Friday, February 01, 2008

Godwin's Law Invoked

There was a letter to the editor in today's JG where an opponent of the smoking ban compared the JG and ban supporters to Nazi's:
The Journal Gazette published several articles regarding smoking the week of Jan. 13. This concentrated blitz is surely an effort to influence the City Council as it prepares to consider modifying that oppressive piece of legislation commonly known as the smoking ban.

Now, the smoke Nazis are encouraging people to inform on their fellow citizens. They have even come up with a special 311 number to make the process easier, and they have enlisted the pledge of the police department and fire department to enforce their edict.

This whole debacle reeks of the same tactics that got the Third Reich started, i.e.: unreasonable laws, people informing on each other, businesses going broke, people out of jobs and so forth. For those too young to remember, maybe the words “Adolf Hitler” and “Nazi Germany” will have meaning.

The words Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany certainly do lose their meaning when applied inappropriately to analogies like the smoking ban. In fact it's actually quite offensive to many people that truly suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.

So I'm invoking Godwin's Law on the author of this letter and letting him know that he has automatically lost the debate. Rules are rules...

Godwin's law (also known as Godwin's Rule of Nazi Analogies) is an adage formulated by Mike Godwin in 1990. The law states:

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

There is a tradition in many newsgroups and other Internet discussion forums that once such a comparison is made, the thread is finished and whoever mentioned the Nazis has automatically "lost" whatever debate was in progress. This principle is itself frequently referred to as Godwin's law.


Anonymous said...

I did you one better - I actually sent a letter to the J-G proclaiming him the loser.

That's how devoid of all real argument they are - they're resorting to the old Reductio ad Hitlerum.

Jon Olinger said...

Jeff... forcibly invoking a loser... that’s a bit fascist don't you think?:)

Templeton Peck said...


I will agree with you that the Nazi analogy has been so overused it is now meaningless.

That being said, the Nazis did enact the first modern nationwide tobacco ban in 1941.

And no, I do not think Crawford or anyone else on City Counil is a Nazi.

Robert Enders said...

Man, am I late for this thread.

No US politician can be compared to Hitler when it comes to sheer evil. It is therefore not appropriate to suggest that a particular official or candidate is worse than Hitler.

I propose that Godwin's law only applies to the individual who intially used the "H-word" out of context. Someday, Jeff, you might be in a heated blog debate with me, and someone on your side will call me a Nazi. I will not let the ignorance of others reflect on you or your arguement.