Analogies Misunderstood – The Pope and Hitler, and Others

There’s a common use of analogies as counter examples to some claim, that appear quite often on Twitter, but which are immediately misunderstood by one’s interlocutor.

You’re saying the Pope is equivalent to Hitler! How dare you compare them!

Here’s what happens …

Your soon to be accuser of a hateful comparison makes some statement like the following:

A is in some relation R to some X

You realise that the relation R doesn’t show X is true, so you provide an example of where R leads to an X is obviously not true

B is in relation R to some X

This is an ironic falsehood, used to show R to some X is unreliable, because in this case we all know that for B …

B is in relation R to some Not X

Your accuser hits the roof:

How dare you say A is equivalent to B!

Of course you’re not comparing A to B as an equivalence, but using the non-equivalence of A and B to show R to some X is unreliable. It is showing, by contradiction, using a false case, that R to some X is unreliable. You are contrasting B to A, not comparing (for likeness or equivalence) B to A.

Example 1: The Pope and Hitler

Here’s an example. Using Hitler is always going to cause outrage.

1.1 – The Pope (A)

displays public affection for children (R),

which shows the Pope is a good man (X).

Really? Then …

1.2 – Hitler (B)

displays public affection for children (R),

which shows Hitler is a good man (X).

You’re saying the Pope is like Hitler! How dare you!

No. The analogy is simply showing that public affection for children is not a sign of a man’s goodness.

It is illustrating the failure of the claim, by presenting a purposely bad example that would be true were the claim true, were the relation reliable. Showing public affection for children does not show that some public figure is a good man.

The counter example is clearly false, so the original claim is false or unreliable.


It might be that A is used in both examples:

A is in relation R to X … as … A is in relation R to Y … and since X and Y are not compatible, so R is unreliable.

More Examples

What follow is a set of examples, some similar to the general point above, and some variations.

Example 2: Not Godwin’s Law
Example 3: Failing to see what is compared
Example 4: That’s What Nazis Said
Example 5: Muslims are not Nazis (well, not all)
Example 6: Nazis are not a Pop Concert
Example 7: Not False Equivalence
Example 8: Circumcision is not like Murder
Example 9: Seeing Nazis Again, in an Immigration Point
Example 10: Deselection is not child abuse!
Example 11: You’ve compared Trans people to Disabled people. No.

There are other abuses and misunderstandings of analogies. Another example is shown here: God and Analogies

Example 2: Not Godwin’s Law

Contrasting, to illustrate non-equivalence, instead of comparing, to illustrate equivalence, often leads to the mistaken use of Godwin’s law.

The Pope v Hitelr contrast in Example 1 could have caused someone to invoke Godwin’s law, but the point of Godwin’s law is to illustrate how easily the blaming and shaming of people escalates to comparisons with Hitler – or more common these days, accusing your enemies of being Nazis or Fascists.

Here, Jack had made a ‘No True Scotsman’ claim, so James gives an analogy of the use in: Catholics (B) use a ‘No True Scotsman’ argument (R) to claim Hitler wasn’t a Catholic (Y).

Jack thinks James is comparing Catholic Christians to Hitler?

These analogies can easily get lost in the detail. However, it’s clear James was not making that hyperbolic comparison, and was neither comparing or contrasting anyone to Hitler, but was illustrating by example why the ‘No True Scotsman’ argument is a fallacy.


Example 3: Failing to see what is compared

A problem with misunderstanding analogies (or metaphors) is failing to see what is being compared.

This is a variation on the ‘relation’ problem, in that a relation of kind (is, is like) (R1) is mistaken for a relation about method (R2), which in turn results in concluding the analogy is saying

X is Y

rather than the

X resembles Y in some way that does not require that X is Y

In fact, in common use, these analogies are clearly not saying X is Y; but malicious readers of a specific use of the analogy try to say it is.

Some background on an instance of this …

The migrant problem exists whereby thousands of migrants are being encourage to come to Europe, which in turn is encouraging trafficking, and even slavery – not that these bad effects are intended, but they are certainly the result of failing to find a better solution.

Nothing wrong with legal migration, but the large numbers in 2015/16/17 are causing problems because it’s difficult to take in so many people at once – which even German Premier Angela Merkel acknowledges, particularly when there are some serious differences in political ideology between the people of the host states and the migrants.

So, some metaphors have been used that have upset people.

The UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, when still in office, referred to the mass migration as a ‘swarm’. And later, Katie Hopkins, who likes to troll the left, used the analogy ‘cockroaches’.

Both these are cases where the words can be inflammatory, and for Hopkins in trolling mood probably intentionally so, especially when those with an opposing political persuasion intentionally read the worst possible meaning.

Both terms were claimed to be dehumanising of the migrants, because both terms, ‘swarm’ by implication, ‘cockroaches’ explicitly, seem to liken the migrants to non-human, (sub-human!) insects. But this is clearly not the only use of these analogies.

The question is, what exactly is being compared? Are migrants being compared to cockroaches as if they were insects? Or is the comparison about the nature of the number and breadth of mass movement across the whole Mediterranean?


3.1 – Migrants (X) are non-human, like insects (R1), as are cockroaches (Y1).

(relation R1 = ‘like’ or ‘is’; Y1 = cockroaches)

3.2 – Migrants (X) are travelling in numbers and speed (R2), in a similar way in which cockroaches move (Y2).

(R2 = method of mass movement; Y2 = the way cockroaches move)

If Hopkins wanted to compare migrants to ‘sub-human’ species (3.1), why pick cockroaches, and not some other species? If you’re response is that she wanted to invoke the way in which migrant mass movement resembles the mass movement of cockroaches, then why not interpret her meaning as that of (3.2), rather than assume she meant (3.1)?

Of course it’s quite possible Hopkins meant both. You’d have to ask her about that. But I’m pretty damned sure Cameron’s ‘swarm’ was an innocent enough use of a metaphor for mass movement, and that idiots like this are actually promoting hate by supposedly exposing it where there is none.

Example 4: That’s What Nazis Said

“That’s what the Nazis said.”

Sometimes the person making the analogy thinks it has greater power than it actually has.

Some people (A) made a statement (R) that applies to some people (X)

Some bad people (B) made the same statement (R) that applies to some people (Y)

The implication being that A are as bad as B, because both made a similar statement R, about some people X and Y respectively.

Although there are aspects of R that are similar in both cases (warning about some people, X, or Y) the analogy attempted fails because they really are different cases.

4.1 – Opponents of mass migration (A) think a mass migration (in numbers and of general political and cultural ideologies at odds with those of the host states, and where the migrants will be abused and many will die on the journey) is a bad idea (R), regaring illegal migrants crossing the Med in great numbers (X) .

4.2 – The Nazis (B) thought a community (in numbers and economic power, of genetic degeneracy)  was bad for Germany (R), regarding the Jews (Y).

It’s clear that these are very different statements with very different conditions. Try this one to see why:

4.3 – The opponents of Nazis (C) think it is a bad idea to have a large community among them (R) of Nazis (Z).

I presume some of the people saying “That’s what the Nazis said.” woud be referring to 4.2, but would not see that as analogous to 4.3. In fact they generally think 4.3 is a good statement that reflects their position on 4.2. If you think the Nazis reprehensible for 4.2, you’d tend to think that 4.3 was justified (by pre-emptive violence according to many of them who approve of ‘bashing’ Nazis … which tends to carry the false presupposition that they know who are Nazis and who are not).

The Nazis in 4.2 were wrong about the Jews. The opponents of Nazis are right about 4.3 (though the violent methods favoured by some pseudo-liberals and other ideologues for dealing with them are contentious).

If 4.3 can stand when 4.2 cannot, then so can 4.1 stand when 4.2 cannot … provided you agree with it of course. And whether you agree with 4.2 or not isn’t the point here. The point is that “That’s what the Nazis said.” isn’t a great retort and is the poor use of an analogy.

More than that, it’s actually a totally failed analogy because 4.2 isn’t even the same R, the same statement with the same intent and immoral implications.

4.1 is a statement of fact (even if one thinks it an incorrect fact), and not an immoral statement about the worth of the migrants as individuals.

4.2 can actually be used positively in a moral argument: IF 4.1, then it is immoral of Merkel to continue to encourage the mass migration by her open door policy, because she is encouraging trafficking and slavery of people, the death of people in the Med, the friction in Europe between the peoples of Europe and the between the peoples of Europe and the migrants, and the migrants and the politicians that have promised them the world then not delivered.

Example 5: Muslims are not Nazis (well, not all)

In relation to Muslim grooming gang tweet by Mehdi Hasan, this was one of the replies:

So, I added an analogy:

What could my analogy possibly be about? I thought it was clear that it was about belief – whether the background is in fact relevant: the belief system one holds in this case, as Islam is the context to this whole thread, from Mehdi Hasan and the Maajid Nawaz LBC programme he was referring to. Mehdi was on one of his “Nothing to do with Islam” missions.

5.1 – Islam (I) is in relation (R) of beliefs that drive action, to the action of grooming white girls (Gr)

5.2 – Nazism (N) is in relation (R) of beliefs that drive action, to the action of genocide (Ge)

Basically, are beliefs irrelevant to the actions one engages in? And Islam v Nazism is intended to illustrate that 5.1 fails, by considering what would be a ridiculous comparison, if posited, but is a genuine contrast to 5.2: If Nazi beliefs can lead to genocide, then Islamic beliefs can lead to grooming. Of course it would be reasonable to ask then in what way I might think it possible Islamic beliefs could lead to grooming – below, shortly.

But instead of asking that, right on cue …

At least it was a question, as was mine. Just to confirm, no I wasn’t saying that. Somebody else tries to fathom this complex puzzle:

Interesting (i.e poor) logic indeed, had I used it.

To untangle this one:

  • No, Nazis do not equal genocide. Not all Nazis approved, but once you’re into a demonic cult it’s too late. Ask regretful members of ISIS that decided the hacking and raping was all a bit much. I would grant you that more genuine Nazis support the genocide of Jews than genuine Muslims do – but the number of Muslims that do seems a bit too high for me.
  • No, I was not saying being a British Muslim male makes you a sex gang member. And it should have been obvious because I was supporting a Muslim male, Maajid Nawaz, who was condemning such behaviour. Were it remotely true that being a British Muslim male implied that, I think even Feminazis would have difficulty not tweeting about it, rather than giving Islam a pass. (And, no, not all feminists are Feminazis, and no, even Feminazis are not really Nazis, from what I can tell).
  • Indeed, each group in society has good and bad people. I hope I was being referred to as an example of the good, but you never know.

This response also has problems with basic logic and basic set theory, and statistics. So, to clarify, what position do I hold on the Muslim grooming gang business.

In proportion to the population sizes in the UK, there is a disproportionate number of Pakistani Muslims that are responsible for grooming and sex abuse of under-age girls, where there are a number of factors, one being Islam. Why is Islam significant? It is an ancient religion that perpetuates 1400 year old ideas of power, authority, misogyny, child abuse, into the present age.

For good measure, here’s another twist. Critcising Islam is not racist – though some racists might well criticise Islam too – basic set theory again: the intersection of racists and critics of Islam is a proper subset of the critics of Islam. But, is there a racist element to the selection of white girls by these mostly Pakistani Muslim grooming gangs?

There are clear examples in the Islamic texts that endorse sex slavery of enemies, the consideration of non-Muslims as enemies and less worthy than Muslims, the explicit targeting of non-Muslim girls for conversion to Islam (Tommy Robinson’s groomed relative). I say endorsed, because of course this is supposed to be the perfect inerrant revelation that is good for all time, and nowhere does it say that a thousand years or so after the revelation one should maybe stop these acts. Oh, and Mohammed liked a bit of easy meat too.

NOT ALL Muslims! Is that clear enough? Thankfully, despite claims about the inerrancy of the Quran, most Muslims, when some are not telling Pew polls that they think death for apostasy is right-on Islamic, don’t live out the 1400 example of Mo and chums. So, clearly, no, not all young Muslim men are groomers.

But you have to ask, if it’s been so easy to use the texts of Islam to recruit nice young boys to join ISIS and become butchers and rapists, then a bit of local grooming into Mo’s ways isn’t too much of a stretch.

Yes, beliefs can influence actions. Islamic beliefs, all of them, can influence actions. Thank goodness that when most Muslims say “Islam is a religion of peace” they mean THEIR Islam, not that of Mo, ISIS, or the groomers.

Example 6: Nazis are not a Pop Concert

This is even more off cue, from …


The thread starts with Dan Arel lying about what someone said. But this isn’t about Dan. In addition to an incapacity to do basic set theory and logic (a recurring theme), this one misunderstands an analogy – so that’s why he appears here.

He’s busy defending the right to use pre-emptive violence against people he deems to be Nazis. I make this point:

Once you accept this unregulated street violence as justified in principle, you really have no legitimate claim to object to even greater violence by someone else. You have decided that YOU are the arbiter of when violence is justified, and therefore have no legitimate objection when someone else does too. So, I made the analogy:

  • AntiFa (X)
  • are justified in engaging in violence (V)
  • against Nazis (Y),
  • because AntiFa (X) say so.

OK, in that case …

  • Islamic terrorists (X)
  • are justified in engaging in violence (V)
  • against children at a pop concert (Y),
  • because Islamic terrorist (X) say so

The point of the analogy is this:

Clearly we think Islamic terrorists are not justified in their attack simply because they think they are. Therefore, it’s not enough that AntiFa self-justify their violent attacks.

The whole point of the analogy was, as in others above, to make use of a clearly false example to show that the less outrageous example is still false, because the same rationale is used for both.

I thought he was miffed because he thought I was equating Islamic terrorists and AntiFa. As loony as AntiFa are, Islamic terrorists are off the chart by comparison.

But what did the dim wit think I was comparing? He thought I was equating Nazis with a pop concert. FFS, even I didn’t think that was his error.

There’s only so much you can do when reason has flown the coop.

There has to be a better reason to engage in violence than simply asserting your own right to determine the conditions.

In a decent society it’s already difficult enough to regulate violence to the point where we all agree on when it’s justified. We have problems with regulated violence as it is. Our police aren’t always even handed, and our governments misjudge when and when not to go to war. We also go to great lengths to separate the various responsibilities involved in regulated violence, to avoid the sorts of problems that mob rule results in:

  • The creation of the law that determines what is illegal; and the law that determines what force can be used to intervene in illegality
  • The body that polices society, intervenes in illegal activity, and sometimes uses force to do so.
  • The courts that weigh up whether a crime has taken place, or if the forced use to stop the illegal activity is justified.

Why would any fool think that vigilante violence is a sane idea? Especially for perceived anticipated violence, which is what AntiFa rely on.

As a reminder, this is what AntiFa violence looks like in an Islamic context:


But the real agenda of the anarchists is different. AntiFa isn’t some good cause group. They, BAMN and affiliated groups are anti-Capitalists with some loony notion that they can bring down the whole of modern society and create localised unfettered ‘democracy’ will be sustainable without police forces (except when pushed they always decide that THEY will police everyone else).

These are dangerous morons we are dealing with, on both sides – the far right and the far left. They have simplistic ideologies that fall apart at the slightest breath of reason. Dangerous morons, the lot of them. Which brings us back to the opener of this particular exchange – Dan Arel’s lying assertion that Stephen Knight’s labelling as both far right and AntiFa instigators of the violence as ‘morons’ was aimed at Heather Heyer, victims of another crazy. Dan Arel is seriously off the rails of rationality. He’s been promoting this violence for some time now.

Example 7: Not False Equivalence

This is another example of how an analogy is misunderstood to be an particular equivalence rather than a means of illustrating the nature of the argument being at fault.

This is part of a thread by Stephen Knight on the use of animals for food (in the context of criticisng halal methods when non-halal methods are still cruel).

The point being that his claim that humans having been top of the food chain that included animal prey, and later farmed animals, is no specific reason to continue the cruelty now, when we know enough of how to survive well without animal food.

Why do readers of analogies that seem to inject unrelated subjects immidiately conclude that the subjects are being equated? Does it really not occur to them that an analogy is actuall making a point? Bear in mind that with my tweet, had I wanted to equate the British Empire with Eating Animals (Why? just Why would I?) I would have said something like, “Eating animals is as bad as the British Empire!”

Maybe I could have scare quoted ‘Top of the food chain’. Would that have helped? Wasn’t it clear enough that the point I was making was about justifying continued cruelty by the mere existence of past cruelty?

Example 8: Circumcision is not like Murder

A debate was being had about the justification of making the parental elective circumcision of their baby boys illegal. My suggestion was that it be illegal until the age of consent. An objection to that was:
Martin Shalloe Enforcing your views and beliefs on others is far from liberal or democratic.
My response was this:
Ron Murphy Martin Shalloe That weak argument applies to murder: “Why force you’re views on me, preventing me murdering someone.” – The point of child protection is to prevent parents imposing their views, and consequential surgery, on children.
Martin’s error in his claim is to see preventing a parents choosing to perform elective surgery on their infant boy is an imposition on their right to choose what happens to their baby, rather than seeing the surgery as an imposition of the baby’s right not to be operated on without consent – because an infant cannot give informed consent.
This is another example of how an analogy uses an obviously false and absurdly obvious example to show that such a claim does not apply (that it is far from liberal or democratic to prevent the parents’s action). The intent is that the person that made the erroneous claim will see that their claim does not apply in the absurd case, and that therefore it doesn’t apply in the case of their claim.
The acts, circumcision and murder, are intentionally not similar in effect, are intentionaly not equated – clearly it is not “far from liberal or democratic” to prevent someone exercising some imagined ‘right’ to murder someone else. These are not being compared for the purpose of showing that circumcition is like murder – it clearly isn’t.
Here’s the analogy spelt out:
With regard to the act of taking the life of a non-consenting individual (murder),
making it illegal, IS NOT far from liberal or democratic.
With regard to the act of person performing parental elective surgery on a non-consenting individual (circumcision), 
making it illegal, IS NOT far from liberal or democratic.
Ron Murphy What’s wrong with the analogy?
Martin Shalloe You’re equating murder with the removal of a baby’s foreskin.
And there you have it. Circumcision is murder. The Pope is Hitler.
Had I wanted to equate circumcision and murder I’d have said something like, “Circumcision is like murder,” or “Circumcision is as bad as murder,” Why would I have introduced his “far from liberal or democratic“, which is what the analogy was about, had I simply wanted to equate the two acts?
Ron Murphy Martin Shalloe I thought that’s what you thought. I’m not. It’s an analogy. The point of the analogy is to give you an absurd case, that preventing people committing murder is “far from liberal or democratic”, to show that preventing people doing harm to others is often NOT “far from liberal or democratic”. The specific point being that preventing someone from cutting the genitals of infants is NOT “far from liberal or democratic”. You don’t understand analogies.
Martin Shalloe Ron Murphy, I think you’re misunderstanding the point of analogies in this context. In order to make a valid point, they have to be equatable. I could make an absurd equivalence about enforcing clothes, food choices on children, but like yours, it would be silly and pointless.
Ron Murphy Martin Shalloe Not they don’t. The incorrectness of the absurd example is intended to show that the statement “far from liberal or democratic” does not apply in what IS similar about the two examples – the similarity, the thing being compared, is “using the law to prevent someone doing something to someone who does not consent”. What IS NOT similar, and intended not to be similar in order to make the point more obvious, is the subject: circumcision and murder. And given it was my analogy I think it’s for me to say what the intent of the analogy is. Your view on this is a common error.

Example 9: Seeing Nazis Again, in an Immigration Point

The culprits are making allusions to racist reproduction propaganda from a political point on the flaws in immigration rules. Taking analogous family trees to infer the analogous racism.


The image on the right was one used by the Nazis in their propaganda against Jews. It’s pretty specific in claiming that Jews have larger families than non-Jews: one married couple (ehepaar), four children (kindern); and in the context of the Nazi use of such material at the time it is very specifically racist, antisemitic, and just one tool used on the route to genocide.

The image on the left is telling a different story altogether. It is making the political point that immigration rules that permit chain migration do indeed allow migration to be extended to larger number of people from the same extended families. So, having a chain rule, and some quota on the immigration of individuals, a singular individual an result in immigration numbers far beyond those pretended to be the general policy. This is one of the reasons immigration is difficult to control.

The only genuinely analogous aspects of the two images are that they both show a pyramid of people.

Perhaps one could also point out that the one on the left is showing three people per single immigrant, and that this is meant to imply that some racist view that immigrants have larger families. But an immigrant person’s spouse and two children isn’t declaring these are themselves large families – the same or less than many US family sizes.

It’s true that immigrants from some cultures and economic classes do tend to have larger families, but this is also true of families already within the US; and since excess immigration is the political point being made, then, yes, larger family sizes will contribute to it, and more so with a chain rule, and none of this is racist as such. But this specific point is not being made by the image on the left.

So, the analogy, drawn by the people showing these two images, is a particularly dishonest one, especially in the current context where labelling people to the right of centre left as Nazis is fair game.

After a little push back, the ‘mind reading’ capacity pushing this BS is required to reaffirm the Nazi analogy.

Example 10: Deselection is not child abuse!

True, it’s not. But the idea that ‘choice’ is not available when the outcome is coerced, in the example given, is what is similar.

A thread begins here
@lindasgrantWe had three Labour councillors in Crouch End – they were deselected and replaced by Momentum backed candidates. They all lost to the LibDems.

and in a sequence of replies a few people nit pick over the use of the term ‘deselected’. Technically, they are correct. But being coerced into walking away, it is effectively a form of deselection.

@RhobyngochIf they withdrew then they were not deselected.

@garethjmif you withdraw, you’re not deselected.

So, my analogies:

@ronmurpClarity is always good. Is your point mere clarity? Would you be so picky to insist someone ‘gave’ their wallet at knife point, or a child ‘consented’ to sex? Technically, coercion may result in apparent voluntary acts, but in this case it was effective deselection, no?

to which the response is

@garethjmyes, this is exactly similar to a child consenting to sex. JFC, that’s the level of argument you’re resorting to?

So, just to emphasise how he missed an analogy:

“yes, this is exactly similar to a child consenting to sex”

No, IT IS NOT ‘exactly similar’.

It’s an analogy.

It’s not COMPARING coercive ‘deselection’ with sexual abuse ‘consent’. It’s CONTRASTING them, in order to point out that to nit pick that a child has ‘consented’ to sex with an adult (as has actually been the case with various authorities in the case of CSE) is obviously mean spirited, to say the least. What is being pointed out with the analogy is that despite the facts of the apparent ‘choices’ made, it is not necessarily the case (obviously so for CSE) that a choice was available. And so, in the case of the ‘deselection’, gm is missing the point of the use of the term.

Example 11: You’ve compared Trans people to Disabled people. No.

The discussion is about Trans people. Now, my comment her is NOT about the issue in the tweets, and I’m not referring to who is right or wrong there. This is ENTIRELY about the analogy.

The Twitter exchange


Helen gets it. Jamie does not. This is the problem:

Wow. That is NOT the same at all. … And the fact that you’ve compared being transgender to being disabled is actually disgusting.

The first part of Jamie’s objection might be right, if he’s referring to the analogy and claiming that the analogised cases are not the same, so the analogy does not work. whether the analogy from Renarde is right or not is not the point. What is the point is that Jamie goes nuclear, and totally abuses the meaning of the analogy.

Renade WAS NOT claiming transgender is comparable to being disabled, as far as we can tell.

This might be a genuine mistake by Jamie, because there are people that claim being transgender is a mental disability. That makes you wonder if Jamie associates disability with being disgusting. It all gets very messy when you’re involved in these online disputes where outrage, being disgusted, being offended, seems to carry a lot of weight.

But, I really haven’t gone into the trans politics of any of these tweeps. This is just about the analogy.

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