Bill Moyers and Michael Winship
a rule of thumb in cyberspace etiquette known as Godwin’s Law, named
after Mike Godwin, the Internet lawyer and activist who first came up
with it. A variation of that law boils down to this: He who first
compares the other side to Nazis loses, and the conversation is at an
end. Unless you’re billionaire Tom Perkins, who seems dedicated to
digging a deeper and deeper hole for himself.
By now you’re probably heard about Perkins’s infamous letter to The Wall Street Journal (whose editorial page is the rich man’s Pravda
of class warfare) in which he wrote, “I would call attention to the
parallels of fascist Nazi Germany to its war on its ‘one percent,’
namely its Jews, to the progressive war on the American one percent,
namely the ‘rich…’ This is a very dangerous drift in our American
thinking. Kristallnacht was unthinkable in 1930; is its descendant
‘progressive’ radicalism unthinkable now?”
It’s astonishing how ignorant (not to mention crude and cruel) the
very rich can be. Surely, one of his well-paid retainers could have
reminded Mr. Perkins that Kristallnacht was the opening salvo in
Hitler’s extermination of the Jews, the “night of broken glass” in 1938
Germany and Austria when nearly a hundred Jews were murdered, 30,000
were sent to concentration camps, and synagogues and Jewish-owned
business were looted and destroyed, many of them burned to the ground.
If Perkins thought his puny point survived the outrageous exaggeration,
he was sadly mistaken.
Nonetheless, after a stunned world responded, venture capitalist
Perkins went on Bloomberg TV to apologize for using the word
“Kristallnacht” but not for the sentiment of his letter.
“I don’t regret the message at all,” he said. “Anytime the majority
starts to demonize the minority, no matter what it is, it’s wrong and
dangerous and no good comes from it.”