Saturday, July 3, 2010

On Godwin's Law

Godwin's Law states that as an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1. Remaining true to this law, in a comment string I was involved in at 4Simpsons recently I brought up the name of Hitler to which I received the reply: "as a general rule once someone brings up the name of Hitler you've won the argument".

While this was a clever way to avoid the point I was making (it didn't work) it did give me reason to do a little research on and contemplation of this matter. I discovered this "Law". Upon examining my thinking and asking the question as to why we bring up the name of Hitler often enough to warrant a "law" I came to a couple of conclusions:
  1. The prevailing worldview of the West is one of relativism. The very nature of relativism renders words like "good" and "evil" meaningless. Communication, as a result, are now devoid of a means of articulating these concepts without some widely known universally accepted objective means such as an example. Hitler fills that bill for "evil".
  2. Concepts like Godwin's Law either intentionally or unintentionally poison the well. Anytime I find myself increasingly reluctant to do, or especially to say, something, like mentioning Hitler's name in discussions, I am immediately suspicious of this tactic. It is amazing how effective these things are on us.
There is some truth however to the point the blogger made about the use of Hitler's name signifying that you have conceded the argument. The only problem is that he used the wrong name. The correct name that makes this assertion true is George Bush.


Stan said...

I bet George Bush wouldn't think so ... oh, wait ... lost that argument, didn't I?

Nancy said...

Hmmm...I thought the end all was Al Gore!

ExPatMatt said...

I think the law was initially coined to prevent the flippant use of Hitler/Nazis as the go-to, extreme point of view.

As soon as one side goes to an extreme like that it is generally understood that they're not willing to compromise or see things from another perspective and any rational discussion can be assumed to be over.

Obviously this isn't always - if ever - the case and a lot of the time the use of Hitler/Nazis is perfectly useful.

I think there needs to be another internet law governing the over-enthusiastic use of internet laws....

Dan's Law?

Dan said...

I took you to be more informed than you have shown yourself to be Ex Pat. Don't tell me you have never heard of Dan's Law.

Joe said...

When I first started visiting this blog, I thought of you as s kindly, thoughtful, "Bumbling Genius."

I think you can now drop the "Bumbling" part.

Nancy said...

XPat...I think Al Gore made up the laws of engagement when he invented the www! When we, the users found them to be "inconvenient"...He moved on to other "hot" topics...*; )

christian soldier said...

george bush-end of discussion!--
so true!

ExPatMatt said...


You seem to have an unhealthy fixation with Al Gore...


I know 'Dan's Law of Rising Morale' but that's not really an internet law. Is there another one that I'm missing?

Also, you may want to delete the comment above mine.

Dan said...


MMmmmm thanks very much joe. Unfortunately I get to live inside my head; I know better!

Ex Pat

There... deleted. Those pesky spammers. Thanks.

Susannah said...

Dan~ "Unfortunately I get to live inside my head; I know better!"
Too humble by half! ;)

Matt~ "As soon as one side goes to an extreme like that it is generally understood that they're not willing to compromise or see things from another perspective..."

Dan said...

As always, thanks Miss Susannah. You're too kind.