Argumentum ad Hitlerum

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Also Known As: Appeal to Hitler, Reductio ad Hitlerum, the Nazi Argument, the Hitler Card, the Nazi Card, Argument from Hitler

Description:

This fallacy is a specific instance of the Guilt by Association fallacy. But the excessive use of the argumentum ad Hitlerum on the internet, in politics, and elsewhere warrants it receiving its own entry.

It has the following general form:

 

Premise 1: Hitler (or some other Nazi, or Nazis in general) accepts claim C.

Conclusion: Therefore, claim C is false/wrong.

 

This is a fallacy because the mere fact that Hitler (etc.) accepted a claim (or acted in a certain way) does not show that the claim (or action) is wrong. Hitler presumably believed that 1+1=2 and if this reasoning was any good, it would have to be concluded that 1+1 does not equal 2, which is absurd.

This fallacy draws its psychological power from the negative view most people have towards the Nazis in general and Hitler in particular. This fallacy is sometimes used in bad faith argumentation by people who do not particularly dislike some aspects of Nazism but believe their opponents do and hence accuse them of being like Hitler or the Nazis. People using this fallacy also sometimes lie about what the Nazis believed or did to try to unjustly smear something with Nazism. While lying is not a fallacy, this is a bad faith tactic.

Attacking a person by comparing them to Hitler (or Nazis) to “disprove” their claim would usually be an Ad Hominem attack.

Comparisons to Hitler, Nazis and Nazism need not be fallacious. For example, a strong Argument by Analogy could be used to show that a modern political group is a Nazi group. So, it should not be assumed that all references to Hitler or Nazis in argumentation must be fallacious. To reject an argument simply because of such references would also be a fallacy.

 

Defense: While there can be good arguments that refer to the evils of the Nazis, you should be on guard whenever an argument compares anything to Hitler or the Nazis. You should ask whether this comparison is accurate and whether the comparison supports the claim being presented.

 

Example #1

Lee: “So, you are a vegetarian now.”

Rachel: “Yes. Well, I am trying.”

Lee: “You know that Hitler was a vegetarian, right?”

Rachel: “Really?”

Lee: “Yes. He also hated tobacco smoking.”

Rachel: “Quick, get me some bacon and a pack of cigarettes! I repudiate my views!”

 

Example #2

Ricardo: “Hmm, there seem to be some good arguments for having national health care.”

Glenda: “Oh, really?”

Ricardo: “Yes. After all, we have national defense against human enemies and even a federal agency for disasters. Why not have a comparable national defense against diseases and health problems?”

Glenda: “Why not indeed. You know that the Nazis were for national health care. They also killed all those people in the death camps. You are not proposing a final solution to health care, are you?”

Ricardo: “I watch the History Channel, so yeah, I know. But what does that have to do with national health care?”

Glenda: “I’m just connecting the dots.”

Ricardo: “Uh huh.”

Originally appeared on A Philosopher’s Blog Read More

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