Friday, May 27, 2005

Rule clarification, updated in my profile

Notice that in my profile I mention that all points of view are welcome. As frequent guests to this blog who have been here for a while know, I pride myself in that philosophy. Dear friends of mine here have disagreed with me on things varying from Terri Schiavo to the death penalty to voting rights of paroled felons. These disagreements have always been done civilly, and have based on sound reasoning. Well, I guess I should qualify the word "all"...geez, I sound like Bill Clinton wanting to know what "is" is!

A recent visitor here considers himself a liberal, and it's clear that he is. However, during a recent discussion, he broke a rule (indirectly) of Netiquette that has been around in USENET newsgroups since 1990. This rule is called Godwin's Law. The law is as follows:

As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.

There is a tradition in many Usenet newsgroups that once such a comparison is made, the thread is over, and whoever mentioned the Nazis has automatically lost whatever argument was in progress. Participants then ignore the perpetrator henceforth, unless or until they decide to acknowledge his/her existence. The perpetrator has showed a lack of coherent thought and critical thinking and has tried to inflame passion by using a gratuitous reference to universally accepted evil (which is funny, since liberals usually refuse to acknowledge good and evil, right and wrong...but I digress).

Well, the aforementioned liberal has been entertaining, but he recently violated Godwin's Law, albeit indirectly. Instead of referring to ideological opponents as "Nazis", he referred to them as "American Taliban." So I added Leffingwell's Corollary to Godwin's Law, which basically extends the law (and its violation's consequences) to include Taliban, al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, etc.

Basically, the individuals referenced by said liberal as "American Taliban" have not, to the best of MY knowledge, perpetrated acts of genocide, ethnic cleansing or extinction, and rhetorical overreaches like that are invalid and in poor taste.

If the reference or analogy uses Hitler/Nazis/Taliban/etc. in a way that does not compare personally, the analogy may be considered valid. Example:

Statment: "Bill Clinton was a good leader...look at the way he improved the economy!"
Reply: "Just because he improved the economy doesn't make him a good leader. Even Hitler improved the economy."

While I'm no fan of Clinton and could write a thesis on how he did nothing to or for the economy, I do not take the above reply to be comparing Clinton to Hitler. I take it to mean that improvement of the economy in and of itself does not a good leader make. Godwin's Law was not violated. However, look at this example:

Statement: "Clinton did nothing to stop the genocide in Rwanda! He's no better than Hitler!"
Statement: "Clinton is just like Saddam Hussein in that he had those women and children in Waco killed!"

While it is true that Clinton did nothing about Rwanda, Clinton did not personally order or approve of the genocide there. And while Clinton's bumbling AG Janet Reno royally botched the handling of the Waco standoff, that was a ham-handed attempt to defuse a volatile situation. Deserving of elevated, passionate criticism? Abso-freakin'-lutely! Testaments to unadulterated evil? Such comparisons as above violate Godwin's Law, and the piehole that uttered the nonsense would (and should) be ignored by everyone else.

So, while the offending liberal is still welcome to waste his time and post his drivel, he can count on getting no replies from me. I encourage my other readers here to also ignore him, but that's up to you guys.