Tag Archives: Godwin’s Law

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Godwin’s daughter: dad “you’re being like Hitler”

Mike Godwin, the man behind Godwin’s Law, has given a nice little interview regarding his eponymous dictum

These bits are my favourite.

On why he coined the law in the first place…

“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.”

On his daughter’s use of the law…

…There was a point where my daughter, who is about to turn 20, when she was in her early teens, she thought it was a hoot when she was mad at me to compare me to Hitler. She’d look at me with a very mischievous look and say, “You know, you’re acting just like Hitler.”

And this important bit…

Do you ever come across Nazi comparisons in discussions of American politics that you find legitimate?
You know … sure. American history has its own flirtations with fascism and racism and militarism, and people have believed in any and all of these things, so with certain individuals it has to come up from time to time. So it’s not the case that the comparison is never valid. It’s just that, when you make the comparison, think through what you’re saying, because there’s a lot of baggage there, and if you’re going to invoke a historical period with that much baggage you better be ready to carry it.

Godwin’s Law before Hitler

We had an interesting discussion at college the other day, completely unrelated to college… about who epitomised evil before Hitler. Some said Napoleon, still others Genghis Kahn, while some thought Mary Queen of Scots might get the guernsey.

A Slate article on exactly the same issue, from a couple of days before (that may or may not have prompted my question) reckons the answer is Pharaoh, but also suggests that the use of an extreme historical figure as a rhetorical device is probably a relatively recent invention. Possibly correlating to the rise of the internet.

“The Pharoah. In the 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries, many Americans and Europeans had a firmer grasp of the bible than of the history of genocidal dictators. Orators in search of a universal symbol for evil typically turned to figures like Judas Iscariot, Pontius Pilate, or, most frequently, the Pharaoh of Exodus, who chose to endure 10 plagues rather than let the Hebrew people go.”

“Generally speaking, hatred was more local and short-lived before World War II. Nineteenth-century polemicists occasionally used Napoleon Bonaparte as shorthand for an evil ruler—they sometimes referred to “the little tyrant” rather than name the diminutive conqueror—but those references were rare. There is little record of oratorical comparisons of political leaders to Genghis Khan, Attila the Hun, or Ivan the Terrible.”

So there you go.

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Campbell’s Law for Christian Debates on the Internet

Naming a law after yourself is probably right up there with giving yourself a nickname ie not cool and it never really sticks… but I’ve been thinking about the conversations I’ve been having with different people from various points in the Christian spectrum on a couple of issues lately and I’d like to propose what I think is the Christian equivalent of Godwin’s Law.

Godwin’s Law states:

“As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1 (100%).”

Campbell’s law states:

“As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving the Pharisees or legalism approaches 1 (100%).”

Thus, as with Godwin, so with Campbell, such transgressions lead to an automatic loss in any argument.

Lets face it, the law doesn’t need to be named after me, but there’s something similar going on here… “you’re like the guys who killed the king of the Jews” should carry about as much argumentative weight as “you’re like Hitler.” Though, as with Godwin, so with Campbell, there are times when such comparisons are appropriate (with Godwin I’d say these are limited to genocide, with the Pharisees I’d say it can be legitimate when people are acting like pharisees).

That is all (except to say that I’ve already coined a law before).

For those not following at home…

If you’re not already reading the comments on Simone’s follow up post to the one she took down the other day… then do yourself a favour.

I’ve witnessed other people having long discussions with Mark Baddeley, but never had the pleasure myself up until this one. Mostly because I agree with him on other issues.

Lets just say, not this time…

See if you can catch my veiled homage to Godwin’s Law.

This is a sickening story

“TWO Victorian couples are suing doctors for failing to diagnose Down Syndrome in their unborn babies, denying them the chance to terminate the pregnancies.”

I hope the judge takes one look at this case and throws the couples on the street.

“The girl, 4, who now attends a specialist kindergarten, was born with heart, kidney and thyroid problems, can’t walk, and needs help feeding, her father said.

“Don’t get us wrong: we love our daughter. She’s part of our family, and we treat her like gold,” he said.”

So they’re saying “we love her, but we wish she had never been born.” That’s not love. That’s sick. You know who else wanted to breed disease out of the human gene pool through selective breeding programs…

Godwin’s Storm

It didn’t take long for the Storm to be compared to Adolf Hitler. It’s just a shame the Downfall parody videos have been removed from YouTube. Hitler’s reaction would have been typically irate.

“To put yesterday in perspective, the Melbourne Storm fraudsters have achieved something that Kaiser Wilhelm couldn’t achieve, nor Adolf Hitler nor Hideki Tojo. The list of rugby league’s premiers runs uninterrupted through the two world wars they triggered and should have run proudly into infinity. But, as of yesterday, two breaks appear in that noble lineage, for the years 2007 and 2009. Now the words “No Premiers” appear where previously the Storm had been.”

Quality journalism from the Australian.

Poe’s Law

I love satire. Of most colours. I like it when Christians satirise our own culture, and when non-Christians do it too. Satire is revealing. It is good for teaching. It makes me laugh.

LarkNews is one of my favourite satire sites, I know of a few people who have fallen for its satire in the past…

People reposting satire as real news is pretty funny – like when a couple of mainstream news outlets picked up an Onion piece that reported the moon landing was fake.

Poe’s Law didn’t make the Wikipedia list of eponymous laws I mentioned previously – but you can read it on this page – RationalWiki’s page.

Without a winking smiley or other blatant display of humor, it is impossible to create a parody of Fundamentalism that SOMEONE won’t mistake for the real thing.

It’s one of those Internet subculture things particular to debates with atheists (along with the No True Scotsman Fallacy) that comes up all the time. It’s a shorthand thing that prevents any real discussion taking place springing from an extreme position. The problem is that sometimes extreme positions may be correct. This is my biggest problem with all the conversational threads I’ve read on the atheist blogs I follow. If it turns out that God exists (as I believe he does) they’re going to look like idiots. This is the problem with Occam’s Razor, and in fact any other eponymous law that becomes common parlance. There are times when there’ll be a complex explanation for something that is true while a more simple explanation with less steps may be wrong. There are times when it’s appropriate to reference Hitler in an argument (Godwin’s Law). There are times when someone will be claiming to be a Scotsman when they’re not (the No True Scotsman Fallacy).

Using these laws in conversations who don’t know about them makes you look like a prat. Especially if you end up quoting them and being wrong.

I’m going to posit my own eponymous law – and I’d like it to catch on. Campbell’s Law. It states:

“As the length of argument on the internet increases the probability of referencing an irrelevant eponymous law or incorrectly identifying a fallacy approaches one.”

I’ll posit a second law.

“Just because someone, somewhere, has described a common phenomena as a “law”, it does not necessarily render the practice a transgression.”

Five cool wikipedia articles

In the spirit of Ben’s listmania here are five cool Wikipedia articles – most of which have been pulled from this blog I discovered called Best of Wikipedia.

  1. Wrap Rage Wrap rage, also called package rage, is the common name for heightened levels of anger and frustration resulting from the inability to open hard-to-remove packagingWrap Rage Wrap rage, also called package rage, is the common name for heightened levels of anger and frustration resulting from the inability to open hard-to-remove packaging
  2. Erdős–Bacon Number A person’s Erdős–Bacon number is a concept which reflects the small world phenomenon in academia and entertainment. It is the sum of one’s Erdős number—which measures the “collaborative distance” in authoring mathematical papers between that person and Hungarian mathematician Paul Erdős—and one’s Bacon number—which represents the number of links, through roles in films, by which the individual is separated from American actor Kevin Bacon. The lower the number, the closer a person is to Erdős and Bacon.
  3. Nocebo The adjective nocebo is used to label the harmful or unpleasant reactions that a subject manifested as a result of administering a placebo drug, where these responses had not been chemically generated, and were entirely due to the subject’s pessimistic belief and expectation that the inert drug would produce harmful, injurious, unpleasant, or undesirable consequences.
  4. The Turk The Turk was a fake chess-playing machine constructed in the late 18th century. From 1770 until its destruction by fire in 1854, it was exhibited by various owners as an automaton, though it was explained in the early 1820s as an elaborate hoax. With a skilled operator, the Turk won most of the games played during its demonstrations around Europe and the Americas for nearly 84 years, playing and defeating many challengers including statesmen such as Napoleon Bonaparte and Benjamin Franklin.
  5. I found this one by myself when I was looking up this thing called “Poe’s Law” that I hear atheists mentioning all the time when talking about satire about Christian stuff… it’s a list of eponymous laws – from the Famous (like Murphy’s Law, to the obscure internet phenomena – like Godwin’s Law).

Share any favourites of yours in the comments…

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Godwin’s Law Nazis

Gerard Henderson typically annoys me. He’s from the Right Wing think tank the “Sydney Institute”. I don’t like him because despite agreeing with a lot of what he says, I think he sounds smug when he’s saying it.

His ivory tower takedown of Kyle Sandilands and his Megan Fox-esque grip on history and the significance of Hitler’s total evilness was right on the money.

He points the finger of blame at needless comparisons to the Nazi overlord made by politicians. It really does lower the level of political conversation.

If some opinion leaders use ”Nazi” or ”fascist” or ”communist” to denigrate political opponents, is it any wonder some demonstrators in the US and shock jocks in Australia will follow their lead?

Hyperbole has become a way of getting noticed in the never-ending news cycle. Exaggerated comments about the applicability of totalitarianism to contemporary democracies get a run because so little is known about the suffering of the victims of Hitler and Stalin.

Sadly it appears on the SMH website alongside a story featuring insidious current affairs style journalism snooping at its worst.

Hitler’s 39 remaining relatives have been tracked down. Somehow being related to the guy responsible for significant atrocities is reason enough to be named and shamed. Some of his family had been living under fake names – and these guttersnipe reporters have named them for the world to see. No doubt the people involved are incredibly thankful that these private eyes took the time to pick up discarded cigarette butts and McDonalds wrappers.

“Analysing forgotten cigarette butts in a small village in lower Austria, a used paper serviette in a New York fast food restaurant and the seals of letters sent over 30 years ago from northern France, Marc Vermeeren and Jean-Paul Mulders said they had traced all known living relatives of the Fuehrer for the first time.”

“…”The American relatives have agreed not to have children to extinguish the saga of Hitler and stop living in fear, but have promised to publish a book before they die,” said Mulders.”

Not having children seems a high price to pay for having an infamous great-great-uncle.

It occurs to me that I write about Hitler quite frequently. Or more specifically, I paradoxically write a lot about how writing or talking about Hitler is bad.

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Fox Trot

There are lots of PR lessons we can learn from celebrities today. Firstly. Megan Fox has lived up to her name, biting the hand that feeds her. Or at least the hand that raised her from obscurity.

Director Michael Bay cast Fox in Transformers, and the starlet had some rather unkind words to say about him in a magazine.

In her interview with a British magazine, Fox had said of Bay:

“He’s like Napoleon and he wants to create this insane, infamous mad-man reputation.

“He wants to be like Hitler on his sets, and he is.

“He has no social skills at all.”

Ouch. That isn’t very nice. Some of the crew responded with a letter via Michael Bay’s blog – which he contributes to, but clearly doesn’t run, because he pulled it a couple of days later and posted his apology.

I subscribe to Michael Bay’s blog with google reader – so it’s not completely lost to you. And the SMH has a story on the letter today. Here’s an excerpt.

He granted her the starring role in Transformers, a franchise that forever changed her life; she became one of the most googled and oogled women on earth.

… Wait a minute, two of us worked with Angelina – second thought – she’s no Angelina.

…We know this quite intimately because we’ve had the tedious experience of working with the dumb-as-a-rock Megan Fox on both Transformers movies. We’ve spent a total of 12 months on set making these two movies.

We are in different departments; we can’t give our names because sadly doing so in Hollywood could lead to being banished from future Paramount work.

We actually don’t think she knows who Hitler is by the way. But we wondered how she doesn’t realize what a disgusting, fully uneducated comment this was?

Hopefully Michael will have Megatron squish her character in the first ten minutes of Transformers 3. We can tell you that will make the crew happy! …

Nice. Firstly, let me say, Godwin’s law needs to be more widely broadcast – comparing anybody – particularly a movie director – to Hitler is just plain silly.

Secondly, if you’re working in a close knit industry like Hollywood – or a regional area, or a city, or the Christian community – don’t bag out people who you’ve worked with. It’ll no doubt hurt you more than it hurts them.

A question of absolutes

This seems to be dominating my thinking and conversation today. So it’s going to dominate my posting too.

I am so sick of every issue in the world – from the question of league v union, the question of musical taste, through to the question of morality and “evil” – being turned into a murky pot of subjectivity where claiming objective knowledge of an absolute is frowned upon.

You can’t even call Hitler evil anymore.

Things just are. They either are, or they aren’t. The question of which game you prefer (league, or union) is subjective. The question of which game is better is objective.

Signing up for an “objective” assessment requires pretty clear terms of reference. Which is almost impossible because of this desire to be “relative” in all things.

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LaRouche is on fire

The nuttiness of the Citizen’s Electoral Council knows no bounds. Their latest press release comes complete with a 10 minute video of awesome badness. They’ve uploaded it badly on YouTube (it doesn’t work properly) – so you’ll have to check it out here.

They hate the Greens more than I do.

“Do you believe the world is overpopulated? Do you believe the world’s human population should be reduced?

If so, you are a sucker for a lie invented by the highest levels of the British oligarchy going back to the rapacious East India Company, and its Venetian ancestors, which lie is now about to be turned into official public policy in the form of cap-and-trade, through the efforts of the modern British oligarchy’s World Wide Fund for Nature and agents Prince Philip, Sir Crispin Tickell, Sir Nicholas Stern, and Al Gore.“

“The 10-minute LYM video is a preview of a planned feature documentary on the roots of the modern Green movement, going back to the evil race-science called eugenics, which was heavily promoted by the aristocracy of Europe in the early part of the 20th century, turned into public policy by Hitler, and repackaged post-war as the environmental movement, by leading eugenicist Sir Julian Huxley and his co-founders of the WWF in 1961, the Nazi-educated Prince Philip and Nazi Party-member Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands.“

You’ve got to watch the video. I especially love where they say they’ve thrown down the gauntlet to Al Gore. Lyndon LaRouche challenged him. At a CEC conference. That nobody heard of, except the people they spam with media releases. I’d hardly call that a gauntlet throw down.

You must watch the video. And check out the CEC website – everybody who disagrees with them is a Nazi (including Obama, the climate change movement, and anyone pushing swine flu panic).

The fun starts at 7.07 where the narrator puts on a British accent.

They really need to think about the whole Godwin’s Law thing…

Steve Fielding is in trouble – because if these guys are for you, you’re going wrong somewhere.

The best bit

How to talk to the media without looking like an idiot

This post could, by rights, be renamed "Don’t be Sarah Palin"…

There’s nothing that annoys me more (both professionally and privately) than people botching interviews.

If the media is interviewing you it’s pretty much a free hit. They have a finite amount of time to gather better quotes from other people and your best chance of getting good exposure is saying something usable in a usable way.

Here are some general tips for broadcast interviews (because everyone loves a list):

  1. Don’t wear bright coloured stripes – they’ll bleed on screen and distract people (I’ve said that before I think).
  2. Look at the journalist not the camera – eye contact freaks out audiences.
  3. Don’t use the journalist’s name – you’re ultimately talking to the public, not the journalist. And throwing their name in the middle of your sentence makes the comment unusable.
  4. Have a go at actually answering the questions asked – most media trainers tell you to ignore the questions and regurgitate rehearsed PR guff. Chances are you’re not a politician and nobody really likes listening to that stuff. It’s usually full of weasel words – like “showcase”…

Right, so those are the basics.

The “un”-basics apply to more specific examples that have prompted this post. If you’re a politician holding a media coverage and you may or may not harbour desires to one day run for higher office – don’t bite the hand that feeds you. Particularly – don’t spend your time talking to the media complaining about how the media treats you. It becomes a self fulfilling prophecy – where the attention turns to how badly you handled yourself by complaining about the media coverage you received… you don’t really want this sort of paragraph appearing in any story about you.

“Ms Palin delivered the news from the backyard of her home in Wasilla, in a sometimes rambling 18-minute speech that took 11 minutes to get to the punchline. She veered from pugnacious to bitter as she lamented her treatment at the hands of the media and her political foes.”

This may seem obvious – but don’t do interviews about topics that are likely to create controversy – or things you don’t know anything about. Particularly avoid controversial topics where you might find yourself praising Hitler. That’s never good for your personal branding.

Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone has described Adolf Hitler as a leader able to"get things done" in a discussion about dictators during an interview with The Times newspaper.

Asked to comment on accusations that world motorsport chief Max Mosley behaved like a dictator, Ecclestone went on to speak about Hitler, former Iraq dictator Saddam Hussein – whom he said should have stayed in power – and the Taliban.

"In a lot of ways, terrible to say this I suppose, but apart from the fact that Hitler got taken away and persuaded to do things that I have no idea whether he wanted to do or not, he … could command a lot of people, able to get things done," Ecclestone told The Times.

If you know it’s terrible to say – don’t say it. It’s easy.