Benjamin Folkinshteyn

Godwin’s Law is Dead Letter

In the early 1990s in the Stone Age of the Internet, an American attorney, Mike Godwin, coined what became known as Godwin’s Law to criticize the specious use of Holocaust analogies in nascent Internet chat rooms, the precursors of today’s social media. The “law” pronounces that “as an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.”

Today, the opposite is true. Many a social media post actually starts with a Holocaust smear against Israel (but don’t call it antisemitism!) and it only goes downhill from there. No self-respecting social media activist can start a post without it. And, if you dare to read the comments, God have mercy on your soul.

The Arab world has long been known to deny, diminish, distort the Holocaust and otherwise place blame for the Holocaust on the Jews. And that is in addition to pervasive demonization of Jews in children’s TV programming. And similarly, social media has been a cesspool of race to the bottom of reductio ad Hitlerum for many years given, among other things, the sordid history of anti-Zionism.

But in the days, weeks and months following October 7 there has been a purposeful and pervasive effort to co-opt and invert the language of the Holocaust to label Israel’s war against Hamas as a genocidal act. Ignoring all context, facts, and taking Hamas’s Gaza officials’ claims at face value (but not the ones where they promise to repeat October 7 atrocities at their earliest convenience), the couch warriors, the press and an illustrious collection of international alphabet agencies are eager to play Free Palestine Mad Libs®, oftentimes pushing out libelous claims, e.g., the Al Ahli Arab Hospital bombing, or denials of or equivocations on Hamas atrocities without any shame or self-reflection. Under this framework, just like it is acceptable to hate Zionists, but not Jews, it is, of course, very much acceptable to hate “Nazi-like” Israel and its Zionist supporters. Nevermind the facts – they really don’t matter.

Thus, Godwin’s Law no longer has any relevance.  The social media soup on this topic follows the Free Palestine Mad Libs® Law, which mandates any discussion involving Israel must begin and end with a comparison to Nazis or Hitler.  Just like the classic Mad Libs word game, the participants are encouraged to fill in the blanks with over-the-top ridiculous suggestions to complete a short story, but unlike the original, the players must use a limited word bank. You too can play along!



About the Author
Benjamin Folkinshteyn is an attorney in private practice in the Greater New York area. He is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Pennsylvania Law School.
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