Including an Examination of Godwin’s Law and Reductio ad Hitlerum (Unsavory Discussion Tactics)
I posted two days ago, Mandatory COVID Vaccines & Facebook Fascist Censorship, which told my story of what Facebook deemed worthy to censor on my Facebook page. Yesterday, I received critical feedback on this article from Andre Menzies, whose words will be in blue.
But first, let me react to Facebook’s first attempted (and the only other) censorship of something I posted, which was equally ridiculous and groundless (if not even more so). They censored the picture at the top, which has a long history, documented at Know Your Meme (see also info. on the particular version I posted). Facebook, in its infinite [fascist] wisdom, decided to remove it on 12-10-20 because it didn’t “follow” their “community standards”. It had been online on my page since 2-10-17.
The ludicrosity of this decision is rather obvious. Observers from all parts of the political perspective (anyone who values free speech and a free exchange of ideas) have loathed the fact that so often, opponents who disagree on something or other are immediately compared to Hitler or Nazis. This is not merely a “right-wing” thing at all. I posted it, not primarily because I am a political conservative, but first and foremost because I am a long-time lover of satire (going all the way back to National Lampoon and Monty Python in the early 70s, and the original Saturday Night Live), and because — most relevantly — I have also written many times about “Internet discussion ethics” from the time I went online in 1996.
The phenomenon is discussed on Wikipedia at length in its article, “Godwin’s Law”:
Godwin’s law, short for Godwin’s law (or rule) of Nazi analogies, is an Internet adage asserting 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 Adolf Hitler or his deeds, the point at which effectively the discussion or thread ends.
Promulgated by the American attorney and author Mike Godwin in 1990, Godwin’s law originally referred specifically to Usenet newsgroup discussions. He stated that he introduced Godwin’s law in 1990 as an experiment in memetics. It is now applied to any threaded online discussion, such as Internet forums, chat rooms, and comment threads, as well as to speeches, articles, and other rhetoric where reductio ad Hitlerum occurs.
Mike Godwin himself has also criticized the overapplication of Godwin’s law, claiming it does not articulate a fallacy; it is instead framed as a memetic tool to reduce the incidence of inappropriate, hyperbolic comparisons. “Although deliberately framed as if it were a law of nature or of mathematics,” Godwin wrote, “its purpose has always been rhetorical and pedagogical: I wanted folks who glibly compared someone else to Hitler to think a bit harder about the Holocaust.”
In December 2015, Godwin commented on the Nazi and fascist comparisons being made by several articles about Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, saying: “If you’re thoughtful about it and show some real awareness of history, go ahead and refer to Hitler when you talk about Trump, or any other politician.” In August 2017, Godwin made similar remarks on social networking websites Facebook and Twitter with respect to the two previous days’ Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, endorsing and encouraging comparisons of its alt-right organizers to Nazis.
Mike Godwin doesn’t appear to be a political conservative. He’s a free speech libertarian, for sure. We see above that he was not averse to using Hitler comparisons in the case of President Trump. In other words, he is right in line with Facebook’s and Big Tech’s leftism: though not their censorship tactics. As his own Wikipedia article notes: “In August 2020, he and the Blackstone Law Group were filing a lawsuit against the Trump administration on behalf of the employees of TikTok.
When I posted the meme seen above, of course I was expressing precisely the same thing: it was a mocking parody of the same attitude that Godwin and many others decry. Wikipedia also has a related entry, “Reductio ad Hitlerum“:
Reductio ad Hitlerum (/ˈhɪtlərəm/; Latin for “reduction to Hitler”), also known as playing the Nazi card, is an attempt to invalidate someone else’s position on the basis that the same view was held by Adolf Hitler or the Nazi Party. One example would be that since Hitler was against smoking, this implies that someone who is against smoking is a Nazi.
Coined by Leo Strauss in 1953, reductio ad Hitlerum borrows its name from the term used in logic called reductio ad absurdum (“reduction to the absurd”). According to Strauss, reductio ad Hitlerum is a form of ad hominem, ad misericordiam, or a fallacy of irrelevance. The suggested rationale is one of guilt by association. It is a tactic often used to derail arguments because such comparisons tend to distract and anger the opponent.
See also the somewhat related Wikipedia article, “Nazi Analogies.”
Bottom line: I had done nothing wrong. Facebook grossly overreacted, just as it did when I simply said I was not taking the COVID vaccine, for my own personal reasons (without telling anyone else what they should do or knocking the thing itself).
Now onto the criticism I have received:
Dave, you are just as bad as they are.
Nonsense, as I will show.
If you don’t want to take the vaccine, don’t take it.
That’s impeccable logic. We agree!
Stop blathering on about Social Media – stop using it.
I have to use it, to some extent, because it’s where people are, and my apostolate is about reaching as many people as I can with the Gospel and the message of the fullness of Catholicism. And so I wrote on Facebook when I returned to it:
Can’t Live With Facebook; Can’t Live Without It
Well, folks, after 16 days only at MeWe, it’s clear that it won’t work for my situation as a full-time Catholic apologist. I was trying to build up contacts, but it seems to have stalled at 161 (compared to 8000 friends and followers here). That’s a factor of 50-to-1.
It just isn’t enough people. At least here I get lots of likes for baby pictures and tons of response to prayer requests (though — frustratingly — just a few responses to my papers). At MeWe I can’t get responses to anything: whether my new articles or more personal material.
I had thought that there would be a large exodus from Facebook, of people as disgusted with its censorship and oppressive algorithm as I am, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. So the algorithm and absurd censorship oppose my goals here, and the dinky numbers in effect oppose it at MeWe.
What’s one to do? I have no choice but to return to Facebook. There are far too many people I will only come in contact with here, and too many good friends only here. Several hundred of my friends and followers didn’t even seem to be aware that I left (because they see my posts so rarely in their feeds).
I need more contact also for personal and social reasons. I’m already isolated enough, working at home, now 50-60 miles away from our two married sons and granddaughter (although we have seen them a lot), and during this bizarre time of the pandemic.
It remains the case that (like any other writer or anyone offering any product or service) I need lots of likes, shares, and comments, in order to spread word of my articles as much as I can. And I need generous donations, too, from folks who have been helped by my writing, or who want to support it for the sake of evangelization and teaching of others. That’s always been the case, no matter how little I talk about it.
So I’m back, for better or ill . . .
It is really silly and ironic how at the bottom of this “article” you have social media buttons for both Twitter and Facebook. Stop using them.
I never did use Twitter except to merely post links to my blog papers. I think Twitter is stupid, and have always said so. If you go see my Twitter page now, you’ll see that I haven’t even done that for over a year, because Facebook (bless its heart again) stopped automatically cross-posting at Twitter.
Stop hoping they will bend to your will.
I never did hope that. But I hoped they would at least not oppose free speech. It’s too late for that. The vast majority of liberals don’t give a damn about free speech or fair and open inquiry and exchanges anymore.
Stop calling entities “fascists” just because these private super-congloms decide to Moderate your post.
It is fascist to shut down opposing viewpoints, in a social media platform designed to accommodate the public at large. There was nothing in this post of mine that was ban-worthy: even by Facebook’s ridiculous double-standard standards. If you think there was, please tell me what it is. As I noted, I didn’t say anything that was inconsistent even with Dr. Fauci’s opinions. Yet I’m deemed as dangerous for saying I won’t take a vaccine, when Fauci said no one should be forced to.
You are a “moderator” does anyone call you a fascist?
I have one dinky little page. Facebook has hundreds of millions of users and they are attempting to completely shut down large portions of mainstream politically conservative opinion. That’s hardly comparable. What I do is disallow uncivil and rude trollers: just as anyone would kick them out of a house party at their house.
And I have been called a fascist and a billion other insults. All that’s relevant is whether such titles are deserved and true.
I mean dude, you know what a fascist is?
Yes, dude. Here’s the second definition (the one I am using) at Merriam-Webster online:
“a tendency toward or actual exercise of strong autocratic or dictatorial control”
It’s not just some buzz word to label someone or something that doesn’t meet your own subjective vision of what is right or wrong.
I am using a standard dictionary definition. What else can one do? Dictionaries serve an important purpose.
I bet you $1000 that you will not post this response because you deem it “fascistic” just because it dares to criticize the pointlessness and ignorance that it took to write it.
Cool! Please send the money to my PayPal account. My email address is apologistdave [at] gmail [dot] com
Thanks so much! Money is always needed around here.
I will post any lousy or misguided or foolish argument, along with my rebuttal. I’ve done so consistently for 24 years online. You obviously don’t know much about me. But hey, I’ll put up with this to win a $1000 bet. Thanks again! You comment isn’t fascistic at all; just dead wrong on many scores.
You are going for the sensational just to get a rise out of people, just as the ones you criticize are.
That’s a lie. I never do anything for that reason. In fact, it’s a matter of deep principle to me. Facebook has also literally harmed my livelihood as an apologist. I was able to easily raise $5000 every September for three straight years (2012-2014), to support my apostolate of apologetics. Then Facebook changed its algorithm and I couldn’t do so at all in 2015, and started getting much less feedback because people never saw my posts in their feed. So Facebook has literally cost me $30,000 in lost income.
You are a slave to Facebook.
To some extent I am. But I have to be in the present circumstances, to maintain an active online presence.
You are a slave to Twitter.
I’ve never used it. [except to post links, as noted]
Stop. Step away. Put the cell phone down.
I don’t have a cell phone.
Stop judging people and institutions that don’t fit into your personal world vision.
Plenty of people are giving Big Tech hell these days: and by no means just conservatives. Liberal commentator Kirsten Powers wrote a book six years ago, even before the Big Tech controversies, entitled The Silencing: How the Left is Killing Free Speech.
This article is pointless and does more harm than good.
Your criticisms are stupid and do more harm than good. You haven’t dealt with a single substantive point in my article. This is typical of what passes today for “dialoguue.” All you’ve done is throw a lot of horse manure in an attempt to smear me and make out that I am a fanatic. It’s playbook tactics.
It is just a vain attempt at retribution to a corporation that doesn’t care.
I never said they did care. My only point was to take the article they censored and post it on my blog, with an explanation and expansion. What the hell is wrong with that? You would prefer that I just shut up and don’t do so? I posted my article (which I obviously wanted to share with the public, since I posted it) and then explained why there was nothing whatever wrong with it, even by liberalism’s / Facebook’s own standards. That’s free speech. My allowing you to disagree with me is free speech. My refutation of your nonsense is also free speech and reasoned debate.
It is a vain attempt to get your personal message out anyway possible.
Whether you think it’s “vain” or not is a matter of complete and utter indifference to me. I posted what I did on my blog because I have a right to do so as an American citizen, and because I think that what I said is right and unobjectionable. I will not be shut up. They did at Facebook, but they can’t control me or how I think here. So ultimately I was not shut up, if by that one means that no one had a chance to hear my expressed opinion.
To think I was going to contribute to Patheos financially. But as a cradle Catholic, I am not sure I can do that.
Patheos is a huge platform with viewpoints of every stripe. You should contribute to chosen individuals who write there, with whom you agree (obviously not myself). On the other hand, you’ve already generously contributed $1000 to my cause. I’m sure others would also appreciate such generous magnanimity.
The fact they let you post this shows that they are okay promoting vitriolic ramblings.
I am free to post anything, as the blogmaster of my own blog at Patheos (one with a continuous 24-year history), where free speech is actually allowed and cherished. This is what I respect about it the most. I’m my own editor. No one else is telling me what to write or what not to write.
Anyway. God Bless
Same back atcha! Thanks for your financial support.
See you guys deleted my post…… does that make you a fascist? The irony.
I did not. Disqus moderated it, as it does many posts: usually for bad reasons.
This is now the third accusation I have received along these lines, in a few days. The other two apologized.
I will respectfully apologize if there is anything specifically I said below that missed the mark.
You have ample opportunity now, after my lengthy reply.
Clearly one’s personal preference to take or not take the vaccine is a good discussion, one that needs to be discussed.
We agree. Good.
This is bull manure. I did no such thing. As explained, I was using the second dictionary definition of “fascism” which is “a tendency toward or actual exercise of strong autocratic or dictatorial control”. That’s exactly what Facebook is doing, with their massive censorship and Big Brother tactics. No one could have described it better with so few words. I love dictionaries . . .
You are owned by social media giants Facebook and Twitter as is evident by your promotion and use of the tools that you yourself call “fascist.”
As I informed you, I have never used Twitter, except to simply post links (i.e., more advertising for my work). I don’t promote Facebook, I use it, because it’s where “everybody” is. Life often entails making less-than-ideal choices out of necessity. It was a really fun place till Facebook decided to politicize it and alienate about 40% of the population: just as liberals have to pathetically politicize everything these days: sports, first grade, humor, the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, women’s athletics, bathrooms, etc.
Let me ask you honestly Dave – How can you continue to be a part of and contribute to an organization that you call fascist? Doesn’t that make you culpable?
No; I don’t give them any money; no more than buying things from China makes me culpable for slave labor, concentration camps, and forced abortion there, or taking the vaccine would make one complicit in abortion (the Church said we are not). I use Facebook for my apologetics / evangelistic purposes, just as past generations used radio, television, telephones, the printing press, etc. It’s part of the latest ways to communicate. So is the Internet itself, which includes this blog.
I don’t know, the flaming books photograph, playing victim when you could easily just disengage from all the evil those platforms foment is just puzzling.
It is for you. I think most people can easily understand my point of view on this, agree or not. You simply haven’t thought through the issue deeply enough.
Instead you try to fight back through what should be a clean and beautiful Catholic website that fosters truth and love in the name of Christ.
My readers are quite content with what I do. If you don’t like it, then get the hell away from it: per your own advice that I should get away from Facebook. No one’s stopping you. By all means stop reading what I write. I have posted every single word of your criticisms, with my replies, and they will be part of a new blog paper tomorrow. I’m delighted to be able to further clarify my point of view, by responding.
It’s not all about you, Dave.
No kidding. Thanks for another idiotic, gratuitous insult.
Peace be with you
After you insult, you end with the pious platitudes . . .
Hilarious. Hilariously sad.
I feel for you brother. I really do.
You got a personal agenda and are working every angle. Constantly trying to be more clever than others, must get tiring. When you finish reading this repeat to yourself 10x – “I am a tower builder, I am a tower builder.”
Anyway, let’s just say “you win!” Hope that will suffice for your ego.
* Forgive me for not knowing who you are, I am sure that matters to someone somewhere other than you. I did check your Bio – and I am sorry to inform you (that’s an apology) I am sorry to inform you that you have an imposter. Because this guy looks waaaay older than your Avatar you have here on this handle — and with far less hair.
You need to get to the bottom of this right now. I mean, your imposter has a Twitter page. (see image below). [see it in the combox comment] This certainly can’t be you. Good luck with your idol worship Facebook. Count me out.
Perfectly irrelevant, as explained. But we’re way past mere reason by now.
Proverbs 9:7 (RSV) He who corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse . . .
Photo credit: [Know Your Meme]