Sunday, October 5, 2008

About Godwin's Law

I thought I would get this out of the way. In a Blue Sweater Vest Award a couple of days ago, I compared the thugs cutting brake lines in T.O. (and now in Halifax), to Nazis.

This might cause some to bring up Godwin's Law. If you feel compelled to do so, it probably doesn't mean what you think it means.

Godwin's Law states:
"As a Usenet discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one."

This does not mean that refering to the tactics of someone as being akin to the Nazis invalidates the argument. Unless someone falls into a reductio ad hitlerum tirade it is perfectly right to point out that someone's tactics are those of Hitler's.

The only people who benefit from using Godwin's Law as a way to dismiss an argument out of hand are in line with the people using those tactics. It is a classic deflection to say that comparisons of this nature are automatically invalid. A valid comparison to the tactics of the Nazis is every bit as valid as pointing out that cutting brake lines is akin to the campaign tactics of Mugabe.

What is the point of being constantly vigilant if you refuse to use a valid comparison to the type of abuse you are on the lookout for?
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