The 9pm Probe: Mike Godwin, attorney and author

Washington Monument at dusk

While I was in Washington DC recently, I recorded an interview with attorney and author Mike Godwin, he of Godwin’s Law fame.

We spoke about Godwin’s Law, of course, as well as nationalism, concentration camps, human rights, privacy, the fragility of democracy, Ronald Reagan, Donald Trump, libertarianism, Australia’s My Health Record, and more.

You can listen to the podcast below. But if you want all of the episodes, now and in the future, subscribe to the podcast feed, or go to SoundCloud or Spreaker.

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  • Michael Wayne Godwin (born October 26, 1956) is an American attorney and author. He was the first staff counsel of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), and he created the Internet adage Godwin's law and the notion of an Internet meme, as reported in the October 1994 issue of Wired. From July 2007 to October 2010, he was general counsel for the Wikimedia Foundation. In March 2011 he was elected to the Open Source Initiative board. Godwin has served as a contributing editor of Reason magazine since 1994. He is currently general counsel and director of innovation policy at the R Street Institute.
  • Godwin's law (or Godwin's rule of Hitler analogies) is an Internet adage asserting that "As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1"; that is, if an online discussion (regardless of topic or scope) goes on long enough, sooner or later someone will compare someone or something to Adolf Hitler or his deeds, the point at which effectively the discussion or thread often ends.
  • The American Heritage Dictionary defines the term concentration camp as: "A camp where persons are confined, usually without hearings and typically under harsh conditions, often as a result of their membership in a group the government has identified as dangerous or undesirable."
  • The government needs to explain why Australian law enforcement and intelligence agencies need the sweeping new powers proposed in the Assistance and Access Bill 2018, according to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights.
  • Albright warned against ignoring the slow but steady rise of nationalism and restrictive immigration policies around the world, comparing it to the emergence of fascism in the 1930s. She quoted fascism's founder, Benito Mussolini: If you pluck a chicken one feather at a time, nobody notices. "There is a lot of feather plucking going on. By the way, you don't want to say those words together too quickly."
  • On March 30, 1981, President Ronald Reagan and three others were shot and wounded by John Hinckley Jr. in Washington, D.C., as they were leaving a speaking engagement at the Washington Hilton Hotel. Hinckley's motivation for the attack was to impress actress Jodie Foster, who had played the role of a child prostitute in the 1976 film Taxi Driver. After seeing the film, Hinckley had developed an obsession with Foster.
  • The First Amendment (Amendment I) to the United States Constitution prevents the government from respecting an establishment of religion, prohibiting the free exercise of religion, or abridging the freedom of speech, the freedom of the press, the right to peaceably assemble, or to petition for a governmental redress of grievances.
  • Australia offers a cautionary tale of government tech gone really, really wrong.
  • Australia's controversial and clumsy rollout of its "My Health Record" program this summer didn't cause the "spill" -- what Australians call an abrupt turnover of party leadership in Parliament — that gave the country a new Prime Minister in August. But it didn't improve public trust in the government either. The program — which aims to create a massive nationally administered database of more or less every Australian's health care records — will pose massive privacy and security risks for the citizens it covers, with less-than-obvious benefits for patients, the medical establishment, and the government.
  • A comprehensive review of Australia's centralised digital health record has recommended extending the opt-out period by another 12 months while privacy controls are significantly tightened.
  • Australia has spent billions of dollars for 'nothing really useful', according to leading internet policy commentator Mike Godwin, and the proposed anti-encryption laws are 'inhumane, wrong, anti-democratic'.

Thank you, Media Freedom Citizenry!

This podcast was recorded on Friday 5 October 2018 in Washington DC.

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This episode, like the previous one, was made possible by the supporters of The 9pm Flying Visits. ONE TRIGGER WORD: Andrew Groom. FOOT SOLDIERS FOR MEDIA FREEDOM: Adam Fitzpatrick, AJ Hocking, Ben Moretti, Daniel O’Connor, David Heath, Garth Kidd, John Lindsay, Kimberley Heitman, KO Hall, Liz Darvill, Mathew McBride, Michael Keating, Michael Rowe, Peter Blakeley, Peter McCrudden, Rhydwyn, Tim Bell, Tim Hamilton. MEDIA FREEDOM CITIZENS: Adam Baxter, deejbah, Lucas James, Matt Moore, and one person who chooses to remain anonymous.

The remaining supporters of The 9pm Flying Visits will be acknowledged in the next episode.

Series Credits

[Photo: Washington Monument at dusk, photographed on 7 October 2018.]