Memorandum to all you 'Godwins Law' morons.

Note: I have provided no links in this thread. That is because what I am railing against happens every day on this board and I don’t want to pick on individuals.

From a psychological point of view, there are certain folks on this board (and they know who they are) who are both irritating and fascinating in equal measure. See, most people suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder execute pointless rituals like counting cracks in the sidewalk. The folks I’m pitting today exhibit a more benign, but far more aggravating symptom:


Like Darwin Awards winners whose supreme incompetence is responsible for warnings like “DANGER: Does not enable user to fly” on Superman capes, these poor OCD sufferers need some simple guidelines to aid them in the proper application of Godwin’s law.

First of all, the text of the law itself:

That’s it. No more. No less. That the law is so brief and uncomplicated may shock these folks, so let’s give them a moment to assimilate it

<cue jeopardy music>

Okay? We ready to continue? Good. First rule.

[li]Invocations of Godwin’s Law degenerate a thread almost as much, if not just as much as any Nazi comparison. They also make you look like a complete tool.[/li][/ul]

This is because Godwin’s Law has been around for about fifteen years and yet hardly a day goes by without some AOL using puss monkey jumping into a web forum feet first and shrieking “Godwin’s Law! Godwin’s Law!” at the most tangential reference to the dominant political party of Germany circa 1933 because he thinks it’s clever.

It ain’t. To quote a phrase that has most definitely “Jumped the shark”, Godwin’s Law has well and truly jumped the shark. In fact, Godwin’s Law “jumped the shark” so long ago that its corpse is currently turning to mulch on the ocean floor while pilot fish swim through its fundamental orifices. It’s clichéd. It’s trite and it’s about as original as a dollar bill depicting George Washington smoking a blunt. Telling someone they’ve invoked Godwin’s law only makes you look stupid and annoys the piss out of other forum users. That is all it does.

Rule two. This rule is pivotal, and shocking. I hope you’re sitting. Are you sitting? Good.

[li]Sometimes, believe it or not, Nazi comparisons are entirely valid.[/li][/ul]

I know. It blows your fucking mind, doesn’t it? How can any comparison to the Nazi’s, one of the nastiest bunches of evildoers to ever find themselves in power, ever be in the least bit valid?

Well, they can. Fascism is a mental state. It is a means of behavior which equates the power to do something with the right to do it. It is a mindset that subjugates the rights of the individual to that of the state. Nazism is a strain of fascism. When, to pluck one of many examples out of the air, a certain administration cages people in Cuba for two years without trial, their fascist mindset is betrayed. Making comparisons between them and the Nazi’s is a potent, attention grabbing rhetorical tool. Only those poor unfortunates with the reading comprehension skills of a lab rat that’s spent its formative years being tested for the effects of crystal meth on cognitive ability would interpret such a comparison as one between the aforementioned deeds of the nameless administration and the Nazi’s worst deeds. The rest of us would see a comparison between said administration and the early stages of the Nazi’s imposition of totalitarianism.

Nazi comparisons are also valid when one is debating an actual, self confessed Nazi, as has happened several times on this board in GD. Accusing those who make comparisons under these circumstances of invoking Godwin’s Law will result in nothing more that howls of derision from everyone, especially the Nazi who would be elated at finding someone with less functional ganglia than him.

When you accuse the maker of the original comparison of invoking Godwin’s Law in such a scenario you engender such ferocious eye rolling in the more sophisticated members of the peanut gallery that they risk brain hemorrhage. I’m serious. Stupid, unwarranted invocations of Godwin’s law as happen time and time again on this very message board dozens of times a day, can kill people.

Rule number 3

The final rule, for now. [ul]
[li]Even if you accurately spot an invocations of Godwin’s Law, shrieking “Godwin’s Law! Godwin’s Law” doesn’t mean you win the debate.[/li][/ul]

If you reread the original wording of Godwin’s Law you’ll see that it makes no mention of the invoker losing the debate. It just says that as a Usenet discussion grows longer the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one. Invocations of Godwin’s Law as an automatic “you lose” gambit are very much frowned upon.

If an evolutionary biologist calls a Young Earth Creationist a Nazi during the course of a creation debate, the YEC fundie fruit-and-nutcase doesn’t automatically win the debate by default by pointing to the invocation of Godwin’s Law. All he does is point out a netiquette faux pas on the part of the biologist and make himself look like a trite, unoriginal nitwit who would struggle to beat a trained chicken at tic-tac-toe.

Godwin’s Law invokers, I do not fault you for your unfortunate compulsive quirk. I do not fault you either for failing to recognise how unbelievably stupid you make yourselves look with your repeated invocations. I do, however, fault you for wearing your ignorance like a badge of honor and waggling it about like some deviant at a Church coffee morning wearing nothing more than an open trench coat and waving a 14 inch prosthetic schlong.

Cut it out.

For what it’s worth, I think there’s plenty of life left in Godwin’s Law. Because, trite as it is, many Nazi comparisons are even more so.

The main reason I’m posting though is to preemptively complain about the inevitable posts to follow where somebody will cleverly invoke Godwin’s Law on the OP or cleverly claim that complaints about Godwin’s law have themselves jumped the shark. :rolleyes:

Also, as I recall there is in fact a corollary to Godwin’s law where someone can declare themselves the winner. Don’t remember exactly what it is though.

I’m just posting to point out that the OP was talking about 14" prosthetic schlongs, and then his sig line says “one stroke at a time.” {channelling Butthead}heh heheheh

I believe the corollary is something along the lines of “The first comparison to Hitler or Nazis means the poster is out of ideas and thus loses the debate by default.”

Analogies, while sometimes effective, are a weak style of debating. Analogies to almost universally hated factions, groups, or people even more so, since their intent is presumably to inflame. There are better ways to make better arguments than by analogy, which should only be used in order to clarify a point, not make it. In the very few cases references to Nazis are appropriate, they are usually topical points and not comparisons.

Did anyone else flash on Gomer Pyle shouting, "Citizen’s A-RAY-est!, Citizen’s A-RAY-est!" ?

Very nice. I was toying with making a pit thread about this very point, when I saw this one.

People, analogies do not need to be perfect in every fact about the two things being compared, for the analogy to be valid.

Every time someone is compared to Hitler, someone has to chime in with “Oh yea! Well so-and-so didn’t try to exterminate a race!” Even when the comparison clearly had nothing to do with genocide.

This is like if someone said “I hate Fred, he’s such a snake,” then countering that with “Oh yeah? Well I never saw Fred shed his skin! Or unhinge his jaw! And clearly Fred has legs, which snakes do not! Your comparison of Fred to a snake is totally invalid!”

It misses the point of the comparison completely.

They don’t actually unhinge their jaws. They can distend them enormously due to the fact that the mandibles aren’t fused and aren’t connected to the cranium, but rather by a mandibular arch which can unfold down along the palatoquadrate for maximum distension. So your rebuttal to the Snake/Frank analogy was completely invalid!

Well, Gomez, I have to agree. Mostly. Kinda.

There are occasions, yes, when comparison to the Nazi regime is warranted. Many forget or do not know that the Nazis did not seize power overnight and did not instantly begin exterminating people by the trainload, for example; they built slowly and implemented their ideals in increments. An educated look at their history shows that there are sometimes valid similarities between the Nazi political outlook and resulting human reactions to things happening in the world today—though the Nazis’ political moves at their worst often escape comparison.

The tricky part is that I said an educated look. I wish it were that easy to simply declare that people craft their analogies from a standpoint of knowledge and historical awareness. Even on this board, where we enjoy a much higher proportion of college-educated people who are skilled in written communication, there are misconceptions and erroneous factoids and convenient misquotes that surround the concept of Nazism.

There was much I didn’t know about World War II until I recently read a first-person account of the Danish civilian resistance. While I’m now no expert, I can certainly see the issue more clearly than someone who only knows the “whistle while you work, Hitler was a jerk” song.

When someone, yea, even on the Straight Dope, makes an erroneous comparison to the Nazis, we must dispel that ignorance. And, as you point out, when a valid comparison is made, I think intelligent minds should attempt to entertain (or refute) a valid comparison if only for the sake of argument. Godwin’s law is just a way to remind us that, at their worst, the Nazis are worse than almost anything else in the modern world we can imagine.

Am I imagining things or did Gomez, in the OP, mention Nazis. What the hell is the name of that law - Goldfish…Gladrags…

Looks like this thread is an invertation of Godwins law.

It started out in post 1 mentioning the criteria.

The longer it goes on the less likely there is mention of the central issue, it seems we are now onto snakes and stuff, perhaps it will end when we reach invocation of the fundie law.

Interestingly, Mike Godwin, coiner of Godwin’s Law, has a reputation on The Well as a niggling hairsplitter who ends debates all by himself with nitpicking, after the other participants give up in frustration at not getting anywhere. Funny that a guy who coins the most memorable meta-debate idea of the last few decades is a really crappy and irritating debater himself.

A successful invocation of Godwin’s Law is recognition that the person making the comparison to the Nazi’s is out of ammunition, and fruitful debate is no longer possible; thus, the person making the comparison loses, just as he would if he responding with “Yeah? Well, you’re stupid.”

I think this was a long overdue rant. Yes, many comparisons to Nazism are hysterical and stupid. But some are valid, and many people over-react.

Eris, revtim, very good points.

Analogies are veyr useful for explaining things, but when they’re so often misintepreted they become useless in debate. I’m considering suggesting that all analogies, in GD at any rate, should have to follow a standard template to say what they’re actually trying to show. Partly tongue-in-cheek, partly seriously.

For instance: You ask why vegetarians don’t like to eat even meat byproducts? Well, because they often don’t like the being party to abusing an animal, even when they’re not directly causing any harm. <analogy>If you don’t understand why, consider that many people wouldn’t eat human meat under any circumstances even if not causing the person any harm.</analogy>. So, the point is explained, but it should be clear that the debator isn’t saying non-vegetarianism is as bad as cannibalism, just that a vegetarians view of one is similar in some ways to most people’s view of the other.

Or maybe there should be an analogy FAQ somewhere, linked to in all debates :slight_smile:


Hitler and Nazis.

Well, the part I like about this OP is that the guy is saying stop with the same old shit, with which I agree. Some guy posts an OP and then 15 people reply with the same response, sound like a bunch of Rush fans.


It occurs to me that a decent corollary to Godwin’s Law might well be:

“The longer an internet/message board discussion goes on, in a forum beyond a given size, the greater the probability becomes that rather than debate the issue at hand or grapple with the actual issues of the discussion, someone will simply pounce on a trite statement and attempt to bury you with it in order to “win” the debate.”

You know, there is a widely recognized corollary to Godwin’s law that intentionally triggering it, or deploying the law in response to mention of Nazis in order to claim victory, doesn’t work.

The thing about Godwin’s law is that it’s not a rebuttal, it’s an observed behaviour of Internet discussion. Purposeful use of it is ineffectual.

I am sure an illuminating comparison of some idea with Nazis has been done.

I just have not seen it.

Invoking Godwin’s Law is a legitimate response to what is basically an uncreative form of name calling.

But what is Godwin’s Law?

From here:

For balance, I’ll also quote the following:

I will add, however, that “ineffectual” in no way implies that invoking Godwin’s law lacks entertainment value, provided some care is exercised.

Gomez, your OP is the best I’ve read since coming to Straight Dope.

Invocation of the law itself is the debating technique least likely to impress. Those who buy into the concept that someone’s hyperbolic observation is an actual law of debating technique are losers.

Why presume that the intent is to inflame? References to Nazis are frequently appropriate when, for example, a government is increasingly depriving citizens of Constitutional rights.