Godwin’s law & the Nazi Cosplay Hobbiysts

Mike Godwin created the Internet adage Godwin’s law and the notion of Internet meme. After Charlottesville events he was asked to publish a statement on Twitter and said : “By all means, compare these shitheads to Nazis. Again and again. I’m with you.”

How did you react to the events in Charlottesville ?

I was asked on Facebook about GL in the light of what happened in Charlottesville. A stranger asked me this:

“This is in response to a direct-message request: ‘Mr. Godwin, pardon the lack of proper introduction, but I believe you to be the man who created the Internet adage now known as “Godwin’s Law”,” she said. “Sir, I implore you to post a statement on FB, giving your views on the recent white nationalist rally in Charlottesville Virginia.'”

I regard the racist, white-nationalist Nazi cosplay hobbyists with the horror that any civilized person must feel.

Larry Sanger, founder of Nupedia, said Wikipedia has a problem with fairness and sound governance. What was your role in the Wikimedia Foundation ?

I was general counsel for the Wikimedia Foundation from 2007 to 2010, and I continued to do legal consulting work for the Foundation for two more years after that. I think WMF has worked hard over the years I’ve been associated with it to improve governance and fairness.

Hollywood portrayed many American Neo nazis as Edward Norton in American History X, Marlon Brando, playing George Lincoln Rockwell in an episode of the series Roots, Ryan Gosling in Danny Balint or Illinois Nazis in the Blues Brothers. What did you think of these movies?

I haven’t seen AMERICAN HISTORY X. I think Edward Norton is an accomplished screen actor, but there’s nothing about the subject matter that inspires me to see it. I saw the ROOTS miniseries, and I had read Alex Haley’s book. With Brando, the question is most frequently about how Brando approached a role, not about the accuracy of his performance. I don’t remember his performance as Rockwell. I haven’t seen the Ryan Gosling film in question (it’s known here as THE BELIEVER), but I like his acting generally (more than I like Brando’s, really). I’m fond of THE BLUES BROTHERS, but I think the joke in that film is the idea that “Illinois Nazis” would be significant enough as a group for Jake and Elwood Blues to have an opinion about them. In 2017, that joke is less oddball than it seemed in 1980.

Cyberpunk writer, William Gibson, in The Difference Engine, named one of his character after you.

That’s because Gibson and his co-author, Bruce Sterling, had asked for my help in making the technical part of their collaboration work when they collaborated on THE DIFFERENCE ENGINE (1991, I think). I was pleasantly surprised they decided to namecheck me that way. I had been friends with Bruce for many years, and ultimately he introduced me to Gibson, who I now consider to be a friend as well.

Are you familiar with uchronic literature as Philip K Dick, The Man in the High Castle or Philip Roth, The Plot against America ?

I’ve read THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE several times, and I’ve also read THE PLOT AGAINST AMERICA. There are two other books I consider to be central political dystopias in American literature: They are THE IRON HEEL (Jack London) and IT CAN’T HAPPEN HERE (Sinclair Lewis). I regard all four books as essential reading. If we expand the list beyond speculative fiction, so that it includes compelling American political novels, I’d probably include ALL THE KING’S MEN (Robert Penn Warren), THE GAY PLACE (Billy Lee Brammer) and PRIMARY COLORS (Joe Klein).

About the Author
Alexandre Gilbert is the director of the Chappe gallery since 2005. He lives and works in Paris.