Monday, June 18, 2012

There Oughta Be a Law ... Oh ... Wait ... There Is!

You may recall that last Friday I ranted about the stupidity of comparisons to Hitler and Stalin in present-day political discourse, my point being that the people who use such comparisons in the absence of vast mass murder and ruthless sadism are clearly ignorant of history and bereft of rational ideas.

Well, from the intersection of the departments of There Oughta Be a Law and You Learn Something New Every Day comes this nugget delivered by Angelique, the eViL pOp TaRt - Godwin's Law. It was developed as a Internet meme in 1990 by one Mike Godwin, who observed that, given enough time, any online discussion - regardless of topic or scope - will eventually include some comparison to Hitler and the Nazis. Godwin's Law says,

"As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1."

I also learned, courtesy of Angelique, that there is supposedly a logical fallacy known as reductio ad hitlerum, first noted by University of Chicago professor Leo Strauss, who described it as a form of ad hominem attack (and variation of the reductio ad absurdum argument) in which an opponent's view is compared - often irrelevantly or with extreme hyperbole - to a view that would be held by Adolf Hitler or the Nazi Party. 

Mr Godwin later noted some extensions of the reductio ad hitlerum argument in an article in Wired Magazine ...

- Gordon's Restatement of Newman's Corollary to Godwin's Law: Libertarianism (pro, con, and internal faction fights) is the primordial discussion topic. Any time the debate shifts somewhere else, it must eventually return to this fuel source.

- Morgan's Corollary to Godwin's Law: As soon as such a comparison occurs, someone will start a Nazi-discussion thread on alt.censorship.

- Sircar's Corollary: If the Usenet discussion touches on homosexuality or Heinlein, Nazis or Hitler are mentioned within three days.

- Van der Leun's Corollary: As global connectivity improves, the probability of actual Nazis being on the Net approaches one.

- Miller's Paradox: As a network evolves, the number of Nazi comparisons not forestalled by citation to Godwin's Law converges to zero.

Who knew?

So much for the originality of my observation and rant.  Thanks to Angelique for pointing out this fascinating topic, which I shall surely keep in mind in the future as I get spun up over ludicrous and irrelevant arguments presented by ignorant ass clowns who have no clue what they're talking about.

Anybody have any other laws to propose which explain the current dumbassity of political discourse? Leave a comment. Reference to Nazis not required.

Have a good day. More thoughts coming.



eViL pOp TaRt said...

Thank you, Bilbo.

About the dumbassity (nice word!) of political discourse: I think it may be related to politicians' views of their audience as having short attention spans, and being addicted to sound bites. Or, alternatively, there being less bright politicians.

On the ionternet, the discourse if to a great extent shaped by the meme culture: oversimplifying complex ideas to make a flashy bang.

I'll have to think on this a bit, though.

Mike said...

There was another interactive website that used to automatically substitute nonsense words for nasty words. Maybe it's time all sites do that for Hitler and Nazis. Or Fluffy and Flowers as the case may be.

Elvis Wearing a Bra on His Head said...

The _____ is like Hitler trope lost its effectiveness years ago, like the all your base and _____ ate my balls ones.

Hitler comparison signals the argument has reached the critical mass of stupidity. Needs time out.

Was it EVER an effective argument ploy?