Wednesday, February 16, 2011
"Kent's Observation" (on "Godwin's Law")
Anytime "Hitler" or "Nazis" are mentioned, or even when a comparison is just hinted at, Godwin's Law will be brought up, often incorrectly, no matter how valid the comparison may be.
The mantra "Never forget" has been replace by "Never notice real similarities or Godwin's Law will be brought up in an attempt to stop the debate".
When pointing out that "I was just following orders", "I was just doing my job", "I just enforce the laws, I don't make them", or similar authoritarian excuses are the exact same ones used by Nazis on trial at Nuremberg, there is no comparison more applicable or valid. Those who will enforce a counterfeit "law" against their neighbor, whether it sends the person to a death camp or to a city jail (or even "just" subjects them to a "fine"), is not different from a Nazi in kind, but only in degree. These are the very comparisons that Godwin's Law attempts to protect by weeding out the exaggerated hysteria. People who prefer carnations over roses are not Nazis; people who will kill a person over possession of some dried leaves or other consensual behavior could accurately be compared to one.
Godwin NEVER claimed that the comparison was always inappropriate, just that it was inevitable it would crop up somewhere eventually if an online discussion went on long enough, and that making the comparison in trivial matters diluted the impact of the times the comparison was accurate. He also never claimed that mentioning Hitler or Nazis made a person automatically lose the debate. These are wishful-thinking add-ons by people who are uncomfortable with the truth. Other people may fall into this trap if they don't realize what's happening.