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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The problems with ending encryption to fight terrorism

Forcing tech firms to create a "backdoor" to access messages would be a gift to cyber-hackers.

The UK has endured its worst terrorist atrocity since 7 July 2005 and the threat level has been raised to "critical" for the first time in a decade. Though election campaigning has been suspended, the debate over potential new powers has already begun.

Today's Sun reports that the Conservatives will seek to force technology companies to hand over encrypted messages to the police and security services. The new Technical Capability Notices were proposed by Amber Rudd following the Westminster terrorist attack and a month-long consultation closed last week. A Tory minister told the Sun: "We will do this as soon as we can after the election, as long as we get back in. The level of threat clearly proves there is no more time to waste now. The social media companies have been laughing in our faces for too long."

Put that way, the plan sounds reasonable (orders would be approved by the home secretary and a senior judge). But there are irrefutable problems. Encryption means tech firms such as WhatsApp and Apple can't simply "hand over" suspect messages - they can't access them at all. The technology is designed precisely so that conversations are genuinely private (unless a suspect's device is obtained or hacked into). Were companies to create an encryption "backdoor", as the government proposes, they would also create new opportunities for criminals and cyberhackers (as in the case of the recent NHS attack).

Ian Levy, the technical director of the National Cyber Security, told the New Statesman's Will Dunn earlier this year: "Nobody in this organisation or our parent organisation will ever ask for a 'back door' in a large-scale encryption system, because it's dumb."

But there is a more profound problem: once created, a technology cannot be uninvented. Should large tech firms end encryption, terrorists will merely turn to other, lesser-known platforms. The only means of barring UK citizens from using the service would be a Chinese-style "great firewall", cutting Britain off from the rest of the internet. In 2015, before entering the cabinet, Brexit Secretary David Davis warned of ending encryption: "Such a move would have had devastating consequences for all financial transactions and online commerce, not to mention the security of all personal data. Its consequences for the City do not bear thinking about."

Labour's manifesto pledged to "provide our security agencies with the resources and the powers they need to protect our country and keep us all safe." But added: "We will also ensure that such powers do not weaken our individual rights or civil liberties". The Liberal Democrats have vowed to "oppose Conservative attempts to undermine encryption."

But with a large Conservative majority inevitable, according to polls, ministers will be confident of winning parliamentary support for the plan. Only a rebellion led by Davis-esque liberals is likely to stop them.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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