Monday, 9 February 2015

Developing Godwin's law: the second law of Godwindynamics

As we know, Godwin’s law stipulates that in any online conversation, regardless of topic, someone will sooner or later make a comparison/reference to the Nazis.

After spending the last 1.5 years heavily engaged in quasi-intellectual deliberations on the comments section on Guardian.co.uk, I have concluded that Godwin’s should be augmented.

Here, I distinguish between two general laws and an arguably infinite number of subject specific laws (of which I will provide some examples).

General laws are applicable to all subjects. The first one is the original Godwin's law: that something pertaining to the Nazis will eventually be invoked no matter topic. To this I find one can add a sub-clause that stipulates: after the Nazi reference has been made, thus confirming Godwin’s law, someone will in due course refer to that reference as confirming Godwin’s law (’tis meta, very meta).

As for the second general law, the US replaces the Nazis as a negative reference, be it via comparisons, analogies or generally as the one to blame for all ills in the modern world. Discussing international politics, health, crime, tax, international politics, welfare, economic system, immigrant rights, international politics, race relations, international politics, international politics, international politics – Uncle Sam will in due course be summoned as the bad role model, the eternal sinner, the omnipresent deviant.  

Thus the two general laws. All-encompassing. Flexible. Dynamic.

Then there are the perhaps countless subject specific laws. Such as that in any subject relating to security intelligence, variations of the term “Orwellian” will eventually be invoked. If election campaigning is debated, in due course you will find a version of the phrase “it’s the economy, stupid!”. If a news story contains anything to do with Muslims, someone will finally make a reference to terrorism. Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.


Mike Godwin. The father of Godwin's law (or "Godwin's rule of Nazi analogies")

Feel free to share more subject specific laws in the comments section. With the ever increasing importance of online discussions for societal debates, it is right and proper that Godwin’s original singular law be developed, establishing a systematic collection of laws designed to comprehensively deal with core subject areas.

In the early 19th century, Napoleon saw the need of the Code Civil. The early 21st is in need of a Code Godwin.