You should know Godwin's Law in order not to fall into the trap

Identifying manipulations: Godwin's Law and similar tricks. Unfair comparisons with Nazi and ....
Godwins Law

Godwin’s Law


When attackers lack arguments, things often get dirty. Unfair comparisons, such as with the Nazis, are then used to distract. Rhetoric can also be fair, but unfortunately it often is not. What is Godwin’s Law? And how does it relate to everyday communication, speeches, and presentations?

Godwin’s Law


As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.

Mike Godwin



Godwin sees this desperate recourse as an obvious, last-ditch attempt to win the discussion, at least in the eyes of the audience. In essence, the discussion is already lost.

Godwin’s Law is named after author and lawyer Mike Godwin. He argues that the longer a discussion goes on, the more likely it is that someone will try to make a reference to the Nazi era or a comparison with Adolf Hitler. He wanted to encourage more objective discussions on Usenet. Usenet? Your trusted search engine will help. Like Murphy’s Law, Godwin’s Law has a touch of irony. But practice often proves the thesis in many situations.

Godwin sees this desperate recourse as an obvious last ditch attempt to win the discussion, at least in the eyes of the audience. In essence, the discussion is already lost.





Although Godwin’s Law was originally developed for discussions in Usenet newsgroups, the rule still applies to all threaded online discussions, such as those in message boards, chat rooms, comment threads, and wikis. Since the early days of online discussion, Godwin’s Law has been used as an indicator of whether a thread is going on too long, who is playing fair and who is just throwing mud, and who is ultimately “winning” the discussion.







Mike Godwin has indicated that he does not reject comparisons to Hitler in principle, especially if they can help prevent the next Holocaust. However, it is important to him that such comparisons be historically tenable. On closer examination, this is often not the case. Comparisons are often drawn by the hair. A corresponding audience then generates unpleasant pressure, which is just fine for the manipulators. The instrumentalized audience pays attention only to its topic and overlooks connections and consequences. A fair consideration and discussion, which actually serves the formation of opinion, has no chance. In addition, the inflationary comparisons desensitize people and reduce their vigilance for real dangers.

Whether the hostility is in one’s own interest or not, insults do damage.






There are always attempts to replace viable arguments with untenable comparisons and hypocritical outrage. These attempts at manipulation are often unrecognizable as such to the uninitiated observer. Those who look closely can see how blatantly this is sometimes done. No one can seriously see it that way, can they? As if!

The risk of negative dynamics is considerable today because of the Internet – one way or another. Whether justified or not, when interest groups are inflamed in this way, the angry mob builds up half knowledge and readiness to lynch, which can become tricky. Not every storm of controversy is based on facts, or at least the big picture.

Echo chambers and filter bubbles have their consequences. With swarm intelligence, it’s one thing for the angry mob to tar and feather first, and maybe do the fact-checking later.




What to do?


When it comes to speeches, presentations, important conversations, and written contributions, it is important to consider the risks. Those who care about personal impact and message will be as meticulous as possible about ambiguities and potential points of irritation. Bruises can be avoided by analyzing and avoiding words and phrases that could lead to misuse.

Risks can be reduced, but unfortunately there is no such thing as absolute security. Too often you can find someone who will sell their soul to get their way.


Be ready for important conversations and negotiations


Communication can be easy. But often it is not. Sometimes we say one thing and then realize later, based on the other person's reaction, that they were talking to someone else. With the best will in the world, I didn't say that. - Or did I?

More or less consciously, conversations are about convincing other people of something - be it a special offer, your personality, a perspective, or a necessity. If this doesn't happen quickly enough, and above all, if it isn't precise and vivid, the other person quickly loses interest, and we lose the hoped-for opportunity. - The conversation has failed.

You can let me help you prepare for your meetings and negotiations (to be on the safe side: no legal advice!). Find out how you and your message are perceived (arguments, body language, language, voice, and much more). I will train you in effective tools and communication strategies. Develop your psychological skills, learn to stay calm, act confidently, remain authentic, and ultimately convince.

Just ask me personally


Please post any questions that may be of interest to other readers in the comments. Looking for professional help?

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Published: April 30, 2020
Author: Karsten Noack
Revision: April 30, 2020
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German version:

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