The Law of Godwin’s Law

Have you noticed that every time the names Hitler or Nazi are used as analogies for contemporary issues, someone reporting on the analogy will invariably also quote the so-called Godwin’s Law of Nazi Analogies with an explanation of what it is, namely that the longer an online conversation continues, the likelihood of the words Hitler or Nazi being mentioned in that conversation approaches 100%.

The American lawyer Mike Godwin, the chap who discovered the correlation and claimed paternity of the ‘law’, thought that there can be no debate without Hitler. Now we can be certain that there can be no debate without Godwin.

How did everything get so meta?

It may have become unavoidable to leave Hitler and the Nazis out of a conversation. Every ad hominem deserves a toothbrush moustache and there’s nothing quite like the katana-cutting resonance of the two-syllable adjective. But why does Godwin’s Law have to bleed into the Thomas Theorem? A species of the self-fulfilling prophecy phenomenon, the Thomas Theorem states that if a situation is defined as real, it will be real in its consequences. Noting the incidence of Godwin’s law every time it applies creates the illusion that descending into Hitler-Nazi analogies, name-calling, etc is an inescapable feature of general conversation. A pattern defined as a law and of which we’re reminded every time will become law in its consequences.

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