The creator of Godwin's Law says white supremacists should be called Nazis

With far-right rhetoric on the rise and white supremacists marching through US cities, the word Nazi is coming up in conversation and online increasingly frequently.

Back in 1990 Mike Godwin, the creator of Godwin’s Law, had recognised the same problem – albeit in a very different way.

Godwin’s law states that “as an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Hitler or Nazis approaches 1” – essentially that regardless of topic, someone will compare someone else’s deeds to Hitler’s sooner or later.

But, despite being famous for deriding Nazi comparisons, he’s quite alright with the word “Nazis” creeping into conversations about the Unite the Right demo.

Members of the far right gathered in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend, leading to the death of one person who was part of the counter-protest.

Godwin was called on to make a statement, with his well-known adage often used to silence discussions about politics that draw comparisons to 1930s Germany.

The lawyer and author told the Press Association he could not turn down the request – despite having hoped that Godwin’s Law would never need his clarification.

He said: “I had always hoped the sense of Godwin’s Law would be self-propagating. For the most part it has been, but I could not turn down a request to re-emphasise that comparisons between racist white nationalists and the Nazis are appropriate.”

White nationalist demonstrators hold their ground

White nationalists in Charlottesville (Steve Helber/AP)

Godwin first came up with the pseudo-mathematical adage after being “troubled by the disconnect” between what Hitler and the Nazis actually did, and the way people invoked their names to debate people online.

It is not the first time Godwin has been asked to clarify his position – with regards to events in the US – in recent times.

Writing in the Washington Post a few months after Donald Trump announced his candidacy for the presidency, Godwin said: “If you’re thoughtful about it and show some real awareness of history, go ahead and refer to Hitler or Nazis when you talk about Trump. Or any other politician.”

It seems you can add the “alt-right” to that list.

“That’s not even a difficult taxonomic problem,” he said.


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