Restoring Sanity in the Blogosphere: Discovering Godwin’s Law

Lori Day was worried she would be called a feminazi. Until she realized it was inevitable.

I have never been so excited about writing a blog post as I am right now. You know that feeling you have when you find out that something incredibly bizarre and horribly annoying that you’ve noticed and discussed with people for years is not in your head, and actually has a name, and even its own Wiki?! A total sanity-validator. More in a moment…

The other day I was reading Women Making Slow, Sure Strides in Science, Math on the Huffington Post, and I was aghast at the comments, a large number of which demonized women for this small success, insisted that female achievement takes something away from men, and revealed many incorrect beliefs and misunderstandings of the facts. The usual gender war had broken out early on in the thread, and the attacks were customarily vicious. Even though there was nothing surprising about this, as I see it every day, I could not help swallowing my usual bitter dose of disillusionment.

I started composing a comment. This was going to be the magnum opus of all flamewar-ending comments. This was going to set everyone straight on the facts. I was going to detail my experiences on the undergraduate admissions committee at MIT, my training as an educational psychologist, and provide links to some of the articles I have written about the gender skewing of college admissions, the history of female underrepresentation in STEM careers, and Why Boys Are Failing in an Educational System Stacked Against Them (written as an advocacy piece for boys right here on HuffPost).

Typing away, I quipped to my husband, “Why do I waste my time? Someone will just call me a feminazi.” And to my great surprise, his reply was, “Yup. Godwin’s Law.”

Godwin’s Law? What was that? Well, fellow draft dodgers of the eternal flame wars, allow me to tell you. Back in 1990, at the very dawn of the Internet Age, Mike Godwin, an attorney who was one of the early cyber ethicists, observed the following: “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.”

In other words, “Given enough time, in any online discussion–regardless of topic or scope–someone inevitably criticizes some point made in the discussion by comparing it to beliefs held by Hitler and the Nazis.” And once this gun is unholstered, the thread is finished and whoever shot out the Nazi comment has not only lost his or her own credibility, but has ruined the discussion thread for everyone else because the piling on has begun. Once a thread has devolved into this kind of rhetoric, there is no saving the original topic.

♦◊♦

Godwin created his Law essentially as a counter-meme. As a frequent contributor to UseNet back in the early days, he was concerned about the casual, hyperbolic, and frequent references to Nazis being not only a distraction and diversion in comment threads, but being actually disrespectful to victims of the Holocaust by trivializing that horror. His idea was to try to cancel out the Nazi meme with one of his own. Godwin’s Law became a wildly popular citation within comment threads, and, like all good neologisms, quickly morphed into a verb. One could now say, when Nazi-shaming trolls had hijacked his or her article or comment on an article, “I’ve been Godwinned.” Or, the people insisting on their inalienable rights of free speech regarding anything related to the Third Reich could say, upon push-back to their Hitler comparisons, “Don’t Godwin me.” When someone invoked the Law to try to settle down the thread, all bets were off as to whether things would calm down or heat up, but they usually became volcanic. Not much has changed.

One of the funnier offshoots of Godwin’s Law is Bright’s Law, created by some guy named Peter Bright: “If you cannot work out whether someone is trolling or merely stupid, the answer is probably both.”

As a prolific reader and writer of Internet blogs, hardly a day goes by where I do not see someone stem-winding someone else by calling them a Nazi. These people have no inkling of the depth of their own embarrassment and shame. That seems to be evidence that Godwin’s Law has not “worked” as a counter-meme, but how could it? There is just way too much satisfaction people get from insinuating genocidal mania in other people to bolster their own views. Whether the blog topic is related to gender, politics, or recipes, sooner or later, someone will torpedo the thread with their anger management problems.

When it comes to politics, I notice several prevalent newer memes have popped up amidst the Balkanization of punditry and sound bite wisdom. There is the whole Osama bin Laden/Muslim/terrorist comment bomb that can be dropped without provocation. Then there is the whole tea bagger/neocom meme so popular in today’s political discourse. But the point is, Godwin’s Law explains all of it!

♦◊♦

From now on, I plan to maintain greater composure whenever someone trollishly destroys a thread I’m reading or participating in, or attempts to sabotage an article I have written because — and here’s the key take-away — Godwin’s Law predicts this extremely aggravating phenomenon, allowing me to remain calmer because I anticipate and understand it.

And this is one of those gifts that keeps on giving, so I’m giving it to all of you. March forth into the blogosphere armed with this knowledge, and you, too, can keep your head from exploding every time you think that people cannot get any stupider. They can, they will, and it’s not you, it’s them.

Maybe that could be Day’s Law.

First published on The Huffington Post

photo: moohaha / flickr

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About Lori Day

Lori Day is an educational psychologist and consultant with Lori Day Consulting in Concord, MA, having worked previously in the field of education for over 25 years in public schools, private schools, and at the college level. She writes and blogs about parenting, education, children, gender, media, and pop culture. You can connect with Lori on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+.

Comments

  1. I don’t like the term feminazi … but feminism does have a strain that advocates coercive eugenics and holocaust. It also rabble rouses, so I don’t think that Godwins Law applies here.

    • Alan just Godwinned you, Lori!

      • Not sure what snafu happened. Heath’s post was the first one on the page for a couple hours…and then suddenly, Alan’s was there. Maybe it had been held up in a spam folder or something. But anyway, why are Alan’s and Heath’s almost the same? And now not sure who really is the “winner” here. :-)

        • Peter Houlihan says:

          http://xkcd.com/261/

          I’m not a huge fan of nazi comparisons, but sometimes they’re relevant. The “feminazi” thing can be reasonable when directed at the likes of Valerie Solonas, who could genuinely be argued to promote eugenics and hate-speech.

          That said, I can’t think of a single comment you’ve made that I’d feel worthy of comparison to the nazis, and as a term it does get flung around alot.

        • Comments on Nazis hit the spam filter hard.

  2. I don’t like the term feminazi … but feminism does have a strain that advocates coercive eugenics and holocaust, and there are comparisons to be drawn beyond that between the two social movements, so I don’t think that Godwins Law applies here.

  3. Oh my Godwin! Heath, you win! A new record has been set. A post I have written has been Godwinned in THE VERY FIRST COMMENT, and the height of irony has been achieved in that this has happened to an article ABOUT Godwin’s Law! I am totally impressed. And laughing. Really hard. :-)

  4. I’m serious, I’m pretty sure Godwins doesn’t apply here because the two social justice movement are in the same intellectual and political family tree.

    Both scapegoat a group in society, both rabble rouse, both contain a eugenic solution for said scapegoated group.

    Godwins Law would only apply if someone that wasn’t related to Nazism, was being being compared to Nazism.

    • EDIT

      someone = something

    • Godwinism.

      Here’s how I can prove it:

      Feminism has a eugenic solution to it?? Eu-GENE-ics? So we’re calling women to only have sex with Feminist men so as to only propagate Feminist offspring? Or are we calling for the death of all non-Feminists? LMK, I hadn’t gotten the memo.

      Awesome, I’ll be taking applications for all Feminist in-sperm-inators asap. Please send me a DM with the genetics specs of your Feminism. Also the location of the Feminism gene. Thanks.

      • Joanna,

        I was equally confused. But then a minute ago a young colleague emailed me privately after seeing this post on Facebook and reading Heath’s comment. Here is his email, and it was news to me! But seriously, who needs to live 80 years in the past? Here you go:

        lol. i know what he’s referring to with the “feminism is linked to
        eugenics” thing (margaret sanger originally advocated birth control
        mainly for poor people, non-white people, mentally challenged people,
        etc in the 1930s with the intent on creating an “optimized human race”
        like the Nazis did), but, since WW2 and the recognition of what that
        kind of philosophy leads to, Planned Parenthood got rid of those ideas
        and is now not affiliated with that at all. so he thinks that an issue
        from 80 years ago is still present in not just Planned Parenthood but
        all of feminism today. the holocaust comment has no basis in any part of the history of
        feminism of course. never happened, and sanger actually was strongly
        opposed hitler’s methods of actively exterminating different types of
        people by means of genocide (whereas she just wanted to prevent those
        people from being born).

        • Lori, can I also say that having a shared history with someone who may have utilized this as propoganda (80 years ago, and as far as I know, not since) is not the same as being a foundation of the movement now.

          I bet in the history of any movement you could find extremists who didand said things we now find ridiculous.

          I still declare Godwinism!

          • Joanna, I completely agree. I just did some reading about Sanger and she was a very marginal figure–from the 1920’s actually–who only briefly kissed up to bigoted wealthy white donors to get funding for birth control, way back in the days before it was even called Planned Parenthood. She was never of any significant consequence to feminism, but it must be a convenient bit of archeology when one wants to Godwin a post and say it is not Godwinning.

            • Joanna and Lori

              You’ve got the wring end of the stick, I said COERCIVE eugenics, Sanger eugenics was mainly VOLUNTARY, except when it came to what she called the “unfit” that’s why is called CHOICE

              Feminism is a coercive social eugenics program, people parents aren’t told about the social engineering that goes on in schools, and there are strains of feminism where holocaust, and genetic eugenic solutions for men are discussed. Daly, who’s rape culture ideology is frequently pushed here, discussed reducing the male population to around 10%.

              Both progressive social justice movements, both rabble rouse and scapegoat an “oppressor group”, both have coercive eugenics programs.

              Godwins law doesn’t apply here.

            • First of all, I do not know what you are talking about regarding the schools, and I worked in them for 25 years. The Holocaust references are extremely inflammatory, inappropriate, and disrespectful to the survivors and the the families of true victims. And Daly was a crazy person who did not represent the majority of feminists.

              Do you think there is a single social movement in human history that did not have a very tiny minority of extreme wingnuts that ruined it for everybody else?? Do you not imagine that there are some of these in the men’s rights movement? Assuming there are, do they define that movement? Do they make it a movement that should be compared to Hitler’s?

              What I really disrespect is the disingenuousness of trying to win an argument by finding the one or two lunatics in a movement that involves millions of people, and then using that to tarnish the reputation of the entire movement. Shameful. Would you like that to be done to MRA’s? Civil rights? Any other positive social movement?? It’s a red herring, and yes, it is GODWINNING THE THREAD.

            • Peter Houlihan says:

              “And Daly was a crazy person who did not represent the majority of feminists. ”

              Therin lies the rub. Which feminist theories are representative and which aren’t? I don’t believe in defining any movement by its fringe, but I don’t think its incorrect to compare said fringe to Nazis if they are indeed comparable. Sometimes holocaust references are perfectly reasonable and accurate.

              Feminazis exist, but I don’t think you or Lori are ones.

      • “I hadn’t gotten the memo.”

        Sorry – The mail merge was on the fritz! P^)

        I do have to wonder if Godwin has been Out Godwined?

        Who makes the call?

      • Peter Houlihan says:

        Some feminists do argue in favour of eradicating men. Whether or they should be called feminists is another question.

        • Peter Houlihan says:

          Damn * whether or not they should…

        • They should be called lunatics. And every movement has a few of them. They do not define the movement for the rest of the sane people, and making it seem like they do is inappropriate, and not something anyone would appreciate being said about their own movement in the same circumstance. All movements have a few nutjobs.

          • Lori

            Some feminists want a male holocaust, some want chemical or genetic engineering, (radicals feminists) others want social eugenic engineering of masculinity to deal with the scapegoated oppressor group (average feminists).

            Godwins Law only applies when a something that its not related to the German progressive movement, is likened to it or arbitrary reasons.

            When people are calling feminists that, they are referring the fact that both the progressive movements are related politically and intellectually.

          • Peter Houlihan says:

            I agree, and I would love if more of my feminist friends would take this approach to commenting on MRAs, but it doesn’t mean that the looney-fringers shouldn’t be compared to Nazis. The scum manifesto doesn’t read all that differently to Mein Kampf. Also I’m the first to admit that Masculism has more than its fair share of idiots (mascunazis?).

            *I* don’t think you’re a Nazi Lori, but I do think the title you gave this piece falsely implies that the blogosphere had any sanity to begin with. ;)

      • Lori.

        “Feminism has a eugenic solution to it?? Eu-GENE-ics? So we’re calling women to only have sex with Feminist men so as to only propagate Feminist offspring? Or are we calling for the death of all non-Feminists? LMK, I hadn’t gotten the memo.”

        Less of the haughty sarcasm Lori, its one of the reasons that feminists get called names in the first place.

        Check sites like RADHUB for feminist eugenic solutions for men that involve chemicals, biological means, mass murder and or holocaust.
        For social eugenics check Swedish schools and our owe, and or anywhere where feminists are involved in a project to redefine or control masculinity.

        You did get them memo, you just weren’t told its social eugenics.

  5. Truth doesn’t change. Sometimes the comparison to Hitler and Nazis is unwarranted and sometimes it’s accurate. If Godwin’s Law shames us into never utilizing pre, during, or post WWII history to understand a current event, then we may fall prey to repeating that dark history.

  6. Nazi analogies are so overused to the point where they are tiresome and not even worthwhile to make. Oftentimes the person making the analogy didn’t read his/her history very much. They can even be taken to ridiculous extremes. For example:

    Hitler read books
    Person A (who differs from me ideologically) reads books
    Therefore Person A has lost all credibility and is evil

    I find it far better to just simply point out where someone’s ideas have gone awry in a logical sense or point out the fallacies therein and explain them. You end up looking more intelligent and not like an armchair historian.

    • Peter Houlihan says:

      Person A compared bookreaders to Nazis
      Person B compared an extreme right wing political element to the Nazis

      The first comparison is invalid therefore all Nazi comparisons are…

      see the problem?

      • I do think there are valid comparisons to the Nazis Peter. However, I think it’s by far more effective to drop buzzwords completely out of any debate. Theists use the word communist a lot to describe atheists, Feminist use the word Privilege a lot when describing men, Liberals often use the words Nazi or Fascist to describe Conservatives, so on and so on and so forth. It is far more intelligent and far more useful to instead find the flaws in a line of thinking and point them out than to rely on a buzzword to simply do just that. I’ve seen a vast swathe poor Nazi analogies and an extremely tiny minutiae of valid ones.

    • Exactly.

  7. Mark Ellis says:

    Larry David exposed the idiocy of using the word without proper context with his Soup Nazi. Unless you’re talking about someone or some movement that is bent on genocidal extermination, the use of the word immediately discredits any argument, as Fortis says, and is disrespectful to the millions who perished in the Holocaust. Knowing what I know about the mid-twentieth century, unwarranted use of the word is the hallmark of a weakly inflammatory position.

    • 100% agree. The person on this thread who keeps insisting that feminism is like the Holocaust is making me feel sick to my stomach in thinking about how painful that would be to hear for someone who had actually BEEN in the Holocaust. This was Godwin’s point, which this commenter continues to deflect, as all Godwinners do.

      • Peter Houlihan says:

        I hope thats not me, I don’t think feminism as a body is comparable in aims or practice to national socialism, but bits around the edges are, Godwin be damned ;)

  8. Julie Gillis says:

    Xposted:
    I’ve been following the “eugenics” argument since last night. It’s entirely depressing. The time of eugenics in the early 20′th century was a dark, dark period for America and Europe. It’s also a dark dark thing that there are countries currently aborting girl babies in favor of males. It’s also a dark dark thing that we’d think we can play with science to the point of determining any genetic characteristic with confidence.

    In my opinion.

    Solanas was mentally ill. I’ve actually never read Mary Daly (mostly because I wasn’t a gender studies major and she sounds terrible, so maybe I should read her just for that experience) but I’d say each side of this particularly fraught debate has it’s embarrassing outliers. I mean, on ManBoobz there is a commenter who believes men should date (and apparently stroke off to) actual DOLLS because lady dolls are more feminine than live women. He’s also got an amazing libertarian scheme to change the world, place slutty women in houses of entertainment and has interesting issues on race.

    Spearhead has some charming commentary on women as well.

    Do I think all MRAs and men who focus on masculinity are just like those men? Nope. Cause I’m critical in how I think, yo.

    Sooooooo. If all MRAs are not represented by a few outliers…..it stands to follow that the same (gasp) might be for feminism. That a woman born in a time and culture that was undergoing some radical social change might have had some poor choices in political bedfellows, that a mentally ill woman was deranged enough to shoot an art figure, and that we’ve got seriously radical voices making all kinds of statements that the majority doesn’t believe.

    Most of the feminists I have known wanted access to birth control, reproductive services, access to good jobs and not to get groped at the water cooler. Radical indeed.

    • Thank you, Julie, spot on as usual.

    • But whenever I ask feminists if the women who say all men should die are feminists they say yes. It’s not just some whackado spouting insane crap and coincidentally calling herself a feminist. If it was just Solanas I wouldn’t have an issue with it. She was insane. But look how the wider movement accepted and lauded her insanity. To this day the SCUM Manifesto is on recommended reading lists and is very popular — I think it might even be THE MOST popular feminist book. (maybe because its short).

      And there are no MRA asking for all women to die.

      Seriously the symmetry is just not there.

      • Julie Gillis says:

        I am not a gender studies person so I can’t say why it’s on the lists. It could be it’s on the lists because it’s part of history and it serves as an example of how radical people can be, or it could be that some profs out there agree with it. I don’t.
        Do people still read Mein Kampf? Does that mean the instructors are promoting things that Hitler wrote?
        I can’t speak to why those teachers promote Solanas, but I personally don’t know any women or men who identify as feminist who would say, Hell yeah! Kill all the men! Whoo good times!
        Maybe I’ll avail myself of my locally prominent UNI and ask some faculty what they think.

        There may not be MRAs asking women to die, I don’t know. I’ve not wandered off into too much of the territory though I suppose I should. I’ve seen (presumably MRA male) commenters on sites like Manboobz where they discuss how women will soon be replaced with cyborg sex dollies and we’ll all die off because without men we can’t fight back against nature. Comments discussing how women are walking hosts for “gashes” which apparently are disgusting but that they want to deposit sperm inside. So forth. Perhaps not a direct call to kill women, but certainly not a nice statement.

        I think there are radical points of view that are actual born out of some kind of academic thought experiment (I’m willing to consider those even if I disagree) and there are radical points of view born out of the internet ;) Many of those comments I assume are provoking to provoke. Wank-comments.

        And I’ve seen radfem sites where I believe the same thing. People saying horrible things to say them. There does seem to be a culture on the internet where saying provocative things gets you up or down votes, increases your popularity and so forth. I take a lot of those folks with a grain of salt. In their daily lives I feel pretty sure no one is off telling the barrista chick at Starbucks, soon you shall be mechanical just like this espresso machine! In fact! My sexborg will produce lattes from her tits!

        You can say that kind of thing on the internet. Not so much in real life.

        • There was a period in history when many Germans believed in literally killing millions of people, and many Germans who actually, with their own hands, did so. Fast forward 70 years. Do I attribute genocidal or eugenics beliefs to all Germans? Of course not. Most are quite ashamed of the ones who did this. Are there any fringe Nazis still in Germany? Probably. There are some here in the US. And other places. But a rational person is able to make distinctions. Just because there used to be a bunch of real Nazis, and some still exist today, I do not scapegoat all German people as having these beliefs, NOR do I say that those beliefs are foundational to the country today, or Mein Kampf should be read by everyone today to really understand modern Germans, etc. It is so frustrating to have to “explain” to certain people why this kind of thinking is fallacious and harmful. I can explain it to them, but I can’t comprehend it for them, right? Done trying. It’s getting ridiculous.

          • Julie Gillis says:

            I actually think reading dissonant texts is valuable in terms of being able to see why such thinking is fallacious. Mein Kampf was written in a particular moment by a particular man. Its informative. Reading Solanas is also informative and historical. It doesn’t mean I agree with either text or think, Wow! This is some good stuff.
            It means I’m willing to examine history.
            All of our leaders (good and bad, American and in other countries etc) have had flaws. They all were human.

            • You know…I agree, but this only works when people are open-minded and incisive. If they are reading these texts to gather bogus ammunition, then they have been harmed more than helped, because they lack the intellectual faculties of discernment, and have actual ill intent. But for the average person not out to unfairly disparage people whose views he/she simply does not like, you make a great point.

            • DavidByron says:

              “Reading Solanas is also informative”

              So you haven’t read her then? :)
              Because if you had I don’t think you’d say that.

        • Peter Houlihan says:

          I think the only people who read Mein Kampf are academics specifically studying Naziism or white supremecists. Either way, Naziism has been so thoroughly demonised that books like Mein Kampf have almost completely lost their power. No western civilisation is ever again likely to rally to the Swastika en masse (whether or not other dictators crop up is, of course, a different question).

          I wish I could say the same for Solonas. If feminist lecturers are using her as an object lesson in the dangers of extremeism, well and good, but I have an awful suspicion that they present her work as genuine feminism. Its dangerous stuff, I’ve seen too many commentators singing her praises not to take it seriously.

        • DavidByron says:

          Would you say that there’s absolutely nothing, no evidence, no argument, no data, that would persuade you that you are wrong about feminism? That’s the impression I’m getting. What would you say your chances of being wrong about feminism are? 0% ? 0.1% ?

    • Peter Houlihan says:

      Well said

      “I mean, on ManBoobz there is a commenter who believes men should date (and apparently stroke off to) actual DOLLS because lady dolls are more feminine than live women.”

      Some do Julie, some do.
      http://30.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lp0dp21OSa1qglhfqo1_500.jpg

      • Julie Gillis says:

        Hhahahahahahaha! This guy wasn’t talking about THOSE dolls. He meant dolls like this.

        • Peter Houlihan says:

          Woah! What? I’d love to meet that guy, he must be so odd! :D The variety of the human experience never ceases to amaze me.

          • Julie Gillis says:

            Right? I’ve been reading him for months as he comments a lot! He’s kind of SCARY! He really hates feminists. Really. Apparently all modern women are masculine shrikes with no sexuality, no humor, no gentleness. He likes his ladies “fluffy” or something. But we also are slutty dirty whores.
            He loves his “lovely little ladies.”
            Odd.
            But, you know? If he’s happy in his world, what can one say?

            • DavidByron says:

              Why do you think that feminism is hated so much Julie?

              The standard feminist answer is just to slag off men. “Oh men hate feminism because they hate seeing their privileges go”. That doesn’t make any sense because feminists also tell men that they can’t see their privileges (about the only thing we all agree on). Since everyone says men can’t see their (alleged) privilege it is logically impossible for men to see feminism removing it.

              So why do you think men hate people like you so much when you use the feminist label?

            • Julie Gillis says:

              I don’t know about “people like me” I only at this stage know about “me.”

              I’m not sure which men hate me, David Byron. If there are men in my day to day life that hate me, I’d appreciate it if they’d speak to me personally and we’ could talk face to face. I have a great deal of male friends and colleagues, whom I love very much. They tell me they love me.

              If you or they hate me based on a label, I’m not sure what to tell you. I don’t hate MRA individuals based on a label. I’d prefer to get to know them personally and decide if friendship, respect and so forth are in order. I can’t and won’t hate people I don’t know based on a term they use to describe themselves. Or, I’ll say, I try not to. I don’t think I’m hating anyone right now.

              I doubt my answer will satisfy you, DB.

              Do you hate me? If so, is it because of a label?

  9. To all commenters who wish to continue hauling out and propping up the straw man of feminsim = nazism, I am done wasting my time engaging. Comments playing that tired, bogus old tune will be ignored. I have answered those questions as many times as I plan to, and because the answer remains the same, there is no point continuing to type it. Just an FYI. Carry on.

  10. Godwin’s law is a bad law. It makes it hard to actually discuss the Nazis. As someone who comes at a lot of this stuff from studying hate groups that’s something I often want to do. But with the political situation the way it is in the US people really ought to be talking about fascism a lot. Godwin’s law makes that harder. Those who forget history are destined to repeat it. Those who don’t talk about history because of some stupid internet meme are also destined to repeat it. I believe Godwin the man has recognised this problem.

    Having said all that I don’t think “feminizai” breaks Godwin’s law.

    Not a good word though. Instead say “feminasty” :)

    • Julie Gillis says:

      Feminasty sounds like a really sexy dance band.

    • Peter Houlihan says:

      “Those who forget history are destined to repeat it. Those who don’t talk about history because of some stupid internet meme are also destined to repeat it.”

      Nicely said

  11. ~ Carlos Santayana, btw.

    To clarify, I am a feminist who is sad for men who don’t realize that it’s still a man’s world. Giving up their privileges feels like a loss to them. I’m similarly sad for women who think we can live without men. That’s wrong too.

    Equality, while working with our differences. Only one gender gets pregnant and gives birth. That will never change. For eons, men have utilized this to oppress. They still do. (Abusers are especially violent when their wives or sig. others are pregnant, for many reasons involving the dynamics of abuse and the dynamics of genders.)

  12. Now that this thread is winding down, I want to say something.

    When I originally wrote this piece for the Huffington Post, I had THE best time writing it. It was my way of taking a really aggravating situation I had just experienced in a comment thread about women excelling in STEM careers (which was viciously attacked by feminist-haters) and responding with humor rather than reciprocal anger. But what was even more fun than writing the piece was reading the comments. If you’re interested, Google the post on Huffington and read that comment thread. Night and day compared to this one.

    In the first thread, people were funny! People were suggesting other fun internet Laws and rules, bantering back and forth, telling stories about times they were comment bombed, and discussing together why it might be that people are so angry and attack so readily from behind computer monitors. I had SO MUCH FUN moderating that comment thread.

    This one was entirely different. It got Godwinned from the very first comment…and, it was not a joke! The thread devolved immediately into horrible hateful speech about feminists—possibly spurred by the mere fact of my own gender—and a bunch of inflammatory comments relentlessly cascaded for over 24 hours. In other words, it all turned into what so many other comment threads turn into, and given the title, the irony was killer.

    When Lisa asked if she could post this article, I was totally enthusiastic. I felt we all needed a little levity after a tough week of mutual gender-bashing. How disappointing that we can’t have some fun with something like this, maybe decompress a bit instead of turning THIS thread into yet another feminist-bashing session. Am I the only one who can see this exquisite irony?

    Anyway, time to move on. A sense of humor is so important in life, at least for me. Maybe next time.

    Thanks to those of you who “got it” about the point of the piece!

    • Yeah – disappointing thread. However, it nicely illustrates the point Goodwin made on USENET all those years ago – that once a thread has been Goodwinned, it’s over. The potential for a good thread is gone, the chance of constructive discussion doubly so. Mike taught us that in a public online forum, sometimes this just happens and there’s nothing we can do about it; just move on.

      So, as disappointing as the first Nazi remark is, trying to refute it or engage in conversation beyond that point will just make the disappointment grow. It’s so hard to say “I do not accept what you say and will not participate any further”, but it’s the only way to stay sane.

  13. Thanks for the final clarification. You’re right – laughter. It releases all sorts of good endorphins and makes life worth living. (I just wish more would dis-enable abusers, which is serious business to me. Further irony: Too serious repels….but delicately balancing with congruency. For example, rape jokes are just not funny.)

  14. edit

    “there is LITTLE no transparency, parents are’NT told [that their child’s masculinity is being engineered by a progressive political movement) , so I would say there is a coercive element to this program”

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