Godwin’s Law

godwin

Godwin’s law is a humorous observation made by Mike Godwin in 1990 which has become an Internet adage. It states: ‘As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.’ In other words, given enough time, all discussions —regardless of topic or scope —inevitably wind up being about Hitler and the Nazis. Also the poster who mentioned Nazis loses all debates/discussions they had in said topic, and their insults are nullified. Godwin’s law is often cited in online discussions as a deterrent against the use of arguments in the widespread reductio ad Hitlerum form.

The rule does not make any statement about whether any particular reference or comparison to Adolf Hitler or the Nazis might be appropriate, but only asserts that the likelihood of such a reference or comparison arising increases as the discussion progresses. It is precisely because such a comparison or reference may sometimes be appropriate, Godwin has argued that overuse of Nazi and Hitler comparisons should be avoided, because it robs the valid comparisons of their impact. Although in one of its early forms Godwin’s law referred specifically to Usenet newsgroup discussions, the law is now applied to any threaded online discussion: electronic mailing lists, message boards, chat rooms, and more recently blog comment threads, wiki talk pages, and social networking sites.

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