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.
According to the ancient writings of Chinese author Han Feizi, a dragon is a gentle creature that a man can tame and even ride on the back of. However, one must be extremely cautious of the inverted scale on the neck of the dragon. Touching this scale will cause the dragon to become enraged, immediately killing the person.
Any person has strengths and weaknesses. Some people love to draw out another person’s weakness and are deluded that finding a person’s greatest weakness is a victory. But in human relationships, touching another person’s “inverted scale” can be a critical mistake. Who would want to deal with a person that prods at their weakness? Even during a heated debate, attacking the opponent serves no purpose and is only a destructive act. This kind of dirty move may bring you short-term “victory”, but in the long-term it can cause you to be forever alone. No matter how gentle the person may be, picking on something they are sensitive about may cause them to strike down with great vengeance and furious anger upon you.
The wisdom of the anecdote of the dragon’s scale can also be applied to how people should treat those below them. Whatever your position may be, making fun of your staff’s weaknesses will lead to the loss of trust and respect from them. Sun Tzu’s The Art of War teaches that a general must never attack a soldier’s faults but rather show wisdom in helping the soldier fix the problem on their own.
Lastly, when persuading another person, instead of speaking of their weaknesses, bring up their strengths. Avoiding the “inverted scale” is one of the most important skills in the art of persuasion.
The most important aspect of relationships is following the philosophy of 1 + 1 = 3 by co-operating and having a constructive meeting. A destructive person that attacks others can never progress.