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Editorial: Comparing the feds to the Nazis doesn’t solve anything

Call off the Nazi comparisons.

First Published Jul 25 2014 04:00 pm • Last Updated Jul 25 2014 04:00 pm

The Gestapo was known for many crimes against humanity. A failure to answer their telephone is not generally considered to be among them.

And that’s only one reason why some local officials from Utah who vented before a congressional committee the other day looked foolish, at best, comparing the Bureau of Land Management to the not-so-secret police that spread fear and death across Europe before and during World War II.

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Way back in 1990, the dawn of the Internet, an early adopter named Mike Godwin came up with a rule since dubbed Godwin’s Law. It has two prongs: First, in any thread of online debate, there is a virtual 100 percent chance that someone will eventually compare one’s opponent to Adolf Hitler and/or the Nazi Party. Second, the first person to drag the Nazis into it loses, and the debate is over.

Anyone who has spent any time in online comment boards knows the first part is true. The second part follows because nearly anything anyone doesn’t like, no matter how bad it is, is so unfathomably tiny in comparison to the Nazi regime that using it as a measure of anything is both foolish and grotesquely dismissive of the monstrous evil of the Holocaust.

That didn’t stop Garfield County Commissioner Leland Pollock from telling the House Natural Resources Committee Thursday that BLM cops, allegedly turned out in SWAT gear for confrontations in Nevada and Utah, have struck fear into the rugged individualists of the West.

"Right or wrong," Pollock said, "some equate BLM’s law enforcement operations to the Gestapo."

Not right or wrong. Just wrong. Especially when the locals’ major concern seems to be that BLM managers won’t renew their mutual aid law enforcement contracts and aren’t eager enough to help when county sheriffs call on them. Pollock and other elected leaders — including U.S. Rep. Chris Stewart — should be telling people that.

But Stewart, pushing a bill to deny the BLM and other agencies the funds to maintain heavily armed law enforcement teams, seems more interested in a political tactic that was — dare we say it — favored by, yes, the Nazis.

That doesn’t make it a Nazi tactic, or those who employ it the equal of Hitler. It is just another annoying example of how politicians gain influence by promising to protect people from a nonexistent enemy. It has probably been around since the Cro-Magnon first looked crossways at the Neanderthal.

There is reason to fear that land-use disputes in the West could lead to violence. Both the feds and the locals should be working to avoid that.

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It will be difficult. Obeying Godwin’s Law would help.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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