History has already shown us what happens when we play that record

Nazism succeeds—insofar as it succeeds—by exploiting the fatal flaw in liberal democracies

In Gödel Escher Bach, Douglas Hofstadter’s 1979 treatise on mathematics, computer science, and consciousness, there is a chapter in which the character Crab has just purchased a new hi-fidelity record player, of which he is extremely proud. This record player has the ability to play back any record with flawless perfection. Crab’s friend Tortoise, ever the trickster, brings a record to Crab’s house and demands to play a song called “I Cannot Be Played on Record Player X.” The song is designed to produce the precise vibrations required to destroy the record player. This parable is an illustration of Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem, a mathematical demonstration of the inherent limitations of every formal axiomatic system.

Crab’s conundrum recently popped into my mind when reading the following story on Twitter:

These tweets articulate the problem, for instance, in inviting chronically attention-starved neo-Nazi spokesmodel Milo Yiannopoulos to preach racism and misogyny at the University of Washington under the justification of “free speech”—even as many correctly predicted the violence such a blatant disregard for the humanity of Yiannopoulos’s targets would almost certainly spark. (The decision to appear in Seattle on Inauguration Day was itself a finely calculated bit of trolling, given Seattle’s leftist reputation and history as a hot zone of impassioned protest culture.)

Nazism succeeds, insofar as it succeeds, by exploiting the fatal flaw in liberal democracies: namely, the idea that opposing viewpoints have a right to be heard. But if your “opposing viewpoint” is that another human being is somehow less than human, you are denying that other human being their right to participate in democracy, thereby undermining the framework which gave you the right to hold that opinion in the first place.

Democracy is (ideally) a finely tuned machine, and Nazism is the Record Which Cannot Be Played on Record Player X. As history has amply demonstrated, Nazism came to power in Germany precisely because law abiding citizens following the rules of democracy extended the right of Nazis to play the record player that would break the system on the system.

At risk of sounding like a broken record: 
History has already shown us what happens when we play that record. 
History has already shown us what happens when we play that record. 
History has already shown us what happens when we play that record. 
History has already shown us what happens when we play that record.
History has already shown us what happens when we play that record. 
History has already shown us what happens when we play that record. 
History has already shown us what happens when we play that record. 
History has already shown us what happens when we play that record.
History has already shown us what happens when we play that record. 
History has already shown us what happens when we play that record. 
History has already shown us what happens when we play that record. 
History has already shown us what happens when we play that record.
History has already shown us what happens when we play that record. 
History has already shown us what happens when we play that record. 
History has already shown us what happens when we play that record. 
History has already shown us what happens when we play that record.