Godwin’s Law

Godwin’s law states that “as an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1. That is if an online discussion — regardless of topic or scope — goes on long enough, sooner or later someone will compare someone or something to Hitler or Nazism.” It’s also called “Godwin’s Rule of Nazi Analogies.” In most cases, at this point, discussion stops. However, it is definitely certain that whoever puts forward the “Nazi argument” loses the debate.

Michael Wayne Godwin is an American attorney and author; in 2012, Godwin’s law became an entry in the Oxford English Dictionary.

You might as well argue that during the Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis’ meeting with his German counterpart, Wolfgang Schauble, the day before yesterday, he was not referring to the Nazis historically. He also determined that Germany has done everything in its power to rid itself of the past. “When I return home tonight, I will find a country where the third-largest party is not a neo-Nazi party, but a Nazi party,” he said in a reference to the far-right Golden Dawn Party. “It is one of history’s greatest ironies that Nazism is rearing its ugly head in Greece.”

He was specifically referring to modern-day Nazism, which at least in his view is being hatched in European society because of the economic crisis. Seeing that we still live, at least for the time being, in a world where there is a limitless and unrestricted circulation of images, where surely the swastikas adorning Merkel and Schauble’s portraits every time we protest against Germany’s austerity policy have not gone unnoticed.

Formerly, in times when anti-American beliefs were expressed, the final argument used in support of this was that Americans killed young people in Vietnam. These days, the closing argument of national-populist beliefs — apart from those of the Golden Dawn Party, which is exempt due to its ideology — is that Germany is behaving as it always has; even more so that Germany is doomed to behave toward the rest of Europe in the same way the Nazis did. The fact that it is doomed, or programmed by either history or its origins, makes it more or less certain that President of the Greek Parliament Zoi Konstandopoulou’s argument of placing Greece’s claim of war reparations from Germany in the epicenter of the new parliament’s proceeding will serve as national populism’s “Great Idea.” Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ pilgrimage to the National Resistance Memorial in the Athens suburb of Kaisariani — where the Nazis executed 200 Greek Communist partisan fighters on May 1, 1944 — might prove to be equivalent to the Nazi argument in online discussions. Let’s not forget that although this government is completely fresh, deliberations with Germany on Greek debt have been going on for some years now. The style has probably changed, and the new governors appear to be tougher negotiators, but the arguments so far seem to be the same as those used by former Prime Minister Antonis Samaras in order to buy time last summer. Therefore, the Greek-German debate falls under the basic principle of Godwin’s law.

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