Monday, April 21, 2014

A Post Wherein I Offer A Plainsman's Corollary To Godwin's Law

First, let's go to the definitions. Godwin's Law "is an Internet adage asserting that 'As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1'—​ that is, if an online discussion (regardless of topic or scope) goes on long enough, sooner or later someone will compare someone or something to Hitler or Nazism."

The most famous and canonical corollary is often confused with Godwin's actual law:
. . .there is a tradition in many newsgroups and other Internet discussion forums that once such a comparison is made, the thread is finished and whoever mentioned the Nazis has automatically lost whatever debate was in progress. This principle is itself frequently referred to as Godwin's law.
Before I enunciate my corollary, let me explain how I discovered it. In a recent post, Cory Heidelberger, a debate coach par excellence, makes the case that a Gordon Howie candidacy has the potential to help Rick Weiland win the U.S. Senate race in November.
Tom Lawrence gives Rick Weiland more cause for hope, identifying national historical precedent for a crowded ballot leading to a win for a presumed underdog in a one-to-one race. While Democrat Weiland enjoys easy sailing through spring with no primary challenger, GOP frontrunner Marion Michael Rounds has to face the punches of Stace Nelson, Larry Rhoden, and Jason Ravnsborg (and Stace, Larry, Jason, you all realize that job #1 for each of you at the big SDNA debate in Pierre this morning is to take Rounds down a peg, right?). If Rounds withstands the primary challenge (and his ads show that if he wins, it will be on inertia and money, not on skillful messaging), he still won't be able to focus fire on Weiland. Larry Pressler will harass him from the nostalgic middle, and Gordon Howie will harass him from the right. Weiland could focus on getting Dems to show up and stick together (dangit, Dems! do it!), draw a third of the Indy vote (oh, think big: half!), and beat Rounds with something in the forties
No one in the Madville Times comment section alleged that the scenario provided hollow hope. In the high school debate world, hollow hope disadvantages generally involve the United States Supreme Court's inability to produce a desired result, it has been run on in conjunction with political movements. Most objective observers would accept that a Howie candidacy would produce fewer efficacious results than any court decision.

I thought the matter dead until yesterday, but Representative Steve Hickey ran an old Republican staple, the abortion disadvantage. For the debate coach audience, Hickey's uniqueness is Rounds will defeat both Weiland and Pressler in the status quo. The link is Howie's entering the race as an independent will drain off the disaffected "hell no" voters and allow Weiland will win an election he would have lost. The impact is a pro choice person will be put on the United States Supreme Court; therefore, abortions will continue unabated because Roe v Wade will not be overturned. It's not a nuclear war or extinction scenario, but it's pretty good.

If this were a regular debate round, I'd expect a threat con kritik. For the non-debate folk, threat con is an argument that says enunciating a threat, in this case causing more abortions, is a means of making the threat a reality. Hickey, however, ran his argument on a conservative blog, so no oneengaged Hickey's argument; they merely called each other RINOs, Republicans In Name Only.

Then the Plainsman Corollary struck me: on any conservative blog, as the discussion grows longer, the probability of someone being called a RINO approaches 1'—​ that is, if an online discussion (regardless of topic or scope) on a conservative blog goes on long enough, sooner or later someone will call a person on the other side of the issue a RINO.

I even have two sub-corollaries. First, the person making the charge believes that calling someone a RINO means he or she has won the debate. Second, the person making the charge cannot define the term RINO.

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