Tuesday, September 28, 2010

What's in a Name, revisited

I’m not good-looking like Indiana Jones. I don’t swashbuckler my way across all seven continents, hitch rides on U-boats, or solve the mysteries of the past. I can’t use a whip to swing across a gaping chasm or knock a pistol out of a bad guys’ hand. And I don’t look good in a fedora.

I do, however, have one thing in common with Indiana Jones:

For the record, I don’t hate Nazis because of personal loss or injury. I can’t count anyone in my family who died in concentration camps. I had relatives (uncles and great uncles) who fought in the war – an uncle who flew a P-38 in Europe, two uncles who were in the Navy – but none that died in it. One friend’s father came back from the Battle of the Bulge seriously messed up, while another came back and picked up as if nothing was wrong. So it’s not personal in that sense. I hate what the Nazis – past and present – stand for, and I find it reprehensible when I see Nazis parading around on TV, baring swastika tattoos, carrying flags and spouting hatred. When it comes down to it, I guess you could say that I hate hatred (not just Nazis – there’s plenty of hate groups out there to hate). Rather ironic, I suppose.

What does this have to do with WoW?

Last week my wife and two friends jumped into the dungeon finder. Tank/healer combination = instant queue and she found herself in a group with…Hitler. She had to heal Hitler. She was not happy about it, she did not like it, and I know she debated whether to stay or not. I suggested she not heal him, and not rez him when he died (which he did, once). As far as I know, Hitler was not Sieg, Heil!-ing around Gundrak, nor spouting off any kind of Nazi crap. It was probably a typical, silent LFD run, and she was quite happy when it was over.

It made me wonder about this guy, and I tried to find him, so I started searching the armory, and the results were surprising. Did you know…

There are 3 arena teams and one guild named ‘Hitler’ (actually, one is named HITLER – guess they felt the need to shout). No players on the armory (US) currently have the name Hitler. I haven’t tried naming a character ‘Hitler’. I wonder if I could.

So I decided to start playing with special characters. There are 8 Hitlërs, 6 Hìtlers, 3 Hítlers, 11 Hîtlers, 9 Hìtlêrs. The big winner was Hïtler, with 12 entries. Somehow I never found the one that my wife ran with; I guess I didn’t hit the right combination of special characters.

So right off the bat we have 49 assholes in the World of the World of Warcraft.

But now my curiosity was piqued, and I decided to start searching for other big Nazis in the WoW-niverse. I came up with 64 Himmlers. For those of you who aren’t familiar with him, Himmler was in charge of the SS (more on that in a bit), While poking around some of the guilds associated with one of the Himmlers, I came across a toon named Göring. There were 20 Görings, and 60 Goerings. Herman Göring (frequently spelled Goering in history books) was commander of the German Air Force and was designated as Hitler’s successor by Hitler himself in 1941 (In fact, Göring likely would have taken power in 1945 while Hitler was trapped in his bunker in Berlin if not for the subterfuge of Martin Borman. The tricky Borman outmaneuvered Göring, resulting in Göring being kicked out of the Nazi party). He profited greatly by plundering the wealth of conquered nations and German Jews who were stripped of their possessions. Göring was executed for war crimes.

The guild that I found Himmler and Göring in together was called Der Deutschen Orden, on Cho’gall. And speaking of guilds, how about this? I came across a guild called Nazì Storm Troopers on Gurubashi. Göring was the GM. I guess he managed to come to power after all.

Speaking of guilds, I found a whole lot of Nazi-themed guild out there. There are 18 guilds named Totenkopf (Death’s Head, in German). That was the name of the SS division who’s founding member served as Inspector General of Concentration Camps. The original cadre of the division was made up of camp guards (to be totally fair, this was before they became extermination camps, but the tradition of brutality and dehumanization began on their watch), and SS Totenkopf committed one of the first war crimes on the Western front, when they gunned down 97 British POWs in France in May of 1940. No coincidence, by the way, that most of the Totenkopf guilds sport a skull and crossbones on their tabards according to my informal survey.

There are 126 characters named Totenkopf. One of them sits in a guild all by himself: Der Schutzstaffel. Do you know what Der Schutzstaffel is? It’s the SS, gang. The SS was responsible for overseeing concentration and extermination camps, the secret police, and security in Nazi Germany. The SS also administered units known as ‘Einsatzgruppen’, ad hoc units that were responsible for the massacres of thousands, particularly in Poland and the Soviet Union. There are four guilds that carry this tag. Feeling queasy yet?

Do I believe that there are hundreds or thousands of Nazis running around World of Warcraft? Probably not in the thousands, but certainly plenty. At least in the United States hate group activity is on the rise, which includes racist skinheads and neo-Nazis, among others. With 11 million players world-wide you’d be naïve to think at least some of those people aren’t Nazis or similar. Who knows, I might even have one or two in my guild. IF so, they’ve kept their nasty thoughts to themselves.

At the same time, I don’t believe that most of these people, even with names like Hìtler and Göring, and guild names like Totenkopf and The SS (7 guilds, by the way) are Nazis. Some of them, yes. I don’t believe it’s any accident that one of the Hïtlers is in a guild called Brotherhood of Hatred with an asshole named Coontakinta. This name is a racist spoof on the name Kunta Kinte, who is a central character in Alex Haley’s ‘Roots’, a book that chronicles the lives of several generations of slave in the American South.

No, I think that most of the 200 or so Nazi types I found in this search are simply guilty of stupidity, ignorance and, perhaps most of all, insensitivity. It’s a bit different than the stupidity, ignorance and insensitivity displayed by real Nazis. Some of these folks may just be undereducated: They may know who Hitler is, and shy away from that name, but do they know Göring or Himmler? Maybe it’s a family name, or something that sounded cool, I don’t know. I suspect that most of the WoW-Nazis are likely kids doing some of the silly stuff that kids do – trying to be cool, thinking that a guild tag like ‘Blitzkrieger’, ‘The Panzer Korp’ or even ‘Totenkopf’ looks bad-ass. They’re really not all that different than I was when, in ninth grade or so, I sang John Valby songs with my friends on the school bus going home. A lot of things I did back then make me cringe when I think about it; I certainly never thought that I might be hurting anyone by singing ‘Bang, Bang, Lulu’ or ‘The EatBite Song’.

I grew out of that stage, without getting thrown off the bus, suspended from school, or having my ass kicked. In my informal survey, I see some encouraging signs. Most of the blatantly Nazi-named players are low-level and show very limited activity (e.g., Totenkopf in Der Schutzstaffel shows his last activity of December, 2008). A lot of the toons that come up on name searches can’t be found, and many of the guilds are empty shells. I’ll also add that most people show good sense and steer away from these players. Most guild with a Hitler have 10 members or less, and the 2 Der Schutzstaffel guilds have three players between them. A large number of these toons are unguilded. You’re known by the company you keep, and it seems most people don’t want to be known in this manner.

At least there’s hope for the misinformed, undereducated and the offensive for offensive’s sake. Misinformation and undereducated can be corrected. The deliberately offensive can grow out of it, like I did. I don’t know how much hope there is for the hopefully few who really believe in Hitler and the shit that he stood for. I don’t like seeing it in the real world, and I don’t like seeing it in the game world.


  1. Thanks for a really nice post! It's interesting to see that Blizzard hasn't banned these names from creation, but maybe that is something difficult to do (and something people always will find ways to get around anyway). And as you say, it is possible that people are using their family names (although not likely). I've been lucky enough not to encounter any of these names, so fortunately they aren't very common. On a side note, Totenkopf is a general word for Skull in german, so we can hope most of those named that way didn't actually think about Nazis.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Zinn. I'm not sure if Blizzard actually has any names 'pre-banned', so to speak. I believe they will only take action if they become aware of it. A number of the Hitler variants that I tried to look at on the armory were not found, which I assume means they were changed, deleted, or transferred with a name change. I do believe most of these people are just trying to stir the pot and get a reaction out of people.

    Thanks for the clarification on the word 'totenkopf'. I guess this is a case of 'a little knowledge is a bad thing'. I guess I've gotten so used to seeing it in relation to the SS and its regalia that I missed that broader context. It could be an illustration of the idea that, once you start looking for trouble, you find it everywhere.