Joe the Plumber Godwins gun control

"Obama is Literally Hitler" he didn't say, but may as well have.

Samuel "Joe the Plumber" Wurzelbacher, who first gained fame in the 2008 Presidential election when he confronted Barack Obama over small business taxation, is running for Congress on a platform of "I won't do the holocaust but Barack Obama might". Seriously:

For those that can't watch the video, it opens with some cheery music and footage of Wurzelbacher loading his shotgun and shooting some fruit, over which he narrates:

In 1911, Turkey established gun control. From 1915 to 1917 1.5 million Armenians, unable to defend themselves, were exterminated. In 1939 Germany established gun control. From 1939 to 1945 six million Jews and seven million others, unable to defend themselves, were exterminated.

Wurzelbacher then turns to the camera, smiles, and says "I love America".

The implication is clear: if Democrats are trying to establish gun controls, it is because they are Literally Hitler.

It is quite possibly one of the most shameless invocations of Godwin's law (originally a prediction that "as an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one", the phrase has now come to mean roughly "if you invoke Hitler, it is because you have no real argument to make") ever seen in the political sphere. 

Wurzelbacher denies this interpretation, writing on twitter:

Hitler wrote in Mein Kampf that his agenda would not be possible unless the people were disarmed.(Facts, Liberal hate them & ignore them). . . No one in the video said gun control CAUSED genocide. . .

Joe the Plumber: "I love America"

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

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It's not WhatsApp that was at fault in the Westminster attacks. It's our prisons

Britain's criminal justice system neither deterred nor rehabilitated Khalid Masood, and may even have facilitated his radicalisation. 

The dust has settled, the evidence has been collected and the government has decided who is to blame for the attack on Westminster. That’s right, its WhatsApp and their end-to-end encryption of messages. Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary, wants tech companies to install a backdoor into messages like these that the government can then access.

There are a couple of problems here, not least that Adrian Russell aka Khalid Masood was known to the security services but considered to be low-risk. Even if the government had had the ability to gain entry to his WhatsApp, they wouldn’t have used it. Then there’s the fact that end-to-end encryption doesn’t just protect criminals and terrorists – it protects users from criminals and terrorists. Any backdoor will be vulnerable to attack, not only from our own government and foreign powers, but by non-state actors including fraudsters, and other terrorists.

(I’m parking, also, the question of whether these are powers that should be handed to any government in perpetuity, particularly one in a country like Britain’s, where near-unchecked power is handed to the executive as long as it has a parliamentary majority.)

But the biggest problem is that there is an obvious area where government policy failed in the case of Masood: Britain’s prisons system.

Masood acted alone though it’s not yet clear if he was merely inspired by international jihadism – that is, he read news reports, watched their videos on social media and came up with the plan himself – or he was “enabled” – that is, he sought out and received help on how to plan his attack from the self-styled Islamic State.

But what we know for certain is that he was, as is a recurring feature of the “radicalisation journey”, in possession of a string of minor convictions from 1982 to 2002 and that he served jail time. As the point of having prisons is surely to deter both would-be offenders and rehabilitate its current occupants so they don’t offend again, Masood’s act of terror is an open-and-shut case of failure in the prison system. Not only he did prison fail to prevent him committing further crimes, he went on to commit one very major crime.  That he appears to have been radicalised in prison only compounds the failure.

The sad thing is that not so very long ago a Secretary of State at the Ministry of Justice was thinking seriously about prison and re-offending. While there was room to critique some of Michael Gove’s solutions to that problem, they were all a hell of a lot better than “let’s ban WhatsApp”. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.