A new record for Godwin's Law

Everyone knows Godwin’s Law, right? The longer a heated discussion goes on, the probability that someone will compare someone else to Hitler or the Nazis approaches certainty. Usually, Mac-versus-PC arguments take some slow simmering, followed by a few preliminary flame wars, before someone lets fly with the Hitler references. But today’s comment section beneath a post on a BusinessWeek blog sets a new record for invoking Godwin’s Law.

Everyone knows Godwin’s Law, right? The longer a heated discussion goes on, the probability that someone will compare someone else to Hitler or the Nazis approaches certainty. The original rule applied only to Usenet newsgroups, but it has since expanded to include any sort of online discussion, including comments on blogs.

Usually, when Mac-versus-PC arguments are involved, it takes some slow simmering, followed by a few back-and-forth insults that eventually burst into flames, before someone lets fly with the Hitler references. And I’m usually gone by that point, because flame wars between mindless fanboys are, frankly, boring.

But today’s comment section beneath a post on BusinessWeek’s Byte of the Apple blog sets a new record for invoking Godwin’s Law. The discussion centers around an article in today’s Wall Street Journal that claims Apple’s sales declined year-over-year in November, indicating that perhaps Apple is subject to the same economic pressures as every other company selling pricey consumer goods.

Even Apple Inc. is beginning to suffer in this year's dismal holiday season, and worries are mounting the recession will weigh on its business next year.

Apple, which has outpaced the overall personal computer market this year despite its strategy of eschewing discounts, showed its first signs of weakness in November.

Sales of Macs in U.S. stores last month declined 1% from a year ago, while industry-wide PC sales rose 2%, according to research firm NPD Group Inc., which tracks retail sales.

Arik Hesseldahl of BusinessWeek disagrees that this means bad news for Apple, arguing that the comparison is skewed by unique factors, including the launch of new MacBooks in October of this year. Obviously, when interpreting economic data, reasonable people can disagree.

Oh, wait. Did I say reasonable people? The very first comment beneath this post heads straight for Godwin-land. Here’s what commenter Zato wrote:

The Wall Street Journal will say whatever it can get away with to discredit Apple and Google. Both are marked for elimination in Rupert Murdocks [sic] and Microsofts' plan to control the internet and build the fourth Reich.

In 20-plus years online, I don't believe I've ever seen someone go Godwin on the very first post. An awesome performance indeed. A mere two weeks before the end of the year, I believe we have a winner.

Meanwhile, I’m feeling pretty comfortable with my decision to skip CES and Macworld next month. Anyone taking bets on which show folds first? And how long will it take before the TalkBack section beneath this post slips into Godwin territory?

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