Godwin's Law

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About

Godwin's Law is an aphorism having to do with the use of comparisons to Adolf Hitler or Nazism.

The law was originally stated in 1990 by Mike Godwin in this form:

As a Usenet discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.
Usenet being now largely supplanted by internet discussion forums and chatrooms, Godwin's Law's applicability has been transferred to those venues.

A tradition has also emerged that the first time such a comparison is made, the conversation is over and the person who made the comparison automatically loses the argument; this is sometimes referred to as "Godwin's Corollary", though a more accurate term would be "Godwin's [Law] tradition".

Legitimate Usage

Candid World

The blog Submitted to a Candid World has proposed that inclusion of the following language should negate the effects of the Godwin's Law tradition:

I, being duly sworn, depose and say:
  1. This post references Nazis.
  2. However, the post being critiqued makes explicit or implicit reference to Nazis or Nazism.
  3. As such, any reference herein to Nazism is wholly derivative of the original post, and a good-faith attempt at criticism.

Therefore, the rule of Godwin's Law, or Godwin's Corollary ("any individual referencing Nazis in an internet debate is deemed to have lost") should be waived.

Issuepedia

It has become clear that Godwin's tradition hinders the free expression of ideas when such a comparison is actually legitimate, as became increasingly the case during the presidency of George W. Bush. We therefore propose the following modification to this tradition:

  • Anyone who makes a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler must immediately state the grounds upon which they are making this comparison, otherwise they automatically lose the argument.

This is a specific case of a more general rule, which should probably apply in any discussion:

  • Any attempt to associate a given entity (idea, person, organization, etc.) with anything extremely unpopular (such as Hitler or Nazis) must include an explanation of the grounds for the association, otherwise the speaker is practicing the rhetorical deception of guilt by association and should be recognized as insincere.

Related

  • Blake's Law parallels Godwin's Law with respect to equating atheism and religious fundamentalism.

Outlinks

Reference

Discussion