Mike Godwin Falls Victim to Nazi Tactics! Can’t Say so for Fear of Violating Own Law.

by Urizenus Sklar on 26/10/10 at 2:43 am

Godwin muzzled by Godwin’s law!  This would never happen to Glenn Beck.


By Urizenus Sklar, from the Hall of Mirrors Desk

Cryptically and on short notice, my old friend Mike Godwin has left his position as General Counsel for Wikipedia. He first notified his staff on Oct. 19 and he was out on Oct 22. Why the quick departure? The letter from the Executive Director of Wikipedia included a FAQ that raises more questions than it answers:

Why is Mike leaving the Wikimedia Foundation?

Mike leaving the Wikimedia Foundation is a confidential personnel issue, and the Wikimedia Foundation doesn’t talk about confidential personnel issues with anyone except the people directly involved. We want to handle this kind of thing with respect for people’s privacy and dignity, and we are hopeful we can do that in this instance. That means, we’re not going to answer this question, and we hope you will understand why.

That isn’t a FAQ, that is a FUQ, as in a frequently unanswered question. And as we know, when people don’t say much they are violating Grice’s Maxim of Quantity, which usually means they can’t say what they really want to say, which is this: Nazis made us do it!

In this case, the speculation in the Hall of Mirrors™ is that Godwin has been pushed out because of his smack talking the FBI over the use of the FBI seal on Wikipedia.

Back in August, the FBI took umbrage at the FBI insignia appearing on the Wikipedia FBI page. FBI General Counsel David Larson cited 18 U.S.C. 701, which states: "Whoever manufactures, sells, or possesses any badge, identification card, or other insignia, of the design prescribed by the head of any department or agency of the United States for use by any officer or employee thereof, or any colorable imitation thereof, or photographs, prints, or in any other manner makes or executes any engraving, photograph, print, or impression in the likeness of any such badge, identification card, or other insignia, or any colorable imitation thereof, except as authorized under regulations made pursuant to law, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than six months, or both."

Godwin fired back in his usual manner – a manner designed to outflame all opponents in WELL flame wars (back when his pseud was “mnemonic” and his style was all aggression all the time): “while we appreciate your desire to revise the statute to reflect your expansive vision of it, the fact is that we must work with the actual language of the statute, not [the FBI's] aspirational version." Godwin went on to point out, quite correctly, that the law "was intended to protect the public against the use of a recognizable assertion of authority with intent to deceive."

Could this really be why Godwin is out? Stranger things have happened. And…

…in the Hall of Mirrors™, we may never know.

9 Responses to “Mike Godwin Falls Victim to Nazi Tactics! Can’t Say so for Fear of Violating Own Law.”

  1. Bubblesort Triskaidekaphobia

    Oct 26th, 2010

    “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a reference to Goodwin approaches 1.”

    ~Adolf Hitler

  2. Tux

    Oct 26th, 2010

    What of all the children dressed as cowboys with sheriff (sp?) badges that run round the garden hunting them there outlaws?

    Do they get fined and imprisioned?

  3. Breen Whitman

    Oct 26th, 2010

    @ Tux “Do they get fined and imprisioned?”

    Yes. Talk is that children have disappeared. Supposedly renditioned to countries of dubious repute.

    But its ok, its for the children and thawts the ter’rists.

    Tiny American flags for everyone!

  4. Pappy Enoch

    Oct 26th, 2010

    Revenuers! Git them rascals up to Rockytop an’ we’ll show ‘em good.

  5. hobo kelly

    Oct 26th, 2010

    Wellsum, I reckon that thar halcyon age of wine and ‘bama are a comin to a close and a new srs bsns era is a returnin’ to the land what where everybody can start makin’ sum money again after that thar proper corporate attitude is finally fully re-established in the Zeitgeist again and these commie lefty “give it all away free” bolsheviks are pushed back from the white house into some nut house wheresum they cant wreck the economysum no mo..

    Sort of. I reckon that thar Wikipedia is one of them thar bestest things on that Interweb Hall of Mirrors, and I hopesum it dun gets better an better even while things are gonna be forced to make more $profit to stay afloat an mebbe less hammarin’ on that thar government in the meantime.

    Which makes me dun worry a little bit fer this here Wikiville Herald I reckon. Pokin’ at them thar Lindens and tryin’ to derail their fun while liberatin’ some high speed Lulz particles isum one thing that Wikiville is proven good at over the years I reckon but pokin at them thar RL US government types might reap sum kinda Art Imitates Life economic vortex that sucks it down into Belleview Town where its handle is the White Knight, come on…


  6. IntLibber Brautigan

    Oct 26th, 2010

    Apparently then, all those griefers in the F.B.I. group in SL were actually working for the FBI, or else LL is violating this law too…

  7. anonymoose

    Oct 27th, 2010

    You know who else mentioned nazis all the time?


  8. Glenn Beck

    Oct 27th, 2010

    You know who else mentioned nazis being mentioned by hitler all the time?


  9. Sigmund Leominster

    Oct 30th, 2010

    Ultimately the truthiness of Godwin’s departure can only be verified by having Godwin himself tell us all why. Having read the links supplied by the Herald, Godwin doesn’t seem like the sort to go gentle into that good night and one can only hope he reveals the reasons. After all, if, as Sue Gardner said, this is a “confidential personnel issue,” then although the Wikimedia Foundation can rightly claim that it has to keep confidentiality from a corporate perspective, Godwin has no such restriction. He can say what he likes about himself.

    it may also be that although this comes at about the same time as the FBI issued its complaint/warning (and that was apparently two months ago) this incident in of itself may not be the cause of his leaving but perhaps one of a series of issues that Godwin was having to feel with during his tenure. He did say at one point that working as the sole attorney for WF was “…lonely, really lonely. It gets excruciating sometimes. I go into the bathroom saying legal stuff to myself just so I can hear it..” (http://www.callawyer.com/common/print.cfm?eid=902226&evid=1)

    Still, it would be extremely interesting to hear from Godwin a little more about his time with Wikimedia and his run-ins with First Amendment issues. Perhaps Uri can encourage his old friend to offer the Herald a piece?

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