Larson’s Law states, “In any debate, the first side to resort to censorship of opposing viewpoints automatically loses the debate.” It is the principle that any person who not only declines to participate in debate with those who have certain viewpoints on a topic but uses censorship to render more difficult the nondisruptive expression (i.e. expression done in ways that are not disruptive in and of themselves, without regard to disruption caused by the reactions of others) of those views in forums where those opinions would have been on-topic, automatically loses the debate. For example, on RationalWiki and RationalWikiWiki, dissident views concerning adult-child sex were deleted and the proponent of those views was banned, or threatened with a ban, from those sites if they did not refrain from expressing those viewpoints; then, when he established RationalWikiWikiWiki, the RW and RWWians objected to that site’s existence and purpose, with the RWWians raising the specter of a ban from their site as punishment.
The principle behind Larson’s Law is similar to that of the policy debate drop. As Wikipedia notes, “An argument is normally considered dropped if it is not answered in the speech in which the opposing team has the first opportunity to answer it. Generally, in the first affirmative rebuttal, the speaker is required to answer all arguments made so far by the negative team. This is because if the affirmative chooses to respond to the arguments in the second affirmative rebuttal, it is abusive to the negative because the affirmative gets the last speech, leaving the neg with no way to refute any argument made.” If a person makes an attempt to suppress the opposing side’s ability to express its arguments, this is abusive to that side, and therefore by the normal rules of debate is to be penalized by forfeiture of the debate.
Larson’s Law is also based on the principle that an argumentum ad baculum is a fallacy of relevance; most censorship involves an authority saying, “Quit expressing this viewpoint or you will be punished.” The fact that any side in a debate would feel the need to resort to such tactics suggests that they have no better arguments. Therefore, as with the reductio ad Hitlerum, they can be deemed to have automatically lost. This is similar to the basis for ZackMartin’s Law.
Larson’s Law does not cover situations in which a person simply declines to discuss a topic at all. Rather, it covers situations in which a person allows one side of a debate to express its view, but censors the opposing view. This indicates that the objection is not to the debate occurring at all, but only to certain viewpoints.
Larson’s Law can be considered as encouraging good sportsmanship. Suppose you were to sit down to play chess with someone, and he were to play an unorthodox chess opening that you did not like, such as Grob’s Attack. And suppose he were to immediately not only kick you out of your house but try to prevent you from playing that opening on anyone else. Would he be deemed to have won against you, or to have refuted that opening, if his conduct successfully deterred you from playing that opening again? No; he would have not only forfeited, but shown poor sportsmanship too.
Similarly, if someone resorts to censorship of an opposing view, and successfully suppresses the expression of that view, he has not won, or refuted the argument. He has, on the contrary, forfeited the argument and also shown himself to be a bully. His behavior should be condemned by people who value free, full and open debate.