Any masochist who has spent a second taking part in the eye gouge that is “internet discourse” has heard one of its core tenets, Mike Godwin’s law. That law, as recounted by Wired, goes as follows:
“As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.”
We’ve all been there. Maybe you were discussing Naruto, or Vince the Slap Chop guy, or comparing saxophone brands on a message board. But then an argument broke out and both sides dug their heels in, and someone got called a Nazi. Then someone else mentioned Godwin’s law, and the conversation was over.
In this case, however, the discussion concerns “alt righters” marching in Charlottesville who were, well, flying swastikas, Sieg Heil-ing, and wearing shirts with Hitler quotes. And Godwin himself took to Facebook to let everyone know that if it walks like a Nazi and talks like a Nazi, you better let people know what it really is.
Godwin said in a comment that the post didn’t come from nowhere, and was in response to a Facebook message from a concerned follower. As you may have personally experienced, people often invoke Godwin’s law to derail conversations where the opponent draws a Nazi comparison. We have reached out for comment.
So, you heard the man. If you see an actual Nazi, call them what they are.
Update 11:15PM: Godwin gave Gizmodo the following context in a Facebook message: “Like so many people, I’m so appalled at what happened in Charlottesville that I haven’t known what to say, or whether to say anything at all. But she,” the original Facebook messenger, “asked for something that was easy for me to give.”
[Facebook, h/t River Devora!]