Serious Laws for Serious People: How To Be An Intellectual in 2018

Illustration: Phil Hackett for the Guardian

I was listening to a Serious Podcast™ the other day about the rise of anti-Semitism in leftist circles (get yo’selves on to The Foreign Desk y’all). It was an interesting podcast about how anger in left and liberal circles is increasingly directed towards groups of people (i.e. banks, capitalists, Liberal Nationals, etc) rather than the system – and the dangerous ground this can tread. There is much to take apart in that, and within it self-reflection that is especially due to the white leftist middle-class. But this article is not about that. No, this article chooses to procrastinate the awful feeling of self-analysis and instead focus on this: the BBC-lite host included Godwin’s Law in one of his Serious Interview Questions. Godwin’s Law – the internet rule that states as every discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches. Invented by Mike Godwin in 1990 for Usenet, it is related to “reductio ad Hitlerum” – basically, “Hitler (or the Nazis) liked X, so X is bad”. Godwin’s Law is useful, and face-slappingly obvious that once you notice, hard not to invoke. But still, it is an internet thing. Like, an old school internet thing, from I Can Has Cheezeburger days and before memes were like….. memes (w o a h). I’m reeling, how can it be used in solemn BBC Listen To Me Because I Annunciate Clearly discussions?

Look, I get it. The lines between pop culture and intellectual discourse are wearing thin and that is something to rejoice over. More people invited into a conversation which can operate at a level where it is actually useful!! How exciting!! How Nu Democratic! And of course, Godwin’s Law is as old as the internet, basically, and it even has its own Wikipedia page – proof of establishment as much as there can be on the internet (fight me on this I dare you).

No one told me internet laws have crossed that hazy line into real life! Do you understand how exciting this is? Mike Godwin himself even commented in 2017 on the law’s misuse and encouraged people to liken alt-right groups with Nazis! Can I start using internet rules in my academic papers now? When can internet rules cross over from pub talk to Fancy Pants podcast discussions?

It’s exciting times. So, to make it all easier for us, I’ve collated my favourite internet rules and laws: start using them in your Serious Intellectual Discussions at will.

Rule 18: Everything that can be labelled can be hated.

Okay so, most of these rules were originally formulated in the cesspit that was 4chan, but I was originally exposed to the full extent from the glory on high that is Of all the rules that awful, awful site generated, this one makes me feel some deep dark things yo. I don’t want to know where this rule will take me. Use with caution.

DeMyer’s Second Law: Anyone who posts an argument on the internet which is largely quotations can be very safely ignored, and is deemed to have lost the argument before it has begun.

The SHADE this throws at most of the academic community makes me ECSTATIC to be living in 2018 guys.

Rule 22: Original content is original only for a few seconds before it’s no longer original. Every post is always a repost of a repost.

Touches on issues that are already discussed frequently in creative industries, but now you can use the rule to sound even more Legit. The only issue is that it isn’t eponymous, others might ask what the previous 21 rules are and since Rule 21 is “Pictures or it didn’t happen”, you may want to just invent an old white guy to do your heavy lifting for you. Preferably someone with initials instead of a first name. Or, you can embrace Rule 21 as well and see where that takes you. Pics pls.

Shank’s Law: The imaginative powers of the human mind have yet to rise to the challenge of concocting a conspiracy theory so batshit insane that one cannot find at least one PhD holding scientist to support it.

See: climate change denialists. Let loose. Go for it.

Danth’s/Parker’s Law: If you have to insist that you’ve won an internet argument, you’ve probably lost badly.

Okay, okay, Danth’s/Parker’s Law has been somewhat already used in intellectual debate so I am cheating here BUT I’m feeling that this law should be used more in real life. Not just in the Trumpian sense: I can think of several “but art/music/novels were so much better when X” arguments that this law could TRULY wreck.

Cunningham’s Law: The best way to get the right answer on the Internet is not to ask a question, it’s to post the wrong answer.

May be risky, but definitely “”thought provoking””. Try this one in your next meeting or social studies tutorial: see the sparks fly!

Skarka’s Law: There is no subject so vile or indefensible that someone won’t post positively/in defense of it.

Soothing, in the way that there will always be awful people in the world so you are not shocked when you meet them. It is hard to be let down by the world when you admit everything is terrible. Can also be used optimistically: perhaps not everyone is as nihilistic as you have become.

And, finally, my favourite:

Rule 34: If it exists, there is porn of it. No exceptions.

I’m not really sure how you can use this one intellectually, but go for it. Surprise me*.

Kate Riggs

*Please also surprise me with Rule 35: “If no such porn exists, it will be made.” Ta.

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