Godwin's Law

Wikipedia states:

Godwin's Law (also Godwin's Rule of Nazi Analogies) is an adage in Internet culture that was originated by Mike Godwin in 1990. The law states that:
As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.

There is a tradition in many Usenet newsgroups that once such a comparison is made in a thread the thread is over, and whoever mentioned the Nazis has automatically lost whatever argument was in progress.

The point of the tradition is that such comparisons are so offensive that further discussion is not possible and by declaring the guilty party to be the loser, it discourages their use. Of course, sometimes some clueless individual just tries to keep going after Godwin has been declared. For example, look at this 1994 Usenet discussion, involving Mike Godwin himself.

Steven Woodcock
Perhaps, Jason, the following quote from one of your fellow gun-control advocates will put Mr. Quick's comments into crystal clarity for you:
"This year will go down in history. For the first time, a civilized nation has full gun registration. Our streets will be safer, our police more efficient, and the world will follow our lead into the future." --- Adolf Hitler, 1935
Mike Godwin
Godwin's Law of Nazi Analogies: As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.
Christopher Morton
Morton's Law of Historical Revisionism: The ignorant and uneducated when faced with unpleasant historical parallels, will inevitably attempt to revise, deny, or simply ignore incontrovertible historical fact.
Mike Godwin
Which incontrovertible historical facts have I denied?
Christopher Morton
Notice you IGNORED, the word IGNORE. You of course wish to IGNORE those historical parallels which make you uncomfortable.
Mike Godwin

Not really. If anything, the facts of the rise of Hitler and of the Holocaust are with me every day.

That's why I take exception when self-important yahoos seek to compare everything they don't like to Hitler or to Nazis.

Six million Jews did not die in order to give some spoiled American a handy rhetorical hammer.

You cheapen their deaths, and the deaths of others in the camps, and the deaths of those who fought the Nazis, when you make phony comparisons.

And they are phony. Do you think Bill Clinton, your apparent bete noir, would tolerate the random shooting of individuals, so dramatically depicted in "Schindler's List" and elsewhere?

If you do, you're mentally ill.

You ought to be ashamed for invoking real horrors in order to win your arguments.

By the way, I support a strong Second Amendment. I just don't piss all over the deaths of millions in order to win my points.

Christopher Morton

You cheapen their deaths when you IGNORE them to protect a cheap thug like Jethro.

[Clinton is] tolerating the random HACKING of Rwandans as I type this.

He's tolerating the wholesale violation of the civil and political rights of people by the BATF as I type this.

The nazis themselves didn't start OUT with mass murder. They worked their way up to it.

Is there something that Clinton wouldn't tolerate if he thought it would win him political points? There MAY be, but so far I haven't seen ANYTHING.

Shannon Hendrix
Using Hitler as an example in this thread is completely appropriate. One of the great atrocities of American political history was our adoption of his gun control law in 1968. The people behind it and the current sweep of anti-gun legislation have much the same goal as Hitler. A disarmed populace is one you can control.
Mike Godwin

What's interesting in this comment is how the gun advocates have fooled themselves into believing that they're merely being objective when they compare American gun-control efforts to Hitler's efforts.

Why do you suppose they never mention gun-control legislation in Great Britain, in France, in Japan, in Canada?

Because if they did, the smear wouldn't be very effective.

Christopher Morton
Why do you suppose you try to ignore the DIRECT connection between the nazi Gun Control Law and the Gun Control Act of 1968? Could it be that you APPROVE of the connection?

Yes, Morton really did imply that it is Nazi-like to invoke Godwin's law. (By the way, the Hitler quote at the start of the discussion is fraudulent.)

A recent fracas at Troppo Armadillo demonstrates Godwin's Law in action. It all started when Tony Blair claimed

'We've already discovered, just so far, the remains of 400,000 people in mass graves.'

Unfortunately, Downing Street was forced to admit

that repeated claims by Tony Blair that '400,000 bodies had been found in Iraqi mass graves' is untrue, and only about 5,000 corpses have so far been uncovered.

The claims by Blair in November and December of last year, were given widespread credence, quoted by MPs and widely published, including in the introduction to a US government pamphlet on Iraq's mass graves.

This prompted Philip Adams to call Blair's claim a lie. Now I must disagree with Adams here. When a prime minister or president makes a statement that is manifestly false and they should have known at the time that it was false, that statement is not a lie. It just means that one of their advisers screwed up and misinformed him. This is unfortunate, but the adviser has accepted full responsibility and has already been magnanimously forgiven.

A few days later, Professor Bunyip posted a reply where he tells his readers that Adams' (quite correct) assertion that Blair had greatly exaggerated the number of bodies that had been found is equivalent to David Irving's dishonest claims that the extent of the holocaust had been exaggerated. If you don't see what is wrong with Bunyip's Nazi analogy, then you should read Mike Godwin's words above. Or Bunyip's own words when somebody likened Keith Windschuttle to David Irving: he called it a "nasty letter" containing a "slur" and "smearing".

Next, Ken Parish linked to Bunyip and since the Nazi analogy had already been made, no useful discussion was possible, just general ugliness. Parish sensibly closed comments and posted again, explaining why. The cycle repeated and he had to close that thread as well. Godwin's law is not to be trifled with.

Anyway, this whole overlong post has actually been written to provide enough context so you can see why I found this followup post by Bunyip so funny. Despite Bunyip's urging his readers to email and inform me of the error of my ways, I haven't received any such emails, though perhaps they were all sent to Macquarie University instead of UNSW.

PS: I've closed comments on this post. See: Law, Godwin's.

Update: Bunyip offers a most ungracious apology, by apologizing to Macquarie for suggesting that I work there.


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