Posted: 21 Jan 2014 08:46 PM PST
Mike Godwin is an American attorney and author who formulated “Godwin’s Law” in 1990 when he made the following assertion:
Note: In probability theory, an event is said to never happen when its probability is 0, and to always happen when its probability is 1.
Godwin’s Law, also known as “Godwin’s Law of Nazi Analogies,” is applicable to threaded online discussions in forums, chat rooms, and on blogs. The term has earned a place in the OED:
Although coined to describe an Internet phenomenon, the term is being applied to the use of “the Nazi card” in other contexts, as in this account of Ted Cruz’s filibuster to delay a vote on the Affordable Care Act:
and in this blog:
A complaint by many forum users is that the so-called law is stifling discussion. One commenter invokes a Nazi analogy and another crows, “You said Hitler, so I win!” At that point, the discussion ends.
The term has spawned a verb, “to Godwin,” as in, “You Godwined this discussion!”
The invocation of Godwin’s Law has come to be seen as a way to end an online discussion. Here are some complaints voiced by forum users:
Nazism is a cultural meme that encapsulates the notion not mere political authoritarianism, but the worst possible human behavior towards other human beings.
Note: In a theory of mental content called memetics, a meme is analogous to a gene in the theory of evolution. A meme represents a unit of culture (idea, belief, pattern of behavior) that travels from mind to mind.
Perhaps Nazi analogies are best reserved for discussions of the dehumanization and inhumane treatment of large numbers of human beings. If the intention is to compare one form of authoritarianism to another, without the connotation of racism or genocide, perhaps one of the following word choices would meet the need:
fascism: any form of right-wing authoritarianism.
totalitarianism: Totalitarian theory and practice; the advocacy of totalitarian government. Also loosely, authoritarianism
dictatorship: A system of government by the absolute rule of a single individual;
despotism: The rule of a despot; despotic government; the exercise of absolute authority.
autocracy: (A system of) government by one person with absolute power; a state, society, etc. governed in this way.