One thing that I hope to accomplish with this blog is to raise the level of debate that we see in this country. Well, maybe the country as a whole is a little ambitious, but at least among my readers – both of them. If we can rid the discussion of flat out lies, perhaps we can eventually get around to discussing the substance of the issues. To that end I want to make sure everyone is aware of a little known but important rule – the Godwin Rule.
Godwin’s Rule evolved from an observation made by Mike Godwin during the days of Usenet, a precursor of the Internet forums that are so common today. Godwin noticed that as a Usenet discussion got longer and longer someone would inevitably get upset about something and eventually someone would call someone else a Nazi. This became known as Godwin’s Law. Godwin, a quintessential geek, stated the law in formal logic terms, “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.”
Godwin’s Law begot Godwin’s Rule, which basically states that as soon as a comparison to Hitler or the Nazis is made the debate is over, the thread closed, and the person making the comparison is deemed to have lost it. (By “it” I mean both the debate and, you know, “it”.) It’s sort of a death penalty for debates. It’s a good rule because once the Nazi card is played, there’s no real discussion left. It’s all name calling and histrionics after that.
Of course there are the rare occasions when such a comparison is legitimate, but let’s be clear about what it means to be a Nazi. The Nazis weren’t THE NAZIS because they took over Germany’s automobile industry.The Nazis were THE NAZIS because they murdered 6 million Jews along with millions of others. The Nazis weren’t THE NAZIS because they were socialists. They were THE NAZIS because they attempted to create a master race by exterminating those deemed unworthy. The Nazis weren’t THE NAZIS because of anything having to do with any health care program they had or didn’t have.They were THE NAZIS because they performed gruesome, sadistic experiments on children.
So don’t start calling Obama or George W. Bush or any of the other namby-pamby politicians we have today Nazis. That’s an insult to real Nazis everywhere, and you will be flagged for a Godwin violation.
The Godwin Rule is specific to Hitler and Nazi comparisons only, but I think it should be extended to other over the top statements. Recently my nephew posted on his Facebook page a collage of protesters burning and otherwise desecrating the American flag. Now I understand that flag burning is protected speech and I’m fine with that. In fact I was strongly against the flag burning amendment (RIP) when it was being kicked around. However my support for flag burners only extends to their legal right to do so. They can’t expect much compassion from me when they get their asses kicked by some yahoo who took umbrage with their actions.* They’re not adding anything of substance to the argument; they’re just taunting the other side. They’ve got nothing left to say, and nobody’s listening anyway; everybody is just getting pissed. It’s all theatrics at that point, and it’s time to invoke Godwin’s rule and send everyone home.
I think we should have an official Godwin flag that can be pulled out whenever the rule is violated. I’d love to see that happen on O’Reilly’s show. He’s a frequent violator of the Godwin Rule, and I think it would make great TV for someone to pull out the Godwin Flag, blow a whistle, and declare the debate over.
*For the record, the ass-kicking yahoo can’t expect much compassion from me when he gets thrown in jail for assault.