11 Nov, 10 | by Iain Brassington
Here’s something that occurred to me in the small hours about the argumentum ad hitlerum as it gets applied to the euthanasia dispute.
Proponents of the argument point to what happened in the Third Reich as a warning about euthanasia, the claim being that the Nazi so-called euthanasia programme led to the involuntary deaths of many people deemed to be “useless mouths”, and could all-too-easily do so again. The obvious rebuttal to this argument is that the Nazi programme wasn’t actually euthanasia – the word was used, when it was used at all, as a euphemism to cover up what was straightforwardly murder; it therefore tells us nothing about echt euthanasia.
But here’s the odd thing about the argumentum: it relies on accepting the word “euthanasia” as being at least a tolerably accurate description of what went on in the death camps. And that means that proponents are saying, in effect, that we can say what we like about the Nazis, but we have to accept as reliable their accounts of what they were up to; that they can’t possibly have been trying to cover up the programme.
And that’s just weird. I mean: granted what we know they got up to, doesn’t a little duplicity seem well within their capacities?