If you spend a lot of time on message boards, then you probably know about Godwin’s Law. According to American lawyer and author Mike Godwin, as an online discussion grows longer, there is an increasing probability that someone will make a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler. This applies to any online discussion, regardless of the topic.
Over the years, I’ve spent a considerable amount of time reading message boards and comments sections of news articles, and I’ve noticed a similar behavioural quirk, one that I am now going to christen Yewchuk’s Law: “As the number of comments below an online news story (published by an American news web site) increases, the probability that someone will criticize either the current American President, a former American President, Democrats, Republicans, liberals or conservatives, approaches 1.0“. This applies to all news stories, regardless of topic. Given enough time and enough contributors, the reader comments of any news story will eventually become politicized and polarized.
So far, I’ve noticed this only on American news web sites, but I’m sure that it won’t be long before it happens in Canada and in other countries.
Here are some recent examples that illustrate my declaration. I’m using comments from the CNN web site displayed on an iPad, because it shows both the article title and the comments side by side. However, this behaviour is observable on a variety of news web sites. In these examples I’ve deliberately chosen non-political stories. If you have trouble reading the text, then click on the image to display a full-size version.