At times when people have an argument about things on Twitter, things come up that tend to deflate the strength of a person’s argument, especially as wild comparisons are made. Often, that involves Hitler – “you’re as bad as Hitler” and so forth. Otherwise known as Godwin’s Law - and normally is taken to mean that the person who invokes Hitler has automatically lost the argument.
The current fashion, however, is switching to invoking Stalin. This is especially the case when a political party wants an investigation and / or inquiry about something that is going on. Or used to describe parties that want to regulate things. I can’t remember people objecting too heavily when Keating introduced regulations for the banking sector in the 90s which helped them during the GFC. Or any number of regulations that help us maintain a civil society. It is regularly called “Stalinist”, for example, to want a media accountable to others, rather than just itself. It’s become shorthand for reactionaries to label things they see as bad – just name the murderer of millions and you apparently win your argument. It’s a bit of a amplification from the IPA’s Nanny State label (which, curiously, is the same term used by the tobacco industry whenever Government regulations affect them).
The NSW Greens Senator, Lee Rhiannon, is one of the chief recipients of this Stalinist tag. Michael Danby, the avid Israel supporter in the Labor Government (I mentioned him before in this post), was published in The Punch accusing her of being a Stalinist – even though Stalin was long dead by the time she joined the Socialist Party of Australia in the 1970s. Wendy Bacon deals with that absurd label here, which appears to be part of a campaign (featuring assorted ALP figures and media outlets) to smear Senator Rhiannon with supposed sins of her past – rather than do the hard work of assessing her record as a politician in NSW and Federally.
But now it’s Barry O’Farrell who is a Stalinist. Apparently. The Premier of NSW wants to set in train a strengthening of anti-discrimination laws that would work to convict those who set out to racially vilify. This has got a range of reactionaries huffing and puffing, expecting their man BOF to tow their line of being able to say and do whatever they like. So, Michael Smith has complained and Menzies House has issued a warning. Andrew Bolt, has gone further, calling O’Farrell an “idiot” and that such an inquiry “is against the spirit of the law” and “straight out of the Leninist playbook”. Not just Leninist -
But Bolt asked why Mr O’Farrell didn’t simply “set a quota of how many racists he wants hauled before the courts? Why not just do it as Lenin used to do, as Stalin used to do?”
I’m surprised Bolt didn’t mention Lee Rhiannon in this spray. This invocation of Stalin can be seen as being as bad for arguments as Godwin’s Law. So, we need a name for it. I propose the Mercader Principle, after the assassin that Stalin sent in to kill Trotsky. If you want to kill something, get an assassin to come with a machine gun and an icepick. If you can’t kill it with the machine gun, get the icepick and hack your subject to pieces with it.
The Mercader Principle. Just watch it ramp up this year.