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Martin's Law [Feb. 10th, 2011|12:12 am]
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One of the great success stories of Netiquette has been the near-elimination of the argumentum ad hitlerum from serious debate through the use of Godwin's Law. This is pretty much the online equivalent of eradicating smallpox, and just as surprising.

I think there are three reasons Godwin's Law has been successful. The first two are that it's easy to apply and necessary. It's hard to tell if something is an argumentum ad hominem (aka "personal attack") or a legitimate challenge to someone's credentials or style, and some level of argumentum ad hominem is almost necessary when confronting trolls. But argumentum ad hitlerums are always obvious and rarely good.

The third reason for its success is that it's funny. Before everyone and their brother had heard of Godwin's Law, you could always get a laugh and look particularly witty by bringing it up if an opponent made a Nazi analogy. There was every incentive for people to spread it across the internet.

I think the more Godwin's Law type norms we spread, the better. So I would like to publicize one I found recently that I really, really like. It's called the argumentum ad cellarium. According to RationalWiki:
An argumentum ad cellarium is a variety of ad hominem attack sometimes found in debates and comments on the internet. The argument is used to dismiss someone or their views by accusing them of lacking in the usual social and living skills that society expects, and thus being forced to resort to living in their parents' basement.

I see this a whole lot more than Nazi analogies nowadays, and it ticks the same boxes of being offensive, symptomatic of poor debate, and almost inevitably derailing the argument in which it occurs.

I propose two new laws. First, and named after the user who wrote the argumentum ad cellarium article, Martin's Law: If during an online argument anyone accuses their interlocutor of living in their parents' basement, the argument is over and the accuser has lost.

Second, Martin's Law, Reflexive Corollary: If during an online argument anyone accuses their interlocutor of living in their parents' basement, the accuser has identified themselves as exactly the sort of internet troll who may well live in their parents' basement.

Conjectures that a person doesn't have a girlfriend, doesn't shower, or has acne - based solely on the position they take in an argument - are all variants of the argumentum ad cellarium and Martin's Law should equally apply.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: lpetrazickis
2011-02-10 12:51 am (UTC)

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I think you just frequent the better sort of websites. I see far too much of ad hitlerum around in newspaper comment sections and their kin.

Granted, you may ignoring those on the grounds of them not being a place for the serious variety of debate.
[User Picture]From: gryphonavocatio
2011-02-10 02:35 am (UTC)

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Surely you have seen these:

http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/mon-january-24-2011/24-hour-nazi-party-people

http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/thu-january-27-2011/bill-o-reilly-defends-his-nazi-analogies

It's a shame such a law as Godwin's does not apply to other media. It just makes everybody look pathetic. Well, The Daily Show makes it look ridiculous, but maybe that's just the same.
[User Picture]From: marycatelli
2011-02-10 02:49 am (UTC)

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Actually, what I have most seen is people using Godwin's Law as a way to evade perfectly valid counterexamples. Someone says it must be right, it's legal, someone else says the Holocaust was legal, and the first person doesn't have to abandon his statement, he can just have vapors instead.
[User Picture]From: ciphergoth
2011-02-10 09:04 am (UTC)

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Even then, I'd say don't go there if you can possibly reach for another example. If you're comparing 9/11 to the Reichstag Fire, say, it's not clear that history abounds with other examples you could have used instead. But "great wrongs perpetrated by states that they made legal before they did" should have many exemplars.
[User Picture]From: marycatelli
2011-02-10 03:59 pm (UTC)

Should?

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That matters somewhat less than whether they are, and widely known ones, and inarguable ones.

What do you think should be used instead?
[User Picture]From: eyelessgame
2011-02-10 03:37 am (UTC)

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I would like to see Godwin's Law extended to cover Stalin, actually. It would be nice, for example, not to have health insurance reform compared to Stalin's gulags.

I think argumentum ad cellarium is properly used to mock, not argue - it is most effectively used to respond to argument along the lines of "I am asserting manly, survivalist Manichean libertarian crap, and anyone who disagrees with me has no idea how the world really works, and anyway is a wuss who I could kill with my bare hands" - such argument really is generally put forth by people with limited, naive, negative experiences of the real world and real society. At its best ad cellarium responses can remind everyone that on the Internet, no one knows you're a dog (i.e. anyone can assert macho manliness, but it doesn't make their argument stronger to do so).

That said, it's obviously overused.
[User Picture]From: maniakes
2011-02-10 05:42 am (UTC)

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Even when it's used to mock, it shows lack of imagination. It shows ever so much more class to come up with a clever, original way of mocking someone, or even just to dig out a quote or reference to someone else's wit that fits the situation well and is fresh to most of your audience.
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2011-02-12 07:29 am (UTC)

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From: (Anonymous)
2011-02-12 01:56 pm (UTC)

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Spoken like a true basement-dweller.
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2011-02-12 01:57 pm (UTC)

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From: (Anonymous)
2011-02-14 10:30 pm (UTC)

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