Monday, January 26, 2004

I Fought the Law and I Win 

The "Law of Godwin Analogies":
As an online discussion of fascism grows longer, the probability of someone invoking "Godwin's Law of Nazi Analogies"* approaches one.

See: *Godwin's Law of Nazi Analogies: "As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one."

Goodwin's Law of Usenet. Professor Goodwin, U of I, in 1981 made the observation that Usenet discussions gravitate downhill. He postulated that as the length of a discussion thread grows, the probability approaches one (1) that one participant will introduce the terms "Hitler" or "Nazi". The custom has evolved that the first party to utter "Hitler" or "Nazi" has lost the discussion, and the thread terminates. However there is also a widely recognized codicil that any intentional triggering of Goodwin's Law in order to invoke its thread-ending effects will be unsuccessful.

This "law" of professor Godwin's, which has apparently "evolved" from a "postulated" theory of "probability" into a "custom", resisted by a codicil, now threatens to manifest itself as a kind of full blown canon.

I don't know professor Godwin. And I don't know if professor Goodwin, so named, of "Godwin's Law" notoriety, ever truly existed, but I'll take the internet's word for it and continue from the premise that the good professor lived and walked among us and dispensed with whatever hosannas are attributed to him. I'll also accept the premise that the professor held sway at "U of I" in 1981 and that it was from this lofty apex that he conducted his observations of Usenet intercourse.

U of I, I'm assuming, is referring to the University of Intercourse at Intercourse, Alabama, on state highway 17 just east of Cuba and not far from Myrtlewood. Of course I can't verify that information and will also settle for the University of Intercourse at Intercourse, Pennsylvania, just north of Paradise and just west of White Horse on 340. Or even the University of Ireland, or the University of Innsbruck, Austria.

Should anyone present me with compelling evidence to make the case that the professor did not in fact engage in the study of intercourse near Myrtlewood at Intercourse in Alabama where the Sucarnoochee Creek flows into the Black Warrior River I will give it my full attention. The whole issue is clearly open for further intercourse.

I'm also not exactly sure what kind of Usenet discussion threads Prof. Godwin was monitoring way-on back in 1981 when he reached his conclusions since there seems to be no public record left of the professors vast ruminations. But I trust they were grisly affairs. For instance. Lets suppose he was monitoring a discussion thread on the importance of the Bavarian flugelhorn and some malcontent jumped in and announced, "I hate flugelhorns, only Nazi's like flugelhorns, you flugelhorn Nazis are all Nazis!" Well, that would surely put a damper on the conversation and give credence to the professor's downhill charge. And lets suppose he was riding herd over a thread about feminism and some early digitated Neaderthali jumped in with so much invective about FemiNazis castrating baby boys before Wiccan altars or prodding young girls to Sapphic fancy the way Hitler prodded his victims into cattle cars. Once again, familiar stuff, giving credence to the downhill slide. But lets say Prof. Godwin was watching a thread in which someone remarked that their sister's new born baby looked just like a fat little gurgling Heinrich Himmler, or Benito Mussolini, what would happen? Does Mussolini count? Would fat little gurgling babies who look like Himmler be heaved into the waves with the swine? Would a Godwin fire brigade arrive to quell the hostilities? I dunno. But what if the little bugger really did look like Mussolini? We would never know the truth.

How about a lively thread discussion of the Mel Brooks classic "The Producers"? Would that violate any statutes. And suppose Prof. Godwin was eyeballing a simmering thread holding forth on early right wing volkish movements in Munich and someone suddenly chimed in and pointed out that some of those people would later become Hitler's shock troops and even famous Nazi Party porch chimes. STOOGES. Now, would that violate Goodwin's law? One wouldn't think so.

Or lets suppose that the professor was watching a thread discussion concerning the GOP's "ethnic outreach" programs or connections to Willis Carto's Liberty Lobby and the Institute for Historical Review and someone dropped in and suggested that Carto and IHR and the GOP's "ethnic outreach" programs were crawling with Nazis and members of fasicst émigré networks dating back to the post WW2 era. Would Prof. Godwin and his congregation consider that a violation of his commandment? Huh? And do we need some toothless axiom to govern such adventures in discourse? I don't think so.

I have no knowledge of the context from which Prof. Godwin was drawing his conclusions and for all I know Godwin could be some kind of raving Schutszstaffel goon himself. Spending long nights burrowed in a studded black leather chair next to a roaring stone hearth listening to Waagner's Gotterdammerung or The Flying Dutchman and giggling like a Teutonic ninny. How do you know what the guys into? Maybe, during his fireside fevers he simply devised a clever and simplistic formula to embolden misguided do-gooders to yell shut-up! shut-up! at anyone who was citing Hitler or Nazism or fascism in general. Who can say? Like I said, I'm always open to more intercourse. Especially if it involves swimming naked in a creek just north of Paradise.

In any case, apparently, only moments after hurtling his thunderous commandment into the ether from his Mount Sinai along the Sucarnoochee, messiah Goodwin's followers picked up the calling and set out for the Wicket-gate of the new century like so many Scrooby pilgrims dispatched to the wilderness. Latter day apostles of Godwinism are everywhere today, like so many trumpeted angels gathered from the elect of the four winds.

I find it all pretty silly myself. I'm not interested in any probabilities converted to "law" twenty two years ago when I didn't know a Usenet from a badminton net, and thus cast down upon me through the decades by some fabled divine whose followers can't even specifically identify the exact location of his pantheon, anymore than I am interested in the edicts of some crazy goggle-eyed evangelist bellowing about the grave consequences of screwing with your boots on. Piffle, I say to the apostles of Godwinism and their downhill gravitations. Go jump in a swine lagoon. I'm a big boy, I don't need professor Godwin's customs police to dictate to me when or if or where I should mention "Hitler" or "Nazis" or any other goddamned subject. Be it in a Usenet thread or blog post or emblazoned across the side of a friggin' dairy barn.

As a matter of fact, Godwin's "law", strikes me as being slightly fascist in and of itself. And that includes those discussion thread scolds who so often attempt to throw down "the law" as a rampart to any further discussion of the subject of Fascism or Hitler or Nazis regardless of the context. So then, pious Goodwinian puritans, draw your wheel locks and commence firing willy-nilly into the rafters for all you're worth. If you're persistent enough you might mangle a few morning doves or set some straw on fire, but I doubt you'll make much of an impression on the banshees in the bell tower loft.

Obviously there are times when the use of the "Hitler/Nazi" comparison is overextended and reduced to silliness by virtue of the lack of any kind of accurate comparison or historical context to make the charge. But so what. Do we really need a pretend "law" to prevent such lewd behavior? And do we need to be constantly subjected to the romantic high-brow harangues of the self appointed guardians of Godwin's Law who will pounce upon us like punctilious goose-stepping schoolmarms at the mere mention of the Eff-word? And what are the consequences of violating this "law"? (Which isn't a law at all, but rather, a muse.) And who made it a "law" in the first place? Who stirred the faithful to mount a horse and ride around passing out edicts like some kind of Calvinist Elect? Seems rather presumptuous of them if you ask me. Maybe its one of those "unwritten law" things - everyone just pick up a torch and a pitchfork and run with it. Them unwritten laws can be pretty spooky.

The problem of course is that "Godwin's Law" is misused, but nevertheless, sure as the grass is bluish-green in Kentucky, some missionary from Godwinism's army of noisy royalty always see fit to launch a new crusade at the mere mention of the dreaded "F-ism" word. No matter what the context of the argument or content of the conversation. The mere mention of the word fascism transmogrifies them into ebullient spellbound busybodies poised for the smite. At which point excited declarations of "for shame!" - "repent sinner!" - "thread over!" - "cease in the name of Godwin's Law!" begin flooding aboard like so many flopping jack mackerel heaved up onto the deck of a trawler. As if the subject of fascism were some kind of Sodom, forbidden to look back upon lest the lot of us turn to pillars of salt. For God-sake. Fascism is an historic subject. When discussed in the context of its historical influence and later manifestations it becomes exempt from old testaments, customs, postulations, laws and other such flap-doodle.

Sure enough, Goodwin's Law may actually have accomplished the opposite of what it probably intended, based upon my probability postulations. Therefore I urge all of you good Godwinian purists to cast aside your faith in ancient probabilities and postulations and join those of us poking around in the charred remains of Hell. And don't worry, there will still be plenty of good clean undefiled enlightened intercourse to go around for everyone.

Hey!... it's just satire, reductio-ad-absurdum... I invoke The Law of Satire!!! Viva codicils!...So just shut up you Nazi storm-blogging bastards! You can read what the real Prof. Godwin (Mike Godwin) has to say about "Godwin's Law" *HERE*.

Unfortunately, he fails to mention anything about intercourse. Which I find disappointing, and frankly, sinful.



Far out on the desert to the north dustspouts rose wobbling and augered the earth and some said they'd heard of pilgrims borne aloft like dervishes in those mindless coils to be dropped broken and bleeding upon the desert again and there perhaps to watch the thing that had destroyed them lurch onward like some drunken djinn and resolve itself once more into the elements from which it sprang. Out of that whirlwind no voice spoke and the pilgrim lying in his broken bones may cry out and in his anguish he may rage, but rage at what? And if the dried and blackened shell of him is found among the sands by travelers to come yet who can discover the engine of his ruin? ~ Cormac McCarthy Blood Meridian

Media, News and Resource Links
Progressive Media
4News Portals and Resources
4Media Watchdogs



Get the Wal-Mart Movie on DVD

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?