Any masochist who has spent an ounce of time 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 in 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 if an argument breaks out and both sides dig in their heels enough, someone gets called a Nazi, then someone else mentions Godwin’s law, and the conversation is over
In this case, the “alt righters” marching in Charlottesville are, well, flying swastikas, Sieg Heil-ing, and wearing shirts with Hitler quotes. Goodwin took to Facebook to let everyone know that if it walks and talks like a Nazi, better let people know what it really is.
Godwin said in a comment that the post didn’t come from nowhere, but was responding to a Facebook message from a concerned follower. As you may have experienced, people often invoke Goodwin’s law to derail conversations where the opponent draws a Nazi comparison.
We reached out to Godwin for a response, who 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.”
So, you heard the man. If you see an actual Nazi, call them what they are. [Facebook, h/t River Devora!]