Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Text, technology, and the Jewish Question.

So I have been remiss in my lulz, no? That is all right. Because much like the Gestapo, if you leave them alone long enough, the lulz find you and kick your bloody door in and relocate you to some ghetto.

So today, the ghetto in question is the Walled City of the Huffington Post, which has the benefit at least of being a blog full of opinion articles, and only barely pretends to be a legitimate news source (CNN, Fox, I am looking at you), and the lulz are found via Alan Kaufman's post thereupon about how the kindle is to books like the NSDAP is to the Jews. No, srsly.

Normally, we would giggle, Godwin, and go home, but Das Kainenchen felt moved to comment on some of the more egregiously alarmist and flat out hilariously wrong points here (i.e.-- the difference between a mandated purge and the expansion of a medium). And there, in the comments, we came upon This, from the author:

As not a few comments on this and other sites have invoked Godwin's Law in response to my article, as though it were Holy Writ, I've fornulated my own law:

KAUFMAN'S LAW: "Efforts such as Godwin's Law to thwart the finding of contemporary relevance in the Holocaust is a form of Holocaust denial."

Now wait just a cotton pickin' second there, son. I don't think that means what you think it means.

For starters, what we have here is good old Reducto ad Hitlerium-- you know, the Hitler wore pants arguments. Hitler burned books, so anything that might possibly be of percieved harm to books = Hitleresque. Quid pro quo, Clarice. Sometimes he still hears the books screaming at night.

For the moment, I shall dispense with the argument as to whether I think the kindle causes harm to traditional books (I don't, quite the opposite), or even whether I agree with the point that having all of one's texts available solely through controlled (digitally licensed) media is worrisome (I do, but note the qualifier) and deal with the above truly lulz-worthy statement.

There is a difference, and while that difference may be utterly lost on tehs intertubes, it is yet a profound difference-- between Thought and Godwin. It is one thing to genuinely examine the causes of National Socialism and how the Fascist expression thereof became the Holocaust as it happened in Nazi Germany, and to wonder if such a thing could happen Here and Now-- and if so, how it could, and why, and what factors might lead to it. It is one thing to wonder if there are not elements of our society that might not, left unchecked, lead to holocaust-like purges-- for example, the examination of American internment of Japanese people in WWII, or the worries about the treatment of contemporary Muslims and/or Arabs in light of the actions of a few. It is quite another thing to compare any random thing one doesn't like to a bloody, unilateral, government sanctioned relocation, enslavement and massacre of a race/religion. Even-- perhaps especially-- when said massacre is personally relevant to your own history. I understand the emotional resonance of invoking such a horror for... you know, whatever (even books, physical books, which are a thing that I love), but one must be judicious not only in the subject of the comparison, but also in the way in which the analogy is carried out. I don't think it is too much to ask that the analogy be... I don't know, relevant? That one not have to reach to draw parallels where what parallels there might be are so tenuous as to be completely irrelevant. Else, the discussion, when there is something important here becomes weakened, pathetic, a breeding ground for lulz. Like here. The import of the Shoah is lessened, the import of the issue the man actually wished to discuss is lessened. Houston, We have Doing It Rong.

To take that a step further and to say that calling Godwin's is Holocaust Denial is lulz of the highest order. The whole point of Godwin's Law is that petty and trivial things-- faith, anything short of wholesale slaughter or the path thereto (barring slippery slope fallacies like this one here) is probably petty and trivial by comparison. This is not Holocaust denial. It is a ridicule of someone's use of the Holocaust to validate their own point, whether that point be sketchy or valid.

And as to what I think of the point... well, that is not a matter for Dead Nazis, but rather a tl;dr.

ETA: Even better, I seem to have been banned from commenting on yon post, which makes me wish hard that I had saved my comment to post here or on Tl;dr. Cozya-- it was largely about how book replacement wasn't mandatory or otherwise being enforced by a government, so who were the great Technocratic They waging this war against the real book, citing some books that I can only get in e-format. Eh, it was probably Das Kainenchen's username (deadnazi) what did it. /sigh.


  1. It sounds like Alan Kaufman needs to chill out and read a book, or maybe even pick up a Kindle and realize the only difference between them is the medium at which he is receiving his text.

    "Frankenstein" is still "Frankenstein". "Atlas Shrugged" is still "Atlas Shrugged" (and very long). No literary work is being burned, no story banned.

    What bothers me is that people are mistaking technology with destroying the WRITTEN word. I am writing now, you are reading now. The only thing that is different is that you are not feeling the surface of a turned page between your fingers.

    Personally, I do prefer books. The sound of the page turning is pleasing to me, the sigh of the book binding when you open your story up. That does not mean I am about to get up in arms about a Kindle. This is a digital age, it's great there is a new conduit for literature. I won't get upset, also, because essentially my story is still in tact...

    And comparing the Kindle to a BOOK BURNING!? I think there is an undefinable, unclassifiable masochism some people - and I say this as a Jewish woman - and some Jews get out pointing a finger and saying: anti-semite! holocaust denier! Etc. It goes on, and it shouldn't. We should not be looking for an enemy we can compare to our previous ones. If there is one there, fine, take up arms, raise your voice. But to look for an enemy, to look for that AGAIN when it should never happen again is pure naivete to what really happened to our ancestors.

    What happened was horrible, what happened is unimaginable. Seriously, picture yourself at a book burning. No really, picture yourself there. From when you wake up in the morning, from your routine, from whatever brought you out of the house - groceries? return a library book? - and now see yourself there.

    That shiver you may have gotten up your spine? Probably not even close. The destruction and effacing of literature is as serious as the destruction and effacing of a person.

    Maybe 6 million persons.

    I don't think Alan Kaufman quite comprehends what he is f***ing talking about. He gets the bitterness, he gets the hate, but does he get the weight of it? I think what he did makes him blind, ignorant and unsavory, just as much as the people who really HAVE burned books before.

    There is a steadfast strength to the Jewish people - to my people - and I'm talking old school. I see weakness in this man that just disrupts me as a member of the J-mmunity.

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