Hill and Godwin’s Law

In election campaigns you never know what to believe. But voters can be sure of one fact coming out of Conservative candidate Stephen Hill’s mouth earlier this week: “A comedian I am not.”

In election campaigns you never know what to believe. But voters can be sure of one fact coming out of Conservative candidate Stephen Hill’s mouth earlier this week: “A comedian I am not.”

The Tory hopeful’s alleged attempt at humour back in February fell horribly flat at a Council of Canadians-hosted event at the United Church. In the past few days we’ve interviewed several people at the meeting — including Hill himself — and even trying to figure out what the joke was is puzzling.

This much we know. It involved “washing with bleach” and the “unwashed.” At best people didn’t understand it, at worst those in attendance thought it was directed at them.

In the ensuing controversy this week another fact became crystal clear: two wrongs don’t make a right.

The story resurfaced because an individual in attendance that night decided now was the opportune time to make Hill answer for his outburst. In a post on the email chat Nelson List, Anna Santos compared Hill’s performance that night to “a Nazi SS thug.”

Due to today’s prevalence of faceless debate on the internet, there’s a term used when the Nazis or Hitler are brought up during the course of  discussion. It’s called Godwin’s Law and it was formalized in 1990 when American lawyer Mike Godwin made a humourous observation. It states: “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches.” It also states once that happens, the discussion is over because it’s utterly ridiculous to continue.

Godwin’s Law certainly applies in this case. Comparing Hill’s comments to anything the Nazis did during World War II is disrespectful to all those who suffered at the hands of the horror. Once that’s thrown out, anything argued afterwards should be ignored.

There’s no doubt Hill made a mistake when he tried to be funny. He should have known better and his outburst does cast some doubt on his ability to handle stressful situations in a room full of people who don’t agree with him. But the real disappointment is how those who oppose him chose to react by using words that should never enter a debate of this kind.

Nelson Star