Godwin’s Rule of Nazi Analogies‏

Godwin’s Rule of Nazi Analogies, sometimes also known as Godwin’s Law, is a theory put forward by Mike Godwin in 1990. Godwin noticed that long-threaded discussions on the Internet tended to turn into mud slinging competitions by the end. The longer a thread got, the more likely it was that a Nazi comparison would be dragged into the discussion – a statement like the immortal words of Basil Fawlty: “This is exactly how Nazi Germany started!”

Godwin’s Rule states:

“As a Usenet discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.”

There is a tradition in many groups that, once this occurs, that thread is over, and whoever mentioned the Nazis has automatically lost whatever argument was in progress.

Godwin’s Law thus practically guarantees the existence of an upper bound on thread length in those groups. However there is also a widely recognised codicil that any intentional triggering of Godwin’s Law in order to invoke its thread-ending effects will be unsuccessful.

There are several implications to Godwin’s Rule. Many on-line discussions involve intense personal beliefs and values, which sometimes clash quite dramatically. As the discussion continues along these lines, it tends to become less rational, especially after most of the valid arguments from both sides have been presented. On a hot button issue with no immediate and obvious “right” answer, opponents may start to exchange insults because they become angry and frustrated.