public do not realise that there is no actual LGBTQA++ community. Rather, the public support gained by gay and lesbian people is being used as a big tent into which all kinds of insanity and nastiness is creeping. Organisations like Stonewall exert undue influence on institutions even including the courts and the police and sideline those, like the LGB Alliance, who genuinely represent women and gays. Linehan may be a hate figure to transgender activists but the LGB Alliance has taken him to their hearts. Linehan is a straight white male talking common sense that feminists and gays can appreciate. It would be helpful to cut that acronym back to LGB.

Surgical Mutilation of Language

There is an Orwellian manipulation of language. Elective mastectomies on girls become “reconstructive chest surgery”. Drastic, life-altering medical interventions become conceptualized as non-interventions. Hysterectomies, oophorectomies, and phalloplasties become “gender-affirming care.” These doctors are no longer capable of seeing what they’re actually doing, which is drugging and slicing a body into compliance with the new identity regime. Who amongst us would want to live our entire adult lives on the basis of irreversible decisions taken as teenagers? Especially teenagers being swayed by social media, and credulous progressives. Having your testicles or breasts removed is not like getting a tattoo.

Someone made this comment on a New York Times article, which, like many articles on the transgender issue in the mainstream media, managed to avoid many crucial points: “It seems so obvious that sterilizing children based on no criteria, other than what the child believes, is tremendously ethically wrong. I can’t imagine a clearer example of a reckless medical practice, and yet it’s become commonplace. In addition to our children needing to be deprogrammed, we need a deprogramming effort in place for the vast numbers of clinicians, inside and external to the clinics, who support affirmative care. Personally, I think prison would be a perfect place to enact such a program, but I suspect that wouldn’t be feasible.”

Graham Linehan’s comparison with Nazi doctors seems rather mild. He says, “There are lots of gender non-conforming children who may not be trans and may grow up to be gay adults, but who are being told by an extreme, misogynist ideology, that they were born in the wrong body, and anyone who disagrees with that diagnosis is a bigot.” We are in a vortex of cognitive distortions reinforced and magnified by social media echo chambers. This kind of biological engineering does remind me of Nazi doctors. If it walks like a duck…If they are behaving like Nazis, it’s OK to say so.