Keith Olbermann explains once again why we have Godwin’s law. This time Tom Delay is the target.

It was only last month when Olbermann gave Condi Rice a history lesson on why her Godwin transgression was so serious.

Olbermann’s obsession with the bad Hitler analogies invoked by the right has a long track record. When Rumsfeld was still in a position to entertain the press he likened his role to those who fought Fascism, but Keith Olbermann challenged this view of history, comparing his absolutism about Iraq to that of the Neville Chamberlain government in Britain who appeased Hitler based on faith rather than evidence.

Before moving up to such big fish Keith Olbermann practiced his Godwin Law enforcement skills on smaller fry such as the conservative talkshow host, Bill O’Reilly. In defending the US actions at Haditha, Iraq in 2005, Bill cited the events of Malmedy during World War II where a war time massacre occurred. Unfortunately for O’Reilly, he was in effect equating US soldiers with the Nazis.

For the record, it was at Chenogne that US soldiers shot German POWs. Many believe that this was in retaliation for Malmedy. Perhaps Bill O’Reilly found “Malmedy” easier to pronounce/remember.

Keith Olbermann now recommends anyone tempted to invoke a poor Nazi comparison to go do some ressearch on the Internet (his favorite search engine must be Google, despite working for MSNBC). I’ve already done some of that research for them and found what could be a fitting successor to the Nazis when it comes to historical analogies:

The Stasi – sounds like Nazi and plus, they’re German – East German to be precise. They maintained a civilian network of informants both home and abroad. Their domestic spying operation is estimated to have had 1 in every 50 citizens collaborating with the secret police, monitoring politically incorrect behaviour.

The Stasi compiled dossiers on East German citizens. The files found after the regime fell would make a stack 112 miles high. (And God knows how much material had already disappeared; in the final days before the Berlin Wall fell, the Stasi destroyed paper with such manic enthusiasm that every shredder in the country burned out, forcing agents to cross to the West on one last hard-currency shopping spree.) Virtually every living person in East Germany had a file in the Stasi archives, up to and including Communist Party chief Erich Honecker—who, when the files were declassified by the government of the new unified Germany, quickly asked to see his.

The Stasi knew everything about you, including your smell. Its agents routinely broke into apartments to steal soiled underwear, which it would store in sealed jars, to be used later by sniffer dogs prowling the sites of illegal meetings.

The agency was authorized to conduct secret smear campaigns against anyone it judged to be a threat; this might include sending anonymous letters and making anonymous phone calls to blackmail the targeted person. Torture was an accepted method of getting information. They employed sleep and sensory deprivation in the interrogation process. Does this sound like someone you know today?

Despite all this surveillance the Stasi failed to predict the fall of the Berlin Wall, though they did manage to realise the Orwellian nightmare. The problem of the vacuum cleaner policy for national security is likened to finding a needle in a haystack by adding more hay. Agents get swamped with too much information they waste valuable resources investigating dead ends.

The caveat with any historical analogy still applies. One can only take it so far before the parallels no longer hold up.

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