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I created Godwin's Law in 1990 as a warning (ibtimes.co.uk)
196 points by miraj on May 28, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 153 comments

> My view, which I've held for many decades now, is that glib and frivolous invocations of Hitler, or Nazis, or the Holocaust, are a kind of forgetting.

So true. I have myself observed / felt this several times. My experience is that the facts of any discussion are laid out pretty quickly at the beginning. There is something that prolongs the discussion and heats up the arguments on all sides and I believe it is our collective emotional baggage, or lack of it. Some twist their words to mean anything just to stay in the conversation, some dig in their heels in the hopes of never having to be proven wrong, some stick to the bare facts but ignore others' emotional investment, etc. And some just enjoy trolling as if it is a spectator sport where they flame both sides but without any meaningful contribution of their own towards a resolution.

Sadly, I have not found an approach that works better than to quit the discussion cold turkey.

The number of people here that are describing trolling as fun, amusing, and effective is pretty high. I wonder why this is the case? Even if so many people enjoy being an ass or ruthlessly screwing over other people, it's strange that they'd openly admit it.

One possibility is that it's a byproduct of the school system. Most of us spent years at each other's throats in a Lord of the Flies type environment, so it's natural for this behavior to transfer to the internet.

They don't necessarily mean that it is fun to be an ass.

I think it's probably a fine line, but there are "trollish" comments that can be made that aren't even disingenuous, never mind nasty or negative.

The so called old school trolling wasn't about disruptive behavior, it was about getting people to consider thoughts that they aren't necessarily comfortable with. And not necessarily uncomfortable in a dark or disturbing way.

Trolling is a good way to induce the sort of cognitive dissonance that changes minds. Jonathan Swift's 'A Modest Proposal' is an exemplar of this.

It's one of the foundations of our western civilization https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Socratic_method

> Most of us spent years at each other's throats in a Lord of the Flies type environment, so it's natural for this behavior to transfer to the internet.

You are shifting the perspective here. Trolling in your sense, as a weak and vile but effective antisocial interaction would be significantly characterized by lacking better traits. Either it's institutional or school can't help with it. This is one of the things school tries to control for, so, if they can't control it, then because it's not from within their institution. Either way you can't just say that without any argument. I don't accept the irony that is mentioning the mandatory literature as an argument.

Since that topic is controversial and the tone mocking, I consider it flame bait. Did you enjoy writing this?

What does forgetting mean here? Is it like forgettable? Google failed me.

You asked,

What does forgetting mean here? Is it like forgettable? Google failed me.

This refers to the grandparent comment's quotation of Mike Godwin from his essay kindly submitted here to open the thread, which in full context was, "The internet has been shaping an increasingly international culture and collective memory — with the Holocaust, just as with other countless human atrocities, we have a moral obligation to 'never forget'. My view, which I've held for many decades now, is that glib and frivolous invocations of Hitler, or Nazis, or the Holocaust, are a kind of forgetting."

I read this as Mike Godwin saying that the crimes against humanity that were perpetrated by the Nazis must never be forgotten, so that we guard against the same crimes happening again. But if we just mention Nazis every time we disagree with someone on the Internet, without thinking deeply about whether or not what we are disagreeing with really has anything to do with what the Nazis actually did, then we are nonetheless forgetting the crimes perpetrated by the Nazis. Does that sound like a fair reading of the essay to you?

The way I would sum up Godwin's argument here is that it may be that some current events resemble events of the Nazi era in important ways. As we discuss policy issues online, we have to take care to check our facts and the logic of our own arguments, and if we think something going on today is like the activities of the Nazi Party, then first of all we should review the history and make sure we are correct in our thinking on that point.

By the way, I actually did learn a LOT about the Nazi Party from a thoughtful comment here on Hacker News back in about August 2014, when a reader here mentioned the book series about the Third Reich by British historian Richard Evans, which is well worth a read.


I really liked Mr Godwin’s likening of the use of glib and frivolous invocations as a kind of forgetting. Specifically with regards to Hitler, I’ve always found those youtube videos where someone has taken footage of Hitler, or a movie depicting him, and added their own, supposedly humorous subtitles, a bit distressing.

I understand that humour is subjective, and can also be used as a way to cope with or process serious events, but doing so is a difficult needle to thread. Perhaps the difference is if you are using humour as a vehicle instead of the end goal.

Ahh, thank you so much. I read it as "are kind of forgetting" instead of "are a kind of forgetting.", even looking back a few times.

This essay is about the need to think and argue mindfully rather than "with glib allusion".

It's disappointing that the early comments here were all focused on issues irrelevant to the content of the essay, issues that moreover would be easily avoided with wget or curl, or even just turning off JavaScript and images in any common browser. The essay's right in the HTML with zero obfuscation applied. Yes, there's cruft there, too. Such is life.

While I've been writing this comment, the distribution of comment quality has changed, which is somewhat heartening.

It has a lot to do with the structure commonly used in comment boards. There is no way avoid derailment by setting a direction to the conversation. It's the central limit theorem of the internet, really, the sum of a large number of opinions tends to be normally distributed around "mediocre".

The nazis have been reduced to an abstract symbol of evil. The ways that they co-opted liberal institutions to seize power is ignored. They happened in real life. They used the same levers of power everyone else agrees are legitimate. They weren't a dark cloud of evil sweeping through Germany, they were human beings acting with purpose and intent. Their means can be analyzed. The fascists today work the same way as the fascists of yesterday.

There's that apocryphal statement "fascism will come to America wrapped in a flag". Maybe, maybe not. But I know that if fascism manages to seize absolute power again, and it is getting perilously close with all these far-right governments getting elected all over the place and the ever increasing audacity with which liberal governments bring their weapons down on the human beings that stand in their way, it will do so while shrieking "free speech" all the way. Free speech is such a, such a sacred institution, and it's supposed to keep us safe from tyranny. Just like democratic elections, right?

And everyone will act surprised how suddenly it seems we are in their grips.

Sticking to ideals and trying to have an ideology of "freedom" doesn't stop nazis. Fascists of all stripes need to be treated as engaged in concrete power struggle, not abstract ideological debate.

I agree with you that we should be wary and stick to sound ideals. The other day I read a column by Bloomberg View columnist Leonid Bershidsky arguing, "Right-Wing Populists Are Running Out of Time,"


so perhaps danger of a neo-Nazi movement is lessening while we stay wary and stick to ideals.

By the way, Bershinky's very latest column directly discusses Godwin's Law, the main topic of this thread, and is titled "Comparisons to Hitler Can Be Useful. Discuss."


> a physicist named Travis Hoppe argued only last year that his analysis of Reddit data disproved the law.

What he disproved was the corollary, that whoever mentions Nazis has lost and ended the argument. People mistakenly refer to that corollary as "Godwin's law", but that's as far as the conflict goes. There is no disagreement about the statistics. Nazi references will happen in a supermajority of moderately large discussions.

You guys might not be noticing, but we've thrown the "Hitler/Nazi" stuff around so much that it doesn't have meaning anymore. It's actually been rehabilitating fascism and anti-semitism.

On the list of reasons for the rise of the extreme right in Europe (for example), I doubt that cracks the top 1000.

Calling regular people nazis make them associate more with nazis.

I firmly believe that the media drove Trump much farther into the racist right than he originally planned to go. Originally he was just anti-immigrant/nativist, just like every other Republican and many Democrats, and then he put his foot in his mouth when he tried to differentiate the character of illegal immigrants who come over the Southern border from illegal immigrants who fly in or come in on work and student visas. There is a difference, in that immigrants from the Southern border are very average people, from very near the U.S., and frequently have U.S. ties - it's just a cheaper process, paid for more in sweat and blood than in cash. Immigrants who come in on expensive visas to work and go to school, and who pay for expensive travel to and from the U.S. are more likely drawn from the middle and upper-middle classes of their countries of origin.

To him, that meant rapists, drug dealers, and murderers, because he's a rich Manhattan/Connecticut conservative, disgusted by and suspicious of people who work with their hands. "The wall" is something that has been added to in a bipartisan way by xenophobes from both sides of the aisle for a couple of decades at this point, and it was somehow used as evidence that he's more racist than the rest of Congress in combination with that remark.

Sadly, it turned out that the image that the media smeared him with was even more attractive to a majority of white American men than the "I make good deals" persona alone, he immediately became unstoppable, and leaned into it as far as he could. Not that I'm saying that he hasn't always been a bit racist (most libertarian conservatives are), but I don't think that it was a dominant part of his worldview, or that he would have ever dreamed of running for President on a primarily racist platform.

Hope I didn't say anything offensive here, I tried to be careful...

most libertarian conservatives are

I don't quite get this.

What do you mean by "libertarian conservative", and where do you get the idea that most are racist? Libertarians and conservatives might superficially seem to be aligned in many ways, but when you look at it, libertarians align with liberals in just as many ways... so "libertarian conservative" isn't really a meaningful term in the strict sense.

I guess you could say "conservative with some libertarian tendencies", but anyone who is actually a libertarian is pretty much not racist by definition, given that libertarianism is a pretty much a radically individualistic ideology in which skin color, ethnicity, race, religion, gender, etc. play no role at all.

Libertarians are advocates of the idea that protecting and maintaining current property assignments and their orderly transfer between consenting parties is the basis of civilization. In addition, they see this as a moral value that assures that people who are productive will have more, and people who are less productive will have less. Through this moral belief, it defines what people do who have as productive, and what people do who don't have as less productive. In this, it completely ignores primitive accumulation and the fencing off of the commons, and says that in a perfect capitalism, everything will have found its level. Therefore, if Africans are poorer than Asians, Africans are by nature less productive than Asians. If black Americans are poorer than white Americans, there is an intrinsic quality within them that is keeping them from being valued enough to be rewarded.

Libertarianism is a radically collective ideology that wishes to shrink government into a police force to protect property, and a totalitarian bureaucracy that catalogs the ownership of every object that its police force can reach. It is an ideology that insists that skin color, ethnicity, race, religion, gender or anything that ever happened in the past play no role at all in the present.

Or rather, that's how I feel about it. And in my experience, all libertarians that I've met have harbored ideas that I think of as racist (even the very nice ones, and very insightful ones), and I've observed that when you see libertarianism grow, you see overt racism grow within its protective bubble.

That's not consistent with the Libertarian ideology that I'm familiar with, or the views of most of the Libertarians I know.

Yeah, I agree with this point. The media, the politicians, various elites in general have called people who disagree with things like globalisation, immigration, etc bigots and nazis so long that they're being drawn to extremists who don't constantly attack them.

A bit like throwing-around the terms 'fascism' and 'anti-semitism', which don't have much meaning anymore.

Facism: Everything in the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.

Semite: a member of any of various ancient and modern peoples originating in southwestern Asia, including the Akkadians, Canaanites, Phoenicians, Hebrews, and Arabs.

I thought he was going to make a more general point--that as discussions go on, more and more extreme references and analogies will be made, until inevitably comparisons to the "best" and "worst" things in history are made.

The general point would probably be: As discussions approach infinity, the probability of any arbitrary string appearing in conversation approaches 1.

There's no predictive power in the statement whatsoever so it doesn't really tell us anything.

What a superlative way of completely missing the point.

This law is terrible,or at least how it's used. It just gives an out for idiots to call as soon as the word Nazi comes out, so they can stop talking about the issue at hand and instead demonstrate their familiarity with this stupid thing.

Nazis are an example of ultimate evil, that's why they come up. The law was coined with good intentions but the way people use it drives me batty.

> It just gives an out for idiots to call as soon as the word Nazi comes out

Something even worse happens on Reddit. Whenever anyone mentions Nazis or Hitler, someone is absolutely, certifiably guaranteed to fall over themselves trying to be the first (in the thread; the 876458430854th overall) to post: "Hitler killed Hitler".

Followed inevitably by: "But he also killed the man who killed Hitler".

My experience is that the root cause of nazism did not disappear and that some argument leads to Godwin point.

Censorship of opinion by calling trolls whoever call an argument that is an obvious slippery slope to old nazis argument will not stop people from taking the slippery slope. And also under-educated people using the nazi red flag to apply political correctness censorship.

And well, maybe nazism should be renamed for capsocism when capitalist claiming monopoly should be enforced by states and market negotiation for the workers killed.

We are going back to shit ages. Where birth and so called merit of birth or power worth more than everything.

Sorry mister Godwin, our era is preparing itself for dark ages.

If anything, this thread taught me that some people actually take Godwin's law to be something other than tongue-in-cheek.

Including Godwin himself.

I'd always assumed it was a clever piece of off-the-cuff satire, and related to ill considered or reactionary responses in a debate.

It hadn't occurred to me the whole thing might a po-faced social experiment. Still, history is written by the victors* and all that.

Any post that includes the string "Hitler" is wrong.

So in short, Godwin's Law is descriptive, and intended to be subtly prescriptive in the opposite direction.

Sometimes a comparison to Nazis is wholly appropriate.

A comparison with Nazis is often just a Reductio ad absurdum, and it's particularly effective and useful because despite how absurd it sounds, it actually happened.

If you think the reduction is inaccurate, then argue the point, but just dismissing it by calling it Godwin's law, in my mind, admits that you don't have an effective counter-argument.

No, in the vast majority of cases it's a strawman or slippery slope argument.

True, and in some ways I feel that the "warning" aspect of Godwin's Law gets used to dismiss the actually-relevant Nazi comparisons when they do happen. It can be frustrating.

Sadly it is so overused in politics is diminishes the impact of the word and obscures the original meaning. It seems to be the anti-intellectual grown up equivalent to "YOUR MOM".

It's not trying to discourage all reference to Nazis; only the sloppy, frivolous ones. It's too easy to shout "Nazi" and let the word do your work for you. But I would think a rationally supportable comparison with Nazis in any given situation would be appreciated, not to mention necessary to avoid repeating history.

Sometimes it's hardly the majority of times, though.

Except that none of the people who make the comparison have any experience of nazism.


I'm quite aware it's gauche to comment on your own comment's voting patterns, but the tendency for HN readers to downvote inconvenient truths becomes rather patheticly amusing.

False less than 1% of the time (unless you have better data)

Could you give an example of an appropriate comparison?

Rwanda, Bosnia, Latin America death squads, the Confederacy, Andrew Jackson's March of Tears, the list sadly goes on and on.

Your question is a bit odd. History is chock full of examples of genocide, ethnic cleansing, slavery, etc.

This is the problem I have with Godwin's Law - sometimes a comparison to Nazis is entirely appropriate.

None were turned into an industry of death the way the nazis did

This is why the picohitler is such a handy unit of measurement.

I think it's important to remember that Hitler didn't exactly run with the Holocaust as his campaign. So if you compare the relatively benign climate that brought him to power, and see something similar today, it's worth bringing up.


"If at the beginning of the war and during the war twelve or fifteen thousand of these Hebrew corrupters of the nation had been subjected to poison gas, such as had to be endured in the field by hundreds of thousands of our very best German workers of all classes and professions, then the sacrifice of millions at the front would not have been in vain."

Then why was the holocaust such a shock to people? Perhaps they just didn't read the book.

Note the scale '12,000-15,000' is ~1/1,000th of the actual death total in the Holocaust. It's the difference between 'first shoot all the lawyers' and 'just nuke their city's.'

Soviet great purge https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Purge killed ~1 million people, holocaust killed 10x that.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Chinese_Famine killed ~15 million to 43 million, but that's poor policy not gas chambers.

Closest direct comparison is Pol Pot which 'only' killed ~2 million people.

It's funny that you don't hear Mao's name in many discussions of genocide. Is it that different that so many died one step removed from a direct order instead of on direct orders? Or that he had the good of the people in his heart even as tens of millions perished?

Gas chambers were policy. I guess we greatly forgive incompetence, even as it's forced on people through brutality.

I find it strange that people proudly identify as "communists" without much stigma when the ideology was responsible for more death and suffering than national socialism. I guess it's a lot harder to remain ignorant of the Holocaust than of Stalin's purges.

Communism isn't one ideology. That's why it's called Marxim, or Leninism, or Stalinism, or Maoism, or anarchocommunism, or autonomous marxism, etc...

And furthermore, ideology itself doesn't do anything, it's purely abstract. It's entirely possible for two people to adopt the same exact ideas and do things they mutually disagree about.

There are communists who like Mao and stalin. I think they're gross because of it. I follow communist lines of thought that rejected all those dictators out of hand almost immediately.

This sort of genetic fallacy is kind of weak.

Would you extend that same generosity towards someone that identified as a facist? Or would you assume they are a jingoistic racist etc. and associate them with Nazi Germany and company?

That's my point. One suffers guilt by association and its name itself has become a meaningless insult, the other does not and the mere suggestion that one could be against it draws to mind images of Cold War loonies. When in fact, both are (relatively speaking) sound families of ideologies.

> Would you extend that same generosity towards someone that identified as a facist? Or would you assume they are a jingoistic racist etc. and associate them with Nazi Germany and company?

I've never met a fascist who didn't want to seize power and execute people like me.

There are communists who, surprisingly, don't want to be dictators. Fascism definitionally requires totalitarian control over society. So do offshoots of Marxism like Leninism (don't worry it's """"transitional""""), but you'd be surprised how little time i give tankies either.

>I've never met a fascist who didn't want to seize power and execute people like me.


Nothing in there implies genocide, as far as I can tell. Anti-immigration policies that could be perceived as "racist", perhaps, but no genocide! And that's a left-wing slur, not a label that many would choose to use themselves.

>There are communists who, surprisingly, don't want to be dictators.

How can one take the means of production from the capitalists and give them to "the people" without "seizing power"? More generally speaking, how could you ever expect communal ownership and absence of a state to scale with the size of modern societies? And if you don't have these qualities, is it really communism?

The two of you are putting words in my mouth, when I never claimed to be a fascist or a Nazi sympathizer or what have you. But from my perspective, communist strains range from horrifyingly totalitarian and contradictory, to laughably naive, to so close to the status quo as to be meaningless. At least fascist ideologies are forward and internally consist, and sadly, I think, closer to the true nature of the world than we would like to admit.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fascism is not the same as https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neo-fascism. Part of Fascism's basic tenets is to create a one party state and rule over a large empire. Only way to do that is remove every other party and then start a war.

If "communism" can mean "whatever the hell I want it to mean when it's convenient" then I think we can speak of neo-fascism and other philosophies in the same breath.

>>>I find it strange that people proudly identify as "communists" without much stigma

Do you also find it strange that white people proudly identify as "Americans" without much stigma, even after centuries of racial atrocities by white Americans?

> That's my point.

Your point - as is the point of everyone who trots out the "Communism" is worse than Nazism old chestnut - is to minimise what the Nazis did. And there's only one reason people do that.

The only surprise here, compared to every other Nazi sympathiser online making the same hackneyed "point", is you didn't claim Stalin killed 50/60/100 million people (any number higher than Hitler will do).

>Do you also find it strange that white people proudly identify as "Americans" without much stigma, even after centuries of racial atrocities by white Americans?

Evidently many do, having experienced no shortage of white guilt and self-hating anti-American sentiment in my life.

>Your point - as is the point of everyone who trots out the "Communism" is worse than Nazism old chestnut - is to minimise what the Nazis did.

I wish to do the opposite of minimizing what the Nazis did. I wish to knock naive Che hat-wearing millennials down a peg.

>And there's only one reason people do that.

If you're going to call me a Nazi, I think all I can do is stick out my tongue, call you a commie, and close the tab.

> If you're going to call me a Nazi, I think all I can do is stick out my tongue, call you a commie, and close the tab.

Call me a commie if you like, I'm not ashamed to admit I sympathise with Communist principles (class and race/gender equality, for example) - unlike you, quacking like a fascist but too embarrassed to openly admit it.

The only people I see online making the effort to argue Nazism was not as bad as "X" are Nazi sympathisers/fascists. I mean who else would bother?

If you want to 'take down' a stupid and ridiculous caricature of what a Communist is ("Che wearing millennial" or whatever) you can do it without mentioning Nazis at all.

Instead you chose to take the 'at least the Nazis weren't as bad as the Communists' route. Your other posts here defending fascism don't exactly scream "Not a Nazi-sympathiser" either, so I don't know who you think you're trying to kid.

What happened after the Russian, Chinese or Cuban Revolutions doesn't negate the beliefs behind and reasons for the revolutions themselves (equality and 'the people'), any more than what happened after the American Revolution - almost 100 years of slavery, aggression and "Manifest Destiny" (cf. Lebensraum), followed by another century of racial persecution and overseas aggression/imperialism - negates the ideas and beliefs behind that revolution (equality and 'the people').

What happened in Germany after 1933, however, went exactly according to the Nazi playbook. What happened in Italy and every other fascist country, likewise, went exactly according to fascist principles.

Nobody becomes a Communist because they believe in purges or gulags; and nobody becomes a Nazi or a fascist because they believe in good roads, advanced rocketry or trains running on time.

That's why Nazis and fascists have a stigma attached to them - because the principles behind both are reprehensible to most people.

>and nobody becomes a Nazi or a fascist because they believe in good roads, advanced rocketry or trains running on time.

Actually, they do. The Nazis were admired both before and after the war for their tremendous infrastructural, technological, and social advances (for the races and classes they protected, obviously).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holodomor killed 2.4 to 7.5 million

From what I've been told (certainly not an expert), people thought he wasn't serious at first. Then he took over the country and everyone was afraid of him. They also had a large brainwashing/ propaganda campaign to convince Germans to support them.

Clearly Trump can't be serious about everything he says either.

The worst thing he's said is he'd kill families of terrorists, which is bad but nowhere near Mein Kampf.

Also, he hasn't written them in a book, it's an off the cuff threat, which makes it less serious, in my opinion.

Given a choice, do you think Hitler would have taken to a book or off the cuff remarks and Twitter? Also, how many terrorists are there which the US could assaninate? Multiply that with 10 to accomodate with a family and you may up with a number not far off from the 10000 Hitler proposed.

Hitler and the NSDAP was way more organized than Trump. The party had a well defined manifesto and their ideological bent was pretty clear. Hitler attempted to gain power through a coup before trying the legit route.

Certainly there is definitely some routes of comparison between the rise of fascism in 1920s/1930s Europe and the right-wing-populist Trump phenomenon. However, in my mind the past politician that best approximates Donald Trump is Silvio Berlusconi. ("You never know", of course, but at this time I think some of the right wing political groups in Europe are better targets for 1920s-30s European fascism comparisons.)

Agreed on Silvio. Much closer.

The growth of Fascism in pre-1930s Italy. Or perhaps Spain. Mussolini or Franco.

Mussolini created fascism in 1919, Hitler was inspired by him and after became much more dangerous. Francisco Franco took power much later. "Fascism" etimology is from "Fasci di combattimento" the political party founded by Mussolini.

> "Fascism" etimology is from "Fasci di combattimento" the political party founded by Mussolini.

No it's not. It derives from the word "fasces".

the word 'fasces' does not exist in Italian. From the Italian Treccani dictionary fascismo s. m. [der. di fascio]. – Movimento politico italiano che trasse origine e nome dai Fasci di combattimento fondati nel 1919 da B. Mussolini

> the word 'fasces' does not exist in Italian.

The word "fascism" does not exist in Italian either. We're using English and anglicised words.

The "Fasces" is a group of rods tied together with an axe, dating back to ancient Italian/Roman times, and comes from the Latin fascis ("bundle").

The word fascism no more derives from a political party (which simply pulled the word out of nowhere, did it?) than the words "democrat", "republican" or "communist" do.

I've seen it said that Mussolini was somewhat inspired by the US mobilization for WWI. Don't have the historical perspective to evaluate that though.

The fact that it came before doesn't preclude it from being compared…

Thank you for comparing Mussolini and Hitler and proving my point :)

Comparing modern fascist movements to the fascist movements of the twenties, for example. The growth of right-wing movements in Europe and America following a steep economic downturn seems fairly ripe, as does the emergence of racial narratives, the use of hateful demagogery, etc.

Trump/Hitler comparisons are fair game, because what is going on bears a strong resemblance to what happened in Nazi Germany.

If we really mean "never again", that means understanding where the Nazis came from, what they are, and who is following in their goose-steps.

By economic downturn, you're talking about the Great War. I mean, there are plenty of people terribly afflicted in the current western world, but it's hard to argue that the scale of the horror even approaches what was lived in those years, for soldiers and civilians alike.

Personal - one of my friends grew up in a crazy-religious family where they'd literally burn "evil" books every week.

Politics - No, Trump is not the same as Hitler, but there are valid comparisons or parallels; see the videos of his supporters confusing Hitler quotes for his (then again, Trump himself tweeted a Mussolini quote)

> see the videos of his supporters confusing Hitler quotes for his

I loathe Trump, but that trick works with just about everyone. You take some famous person (Richard Dawkins is a favourite) and find some Nazi / Communist quote and create an image macro.

I'm mildly surprised a troll hasn't had t-shirts and buttons printed, and given them away at rallies.

> (then again, Trump himself tweeted a Mussolini quote)

That's a bit more worrying.

Modern anti-fascism.

If Nazis have been reduced to superficiality through glib comparisons ("crying Nazi"), then it's worth pointing out that Godwin's law has suffered the same fate through its own glib application ("crying Godwin"). We need a Godwin's Law for Godwin's Law.

<edit>This has been dubbed Diddly's Law:</edit>

"As the years roll by on the internet, the probability of someone mentioning Godwin once Hitler has been mentioned, is approaching 1."

Can we call this the R-Diddly law, please?

How about Diddly's Law. I'm fine with that, hah!

Don't forget to mention Stephen Wolfram.

Mr. Godwin could also have mentioned Islam and Donald Trump's movement in the US. Two major movements which often get compared to Nazism even in well-established media.

I think personally think it is a sign of a combination of lack of tact, knowledge and an unwillingness to compromise.

Or it could be a sign that Trump is a fascist.

The most efficient way to forget is to not contemplate or revisit. Godwin's is just the result of copious retrospection on the dirty/dark side of human nature. Which is warranted in lesser extremes than genocide, as well, IMO.

I didn't open link, based on non-nazi references to the page's elements. I have, however, read enough literature on 'lizard brains', group dynamics and human nature to realize we, as a species, need constant reminders of the damage done by our tendencies to oppress & extinguish those who we deem "different".

> I didn't open link, based on non-nazi references to the page's elements.

I assume the "link" is to the article. If so, that's unfortunate, the article was very well written and thought provoking.

The essential message Godwin has tried to impart is the antithesis of "lizard brain" reactivity, to be aware of what we are in fact saying or writing, and appreciate the gravity of invoking the memory of Nazi behavior or holocaust tragedy.

Yes, reminders to refresh consciousness of our tendencies to regress are absolute necessity and constantly useful.

Edit: wording/grammar.

I have heard from several fellow HackerNews readers (in other forums) that Godwins Law doesn't apply anymore mainly because of their opposition to Trump, and their own or their allies behaviour in breaking this law. It seems to imply that because we live in the current year, the present day, that previous laws no longer have validity, because of the false assumption that the present day has more importance than any other time, ever. (This assumption ignores history, tellingly). That, and they consider that in Trumps case the comparisons can actually have validity.

The other reasoning given from our fellow peers that I have heard sounds like that this law was made during the era of quiet bulletin boards, made up of people with a shared mind set, with a shared sense of humour, and the Internet now has changed beyond recognition. Therefore any laws made about the internet back then have no validity.

I would like to suggest that when you consider something no longer valid it could give you pause to think about your reasonings for doing so.

What does it even mean for it to apply or not?

It was never a rule against making comparisons to Hitler, it was an observation that people will do it.

Your people that are arguing it doesn't apply should be saying it's more true than ever or something.

1. Godwin's Law says that as a discussion continues, the probability of a Hitler reference approaches one. It doesn't say anything about the aptness of a Hitler reference. It certainly does not say that you should not make a Hitler reference, or the one who does loses the debate. The only way you could "break" Godwin's Law is to refuse to make Hitler references.

2. Mike Godwin himself says that comparing Trump to Hitler is justifiable. https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2015/12/14/...

3. Usually when I see comparisons of Trump to Hitler, and discussions of whether that comparison is defensible, there's rarely any discussion of how the "present day" changes anything. Godwin does make the point that in 2015, we now have the capability to question poor arguments more effectively. But I've seen basically no arguments that the world is fundamentally different from the past, just that Trump is a fundamentally different demagogue from those we've seen since 1946.

WaPo, funded by Bezos, who has plenty to lose from a Trump presidency will obviously do anything he can to tout that Trump = Hitler.

OK, so you're saying that Mike Godwin's integrity has been compromised and he's been influenced by Bezos to denounce Trump? Why did we trust him in the first place -- why should we care about Godwin's Law at all if it comes from a man so easily swayed to the interests of the rich?

(Or are you claiming that Mike Godwin doesn't actually mean the things that the Washington Post published under his name?)

The anti-intellectualism runs deep with HN. Anything not posted on facebook.github.io/react, twitter or bitcoin-daily-earn-money-fast.suckers is deemed worthless. Technical measures to get this useless drivel are, however, deeply sought after and their use, even when illegal/morally gray is advocated.

As longs as it's not a car manufacturer not sharing the GPL-licensed code they did not use. Then it's top posts three days in a row. I mean, a CONFIGURATION MANAGEMENT SYSTEM, what's a book, any book, in comparison? Even Gödel, Escher Bach doesn't compile.

We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11792070 and marked it off-topic.

I think our experiences may differ. Just looking through stories I've seen on the front page recently, there's the following:

* A slave in Scotland

* They knew it was round, damn it

* Two hundred terabyte proof is largest ever (granted, the 200 TB is not what's really interesting here)

* How the ArXiv decides what's science

* Visiting Chelsea Manning in prison

* Hiroshima (1946)

This seems like a healthy mix of topics, and they don't seem to have been deemed worthless.

I have noted a certain amount of hostility to philosophical topics, but I would venture a guess that there's been hostility to philosophy in general at all periods in history.

I expect to see a certain percentage of comments in an HN thread about how the topic is presented. Everybody's got to let off some steam sometimes. I made my initial comment because I was surprised at how many comments addressed only how the topic was presented rather than that and the actual content.

Yeah, that comment was over-the-top. It's indeed sometimes excellent to see articles out-of-left-field here, because the perspective is different, somewhat deep and, well, new.

If it's a non-IT topic that comes up more often, it feels like a group identity has the ability to form that's a bit agressive towards anything considered different. I notice it with non-technical approaches, people, groups, institutions, customs, or media, such as social sciences, the UN, Politics, The New Yorker (just made up, don't go searching), Religion (and I even agree on the facts), Teacher, Art (expt. DeepDream), Women (in comment-, not voting power, see early vs. late threats).

But even in these, if people didn't have a chance to form a group opinion because it's rare, the discussion is excellent, and your examples are excellent!

I'll just read the threads a day later after everything has settled and stuff like my comment's been sunk to the graveyard :)

It's not anti-intellectual to complain about the presentation of an article. Shallow criticism, maybe, but it shows people were interested in reading it. If HN truly didn't care for this topic, it wouldn't have even surfaced from /newest.

Maybe you're just reading low quality threads. Your complaints do not match my experience at all.

Then check https://www.researchnews.com, it's probably more appealing to you. Unfortunately doesn't have a comments section.

There's also always reddit.



or whatever

Trolling IS fun. Great way to learn multiple sides of any argument AND to discover why people care in the first place. It's a good way to learn about people.

We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11792565 and marked it off-topic.

Not at all, trolling is just a way to provocate people and make th— waaiit a minute...!

But aren't there better ways to learn about people and why they care about an issue in the first place?

From my experience, I've found that trolling and Socratic dialogue bring out the key points forthright and also highlight the most severe points of disagreement. That usually doesn't happen so fast when arguing with hard facts (when applicable). You can also hardly say that about a Wikipedia article or a propaganda poster/website/book.

It kind of makes the philosophy student in me worry to see trolling and Socratic dialogue offered as seeming equivalents. Though, I suppose Socrates was a damn good troll in his time.

"Better"? What, like an objective better which works for everyone? Maybe. Maybe there are better ways of learning coding than by watching videos, but it's still a good way to learn which works for some people.

I don't know, are there?

Non-trolling discussion aimed at achieving increased understanding, I would hope.

Define "better." Nicer? Maybe. More effective? Probably not. More amusing? Certainly not.

More effective, certainly. Trolling invokes emotional reactions that, I think, drown out rational discussion. It's just taking cheap shots for amusement, with no real intention of gaining better understanding.


So let's crowdsource a list of ideas for alternate revenue streams for online news portals that pays: - writers

- engineers

- hosting fees

- office rent

- other staff and expenses

The list goes as:

- a̶d̶v̶e̶r̶t̶i̶s̶i̶n̶g̶

- subscription (around 2% will pay) http://www.niemanlab.org/2015/08/newsonomics-10-numbers-on-t...

- sell merchandising (might pay coffee budget)

- ???

I don't share this way of thinking. If I enter a shop and they act with disrespect and do shady, annoying and often harmful things in order to earn a bit more, I don't feel compelled to provide them with a viable business model before expressing my disappointment.

I wonder: do you imply we should make an effort to help all struggling businesses we encounter all the time, or only the ones that do bad things?

Maybe a more direct question would be: Do you see any scenario where it is possible to pay writers to regularly write about interesting events or topics?

The reality may be "No, get another job journalists, the world does not value your contribution in any economically meaningful way."

Musicians are familiar with this.

Not necessarily, but newspapers play a useful role in our society so it's definitely worth saving/helping them, but this doesn't apply to all businesses.

I have actually two idea that might help transform from advertising:

- sponsored content (I know, it's still advertising, but better), like more PR articles and in depth interviews of product creators. that can't be easily blocked and has some value.

- transforming the brand focus to journalists instead of the main brand. For example I don't really know any New York Times journalists by name, I know a few from the tech sector, but also few. Medium did this in a way, but that's out of control because anyone can share any bullshit there. The solution should be in between, like people would say instead there's a great New York Times article, "John von Foo updated his page on the Times network". The design would also author focused and brands would act as a quality filter.

What about when you enter a shop, and they ask you to look at some harmless pictures and read some bits of text, in order to give you the goods cheaper, or for free?

I sometimes optimize for bullshit-avoidance over price. So if a shop does that, a different shop that doesn't do that, will probably become preferable. That's if their goods or services meet an important need, mind you. (Examples: it will feed my family, put clothes on my back, enable me to get around, etc.) If it's a frivolous discretionary good with low or arguably-negative value (e.g. "spending time reading internet articles") then "no transaction at all" (i.e. leaving the market without patronizing any vendor) might become preferable.

The last thing aggrandizers of their own words need to be doing is giving me any reason to remember how unnecessary they are to me.

That has indeed happened to me. Sometimes I've felt like complying with the kind request, others I've elected to decline. In the latter cases, the moment they revealed that the option was not in fact optional, I left the shop out of indignation. In the former, the harmless pictures and texts actually proved themselves harmless: if they didn't, if there were a history of harmless pictures that are really harmful, I would never ever accept to look at one again.

The question is, with the amount of advertising seemingly required to cover costs at this point, is it really a viable option? It is as if we only got rid of <blink> to have it now being replaced with doubleclick iframes and popups. We've made no progress.

While a different industry, Patreon and Twitch subscriptions seem to work for a lot of people. Although that usually involves only a single person at a time, it is probably at least worth considering to have this option as a content provider these days, as there is definite proof people are willing to pay for content they enjoy.

Even, or maybe especially, if they don't have to. It's a choice to help the creators they care about and enjoy. Not about buying themselves free from ads or whatever.

My personal opinion is that now would be a good time to go down that route.

Maybe the solution is to go towards social journalism instead of the old school way. Less large corporations paying professional writers (mostly from well off backgrounds), more of a Uber type deal where the average Joe signs up through some sort of mobile app and they report the news from their own locations.

Perhaps the corporate, 'professional' model of media is simply not viable. Maybe Patreon might work with this, with the future 'journalists' not being corporate employees, but freelancers paid by their fans and the public to report the news.

> subscription (around 2% will pay)

2% of what? If I'm reading the article you link correctly, those 2% are also the only people who get access to non-paywall content.

When the first thing that appears is a request to turn off your browser's adblocker I know there's no point in continuing.

I just closed the page and going by your comments I'm glad I did.

Here it is on pastebin: http://pastebin.com/j490asvt

I highly recommend Firefox' Reader View, and I rarely recommend anything.

The site was usable with Ghostery as the only blocker. I recommend turning other extensions off, they usually don't contribute in addition to it.

> When the first thing that appears is a request to turn off your browser's adblocker ...

NoScript kept me from seeing this or the ads.

NoScript will also keep you from seeing most of everything else, too.

In this case, and for 95% of the browsing I do, it allows me to see the content just fine. For the rest "temporarily allow" does the trick.

These ads are literally Hitler!

Are you trying to be doubly ironic or just superficially clever?

The doubly ironic thing would be that the article is mostly about how this is the sort of Hitler comment we should be most annoyed with.

Nothing kills sarcasm faster than a vivisection.

Sure, but I don't trust that there was any irony intended.

You don't acknowledge (a.k.a. "have a sense") of the irony (a.k.a. "of humor").

I'm relatively hilarious on the message board spectrum. I'd have a tough go of it when you start talking about people that are actually funny.

Only on HN would one question the nature of a pun :)

That is one of the sites where if you click firefox's "Reader View" it immediately becomes palatable. Same with wired.

Right click > "Inspect" > "Delete element"

Problem solved.

That's pretty dismissive. There are a few elements that start popping up as I read the article, so no, it does not solve the problem.

The uBlock counter in Safari hit 24... wow. Even with no ads the layout is ridiculously busy. Thank god for reader mode!

On a side note, the "but we deserve to get paid!" argument is quickly falling on deaf ears. Your company wants to control how my browser renders markup, the answer to which is a hearty GFYS. You want to place an ad or two to cover costs.. fine. You want to abuse my bandwidth, security, and attention? Nah.

And this is why I have to use ad-blockers.

Why don't you surprise me by not downvoting this after reading just the first sentence, because it is a serious question:

Is "never forget" really the best response to a trauma in the first place? I'm not sure this is a settled question. If I'm raped let's say, should I carry that rape vividly in my head every day for the rest of my life, in the hopes of avoiding it in the future? If I do that, haven't I already in fact ruined that future by thinking about the same trauma every day and making it part of my reality? Also, if you believe some people, that which you think about constantly, even for purposes of avoiding it, is exactly what you bring into being, in both subtle and, some say concretely manifest ways.

Maybe instead I should try to forget the incident (knowing I never really will, but letting go of it as much as possible) and move on with my life? Those who are haunted by traumatic memories would probably love to forget them if they had the option.

What if we utterly forgot about Hitler. Would we be worse off, really? Do we NEED to study injustice to learn justice? Do we need to study brutality to learn kindness? Or do we just get our hands dirty by acculturating ourselves to things that are not justice, not kindness? Again I'd say it's far from a settled question.

What I see as most useful is incorporating the lessons of the experience to avoid it in future.

Recognising a problem, particularly a complex one based in dynamics of a situation, is often difficult. Systemic resposes, feedback, nonlinearity, stocasticity, unknown external inputs, etc., etc., mean that life isn't deterministic. At the same time, there are signs of things Not Going Well.

To take the relationship / rape case, there are red flags and circumstances in which unwanted outcomes are more likely. Knowing these and being aware of them can make all the difference. While catastrophic events can themselves be hugely truamatic, a small action early on can often avoid them.

In complex circumstances where you've got to convince others of the problem, this can be ... complicated.


Ultimately, what you're looking for is the ability to take a traumatic experience and build behavioral responses which avoid it in future. The "never forget* element is part of that -- the size and brightness of the red flag. But responding to that flag appropriately is the other part.

(And if the red flags have white circles and reversed swastikas, pay all the more heed.)

> Why don't you surprise me by not downvoting

Please follow the HN guidelines and edit this kind of thing out of your comments here.


"Lest we forget" is a better maxim.

He should have mentioned Chuck Norris in the discussion.

On that note, anyone feel like maybe we need a Godwin's Law for Star Wars & Star Trek? Someone will always mention the Force, Jedi, "young Paduwan," the droids you're looking for, a bad feeling about this, on the one hand, and warp speed, beam me up, fascinating, the holodeck, the Borg etc. on the other. Or maybe that's just the nerds I associate with.

Now Godwin's just being a nazi.

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