Friday, December 7, 2012

The Westboro Law

There is an internet adage known as Godwin's Law, which states that the longer a debate or conversation goes on, the more likelihood something or someone will be compared to Hitler or the Nazis (this is also known as Reductio ad Hitlerum). For example:
Person A: "I believe in tighter gun control laws."
Person B: "You know who else believed that? Hitler!"
Or as an another example:
Person A: "President Obama wears pants. You know who else wore pants? The Nazis!"
OK, that one was a little exaggerated, but you get the point. Some instances of this can be just as silly. It's basically a logical fallacy of responding to something by jumping to an extreme example of that position or opinion, and when there's very little to connect the two (or at the very least, a very slim connection). It is also an attempt to make the other side look bad by striking at the audience's or reader's emotions.

Might I now propose a new law? I call it the Westboro Law. What is this new law, you ask? It's the idea that the longer a debate or conversation either over morality or religion goes on, the more likelihood someone is going to make a reference or analogy to the Westboro Baptist cult (I refuse to call them a church). For example:
Person A: "I don't believe homosexuality is an acceptable lifestyle."
Person B: "You know who else believes that? The Westboro Baptist people!"
Or even (as I once personally experienced):
Person A: "[insert religious arguments that have nothing whatsoever to do with homosexuality at all]"
Person B: "Wow! You're just like the Westboro Baptist crazies!"
Just like Godwin's Law, this seeks to jump to an extreme analogy simply to make the other side look or sound bad. Because Fred Phelps and his cronies are the poster children for how to do your religion wrong, people cling to them whenever they want to make other religious people or certain moral beliefs look bad. This, likewise, is attempting to appeal to the emotional responses of those reading or listening to the conversation or topic. It is also just as fallacious.

Now what would we call this? Reductio ad Westborum, perhaps? Latin is not my strong point...