Godwins Second Law

"As a wiki discussion grows longer, the probability of a reference to 9/11 approaches one."

There is a tradition in WikiDom that, once this occurs, that discussion is over, and whoever mentioned 9/11 has automatically lost whatever argument was in progress. GodwinsSecondLaw thus practically guarantees the existence of an upper bound on the number of CategoryOffTopic pages on wiki.

Interestingly:
 GodwinsLaw       -- Hitler
 GodwinsSecondLaw -- 9/11

Both are related to slaughter of innocents, tyranny and terrorism. Must we cease discussion when such horrendous events be mentioned? Or is the argument posed by the occasions of the mentioning far too overwhelming?

There's nothing in GodwinsLaws that says that "when this happens, you have lost the argument/the argument is over/the discussion has lost its merit. GodwinsLaw just says that, given a thread that goes on long enough, someone will eventually make a reference to the WorstPossibleThing? in current parlance. Up until now, it's been Hitler; now, it's 9/11. What this means for the discussion at hand as well as the people discussing makes for an interesting InkBlotTest?.

I have never thought of InkBlotTest?s as being interesting. Now Clouds shaped like horses, and dragons. And if you watch them long enough they change into other things. Now that's interesting. (But I suppose you mean interesting to the tester, not the testee) Who is what in your interesting test?


Nice mental aikido there. I see Godwin's Law as the inkblot test: more interesting to the tester. It's like the tester (Godwin himself) throws out half a sentence: "You know as well as I do that, sure enough, eventually someone's going to bring <foo> into the conversation..." And the unwitting subject fills in the rest: "...and then, the conversation is shot." Or, "...and then, that person shows his ignorance." Or even, "...and then it's time to stop reading UseNet/Wiki and get some work done."

Here's my InkBlotTest? results: Godwin's Law applies to any conversation when the subject matter at hand is orders of magnitude less grave than the GodwinTopic?. It doesn't have to be a direct reference, either. Real life example: years ago, before anti-virus software was the rule rather than the exception, we had a floppy-borne outbreak. Soon afterward, the IT division mandated use of antivirus software (in an office that had never used it before). A junior IT guy came in to install it; the office resident was offended that this junior IT guy had the temerity to tell him, a senior developer, that this had to be installed. Rather than actually converse or protest, he quips: "I see you're wearing your brown shirt today," an oblique reference to the "brown shirt brigades" of Nazi Germany.

This is what Godwin's Law is all about to me. That situation had a very, very low GodwinNumber? (oh, geez, more neologism: the number of exchanges before Godwin's Law takes effect). It's an escalation of the conflict level of a conversation to the point that it can't really go any higher... either it is de-escalated (really hard in a large, public forum like UseNet or Wiki), or the conversation rots and falls away. On the other hand, in the real-world example, the poor IT guy didn't get the reference, so the whole issue was moot. -- TimLesher


In an informative Peanuts comic strip of several years ago, Lucy and Charlie Brown are lying on the grass watching the clouds. Lucy says, "Look at those clouds, Charlie Brown! In that one to the right I see the beautiful Greek Isles, that one in the middle looks like the Trojans attacking at Persephone, and the one of the left reminds me of the Siberian tiger stalking his prey." After a pause, Lucy asks, "What do you see in the clouds, Charlie Brown?" Charlie hesitantly replies, "Well, I was going to say a ducky and a horsey, but I think I won't say anything."


In C++, GodwinsFirstLaw?, GodwinsSecondLaw and GodWinsThirdLaw? are templatized functions: GodwinsLaw<Hitler>, GodwinsLaw<Stalin>, GodwinsLaw<NineEleven>,

I thought about Stalin when I wrote the above, but regardless of the historical realities, I've never found name-dropping Stalin to have the same effect as name-dropping Hitler (or NineEleven). If the measure of a GodwinTopic? is historical, then you're right; if it's psychological, then Stalin doesn't even sit in the same row as the other two. Maybe an AmericanCulturalAssumption?'

Maybe you should consider the body count, Stalin tops the list. Stalin, whom an adoring Roosevelt called `Uncle Joe,' murdered four times more people than Adolf Hitler - and a decade earlier. http://www.artukraine.com/famineart/unknhol.htm

You're preaching to the choir--I was a course shy of a Russian Area Studies minor in college. There's no doubt that in an objective, historical context, Stalin was the greater evil. But in most peoples' minds, Hitler stands out more. Here's a thought experiment: walk around town for a day wearing a t-shirt with a hammer and sickle on it. Then walk around town the next day wearing a t-shirt with a swastika. Which do you think will generate a more hostile reaction? The GodwinTopic? is a psychological phenomenon, not a rational one. -- TimLesher That's at least partly because Hitler, the Nazis and the swastika are pretty much synonomous in people's minds. Stalin was leader of only one Communist country for some of the time it was Communist - the leap from "hammer and sickle" to "Stalin" isn't so direct

Easily fixed, just go around with a T-shirt with a profile of Stalin and another with a profile of Hitler.

It's easy to see that Hitler's is the worst evil since 1) targeting of political opponents for extermination is an accepted tactic, 2) the Germans' targeting of infants and children, homosexuals and Roms is quite repugnant. There aren't many such deliberately targeted genocides in recent history; the US genocide of Indians is one of those that stand out. And even then, it's not considered as barbaric as the concentration camps, the starvation, the torture, and the methodical mass murders.


Interestingly enough, the example referenced on GodwinsLaw (from PrimeDirective) illustrates this... it escalated from a discussion of morals, to a comparison to Stalin, to a comparison to Hitler.

See also: GodwinsLaw, FoosLaw


CategoryOffTopic

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