In correctly diagnosing the Obama Administration’s and the Democratic Party’s continued use of the misleading “77 cents” statistic, I rejected the application of Godwin’s Law as a bar to the evocation of the Big Lie’s most accomplished practitioners and champions, Hitler and Goebbels. I want to expand a bit on what I wrote explaining why.
Godwin’s Law, to begin with, began as a joke. An early Usenet moderator (and attorney) named Mike Godwin coined the “rule” in 1990 as a tongue-in-cheek method to detect when internet debates had gone on too long, stating that “if you mention Adolf Hitler or Nazis within a discussion thread, you’ve automatically ended whatever discussion you were taking part in.” The Wikipedia entry, based on the original “law” posted by Godwin, says that “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches — that is, if an online discussion (regardless of topic or scope) goes on long enough, sooner or later someone will compare someone or something to Hitler or Nazism.”
In the ensuing years, Godwin’s Law has been cited, but seriously, as a genuine discourse limitation; that it is somehow taboo to raise the Nazis or Hitler as comparisons or references in any serious debate, online or off. It is even cited as an absolute, frequently by people who haven’t given a second’s thought to why there should be such a “law.” This, of course, is classic morality reasoning. You can’t mention Hitler because an authority, “Godwin,” has decreed otherwise, and you blindly follow because, well, he says it’s right, so it is. I have wondered if anyone would take Godwin’s Law seriously if his name had been Mike Snotwelder, or something similar. Continue reading