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.