Godwin’s Law appears to be verified

Nearly 80 percent of Reddit threads with more than a thousand comments mention Hitler

15 thoughts on “Godwin’s Law appears to be verified”

  1. Am I wrong in recalling that Godwin’s Law originally stated that the first person to call their interlocutor a Nazi automatically lost the argument, but most people now seem to think it’s any mention of the Nazis loses an argument. I actually feel sorry for Godwin, seeing his pithy aphorism misused to try and prevent consideration of one of the most important periods in human history.

  2. Sorry Nemo but you’re way off. Godwin’s Law is “As an internet discussion increases in length, the probability that the Nazis will be mentioned approaches 100%”.

    It means nothing more, nothing less.

  3. Two modified version of Godwin’s law apply to R Murphy.

    As an internet discussion involving the work or opinions of R Murphy increases in length (and over which discussion R Murphy has no editorial control), the probability that the word “cvnt” will be mentioned approaches 100%.

    As an internet discussion involving the work or opinions of R Murphy increases in length (and over which discussion R Murphy has editorial control), the probability that a poster will be banned or have their comments deleted (for time-wasting, disagreement with Murphy or anything similar) approaches 100%.

  4. Richard, thanks, but if nothing more, nothing less then wouldn’t that make it even less meaningful than either of the definitions I mentioned? If it just says ‘eventually someone will mention Nazis’ then it makes no claims to discrimination, and has no usefulness at all.

  5. People’s ignorance of history is so severe, I betcha over half bringing up Hitler don’t know the first thing about him, that they’ve got their own strawman they have named Hitler.

  6. Bloke in Costa Rica

    Yes, Nemo, that is exactly the point. The Law makes no claim as to whether the mention of Hitler was apposite, merely that as the length of a comment thread increases without limit, the likelihood that one of the comments will mention Hitler becomes unity.

    If we do not constrain what is contained in a comment then it is of course vacuously true, since there is a finite space of potential comments and thus by the Pigeonhole Principle, all potential comments will be produced eventually, indeed an infinite number of times.

  7. dearieme,

    I assume you’re referring to pre-1921 Lenin. The more I read the more I come to believe that he actually learned from his mistakes.

    Question for the masses:

    Who would you prefer, post-1921 Lenin or Cliton?

  8. Nemo,

    Abbott’s Law states that as any online discussion increases in length, the probability that someone will claim victory because they misunderstand Godwin’s Law approaches 1.

  9. Fembup’s Conjecture: in any comment string the likelihood of a “Hitler” mention is directly proportional to the cumulative number of comments, and indirectly proportional to the number of remaining commenters, irrespective of the initial topic of discussion.

    Lemma: any string of comments reaches its maximum marginal utility at the moment the first “Hitler” is mentioned.

  10. Liberal Yank: What evidence is there that Lenin actually changed any of his core beliefs? The NEP? The Bolsheviks adopted the NEP as a temporary measure while the country recovered from the civil war, and because War Communism had become too much too soon for the new regime to impose. Within a few years, the Bolsheviks were firmly in the saddle, the NEP was revoked, and those who had prospered under it were liquidated.

    Lenin was dead by that time, but it seems fatuous to argue that the progenitor of War Communism and the enthusiastic mass murderer of the Civil War would have been much different from his colleagues. Molotov, who knew both men well, said that Lenin was harsher and more ruthless than Stalin.

    Between him and either Clinton, I would choose the latter. But then I would prefer having a leg broken to having an arm cut off.

    As to the result cited in the post: what is the distribution of Reddit threads by length and subject? What fraction of Reddit threads reach 1000 posts? What fraction of all Reddit posts are in those threads? What is the Hitler-mentioned-rate across the entire space of thread lengths (at 100 posts, 200, 500)?

  11. BiCR, the point I was trying to illustrate via my question is that nobody applies Godwin’s Law as Richard defines it – and I’m not doubting the definition – because it has no application with that definition.

    Nemo’s Law: that any aphorism or teaching that attempts to capture a complex truth in a simplified form will over time be reduced to the simplicity of the general population.

    Thus, a king that uses the tide as an example of the limits of temporal power becomes himself an example of crazy megalomania; a woman given the power of prophesy but cursed never to be believed becomes an example of a crazy downer; and a carrot on a stick being used to tempt a donkey forward ceases to be an example of a goal that remains the same distance away no matter what you do and becomes instead simply reward and punishment.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *