(Sylvia via GoComics.com)
Blogreading for a slow Saturday, from NYMag‘s Dan Amira:
… All the way back in 1990, a lawyer who has been on the Internet longer than you have, Mike Godwin, introduced the now widely familiar Godwin’s Law, which predicted the inevitability of a Hitler or Nazi comparison arising during any online debate. Godwin, who lives in D.C. and works as a senior policy adviser at Internews, spoke to Daily Intelligencer about how Godwin’s Law has changed through the years, whether it will still exist in the year 3000, and whether it will be mentioned in the first or second sentence of his obituary.
When you first proposed Godwin’s Law, it stated, simply, “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.” In other words, such a comparison is, eventually, inevitable. Would you give it the same definition today?
The only thing I would say is that it turns out not to be limited to online discussions. Other than that, it still seems to have some observational value. It’s the worst thing anybody can think of, so if you have some kind of rhetorical escalation with someone you disagree with, it’s sort of easy to go there if you’re not very reflective about what you’re saying….
The thing it seemed to me worth doing was to prevent the Holocaust from turning into a cliché, or into a handy arrow in someone’s rhetorical quiver. I was entering into the online world pretty deeply in the eighties, and I was offended by how glibly these comparisons came up — almost invariably inappropriately. My feeling was that the more people got into this habit, the less likely that people remembered the historical context of all this. And as you know, one of the injunctions of Holocaust historians is that we must never forget, we have to remember. And I just thought, Well, I’m going to do a little experiment and see if I could make people remember.
I don’t know if this would be a corollary to Godwin’s Law, or if the law has transformed completely, but it’s now come to mean that whoever makes a Nazi comparison first has automatically lost the debate.
I think of it instead as a mutation. The way it mutated is that some people inferred that by the time you go to the Hitler comparisons, it was really hard to have a fruitful discussion or exchange of ideas, which I think is mostly true…
And Professor Krugman responds to the notorious Scarborough/Sachs op-ed: I Guess It’s A Form of Flattery.