You must be familiar with the Godwin's law. In the 90's, Mr. Godwin, an American Lawyer, established that when talking for too long on the Internet, all individuals inevitably start discussing Hitler and Nazism. In his book, « Reductio at Hitlerum » philosopher François de Smet acknowledges that after the fall of the wall in Germany in 1989, in a global world no longer divided between the East and the West, where it is more difficult to distinguish good from evil, there is suddenly a necessity to find a new frontier. Hitler definitely remains valuable in this respect, and to disqualify someone, to accuse him or her of being a Nazi is a sure way to get rid of that person.
As an undisputable evil Islamic terrorism has become another example. And from that starting point, a few variations and extrapolations are possible
It happened to me twice with two different boyfriends at different times discussing Israel and the Palestinians. In the end both accused me of being irresponsible in playing the devil's advocate. The first one expressed his hatred of the Israeli government who mistreated the Palestinians and the second one was adamant that the Palestinian martyrdom poses were essentially manipulative.
They were both right... but together. Of course neither of them had been to Israel.
I went there just before the first Intifada with a group of journalists from Toulouse. We had been invited by the Histadrout Trade union who wanted to show they treated the Palestinians very well while Palestinians indicated that is was not so cool. Tension pervaded everywhere. I visited a very charming village of Neve Shalom (peace oasis) when people from both religions were living together and teaching both religions to their children. At the time I thought peace was possible; I was convinced that most people wanted peace and that if they could deal with the bunch of extremists on both sides, that would be solved. I wrote a small article in Libération, my first one ;
I was 25, ready to construct a proper argument, but traveling with more senior journalist, like Jean-Baptiste Hareng, from the quality daily, Liberation, who puzzled me when he told me « The more I am in Israel, the less I understand the situation ». And years later when I became a correspondent for Le Figaro In Budapest in 1990, I realized he was right.
Before finding a flat in Buda on the Rose Hill, I lived in prestigious Art nouveau hotel Gellert overlooking the Danube and met all the important people passing by. I had dinner with a mischievous man working for the World Bank, who had a limp. At the time I had no notion of Hungarian and at the time no translation was available, so just as it is in a Chinese restaurant, we picked our meal randomly by what was most expensive. That was fun.
I could not figure out where his English accent came from. Israel, of course. I had questions for him about... peace. He explained to me that none of the belligerents had interest in peace for both enjoyed receiving funds and their economics depended on that. I was 27 and that was the end of my naivety.
From that moment on, I was never able to voice a Manichean political opinion on that subject and whenever people are trying to put me on that slippery road, I am aware that people are not willing to discuss a matter seriously with me, but mostly wish to start a very personal quarrel on behalf of a world cause. I may be wrong, but in both cases, it sounded to me as if the aggressiveness that both boyfriends put on those issues, was a kind of catharsis for the anger they could not express, or the fact that the relationship had became tensed or so boring and that there was no other subject. I quit the first one and put the second one on hold until he admitted, the situation was not that simplistic and wanted to argue with me.
With the return of Sarkozy from the living dead with his announcement that he will be a candidate for 2017 presidential election, Godwin's Law could extend to Mr. Sarkozy. If you are French, at some point in conversation you will have to define yourself regarding the ex chief of State. It cannot be avoided. Like this weekend, Alain Juppé Mayor of Bordeaux, former minister of foreign affairs under Sarkozy, former Prime minister under Jacques Chirac, when interviewed on French radio, Europe 1, desperately tried not to speak about Sarkozy, and was constantly asked to compare himself with his former boss and hardly got a chance to describe his project. The former President’s first interview on TV was a huge success. Mr. Sarkozy has an undisputable talent to crystallise people's animosity around him. He is the one you love to hate and seems to enjoy it. François Hollande was elected as a « lesser evil », « anything but Sarkozy ». It looks like the former President would like to look like a « lesser evil » than François Hollande, but we all know that “less is more, is a delusive concept” and that « errare humanum est, sed perseverare, diabolicum ».
In the meantime, my advice is that if, while talking about Sarkozy, your partner starts quarrelling and gets angry because « you cannot deny that... » or focuses on Sarkozy, that is a clinical sign that you have an ailing relationship, and you should take that symptom very very seriously !
 Reductio ad hitlerum. Une théorie du point Godwin,
par François de Smet, PUF, 160 p., 15 euros.