Saturday, September 4, 2010


From wiki:
Godwin's law (also known as Godwin's Rule of Nazi Analogies or Godwin's law of Nazi Analogies) is a humorous observation made by Mike Godwin in 1989 which has become an Internet adage. It states: "As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches." In other words, Godwin put forth the sarcastic observation that, given enough time, all discussions—regardless of topic or scope—inevitably wind up being about Hitler and the Nazis.

Godwin's law is often cited in online discussions as a deterrent against the use of arguments in the widespread reductio ad Hitlerum form. The rule does not make any statement about whether any particular reference or comparison to Adolf Hitler or the Nazis might be appropriate, but only asserts that the likelihood of such a reference or comparison arising increases as the discussion progresses. It is precisely because such a comparison or reference may sometimes be appropriate, Godwin has argued[4] that overuse of Nazi and Hitler comparisons should be avoided, because it robs the valid comparisons of their impact.

And this:

There are many corollaries to Godwin's law, some considered more canonical (by being adopted by Godwin himself) than others. For example, 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. This principle itself is frequently referred to as Godwin's law.

Emphasis mine.

In my last discussion, I intentionally self-Godwined.
Trying to compare an illegal alien dishwasher to a convicted murderer, and then using this comparison to justifying taking from his innocent children the only grace the roulette wheel of life may ever offer them, was just more than this two-fingered typist (and mediocre intellect) serving as your host was able to deal with while keeping his honor intact.
Rather than continue, I turned the knife and thrust backward.
You win.

It was harakiri, not name calling.
I was not, and am not, calling anybody here a Nazi.


my name is Amanda said...

I have been known to sarcastically complain about people using the term "Nazis" as synonymous with "evil" or even just "bad" on the internet. And used in that way, yeah, I think it is stupid and meaningless.

But there is another reason to make a comparison to Nazis, and it is completely valid: Putting into perspective the evil that people perpetrate today.

MOST people pretty much think of Nazism as a Very Bad Thing. So comparing the kinds of things that lead to a mechanism like Nazism, such as rampant racism (as rampant as was anti-semitism, which is just a specific form of racism, in the decades leading up to the Holocaust), should serve to make things clear. THIS IS WHAT RACISM DOES. It leads to segregation and violence and genocide. To put ourselves in some space that is supposedly free of all the evil of the Nazis is foolhardy and just fucking stupid. They were people, and we are people. It could happen again. (You don't have to put people in gas chamber showers to kill them.) And filling up our prisons with black men, railing about building fences on the border and patrolling with weapons and a civilian militia, bitching about anchor babies, and protesting that other Americans don't deserve to practice their religion in certain spaces of our country are examples of symptoms of the same racist instinct of the Nazis, with the same potential horrific consequences.

I didn't participate in the thread that inspired this post, but I read the comments, and I happen to think Gino's comparison was valid, even if he would have preferred to go in a different direction in retrospect.

W.B. Picklesworth said...

Theoretically you are right Amanda. Those things could lead to violence. And this likelihood seems the greater when you caricature your ideological opponents and ignore context, preferring to play the racism card. And then, lo and behold, you can step back and say, "Gosh there's a lot of racism around here (according to me.) We're in danger from the Nazi-like racist people (who don't agree with me on politics.)" This itchy trigger finger ruins your credibility on this issue.

RW said...

Pickles has it spot on. You can talk to some people until you are blue in the face. But if they only see you as a "stupid liberal socialist Obama-foot-kissing robot" they're not going to actually hear or read what you have to say. unfortunately just because they disagree with your politics they want to paint you with a broad brush, even to the point of saying you said things you never said. So you're the Obama-lover, the communist, the robot, or whatever the latest name FauxNews came up with this week.

Credibility is also lost when a person can see the mote in the other guy's eye but figures they're the one with 20-20 vision. It becomes difficult to take that kind of intellectual chauvinism seriously at any point.

And then some people are just assholes nothing can be done with, and no side has a monopoly on those.

Gino said...

i was being extreme for the sake of self exiting the discussion.

amanda: its a far stretch to go from imprisoning black men for violent crimes, after they've been tried and defended, to gas chasmbers for jews.
dont even make the comparison with any serious intent,ok?

just like it was stretch to go from denying birthright citizenship (as most countries do) to hitler's death camps.
nobody is even talking about loading up trains, or building showers, or wearing clothing patches.

my name is Amanda said...

Gino, I didn't say anything like "all black men are innocent and therefore it's racist to put them in prison." I was speaking to something much greater, and I was perfectly serious.

Foxfier, formerly Sailorette said...

There ARE some cases where reducto ad hitlerum is accurate as a warning-- say, when worrying about the rise in anti-Semitism, or dealing with popular movements and a powerful government, or dealing with demonizing safe targets (ironic, hm?) -- but if there's any conflict on a topic or it's aimed at someone actually in the conversation it's useless.