Saturday, November 29, 2008

Godwin's Law and the Globe* Comments section

Godwin's law - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
"As a Usenet* discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one."

Looking for a morning update on the coalition issue, I saw this interesting story on the Globe and Mail's site: ‘Use every tool at your disposal', examining a leaked email instructing Conservative MPs how to discredit the Liberals/NDP/Bloc coalition idea in the media over the next week, using various phrases including "Not a single voter voted for a Liberal-NDP coalition." and "I'm sorry, I don't care how desperate the Liberals are — giving socialists and separatists a veto over every decision in government — that is a recipe for total economic disaster." My favourite, though, is this little gem: "But how more phony could these guys be?" I'm really looking forward to hearing a Conservative MP use that one, word for word.

I posted a couple of comments about how a coalition forming a government is valid and how this email reminds me of the committee handbook incident, in which the Conservatives issued an entire handbook on how to derail and stall the work of parliamentary committees. Reading the other comments, I came across this one:
wayne powers from Saskatoon, writes: Harper reminds me of another countrys leader years ago maybe you can fill in the blanks and guess who was just as power hungry and bloodthirsty H***er

Then I noticed that the comments were closed. It took all of 14 minutes for a Harper-Hitler comparison (from the time of the first comment). The comment has since been removed and the comments are open again. Brutal. I generally hate comments sections on media websites. Partisan bickering of the highest order, horrible pun-nicknames (CONservatives, LIEberals, Taliban Jack), and generally zero discussion. What bothers me most is that people will see a ridiculous comment from the loony left and use it to frame any argument they have. Thanks, wayne powers, for discrediting the rest of us.

* insert media outlet of your choice.


stephen elliott-buckley said...

isn't there some sort of debating rule whereby the first person to invoke hitler automatically loses the argument?

not that i haven't slid down that slope a few times, but still.

Brenton said...

A corollary to Godwin's Law, I think. I wish people would pay heed to it.

Brenton said...

From Wikipedia:
"There are many corollaries to Godwin's law, some considered more canonical (by being adopted by Godwin himself) than others invented later. For example, there is a tradition in many newsgroups and other Internet discussion forums that once such a comparison is made, the thread is finished and whoever mentioned the Nazis has automatically "lost" whatever debate was in progress. This principle itself is frequently referred to as Godwin's Law. It is considered poor form to raise such a comparison arbitrarily with the motive of ending the thread. There is a widely recognized codicil that any such ulterior-motive invocation of Godwin's law will be unsuccessful (this is sometimes referred to as "Quirk's Exception")."

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