Evoking Godwin’s Law: War of Words in Asia



For those of us who use the internet often,  Godwin’s Law is all too familiar in social media. For those unfamiliar with the so-called law, it simply states that  by comparing someone to Hitler or something to Nazism, it  shuts down the discussion completely.

While Godwin’s law tends to refer to internet discussions, it, unfortunately, seems to be applicable to real diplomatic efforts ( and  frankly, failures) between countries. President Aquino of the Philippines has recently been criticized for basically comparing China to Nazi Germany. When rallying support against “China’s claims to its nearby seas” he stated: “At what point do you say: ‘Enough is enough’? Well, the world has to say it. Remember that the Sudetenland [ Czechoslovakia] was given in an attempt to appease Hitler to prevent World War II.”

Read the full story here:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-china-26048500

We mentioned a few times in class that really image is everything. But what about words? What politicians say  ( in addition to what they do) unfortunately can really undermine one’s credibility., especially in an age of information, ( why do you think people get so upset over the usage of “your” and “you’re” on Facebook? Kidding aside there is a danger to name calling and extreme comparisons).  President Aquino’s statement may only serve to alienate the Philippines further from potential diplomatic ties with China. Whatever side of the issue one may stand on, for the President to release this kind of statement  is  dangerous in a PR standpoint and strategically will likely hurts its position in the region. By evoking such a comparison in cyberspace and the real world, the action tends to ignore  real concerns  and issues that have nothing to do with Nazi Germany.   I am sure President  Aquino has valid concerns  regarding China’s claim to the islands. However comparing this dispute to that of Nazi Germany and France and Great Britain undermines the reality what WWII was.

Additionally, the statement may only serve to create an ever widening gulf between potential diplomatic relations in the region.  There are better ways of addressing these territorial issues, but until people can move away from eliciting certain events that have historical and emotional context completely separate from current situations, there will never be real discourse. Words have power, particularly in this day in age where certain statements stand out more than others, for better or worse.


9 thoughts on “Evoking Godwin’s Law: War of Words in Asia”

  1. Because Chinese PD is a part of my country profile, I almost submitted a post on this same topic. Good news is, I entirely agree with you about the power of language and I will get into that further. I wanted to share first an article released by the Agence France Presse, that was redistributed online in Arab News.com. The article speaks directly to your post, where you said Aquino’s faulty choice of words would alienate the country further in the media and cultural aspects of the globosphere. However, this particular article goes even further, turning the argument on its head, with Aquino claiming that the reaction of Chinese state-run news agency actually corroborates the initial insults of the Chinese government and the ongoing fascism perpetuated via its media platforms. In both cases, on either side of the debate, you cannot deny that any effective lines of communication were inherently; entirely corrupted the moment Aquino referenced one of the most tragic, arguably temporally isolated, events in human history.

    My intention here is not to say which side is right, because as we have both now stated, the inclusion of a Nazi Germany simile debases the current China-Philippine discourse. These two contrasting articles, and the initial event on which they report, show how language becomes the defining lens through which intercultural communication often struggles. Language is highly structured, yet unstable. Within the context of foreign policy, language is both social and political, meaning it is codified as well as taking place within a reproducing situation that must continually link policy with a specific identity. It is HIGHLY contextual. So when you have the Philippine president accusing China of being hegemonic to the point of genocide, there are so many different issues with this. The emotional reality and historical significance of WWII should never have been taken this far out of context. The ongoing discourse here involves several Asia-Pacific nations about the demarcation of areas within the South China Sea. There are already immense cross-cultural and historical narratives competing within this debate; a reference to WWII Europe not only blurs the unstable language links, but instantly debases the directional effectiveness of FP between China and Philippines within this specific narrative.

    Here’s the link for the ArabNews.com other article: http://www.arabnews.com/news/522696

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