Gary Littman


Garry Littman is the owner and director of The Language House in Geneva which organises English language training for professional people, companies and students. He was a radio and newspaper journalist in his native Australia and ran a restaurant in Kathmandu in his younger days. He is an English language trainer and an aficionado of pétanque.

If the country were run on the internet it would be permanent civil war

Youtube is great for video and music. But please don’t read the comments. Some of them would make a serial killer blush (rougir).

What is it that turns relatively normal civilised offline people into such energetic online expurgers of hate and vitriol?  With the mere click of a mouse it’s goodbye Dr Jekyll, and hello Mr Hyde.

The moderator of the Guardian newspaper forum, who wisely remains anonymous, recently wrote in a most understated way:

I’ve discovered that commenting on message boards and forums reveals a different side to your personality. Usually one that shouldn’t be encouraged.

There are topics some people seen unable to discuss without losing their minds.

If the country were run on the internet it would be civil war permanently.

A professional in a white coat, wearing horn-rimmed glasses might say: The online disinhibition effect is a loosening or complete abandonment of social restrictions and inhibitions that would otherwise be present in normal face-to-face interaction. This effect is caused by many factors, including dissociative anonymity, invisibility, asynchronicity, solipsistic introjection, dissociative imagination, and minimization of authority, and more blah, blah, blahisms…

In the gritty street-wise language of the web this psycho-babble is better known as the GIFT Theory: The Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory, which equates to this mathematical sum: Normal Person + Anonymity + Audience = Total Fuckwad (a rude term for idiot).

This theory asserts that normal, well-adjusted people may display psychopathic or antisocial behaviours when given both anonymity and a captive audience on the Internet.

The Guardian moderator, armed with his weapon of choice; the delete button, says rather sadly:

I spend my day seeing people being idiots to each other.

I imagine that the worst offender are in reality meek and mild, just unleashing vitriol  from the safety of their laptops. Why do people need to vent such strong opinions?

Our behavioural mutations in front of the screen have created a plethora of laws and theories about the darker side of internet use. Here are some of the best known. The definitions come from a wide variety of sources including the Urban Dictionary and Wikipedia. 

Godwin's Law

Godwin's Law states that as an online argument grows longer and more heated, it becomes increasingly likely that somebody will bring up Adolf Hitler or the Nazis. When such an event occurs, the person guilty of invoking Godwin's Law has effectively lost the argument.

- Dude, shut up. Nobody cares what you think."
- Oh, so now you're trying to censor me? Go to hell, you damn Nazi!"

Rule 34

If it exists there is porn of it. No exceptions.

Generally accepted internet rule that states that pornography or sexually related material exists for any conceivable subject.

Skitts law

Any post correcting an error in another post will contain at least one error itself.

Law of Exclamation (and CAPITAL LETTERS)

The law of exclamation is an internet law that states: The more exclamation points used in an email (or other posting), the more likely it is a complete lie. This is also true for excessive capital letters, which is  also known as shouting through your keyboard.

Pommer’s Law

This states that a person's mind can be changed by reading information on the internet. The nature of this change will be from having no opinion to having a wrong opinion.

Poe’s Law

Poe's Law concerns internet debates, particularly regarding religion or politics.
Without a winking smileyor other blatant display of humour, it is impossible to create a parody of fundamentalism that someone won't mistake for the real thing.

Cunningham's Law

The best way to get the right answer on the Internet is not to ask the question, but rather to post the wrong answer. This is the internet equivalent of the French expression: prêcher le faux pour savoir le vrai.

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