I would like to speak in defense of the article - I do not know if I will feel inclined to defend Snyder's work in general as this is the first I've heard of it.
It's quite an intense and unusual piece. For instance:
The Holocaust may seem a distant horror whose lessons have already been learned. But sadly, the anxieties of our own era could once again give rise to scapegoats and imagined enemies, while contemporary environmental stresses could encourage new variations on Hitler’s ideas, especially in countries anxious about feeding their growing populations or maintaining a rising standard of living.Of course it immediately drew fire as a violation of Godwin's Law. Breakthrough Institute's Mike Shellenberger was quick on the draw.
Apparently oblivious of Godwin's Law, Yale professor @TimothyDSnyder says climate deniers" are like Hitler.I find this a superficial criticism. Starting a conversation specifically about Nazis is inherently not a violation of Godwin.
"As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1"
"there is a tradition in many newsgroups and other Internet discussion forums that once such a comparison is made, the thread is finished and whoever mentioned the Nazis has automatically lost whatever debate was in progress."
"Godwin's law applies especially to inappropriate, inordinate, or hyperbolic comparisons of other situations (or one's opponent) with Nazis – often referred to as "playing the Hitler card". The law and its corollaries would not apply to discussions covering known mainstays of Nazi Germany ... if that was the explicit topic of conversation, because a Nazi comparison in those circumstances may be appropriate"===
Godwin's law is set to expire soon. The youngest person to have a clear memory of Nazi power will be nearly 80 years old now.
I knew many holocaust survivors including my own parents; most of them have passed on or are at best not following political discourse closely. I was an early enforcer of Godwin back when no one outside usenet had heard of it, but I'm less of one now. Atrocities eventually fade into history. We need to learn from them, not bury them in respect for the feelings of people no longer paying attention.
Snyder's invocation of "denying" in his closing paragraph does seem deliberately provocative. BTI's Shellenberger finds it irresistible to tweet:
Apparently oblivious of Godwin's Law, Yale professor @TimothyDSnyder says climate deniers" are like Hitler.But this hardly seems oblivious. To the contrary, Snyder is willing to connect some dots that urgently need connecting.
In the end, this is about human history. A serious historian asserting that consequences have begun is timely and important. This speaks of climate in a language that is accessible to many powerful people who have dismissed the problem to date.
The fact that we experienced climate warriors may find this article strange and unsettling may be a feature, not a bug.
Once, a few years ago, trapped in an airport without any of my own reading material, I found myself reading a book by Fareed Zakariah about the geopolitics of the 21st century. The book never even mentioned climate change. I felt I was reading about a different planet, but it probably attained more readers than any contemporaneous book which faced our circumstances realistically.
In speaking in terms of power and history rather than in scientific or geophysical language, I wonder if Snyder will not be able to reach audiences focused on power and politics who have somehow not come to terms with our collective quandary.
By the way, Jim Hansen casually violated Godwin a few years back. His comparisons then seem to me far less considered than Snyder's. Still, maybe it's the passage of time and the passing of my parents and their siblings and their cohort from this world, but it bothers me less now than it did then.
It is time to start considering the enormity of our folly as a fair topic for conversation.