Posted in Life & Happiness

Godwin’s Law

In 1990 when the internet was still in its infancy, Mike Godwin observed something while browsing through internet forums. From his observations, he humorously coined the following adage: “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1”. This essentially means that no matter what the topic of the online discussion may be, given enough time, someone will eventually make a comparison to Adolf Hitler or the Nazis.

For example, during a discussion about animal rights, someone may decide to post: “You know who else loved animals? Hitler.” No matter how unrelated the topic may be, someone will inevitably make a hyperbolic comparison to Hitler. It is also widely accepted that the moment this happens to a discussion, it is considered dead and the one who made the comparison loses the discussion. It should be noted that this law only applies to discussions not originally related to Hitler, the Nazis or totalitarian regimes and ideologies where the comparison to Hitler may be appropriate.

This law is closely related to a logical fallacy known as reductio ad Hitlerum, where someone tries to refute an opponent’s argument by comparing it to something Hitler would think or say. It is a crude, classless form of the ad hominem fallacy, where someone attacks the opponent personally rather than the argument itself. The reductio ad Hitlerum is extremely ineffective as in an intelligent discussion, such an effort would simply be considered childish and moronic.


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