Conversation stoppers : Godwin

Internet “laws” or “rules” are generally humorous observation on human behavior on the internet captured in a short neat definition. They are of course superficial generalizations that we can all attest to from experience. Be it the first couple of rules of IT where it states that : “If a program doesn’t work, It needs a manual” or : “If a package is finished, it needs to be expanded”. Rule #34 is a famous one that states that “if something exists, the internet has porn of it” and indeed, this seems true on first glance.

Then there is Godwins law, which states that given any discussion, as it progresses the chance that anybody will use an analogy to WWII, the nazis or Hitler will approach one. This is a funny observation that has its origins in reality for sure. Many frustrated debater will have succumbed to the temptation to compare his adversaries with Nazi’s without good reason and this tendency displayed by most people isn’t praiseworthy.

There is, however, a problem with the usage of Godwin’s law. In argumentation, it is equally as bad even as erroneously making a comparison to Hitler in an argument. Godwins law, on the internet, has come to be defined as an instant conversation stopper, ban-able offense or an excuse to change topics. In reality, this is just very poor behavior in any medium and it should be frowned upon in the same lengths as we frown upon a badly constructed Godwin itself.

Comment sections and moderators are not the most shining examples of our humanity and intellect, especially on the internet, but it does strike me as odd that most boards tolerate the most exceptional forms of abuse, racism and trolls, but can’t deal with a simple godwin. In fact, it seems that a godwin trigger (a person calling out a godwin) is seen as the point where the debate is essentially over and not redeemable. I think this is rather lazy on an intellectual scale and quite possibly the worst thing you could do in a serious argument.

If a godwin argument in any debate is de facto in error, that means that quantifying any similarity between any one thing and the Nazis is impossible. As a historian, this strikes me as a very odd notion. Surely we can compare elements of Nazi Germany to other events, places and people in history. Comparing things to show similarities and differences is simply a very common way of synthesizing historical narratives. It would be terribly wrong to vehemently rule any comparison to just one historical episode as “not done” when analyzing history or current events.

It is terribly obvious to any sane person that there are very good reasons to commit a godwin. These cases mostly consist where the comparison is a good one and makes a proper argument. Alas, the Godwin “meme” has convinced moderators and poor debaters around the world that simply pointing out that a certain comparison is actually a godwin, absolves them from any further burdens. This is of course complete nonsense as it is perfectly reasonable in many scenarios to make such an analogy. Shouting “godwin” as if it were a game of hide-and-seek does not an argument make.

If you only rely on the observation of a Godwin to abstain from topical debate, then you are as guilty of intellectual laziness in conversation as any potential Godwin postulate could ever be. The only difference is that a Godwin could potentially have merit whilst your position has none.

I know of a Dutch media site called nu.nl with it’s public cesspit called nujij.nl which is owned by Sanoma media, a low quality media outlet with right wing tendencies. The medium isn’t terribly useful for proper discussions and the average IQ of both the editors and the contributors do no exceed the average word count of a comment.

Now let me first say that anything worth saying isn’t worth posting on any of Sanoma’s plebeian portals, but sometimes I need to respond to something so inherently stupid that I take the effort to make an account and see how long it takes them to get it down.

I had prior dealings with those idiots about a godwin charge so I knew their absurd stance on it, but today I came across a small community article that tried (and failed) to make a analysis of a political discourse. Within this debate, apparently two Godwins were made, rendering the entire debate moot, according to the wannabee-journalist.

Without directly challenging the validity of the Godwin accusation, I simply explained that Godwins law did not, in itself, make a judgement about the comparison and that simply observing a Godwin does not give you a conversation stopping argument.

This notion, that it is possible that in certain circumstances a comparison to WOII is justified was a ban-able offense for this second-rate two bit red-neck news portal. I knew this beforehand, but to imagine that a meta-godwin would yield a similar result within about an hour is a bit scary.

These Sanoma pseudo-journalists really can’t be taken seriously, but it is a slippery slope situation in general that they are actively supporting. Like mindless idiots superficially erasing any proper historical narrative just because they do not like analogies between the 1930s and 40s and any other given subject.

I only have one proper analogy for that, people who selectively filter out historical narratives that do not support their own views and actively silence them without a proper argument are just like the Nazis.

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