The man who coined “Godwin’s law,” an adage from the early days of the internet that derides the prevalent use of Nazi comparisons in online discussions, has sanctioned the analogy for one specific group: neo-Nazis.
“As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one,” states lawyer Mike Godwin’s rule, first penned in 1990 in reference to threaded online discussions such as internet forums and chat rooms. The “law” was meant to poke fun at commenters who are unable to engage in meaningful discussion and revert instead to labeling opponents as Nazis.
But amid public debate over statements by US President Donald Trump following deadly violence that broke out at a Virginia rally of white supremacists, Godwin, now the general counsel of conservative think tank R Street Institute, said that the rule can be broken when referring to the collection of Klansman, neo-Nazis, alt-right and white nationalists that marched in Charlottesville over the weekend.
“By all means, compare these shitheads to the Nazis. Again and again. I’m with you,” Godwin wrote on Facebook.
By all means, compare these shitheads to the Nazis. Again and again. I'm with you.
In a comment on his own post, Gowin explained that he was writing in response to a question he had been sent about the use of the law in regard to the Viginia protesters.
“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”. Sir, I implore you to post a statement on FB, giving your views on the recent white nationalist rally in Charlottesville Virginia,” the message sent to Godwin read.
“Your adage is invoked so very often to shut down discussions about politics and social issues as soon as any comparisons to Nazism and 1930’s Germany are made, but now that videos have surfaced showing the Nazi flag being waved in the Charlottesville parade… Sir, would you please make a public statement? I’ve noted before that sometimes sheer irony can pierce to the heart of an argument, to deflate the opposing side,” the message continued, according to Godwin.
White nationalists assembled in Charlottesville on Friday to vent their frustration against the city’s plans to take down a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee.
Counter-protesters massed in opposition the next day. A few hours after violent encounters between the two groups, a car was driven into a crowd of people protesting the racist rally, killing a 32-year-old woman and injuring 26 others. The driver was later taken into custody.
Two Virginia state troopers were also killed when their police helicopter crashed and caught on fire while responding to clashes between white supremacist protesters and counterprotesters.
Trump has come under mounting fire, even from members of his own party, for blaming the violence on hatred and bigotry “on many sides,” and not explicitly condemning the white extremist groups at the rally.
On Sunday, the White House released a statement clarifying that his condemnation of hate and bigotry at the “Unite the Right” Virginia rally had been in reference to the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis.