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I think Godwin's Law is stupid

OT Discussions Godwin's Law

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#41 the 'Hawk

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Posted 21 September 2003 - 10:07 PM

Vapor Trails, on Sep 21 2003, 11:01 PM, said:

Uhhhhhhhh-maybe it would have been better if you said CERTAIN people.
That'd be passive-aggressive. Then the question would be, "okay, so who do you REALLY mean?" Thus it would've been trouble.

I repeat my previous assertion: never mind.

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#42 Rhys

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Posted 21 September 2003 - 10:08 PM

Una Salus Lillius, on Sep 21 2003, 09:17 PM, said:

GiGi, on Sep 21 2003, 06:10 PM, said:

Lil, I would say at some times what Hawk is saying is true...
I don't deny that.  I object to the seemingly blanket generalization that it is true of "most people".
In the context of the history of discussion on the Internet (especially including Usenet, which is HUGE, and, by-and-large, makes the worst thing we've seen here or on Slipstream seem like a Church picnic), "most" is fairly defensible.  "Most" doesn't mean "all".

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#43 Bad Wolf

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Posted 21 September 2003 - 10:36 PM

And it's *still* a generalization.

:p

I'm with Saul.  "Certain" or "some" would have been a lot more palatable to me.

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#44 eryn

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Posted 21 September 2003 - 11:34 PM

Ack, sorry Lil let me rephrase.

The reason I didn’t like this particular argument from her is because she didn’t back it up with any facts at all, and you’re right about other comparisons to other prisons. To be honest, other war camps didn’t even come to mind. Just normal prisons and re-man centres came to mind. I totally didn’t think about other war camps. :blush: This is mystics brain on too many essays due in a short period of time.  :wacko:

But the reason I brought up this particular argument in the first place was as an example of when somebody compared something and didn’t bother to support her own case with relevant facts. Her argument came off as trivializing and rather offensive in the end.

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Edited by mystic, 21 September 2003 - 11:53 PM.

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#45 Bad Wolf

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Posted 22 September 2003 - 12:10 AM

Thanks for the clarification mystic.

I agree with you that the blanket assertion without the back up or attempt to offer an analysis is not an example of strong advocacy.

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#46 Godeskian

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Posted 22 September 2003 - 05:26 AM

While i find Godwin's law to be alternately amusing and dismissive, what does make me chuckle is that I had never heard the term before it was posted a few threads back, which i think since i've been net-active for 7 years now is probably some kind of record.

With regards to Nazi's being an evil comparison because they were evil, i'd caution people to remember that dismissing the entire regime, from the lowliest civil servant to the Fuhrer himself isn't generally a good idea. There were undoubtably people who fought for, and helped run the regime who thought of themselves as patriots, as good people protecting their homes, and their families.

Very few people in this world, regarldess of their crimes, see themselves as evil, and in it's own way, claiming the entire Nazi regime as evil is as much a generalisation as any other.

However, with regards to the term in debate, while i have seen threads on a variety of message boards derailed for many reasons, i have never consciously attributed any large amount of it to mention of Nazi-ism. Does anyone have any idea how common it actually is that it will derail a thread? I mean, Rov mentioned one thread.

I would have thought the participants would have tried to avoid degenerating their thread, which presumably contained arguments and information they considered relevant to the topic and in which they'd invested their time and energy, into a flame fest just because someone said it.

#47 CJ AEGIS

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Posted 22 September 2003 - 08:42 AM

the'Hawk, on Sep 22 2003, 12:43 AM, said:

In my case, it's because I've studied 'em, up and down, left and right, various aspects, and so on. Calling the Nazis evil is just too simple. There are a thousand aspects of the Nazis, ranging from basic production of goods to civilian opinion to the Wehrmacht, the Kriegsmarine and the Luftwaffe.
I'm with him. ;)

Simply labeling a regime like the Nazis as evil and leaving i at that is far too simple and defeats the purpose.  The Nazis committed horrendous atrocities that boggle the human mind in how awful and systematic they were.  The problem is just attributing it to evil leaves out the point of how did they come to reach that point and do that.  You loose the historical lesson as to what steps led to the Nazis becoming what they were.  Instead you get a simple label of this is very evil rather than the more important understanding of this is what they were, this is what happened to them, and this is how they became it.

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Lil:However, screaming "godwin law violation" at any mention of Nazi Germany or Hitler is no better. How about if people just say "hey back it up" or "why do you think that" or "I disagree because" instead of announcing that the mere mention of the subject automatically spells the end of the discussion?

I agree with that largely but I disagree that one should have to spend their time researching a topic to knock down a totally fraudulent compassion.  I've often tossed out the "back it up" statement and ended up with a it just is for a reply.  I think at that point it is more than fair to discount their argument and they have effectively ended meaningful discussion along that route.  

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#48 Kosh

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Posted 22 September 2003 - 08:52 AM

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With regards to Nazi's being an evil comparison because they were evil, i'd caution people to remember that dismissing the entire regime, from the lowliest civil servant to the Fuhrer himself isn't generally a good idea. There were undoubtably people who fought for, and helped run the regime who thought of themselves as patriots, as good people protecting their homes, and their families.

My Father was there, in Germany, and siad that, at the time, they were all Nazi. No one would have admitted that they were not, because the next person may pull the trigger on them.

I don't use Nazi's in comparisons. There are so few things to compare to them, CJ mentioned them. I tend to take your argument with a grain of salt when you use Nazi Germany in any way.

  I had never heartd of Goodwin till just a few days weeks ago. I was applying the rule for myself. You just can't compare what the Nazis were trying to do, with most other situations. The scale was incredable, only someone like Stalin could be compared.

It's like the guy on Sienfeld, "The Soup Nazi". I hate to see stuff like that, I think it desensitizes people to what the Nazis were really like. You could use the comparison in some places, when you are talking about  anti semitism or racial cleansing, as Lil said, but other then that, if you bring it up, I stop listening.
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#49 Norville

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Posted 22 September 2003 - 10:33 AM

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It's like the guy on Sienfeld, "The Soup Nazi". I hate to see stuff like that, I think it desensitizes people to what the Nazis were really like. You could use the comparison in some places, when you are talking about anti semitism or racial cleansing, as Lil said, but other then that, if you bring it up, I stop listening.

Yes, I agree. One of the terms that I despise is "feminazi". Okay, there have been insane radical feminists out there. But to call any woman who dares express some feminist opinions a "feminazi"... *I've* been called a "feminazi", and it's made me want to throw up in the face of those who'd say that. Granted, I've gone through some "shades" of feminism that were fiercer than others, but what with this dismissal of all feminists as "feminazis" and so many women now claiming that they don't need to be feminists because they have everything they want/need and feminism is irrelevant in modern times (and they think that being a single woman hunting men, screwing around as much as possible, is a sign of "strength")... forget it. I'm so totally burned out even trying to care about that subject anymore, and part of it is because women who dare care about women's rights are slapped down in the same breath with Nazis. It's disgusting.

That's only my opinion, of course... as if I even have to make that clear. :sarcasm:
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#50 GiGi

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Posted 22 September 2003 - 11:05 AM

^Norville you are reading and speaking my mind again.  That was the very example I was going to bring up too.

Thanks!  :cool:
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#51 Rhea

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Posted 22 September 2003 - 11:29 AM

GiGi, on Sep 21 2003, 05:08 PM, said:

Hmmm, I have often compared the conditions that pigs are made to live in to concentration camps.

Pigs are highly intelligent, cleaner than some humans and very emotionally tuned to their environment . It freaks me out to think of the conditions they are forced to live in, as a matter of fact chickens too (I have birds, a dove and a parrot), it is so unnecessary. Just because an animal doesn't talk doesn't mean it doesn't feel

Abuse of animal, human whatever is so hard for me to take, and that is me personally.  Lil knows from the look on my face last night when we were discussing the bear abuse.  :(

Sometimes bringing up the situation with the Nazis is to put something in perspective.  It is a yardstick to determine the extent of an abuse.  And some people will exaggerate this to make an unfair point.  So I am now kind of seeing what is behind this "law"  But even evoking this law can mirror the very point the law is making.

Erm, so, bottomline, I agree with Lil and Rhea (no shock there  ;) )
:eek2:  :eek:  :eek2:

No, really?  ;)
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#52 Rhea

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Posted 22 September 2003 - 11:50 AM

the'Hawk, on Sep 21 2003, 05:43 PM, said:

Here's my thing with Godwin's Law:

Invoking the Nazis in a discussion can happen for a variety of reasons.

In my case, it's because I've studied 'em, up and down, left and right, various aspects, and so on. Calling the Nazis evil is just too simple. There are a thousand aspects of the Nazis, ranging from basic production of goods to civilian opinion to the Wehrmacht, the Kriegsmarine and the Luftwaffe. I talk about the Nazis all the time-- but usually it's relative to France or Britain or Japan or America or the Soviet Union, within the historical context presented. I'm what's referred to as a "regime-whore": I tend to study the rises and falls and in-betweens and highs and lows of any given regime because, well, because it intrigues me. Because whether it's Henry IV of England or Louis XVI of France or Nicholas II of Russia, whether it's Pol Pot or Richard Nixon or Winston Churchill, the fact remains that the man (or woman --Elizabeth I is an old favourite of mine) at the centre of the hurricane isn't steering it, either. I don't know, it's a personal interest, one I'm rambling about.

But to most people, invoking the Nazi regime isn't done for reasons of historical context. It's done just to get a rise out of other people. That isn't cool no matter how you cut it.

And that's what Godwin's Law covers. Not the valid historical invocation. But the invocation for all the constructive use of a torpedo? Not the same thing at all.

:cool:
I disagree. First of all, you should never assume that the other person is using it solely for the purpose of getting a rise out of you. There are very few people who do that here. And unless you've become telepathic, there's no way for you to know that.  :wacko:

Second, it's a standard, no more. There are very few other areas where you can get any agreement.  For instance, Iraq reminds me of Vietnam in a very specific way - the way in which Vietnam started out small and then more and more resources were poured into the war. Some of you violently disagree - probably because you either weren't alive then or weren't old enough to remember how gradually we got sucked into Viet Nam or how it felt when it actually happened.

The Nazis are one of the few common frames of reference we can all agree on. That's why it gets used fairly often. And so what?
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#53 eryn

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Posted 22 September 2003 - 03:54 PM

Rhea, on Sep 22 2003, 10:50 AM, said:

Second, it's a standard, no more. There are very few other areas where you can get any agreement.  For instance, Iraq reminds me of Vietnam in a very specific way - the way in which Vietnam started out small and then more and more resources were poured into the war. Some of you violently disagree - probably because you either weren't alive then or weren't old enough to remember how gradually we got sucked into Viet Nam or how it felt when it actually happened.
So only people alive in the specific time period we talk about has a say... so basically, since *no-one* alive today was alive during ..say... Caligula's reign, therefore no-one can discuss the topic or their point of view, and if they did they'd be wrong??

If this is true, every Historian everywhere is out of a job.

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#54 CJ AEGIS

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Posted 22 September 2003 - 03:57 PM

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Rhea: For instance, Iraq reminds me of Vietnam in a very specific way - the way in which Vietnam started out small and then more and more resources were poured into the war. Some of you violently disagree - probably because you either weren't alive then or weren't old enough to remember how gradually we got sucked into Viet Nam or how it felt when it actually happened.

This is the type of assertion that I have a major issue with.  It focuses on one small miniscule detail of a historical event and then builds that up to some colossal comparison.  The problem is that comparison is totally off the wall because none of the other details even happen to come close to matching up.  Without those details and facts backing it up the comparison is little more than a hollow argument that sways people through emotion.  

I can easily argue how we were slowly drawn into the Civil War from the signing of the Constitution and inclusion of slavery up through Bleeding Kansas and John Brown to Fort Sumter.  How about the fact that we were “sucked” into World War II slowly from the signing of Versailles to Lend-Lease to the escorting of convoys to undeclared war with the German Navy and then at last Pearl Harbor.  Somehow I doubt most people would agree that the Civil War and World War II were valid comparisons to Vietnam.

Now back to the Vietnam example just for some of the different things from Iraq.  That was the product of an interaction between the client states of two superpowers locked in a global struggle.   Those powers were acting through various client states including of course both North and South Vietnam.  The Viet Cong and NV had massive backing from the second most powerful nation on the planet.  The US war effort was compounded by the doctrine of limited warfare and the fact that it couldn’t take more aggressive action out of fear of escalation.  The US was fighting state sponsored actors and the Soviet/Chinese backed military of North Vietnam rather than the nebulous remains of a already crushed government.

Now my final problem here is in trying to shoehorn the entire Vietnam situation into fitting Iraq it ignores a very realistic comparative situation.  The Philippines Insurrection shares far more common in reality with Iraq than Vietnam will ever except in the minds of some people.  They have several common threads and it makes for a far better comparative analysis.  Yet in the mad rush to throw out a common and emotionally cumbersome comparison like Vietnam the realistic and more pertinent comparison falls on the wayside.                  

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Rhea: how it felt when it actually happened.

Another problem I have is statements like this tacked on to historical debates as some sort of qualifier.  Feelings are great for the individual but they contribute very little to helping others understand the situation.  They are only a portion of the total situation and happen to be the one that marginalizes the facts that can establish a greater understanding of the situation.  Secondly feelings draw a person into the situation and reduces ones capability to truly give a comparison the clinical analysis it needs.  I can do a far better job looking at Pearl Harbor and understanding the entire picture as a historian then I can for looking at 9-11.  The final problem is that feelings vary greatly from one person to another and they are often to carrying degrees faulty.  They lack the authenticity and credibility of historical fact and can only really be used and understood when placed in that historical context through the use of facts.
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#55 Bad Wolf

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Posted 22 September 2003 - 04:00 PM

mystic, on Sep 22 2003, 01:54 PM, said:

So only people alive in the specific time period we talk about has a say... so basically, since *no-one* alive today was alive during ..say... Caligula's reign, therefore no-one can discuss the topic or their point of view, and if they did they'd be wrong??

If this is true, every Historian everywhere is out of a job.

mystic
I don't think that's what she's saying at all.

To be sure I think it's true that having "been there" always provides a unique perspective, one that people who were not there can never empathize with (though they may sympathize).  

And I think this is valid.
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#56 CJ AEGIS

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Posted 22 September 2003 - 04:14 PM

Una Salus Lillius, on Sep 22 2003, 09:00 PM, said:

To be sure I think it's true that having "been there" always provides a unique perspective, one that people who were not there can never empathize with (though they may sympathize).
Of course this can further field the tendency that crops up sometimes toward declaring I know best simply on the basis that the person was present.  Therefore the rest of you are wrong no matter what facts are used to refute this because they were not present.  It also has that habit of introducing bias through feelings as I discussed above.
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#57 Bad Wolf

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Posted 22 September 2003 - 04:22 PM

CJ AEGIS, on Sep 22 2003, 02:14 PM, said:

Of course this can further field the tendency that crops up sometimes toward declaring I know best simply on the basis that the person was present.
I don't disagree.

Hey I've had discussions with black people about civil rights issues and had them eventually shut the discussion down by saying "it's a black thing, you wouldn't understand".  On some level it is true, I will never know what it feels like to be black.  OTOH if you stop a discusssion on the basis of one person's inability to empathize then we might as well never talk.

I object to using the "you wouldn't understand" or "you weren't there" thing as a way to squelch discussion every bit as much as I object to using "godwin's law" for that purpose.

And again, I don't think Rhea was in any way intimating that one cannot discuss something unless they were there.

Hell, I have a history degree after all...;)

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#58 CJ AEGIS

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Posted 22 September 2003 - 04:25 PM

Una Salus Lillius, on Sep 22 2003, 09:22 PM, said:

Hell, I have a history degree after all...;)
I didn't know that.  :cool:   Come on details? ;)
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#59 Rhea

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Posted 22 September 2003 - 04:27 PM

Una Salus Lillius, on Sep 22 2003, 02:00 PM, said:

mystic, on Sep 22 2003, 01:54 PM, said:


So only people alive in the specific time period we talk about has a say... so basically, since *no-one* alive today was alive during ..say... Caligula's reign, therefore no-one can discuss the topic or their point of view, and if they did they'd be wrong??

If this is true, every Historian everywhere is out of a job.

mystic
I don't think that's what she's saying at all.

To be sure I think it's true that having "been there" always provides a unique perspective, one that people who were not there can never empathize with (though they may sympathize).  

And I think this is valid.
Thank you.  :ninja:

I am not a historian nor particularly a history buff, so I can only speak to that minute portion of history I've actually lived through.

CJ, what I *really* meant is your tendency (and some of the others) to dismiss my reactions to events because they don't involve some kind of massive historical analysis. When I say "Iraq is beginning to remind me of Viet Nam" the only standard I am using is the fact that I've lived through both and because I was a young woman during Viet Nam (and lost the man I loved in that war), I paid particular attention to the media hype during the period. That comparison is as valid for me as your lofty historical analysis, and for you to dismiss my comparison out of hand is condescending, to say the least. Clear?

I respect your opinion and those of the other posters who are history buffs. But that doesn't make MY opinion any less valid because I don't do a treatise on a particular subject. Both viewpoints have validity, a fact that I feel you often overlook.

Edited by Rhea, 22 September 2003 - 04:32 PM.

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When I don’t understand, I have an unbearable itch to know why. - RAH


Everything is theoretically impossible, until it is done. One could write a history of science in reverse by assembling the solemn pronouncements of highest authority about what could not be done and could never happen.  - RAH

#60 Bad Wolf

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Posted 22 September 2003 - 04:43 PM

CJ AEGIS, on Sep 22 2003, 02:25 PM, said:

Una Salus Lillius, on Sep 22 2003, 09:22 PM, said:

Hell, I have a history degree after all...;)
I didn't know that.  :cool:   Come on details? ;)
What's to tell, I have a degree in history.  Started out emphasizing in American history but frankly it got boring for me (don't shoot me) and I ended up spending a lot more time studying Germany (pre Hitler right up to his rise), Renaissance Italy, the emergence of protestantism, and ancient Greece.

I got lucky in that I got to go to Europe with a lot of that stuff fresh in my head.  It made Crete, Athens and Florence in particular all the richer an experience for me.

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