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".
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:
- This post references Nazis.
- However, the post being critiqued makes explicit or implicit reference to Nazis or Nazism.
- 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.
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.
Mike Godwin himself has stated that "white nationalist"s (referring specifically to those who marched on Charlottesville VA, as he made clear in an interview with the Washington Post and a follow-up Tweet) may safely be compared to Nazis. "By all means, compare these shitheads to Nazis. Again and again. I'm with you."
- Blake's Law parallels Godwin's Law with respect to equating atheism and religious fundamentalism.
dKosopedia: no equivalent page (as of 2009-04-17)
- RationalWiki redirects to Nazi analogies (as of 2022-10-13)
SourceWatch: no equivalent page (as of 2009-04-17)
- 2010-07-01 Godwin's Law FAQ, or "How to post about Nazis and get away with it"
- 2014/05/05 [L..T] Tennessee State Senator Compares Obamacare To The Holocaust "A brief post published at the blog of state Sen. Stacey Campfield (R) read: "Democrats bragging about the number of mandatory sign ups for Obamacare is like Germans bragging about the number of manditory [sic] sign ups for 'train rides' for Jews in the 40s.""
- 2013/08/15 [L..T] Ender's Game Author Orson Scott Card Goes Off on Another Insane Rant «"Obama is, by character and preference, a dictator," Card wrote before comparing the President of the United States to Adolf Hitler. "Obama will claim we need a national police force in order to fight terrorism and crime. The Boston bombing is a useful start, especially when combined with random shootings by crazy people."» «And then he added that Obama will reassert his power through puppet dictators.»