Tuesday, October 26, 2010

It's Never A Good Idea To Link Yourself to WWII Germany

Political pundits sometimes throw out how certain people or policy positions compare with - in their minds - those of Nazi German or what Hitler did or "would have" supported. The translation of any such argument is that the person saying these things is calling their opponent "a Nazi" or "Hitler" and implying that they harbor the associated racism, hate, anti-Semitism and responsibility for the deaths of millions of people that goes with that accusation.

This never works as an effective way of discrediting an opponent because it comes across as desperate, mean spirited or out-of-touch...even if the assertion happens to be technically correct on some level. And, no matter what the issue is, the public isn't going to believe that whatever political issue or hypothetical argument that's being discussed on TV in the U.S. in 2010 is as bad as what actually happened in Europe because of the Germans before and during World War II (because it's not).

OK, so it's clear that it's not effective to try and link an adversary to WWII Germany. But, FOR SURE you should not link yourself or your own organization to them.

As evidence, this week the University of Tennessee head football coach tried to explain the mindset and status of his team by saying they were "like the Germans in World War II." He went to explain how his team is like the defenders of the D-Day beaches. Really? That's the comparison you want to make? That your student athletes are akin to German soldiers in World War II trying to kill Americans, Brits, Canadians and others as they try and liberate Europe?

The coach is probably a big WWII buff and knows well how the Allies successfully invaded France in 1944 - starting with D-Day on June 6. So, he probably was trying to make a point along the lines of...so complete was the Allies plan and execution of the D-Day invasion that it totally confused and completely defeated the Germans defending the coastline, and that's how our team feels right now. We're young, beat up and overwhelmed.

Two problems with that analogy:
  1. Whatever your intentions, you just aligned yourself, your school and your team with the Nazis. Virtually nobody will get the comparison you were trying to make, but they definiately will conclude that you are an idiot who just associated their beloved school and team with "Nazis." 
  2. The Germans went on to lose World War II - badly. If you ARE going to use a war analogy, is that the side you want to compare yourself to when talking to your team, fans and supporters? I think not. For free, I'll give you an appropriate WWII analogy - even though I'm against using them in business, politics or sports because war is horrific and whatever "sacrifices" your team or company is making they are nothing compared to what real soldiers in a real war sacrificed. OK, so you could say that your team is like the Americans at the outset of the Battle of the Bulge - surprised, overwhelmed and confused. But, like those American soldiers, the team will rebound, re-double efforts, fight hard and in the end emerge victorious. There. Everybody is happy. Your analogy is aligned with the right side and your (feeble) point is made.
So the big sum up is...when making an argument or an analogy, never bring in references to the Nazis, Hitler or the Germans in WWII. Just don't. You're more than likely wrong, you look desperate and you greatly undermine your own credibility rather than making your point.

No comments: