Coined in 2013 by the Italian programmer Alberto Brandolini, Brandolini's Law is one of several "internet laws" (such as Poe's Law and Godwin's Law) addressing the reliable patterns in human social behaviour when communicating through putatively-anonymous electronic media.
The law itself, also called the "bullshit asymmetry principle," states the following, in this post on Twitter by Brandolini:
The amount of energy needed to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude bigger than to produce it.
During contentious discussion in message boards and other websites where long, paragraph-format commentary is the primary method of interaction, the prevailing tendency is for consecutive posts each to be longer than the post before them, as respondents expend greater and greater amounts of time and energy to dismantle the points given in prior posts. Because many interlocutors do not interact in good faith, not all participants attempt to adhere to the same standards of logic and quality rhetoric, and some willfully perform a Gish Gallop, making as many far-fetched statements as they feel will entangle future replies in an irretrievable snare of unreasonable difficulty. Faced with such a Gordian Knot of undiluted horseshit, those attempting to cut through it by declaring a Gish Gallop indeed has occurred are then confronted with claims that they are executing ad hominem attacks and appealing to tone, rather than refuting the (bad faith) argument with calm logic.
Brandolini was not the first to point out this issue; the Russian physicist Sergey Lopatnikov remarked on it in a 2005 essay (here linked; an English translation is available):
If the text of each phrase requires a paragraph (to disprove), each paragraph - a section, each section - a chapter, and each chapter - a book, the whole text becomes effectively irrefutable and, therefore, acquires features of truthfulness. I define such truthfulness as transcendental.
Brandolini's Law is able to be circumvented by several means, any of which risk accusations of censorship by the same sort of people who accuse others of ad hominem for pointing out the use of Gish Gallop. Every method has additional contingent flaws; this non-exhaustive list addresses several of them:
- Disallowing or moderating comments and replies - the most effective method, as anybody who wishes to start a bullshit episode in the first place will have to take it to an outside platform.
- Disallowing anonymous responses by requiring users to sign in through identifying social media accounts - a more limited utility, as this disproportionately attracts users of the selected social media, which can be very politically skewed, creating hostile echo chambers.
- Voting systems which privilege comments that a greater number of users approve of, and deplatform comments with high disapproval, such as on reddit - this has the unfortunate side effect of privileging the earliest comments, rather than the highest quality comments, and it reinforces any echo chambers which develop early in the commentary thread.
- Privileging commentary by public figures, through the use of approved accounts, such as on Twitter and "ask" subreddits - this raises the issue of determining who is sufficiently qualified to contribute to a topic; too low a bar allows pundits and entertainment celebrities to have the same level of visibility within a thread (or greater visibility) compared with subject matter experts who have published extensive peer-reviewed research on the topic. It can also allow indirect punditry through the involvement of people who are experts in one subject, and thus carry a disproportionate amount of public trust concerning all subjects, even those unrelated to their research publications.
Iron Noder 2020, 29/30