Welp, We Need to Update Godwin's Law

By Annalee Newitz on at

Godwin’s Law is one of the oldest laws of the internet. Attorney Mike Godwin invented it back in the 1990s, and it goes as follows: “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.”
And now there’s a new addendum to the law for the social media age. Of course, it involves drone strikes.

A glaring example can be seen today on Vox, in an interview with Jon Ronson, author of a recent book about shaming. In it, Vox interviewer Todd VanDerWerff asks Ronson about Gawker writer Sam Biddle’s now-infamous post containing PR rep Justine Sacco’s racist tweet. Biddle’s story got so big that Sacco briefly became the internet’s most hated person — and then she was fired.

Here’s what Ronson has to say about that:

Todd VanDerWerff:

You talk to Sam Biddle about his role in publicising the Sacco tweet, and he says something to the effect of, “I’m sure she was just fine.” Why is it so easy to divorce ourselves from consequences in these situations?

Jon Ronson:

The drone strike operator doesn’t need to look at the village he’s just smashed up. I guess that’s the reason. Maybe we should always be in the same room as our victims. Maybe that’s it. I think the internet is stripping us of our empathy. It’s turning us more sociopathic, because lack of empathy, obviously, is one of the key items on the psychopath checklist.

Oh, OK. So people being dicks on the internet are the same as drone strike operators murdering people in villages. This definitely merits its own subsection to Godwin’s Law, or maybe a whole new law, in which social media commentary has reached rock bottom as soon as somebody brings up drone strikes.