On Sean Spicer, Godwin’s Law, and Being A Moron

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 02: White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer answers questions in the White House briefing room February 2, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

There are few things more elementary in writing or speech than avoiding what has become known as Godwin’s Law. Godwin’s Law got its start as a result of online discussions where Mike Godwin in 1990 coined the following Law:

“As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Hitler approaches 1.”{1}

In shorthand: if someone invokes Hitler or Nazis in a conversation in an inappropriate manner{2}, they lose the argument. I like to use the following meme online to let folks know when they have stepped in it:


Why am I writing on this at the moment? Well, because White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer knows less elementary than Watson, that’s why!

Courtesy of the New York Times:

WASHINGTON — The White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, set off an intense backlash on Tuesday when he suggested that President Bashar al-Assad of Syria was guilty of acts worse than Hitler and asserted that Hitler had not used chemical weapons, ignoring the use of gas chambers at concentration camps during the Holocaust. Mr. Spicer later apologized.

During his daily briefing for reporters, Mr. Spicer was defending President Trump’s decision to order a missile strike on Syria by trying to lend gravity to the actions of Mr. Assad. American officials accuse the Syrian president of using sarin gas, a lethal chemical weapon, in an attack on a rebel-held area of Idlib Province last week that killed dozens, many of them children.

But in misconstruing the facts of the Holocaust — Nazi Germany’s brutally efficient, carefully orchestrated extermination of six million Jews and others — Mr. Spicer instead drew a torrent of criticism and added to the perception that the Trump White House lacks sensitivity and has a tenuous grasp of history.

“We didn’t use chemical weapons in World War II,” Mr. Spicer said. “You know, you had someone as despicable as Hitler who didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons.”

He continued, “So you have to, if you are Russia, ask yourself: Is this a country and a regime that you want to align yourself with?”

The White House charged Tuesday that Russia had sought to cover up the Syrian government’s role in the chemical attack.

Asked to clarify his remarks, Mr. Spicer then acknowledged that Hitler had used chemical agents, but maintained that there was a difference.

“I think when you come to sarin gas, he was not using the gas on his own people the same way that Assad is doing,” Mr. Spicer said, incorrectly, before mentioning “Holocaust centers,” an apparent reference to Nazi death camps.{3}

Its bad enough that Sean Spicer fell for Godwin’s Law of course. However, the insensitive{4} way in which he portrayed what Adolph Hitler did to his political enemies{5} made the offense worse. Why? Well, the largest group of victims of the Nazi regime were Jews to start with. Referring to the concentration camps as “Holocaust centers” shows a remarkable carelessness on memory which is painful for many people. There is also the issue of timing that compounds the offense.

If there are any times where this ordinarily tasteless kind of language is even more inappropriate they would be:

  • Between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur
  • During the week of Passover

Mr. Spicer managed to not only act like a Grade A asshole on this matter but he did it when it would be even more inexcusable than would ordinarily be the case.

If I was advising the Trump Administration, I would advise them to give Spicer the boot and soon. It is possible that we could be at war in Syria soon. The last thing we would want to do with our biggest ally in the Middle East is unduly antagonize them during their sacred time of year. But as long as an obtuse moron like Sean Spicer is the official press secretary for the President of the United States, that is a potential risk. Frankly, it is not one we should be willing to entertain.



{1} Wikipedia: Excerpt from the Entry Godwin’s Law.

{2} Essentially, any use which is not germane to Hitler, Nazis, etc in any reasonable interpretation of the evidence.

{3} Excerpt from a New York Times article accessible HERE.

{4} Yes yes, I hate as a rule the use of the word “insensitive” in media because its usually a wuss word but every rule admits of its exceptions and this would be one of them.

{5} Its not politically correct to say this but Hitler killed more groups of people than just Jews.

About Shawn McElhinney 16 Articles
I call fair balls and strikes on all subjects I write on. I do not believe in spin nor do I believe in being a slappie for any person or cause -even those causes I happen to generally agree with. I write from a predominantly conservative point of view but I am not wedded to conservatism and when I view it as wrong or lacking on an issue, I will where applicable say so. I am also a longtime Independent voter and while being an Independent is all the rage now after the last election season, to paraphrase that great western philosopher Barbara Mandrell: I was Independent, when Independent was not cool.

1 Comment

  1. While I think Spicer deserves the Dumbass of the Week award for his comments, I don’t see them antagonizing the Israelis. As far as whether he should get the boot, President Trump could replace him with Shill Sycophannity (err, Sean Hannity).

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