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The Goodwin Effect; Controversy Surrounding Gary Lineker

The Godwin Effect is described as and occurs when an online discussion is extended and likened to that of propaganda draws closer to 100%. It was coined by Mike Godwin in 1990 and has since been used to describe how discussions on the internet can quickly devolve into pointless arguments, and at best unclear rhetoric.  However, in recent years, the Godwin Effect has taken on a new meaning, particularly in the realm of politics.  It now refers to the use of the 1940s German Army comparisons to shut down political discourse or to discredit an opposing viewpoint. This has become a prevalent tactic in political discussions, especially on social media platforms.

The Godwin Effect has been in the news recently, particularly in relation to the BBC dispute over Gary Lineker's tweet. Lineker, a former England footballer, and prominent sports presenter and commentator for the BBC has also expressed critical views of the current government's policies, particularly in reference to issues concerning Brexit, and immigration.

This statement drew criticism from many, including the UK's Home Secretary, Priti Patel, who called for Lineker to be fired from the BBC.  She accused him of breaching the BBC's impartiality rules, which require all presenters to remain neutral on political issues.

Lineker's comment also sparked a wider debate about the use of such comparisons in political discourse. Some argued that such comparisons were inappropriate and disrespectful to the victims of the Holocaust. Others defended Lineker, saying that he was merely using an analogy to highlight the plight of refugees.

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The BBC issued a statement in response to the controversy, stating that Lineker's comments did not breach its impartiality guidelines. However, the incident has once again brought the Godwin Effect to the forefront of public consciousness, particularly in relation to the use of historic military comparisons in political discussions.


In conclusion, the Godwin Effect is a phenomenon that has been around for decades, but its meaning has evolved over time. It now refers to the use of historic German military comparisons to shut down political discourse or discredit an opposing viewpoint. The recent controversy involving Gary Lineker and the BBC highlights the ongoing debate about the appropriateness of such comparisons in political discussions. As political discourse continues to evolve in the age of social media, it is important to remain vigilant about the use of inflammatory language and to ensure that discussions remain respectful and productive. 


But what does this mean for people in organisations and the discussion of sensitive topics?  It indicates that people anchor current conversations to previous contexts.  That the treatment of people and communication relating to sensitive topics such as ethnicity is not uncommonly routed and related to previous, or past treatments, on a societal level.  It is therefore in an organisation's best interest to not ignore socio-historical factors that impact and shape the attitudes and behaviours of people in organisations.

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