Skip to content

Three Laws of Internet motion

Photo from the "Fear-Sanity" Rally, by thisisbossi, cc-licensed

Photo from the "Fear-Sanity" Rally, by thisisbossi, cc-licensed

Three “laws” I enjoy from the Memespace:

Godwin’s Law

As a Usenet discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.  The term Godwin’s law can also refer to the tradition that whoever makes such a comparison is said to “lose” the debate. (Wikipedia)

I like Godwin’s Law because it reminds us how easy it is to get worked up over things that aren’t really so big.  Sure, politicians and other people debating real issues of real consequence still make this mistake, but when a doofus in a comment queue calls someone a Nazi, it almost never makes sense in the broad stroke of history.  It also reminds us to keep the Holocaust in mind, as it is a solid lesson in the dangers of groupthink and the sway societies have over individuals.

See also: Godwin’s law

Poe’s Law

Without a winking smiley or other blatant display of humor, it is utterly impossible to parody a Creationist in such a way that someone won’t mistake for the genuine article. (RationalWiki)

This rule has sometimes (mostly by me, I suppose) been expanded to apply to all parody on the Internet, but it applies more closely to objects of ideological faith.

See also: Poe’s law

Moff’s Law

As a discussion of a creative work grows longer, the probability of someone whining about “overanalyzing” approaches 1.  In any discussion of creative work, anyone who says “OMG, why can’t you just enjoooy it??” automatically loses. Hard. (Moff’s Law)

I just encountered Moff’s Law last week.   The original rant doesn’t actually include the “law,” but someone in the comments conveniently rephrased it.  Obviously, as a popular culture scholar, this will be a useful retort.

Runner up: The Courtier’s Reply

It derives from a supposed spin doctor for the naked emperor in the fable The Emperor’s New Clothes. Essentially it is a form of intellectual bullying that questions a person’s right to rebut an argument on the grounds that the rebutter lacks experience with the subject at issue. (RationalWiki)

As RationalWiki points out, this rebuttal can easily be misused or misapplied.  For instance, to rebut someone’s objections with The Courtier’s Reply assumes they have no right to participate in the discussion, whereas an individual can also be intentionally uninformed by, say, ignoring evidence in favor of their preferred reply.  It’s a subtle distinction that can be difficult to suss out, but for me the line comes from explanatory power — if the ‘you haven’t read enough’ rebuttal goes to evidence, it’s not the courtier’s reply.  If it goes to authority, it is.

There are plenty more where these came from.

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *