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Reductio ad Hitlerum

May 29, 2010

Recently, many bibliobloggers have been freaking out pontificating upon the problems–all right, all out lies and disinformation– with Glenn Beck’s “speech” on the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Beck has stuck his foot in his mouth so much recently that it is hard to believe he will have a job in the very near future. Anyways, here is the best rant on Beck I have seen thus far. Prepare to be amused:

HT: Jake

What Beck is doing is a fallacy known as Reductio ad Hitlerum. I have seen this in some undergrad papers. Have any of you seen this in your own experience? Any horrible examples?

From Wikipedia (Yeah, I know Jim, but it’s a blog post and I have a lot of work I have to get to today… I hang my head in shame!).

Reductio ad Hitlerum, also argumentum ad Hitlerum, (dog Latin for “reduction to Hitler” or “argument to Hitler,” respectively) is an ad hominem or ad misericordiam argument, and is an informal fallacy. It is a fallacy of irrelevance where a conclusion is suggested based solely on something or someone’s origin rather than its current meaning or context. This overlooks any difference to be found in the present situation, typically transferring the positive or negative esteem from the earlier context. Hence this fallacy fails to examine the claim on its merit.

Its name is a pun on reductio ad absurdum, and was coined by an academic ethicist, Leo Strauss, in 1953. Engaging in this fallacy is sometimes known as playing the Nazi card, by analogy to playing the race card.

The fallacy claims that a policy leads to—or is the same as—one advocated or implemented by Adolf Hitler or the Third Reich, and so “proves” that the original policy is undesirable. For example: “Hitler was a vegetarian, so vegetarianism is wrong.” The tactic is often used to derail arguments, because such comparisons tend to distract and anger.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Headless Unicorn Guy permalink
    May 29, 2010 12:35 pm

    Sigh. Today I’ve been putting this in a lot of comment threads — another Glenn Beck mash-up:

    Video: Glenn Beck giving some Important Message.
    Audio: Doc on the Rock (KROQ-FM) doing a dramatic reading of a classic Francis E Dec kook rant.
    The combination: Priceless.

  2. EricW permalink
    May 31, 2010 7:28 am

    Glenn Beck and Lewis Black deserve each other.

  3. purplehymnal permalink
    May 31, 2010 2:25 pm

    On the Internet, this is also known as “Godwin’s Law”.

  4. Headless Unicorn Guy permalink
    June 8, 2010 4:19 pm

    For example: “Hitler was a vegetarian, so vegetarianism is wrong.”

    Though “Hitler was a Vegetarian” DOES deflate the Vegan dogma that Vegetarian = Morally Superior. In this, it has its uses.

    • February 25, 2011 3:16 pm

      Not only is it fallacious to argue against veganism with an appeal to Hitler, its simply wrong. Hitler was documented meat eater, he was never vegetarian. This is an old myth. At a point in his life he adopted a health food oriented diet, he ate still meat through out his life. Also the strong animal welfare laws of nazi germany (often ignored for the good of the Reich) were not Hitlers doing, they were the results of earlier pre-hilter Austrian animal welfare/rights laws. The myth that hitler was vegetarian is old and long debunked, not knowing such a basic fact and basing your argument on it probably wouldn’t get you very far in rational discussions

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