Henderson's Godwin's Law
By David Henderson
If you read blogs much, you’ve probably come across Godwin’s Law. Godwin’s Law states:
As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.
I think it’s basically correct.
However, one could formulate another law that relates to Godwin’s Law. Call it “Henderson’s Godwin’s Law.” It goes like this:
When people in a political discussion want to put down other people who even mention Hitler, they will invoke Godwin’s Law even if the person compared no one to Nazis or Hitler.
We saw this recently in the case of the junior U.S. Senator from Texas, Ted Cruz.
At one point in his 21-hour speech in the U.S. Senate, Cruz made the case that we should not take as given that opposing something is futile just because many people say that opposing something is futile. He gave a number of instances. One of them was many people’s thought that man could never land on the moon. Another instance was this:
If we go to the 1940s, Nazi Germany–look, we saw it in Britain. Neville Chamberlain told the British people: Accept the Nazis. Yes, they will dominate the continent of Europe, but that is not our problem. Let’s appease them. Why? Because it can’t be done. We cannot possibly stand against them.
In America there were voices who listened to that; I suspect the same pundits who said it couldn’t be done. If this had happened in the 1940s, we would have been listening to them. Even then they would have made television. They would have gotten beyond the carrier pigeons and letters and they would have been on TV saying: You cannot defeat the Germans.
Of course, as we all know, someone did land on the moon and the German government was soundly defeated.
Now here’s what Washington Post blogger Alexandra Petri wrote about that segment of the speech:
We even got some Nazi analogies, just proving that Godwin’s Law holds for filibusters as for online discussion. Godwin’s Law states that as a discussion goes on the probability that someone will be compared to Hitler approaches one.
So whom exactly did Cruz compare to Hitler? No one. He was making a point. He was saying that when we have a cause, we shouldn’t give up, even when it looks as if the other side will win.
I’m not defending Cruz’s strategy. My friend Alan Reynolds has said well why Cruz’s strategy is probably a poor one.
What I am saying is that in discussing opposition to Hitler, Cruz did not compare anyone to Hitler and he did not say that ObamaCare was Naziism. All he did was use a number of historical incidents of defeatism and show that in each case the defeatism was unjustified.
Alexandra Petri: meet Henderson’s Godwin’s Law.