Can we civilise the Catholic Internet?
Wild Cards in inter-Catholic Online Debate
This can be found in Wikipedia:
“Godwin’s law (also known as Godwin’s Rule of Nazi Analogies or Godwin’s Law of Nazi Analogies) is an assertion made by Mike Godwin in 1990 that has become an Internet adage. It states: ‘As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches.’”
That’s followed a few paragraphs later by:
“Godwin’s law applies especially to inappropriate, inordinate, or hyperbolic comparisons of other situations (or one’s opponent) with Nazis – often referred to as ‘playing the Hitler card’.
Following Godwin’s observation, it is now an Internet convention that use of this card will usually be received simply as proof of intellectual failure by the person using it. (There must obviously be exceptions for situations such as historical discussion of the Nazi era.)
Is there a similar tendency (we need not call it a law) in inter-Catholic discussion, for someone eventually to play a familiar ‘wild card’ intended to trump an opponent and close a discussion in favour of the trumper? I’m thinking especially of casual yet damaging accusations: ‘modernist’, ‘fundamentalist’, ‘Protestant’, ‘relativist’, ‘heretic’.
I call these ‘wild cards’ because often these complex terms are deployed without any attempt to justify their use, with much the same intent as that behind terms such as ‘Nazi’, ‘Fascist’ or ‘Racist’ – to use their pejorative clout alone to batter an opponent into silence. It is enough, too often, for the user that their rhetorical force may serve to intimidate anyone who disagrees: time need not be taken to invoke an agreed definition of the term or to clearly justify its application.
Do we need analogous conventions in inter-Catholic discussion for these wild card accusations listed above (and perhaps others)? Should it be agreed that their deployment without the citation of an agreed definition of the term, and of that passage in an opponent’s post to which it is alleged to apply, is equally null and bankrupt? If an allegation or implication of divergence from defined core Catholic doctrine is involved, should it be agreed that the doctrine in question must also be cited, if this conclusion is to be avoided?
This all falls under the heading of ‘civilising the Catholic Internet’: others may have different priorities under that heading . It’s based on my own limited experience and offered merely as a ‘starter’ for discussion of this larger theme. Who knows how many potential brilliant contributors out there hold back from Internet discussion simply because such verbal daggers are liable to fly about indiscriminately, without anyone shouting ‘enough’?