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Godwin's law

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Godwin's law (Godwin's Rule of Nazi Analogies, Sexton-Godwin Law) is an adage in Internet culture[?] established by Mike Godwin[?] on August 18, 1991, which states that:

As a Usenet discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.

There is a tradition in many groups that, once this occurs, that thread is over, and whoever mentioned the Nazis has automatically lost whatever argument was in progress. Godwin's Law thus practically guarantees the existence of an upper bound on thread length in those groups. Many people understand Godwin's law to mean this ("Godwin's law! Thread over!"), although it is not the original formulation.

However there is also a widely-recognized codicil that any intentional triggering of Godwin's Law in order to invoke its thread-ending effects will be unsuccessful.

Godwin's law is named after Mike Godwin[?], who was legal counsel for the Electronic Frontier Foundation in the early 1990s when the law was first promulgated. The law is a formalization of Richard Sexton[?]'s October 16, 1989 post

You can tell when a USENET discussion is getting old when one of the participants drags out Hitler and the Nazis.

Finding the meme of Nazi comparisons on Usenet illogical and offensive, Godwin established the law as a counter-meme.

Many people have extended Godwin's law to imply that the invoking of the Nazis as a debating tactic (in any argument not directly related to World War II or the Holocaust) automatically loses the argument, simply because these events were so horrible that any comparison is invalid and in poor taste. In particular, the use of phrases like soup Nazi are widely viewed with distaste: the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) argued in January 1997 that it "trivializes and denies the murderous intent and actions of the Nazi regime" and "cheapens the language by allowing people to reach for a quick word fix".

Various additions and addenda to Godwin's Law have been proposed by Internet users, though the original reference to Nazis remains the most popular. Addenda to the law include:

Gordon's Restatement of Newman's Corollary to Godwin's Law:
Libertarianism (pro, con, and internal faction fights) is the primordial net.news discussion topic. Any time the debate shifts somewhere else, it must eventually return to this fuel source.
Morgan's Corollary to Godwin's Law:
As soon as such a comparison occurs, someone will start a Nazi-discussion thread on alt.censorship.
Sircar's Corollary:
If the Usenet discussion touches on homosexuality or Heinlein, Nazis or Hitler are mentioned within three days.
Van der Leun's Corollary:
As global connectivity improves, the probability of actual Nazis being on the Net approaches one.
Miller's Paradox:
As a network evolves, the number of Nazi comparisons not forestalled by citation to Godwin's Law converges to zero.

See also

External links and references



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