Nazis on the Net

by Crawford Kilian

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Date: Wed, 17 Apr 1996 08:27:22 GMT
From: Crawford Kilian 
Subject: Nazis on the Net

I published the following rather long article in the Georgia Straight, a
Vancouver weekly paper, on April 11. It may be of interest for the issues
of free speech and Internet access that it deals with. You may, however, 
find some passages disturbing or offensive; I certainly do.


The far right has become very visible lately. New groups and movements have sprung up here, in the US, and in Europe; old groups have revived. They go under many names: neo-Nazis, Holocaust deniers, racist skinheads, militias, white nationalists. They often seem to disagree with one another as intensely as they disagree with the status quo, and their ideology ranges from the sophisticated to the incoherent.

Sidebar
Stormfrontprovides access to a great many other Ultra pages in the US, Canada and Britain.
Nizkor Nizkor also provides links to some Ultra sites as well as anti-Ultra groups.
Vancouver Progressive This site links with many anti-racist groups.

Psychologically they seem to bear a striking resemblance to many of the North American communists of the 1930s and 40s. Like the Reds, they see themselves as the persecuted vanguard of a morally superior group (whites instead of workers) which unaccountably fails to recognize its own interests. Politically, though, they are very far indeed from the Reds--all the way over on the far end of the spectrum. So let's call these groups the "Ultra-violets," or Ultras for short. Whatever we may think of their views, they deserve attention as a phenomenon--especially as a phenomenon that tests other people's genuine commitment to democratic values like freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and open debate. But the Ultras would be far less significant if they were not exploiting a technology designed to defend just those democratic values: the Internet.

The creators of the original Internet --back in the '60s, during the Cold War--built it to survive multiple nuclear strikes. Even if Soviet H-bombs vaporized scores of cities and military bases, information would still flow between surviving computers to sustain a defence and counterattack. Democracy would withstand nuclear war, even if most of its supporters would not.

Whether democracy can withstand the rigorous application of its own values is now in question. Designed to be unkillable, today's Internet looks uncontrollable. We now possess a communications system in which anyone can say anything to anyone else. People can be obscene, scurrilous, malevolent--and no one can silence them.

Other nations, democratic and otherwise, are alarmed about the political and cultural consequences of free Internet discourse. Singapore wants its three million citizens to live on an "intelligent island" wired into the Net--but it doesn't want pornography or political dissidence leaking in. China is equally cool to the idea, given its memories of the fax invasion it suffered in 1989, when overseas Chinese students bombarded campuses at home with news and pictures of the Tiananmen Square massacre.

The Ultras pose a complex challenge. They've taken to the Internet eagerly and effectively. They have their own newsgroups, discussion areas available to almost anyone with access to the Internet. They also run listservs, discussions open only to subscribers (and subscribing is usually quite easy). The Ultras have their own websites, locations holding extensive texts and graphics which computer users can view and copy onto their own machines. Along with the pornographers, the Ultras provoke repeated calls for limits on Net freedom of speech, calls that are sometimes answered: those who supply the Ultras with Net access often cancel their accounts.

Because their views are so unpopular, the Ultras make themselves a litmus test for the rest of us: Does freedom of speech mean tolerating racism and anti-Semitism? And if it does, should we respond with contemptuous silence? Or should we devote time and energy to detailed rebuttal of Ultra views?

To answer those questions, it helps to know what--and whom--we're talking about. Look at the live Ultras on the Net and you find few who match the stereotype of the halfwitted skinhead or the paranoid pretend-soldier of the militia.

For one thing, most are far from illiterate. The texts on Don Black's Stormfront website, for example, are generally clear and articulate. While I can't judge his German-language materials, his texts in Spanish are also well-written. Running a trilingual website reflects a cosmopolitan outlook--another challenge to stereotype.

Many Ultras try to make an academically documented case for their views. Marc Lemire of the Digital Freedom BBS in Toronto posts long reviews of books questioning the Holocaust or documenting the firestorm that destroyed Dresden. Greg Raven of the Institute for Historical Review (a Holocaust-denying group in California) says revisionism has no connection with neo-Nazism, white nationalism, or other Ultra positions: "Historical revisionism is supposed to be a part of writing history (historiography). As time passes, we gain new information and new insights, which allow us to better perceive not only the facts of events but also their context. Furthermore, the IHR is neither ideological nor political."

For a time last year, Raven offered a link to the home page of the North Shore News, which carries Doug Collins's columns supporting Holocaust revisionism and other Ultra positions. When the News discovered the link, it asked Raven to close it; he promptly did so.

Raven's home page explicitly denies carrying anything racist or hateful and promises to withdraw anything criticized as such. Nevertheless, Raven doesn't ask Stormfront to close its links to his own home page. And Stormfront is avowedly White Nationalist. Based in West Palm Beach, Florida, Stormfront features Nazi-style Gothic lettering, numerous links to sympathetic groups elsewhere in the US and Canada, and extensive texts and graphics. According to Milton John Kleim, Jr., who calls himself "Net Nazi Number One," Stormfront "lists just about every important individual and group that should be noted."

Indeed, the Net itself is the common denominator of the Ultras. They may disagree with one another, even quarrel bitterly, but they keep the lines of communication open to one another. That's because without the Net, the Ultras are scattered and isolated. Marc Lemire describes his own progress in Ontario (via e-mail, as is the case with most quoted material here):

"On April 1, 1995 I started up Digital Freedom BBS (416) 462-3327. I also got two Internet sites and began forging a lot of contacts with likeminded people on the Internet. Within four months I had an E-mailing list of around 400+ and contacts with all the Sysops and leaders throughout the United States and Canada. We are also working quite closely with European leaders. We have our address on two Web sites and I post to Usenet almost every day."

Milton Kleim, in Minnesota, has found a similar community forming through the Net: "All of my comrades and I, none of whom I have ever met face-to-face, share a unique camaraderie, feeling as though we have been friends for a long time. Selfless cooperation occurs regularly amongst my comrades for a variety of endeavors. This feeling of comradeship is irrespective of national identity or State borders."

Is the Net a useful means of recruiting sympathizers? "Absolutely," says Kleim. "There are millions of people who agree with us, but feel isolated and helpless because they don't know who to contact to network with others who feel similarly... Usenet, in combination with the Web, offers unparalleled opportunity for our Movement to get our views and more importantly our facts across to the general public." He's even created a manual, "Tactics and Strategy for Usenet," advising Ultras on how to use the medium to attract and hold sympathetic "newbies." And Lemire says a little publicity goes a long way: "Digital Freedom has been listed in over 5 different publications in the Toronto area, which has brought us over 1800 users."

What else do Ultras share besides a sense of camaraderie? Stormfront currently offers several major documents: three long articles about the US government's attacks on the Branch Davidians in Waco and on an Ultra family in Ruby Ridge, Idaho; an article about a Canadian rabbi who wants Net censorship and another about the Chretien government's "gun grab" legislation. Other articles deal with racial issues. In one, ex-Klansman David Duke finds much to admire in the Indian caste system.

Stormfront also offers links to like-minded pages. The Aryan Nations page, for example, after describing Jews as a "virus," rejects the label of "hate group": "It is not hate that makes the average White man look upon a mixed racial couple with a scowl on his face and loathing in his heart. It is not hate that makes the White housewife throw down the daily jewspaper [sic] in repulsion and anger after reading of yet another child-molester or rapist sentenced by corrupt courts to a couple short years in prison or on parole. It is not hate that makes the White workingman curse over his beer about the latest boatload of mud-creatures dumped upon our shores to be given job preference over the White citizens who build this land.* No, it is not hate, IT'S LOVE."

Other links offer Net surfers access to Resistance Records, producers of skinhead music; the British National Party; the Independent White Racialists ("Your skin is your uniform."); and a collection of Canadian groups known as Freedom Site: the Heritage Front, the Canadian Patriots Network, Citizens for Foreign Aid Reform, and others.

Another recent link is the Pat Buchanan for President home page. Although Stormfront's Black doesn't consider Buchanan adequately "racialist," he feels the candidate is worth supporting. Fellow-Ultras like Milton Kleim strongly disagree, and advocate voting for the "Bolshevik" Bill Clinton instead. This, they say, will ensure that life will become more rapidly intolerable for exploited whites, rousing them from their apathy to join the Ultra cause. Kleim argues: "Boobus Americanus does NOT operate rationally; he has no opinion, and cannot form an opinion independent of the Jewsmedia. The ONLY thing that can 'convert' Boobus Americanus is more and more Negro crime, less and less jobs, greater and greater hardships of all kinds. Joe Sixpack will do absolutely nothing until the flow of his beer ends. The average American moron must be FORCED to think, and no amount of racist propaganda concealed Buchanan-style in patriotic wrappers will make the masses consider 'the Truth.'"

A "White Nationalism FAQ" (frequently asked questions) on Stormfront proposes creating separate nations for whites and non-whites, to spare whites from continuing exploitation through racial-preference schemes in hiring, university admissions, and government contracting. The FAQ's author, using the Norse-mythology pen name Yggdrasil, suggests ceding land already occupied by non-whites. Whites-only areas, however, would still welcome Asians. (The only ones with much to fear, evidently, would be white liberals: "Those who are guilty of 'integrationism' should do the sensible thing and flee. It will spare us all a lot of pain.")

Milton Kleim, by contrast, sees a different future: "The United States of America, the Confederate States of America, Canada, and Quebec would be unified into one Nation-State, perhaps known as the Aryan Confederation." Local government would operate with elected officials, "but the present ridiculous parliamentary game in national politics would be replaced with frequent referenda for important issues."

Kleim would follow a "live and let live" policy with nations like Japan and Iraq. "Belligerent actions of those governments violently opposed to us, such as the criminal State of Israel, or the menace to the world called China, would be countered with equal force, up to and including total utilization of America's strategic forces."

The Ultras have suffered everything from jail sentences to e-mailed death threats, but appear determined to carry on. Critics may damn their anti-Semitism, mock their paranoia (one Ultra wondered whether Stormfront were a government-run trap), and dismiss their "facts" as exploded fantasies. Outsiders may wonder why Ultras are going to so much trouble for "Boobus Americanus" whites who are mere "sheeple" even if they are, technically, Aryans. Nevertheless, half a century after the defeat of Nazism, something in its worldview appeals to them. And just as the Nazis used the new media of radio and film, their spiritual descendants are using the Net to spread their message.

The case of Toronto's Ernst Zundel shows how technically hard it is to suppress that message. Spreading neo-Nazi views is illegal in Germany, so when Zundel set up his own website recently, the German government tried to close German Netters off from access to it. Several other Net servers (computers directly linked to the Internet) promptly established "mirror" sites that Berlin would find it much more awkward to close off--such as university campuses. Like the hydra, unpopular propaganda can grow more heads each time one is cut off.

This is not to say that mirror sites at American and Canadian universities portend a neo-Nazi trend on campus--only that the logic of free speech means supporting it especially in the cases of those we may not only oppose but detest. It also means considering whether Canadian laws against "hate speech" and "false news" may be intrinsically oppressive, however well-intended. (Even when such cases fail, the prospect of court action, like "libel chill," may keep some people from expressing unpopular views.)

One response strategy, adopted by the Simon Wiesenthal Center, is to promote an "acceptable use" code for persons and organizations providing Net access. This amounts to a refusal to take the money of Ultras wanting to purchase such access. It could also include refusing to provide access to Ultra-oriented newsgroups like alt-skinheads and alt.revisionism. Such boycotts may make it harder for Ultras, but only until they set up their own servers--as they have already done in several cases.

Others echo the German government's desire simply to ban Ultras from the Net altogether. Twenty years ago, Graham Forst founded the Vancouver Standing Committee on the Holocaust. Since then the Committee has brought together survivors of the Holocaust with 40,000 high school students from B.C., Washington state, and Alberta--including some of Jim Keegstra's students.[Until he was fired in the 1980s from his job as a high-school teacher in Eckville, Alberta, Keegstra had taught anti-Semitism to his students.] Forst rejects the idea that Holocaust denial deserves the same right to expression enjoyed by those who debate details of the Holocaust.

"Holocaust denial is not a 'position' of any kind," he says, "but is simply and unequivocally an expression of anti-Semitism." Forst argues that deniers are no more exercising "freedom of speech" than they would be if they disrupted a meeting by speaking in imaginary tongues, or by screaming. "Why," he asks, "should such a person be allowed a place at the table?"

In Forst's view, "The Holocaust is denied for one reason only: to cause pain to those vicitmized by the worst eruption of racial hatred in history, not to contribute to any free exchange of ideas. Deniers are anti-Semites hiding behind high principles to sanitize Nazism and prepare for its return; in my opinion, such a nefarious intention requires the 'discussant' to be quickly and unceremoniously thrown out of the room." But as experience has shown, it's impossible to throw anyone permanently off the Internet.

The Ultras, of course, consider all the attacks as just a cost of doing business--and their business is recruiting. They know their potential supporters are few and scattered. The Net brings them together, encourages them, and provides them with a community. Yet they seem to have no program for acquiring power.

Milton Kleim says: "Since we have no idea what the future holds, there has been little speculation about what will transpire to bring about an 'Aryan Confederation.' It will certainly be via 'unconventional' means, but it is impossible to assume a certain course of action will be followed when inevitable chaos ensues."

Kleim's strategy for recruitment through Usenet newsgroups is clear and frank: "Except on 'our' groups, avoid the Race Issue. Side-step it as much as possible. We don't have the time to defend our stance on this issue against the comments of hundreds of fools, liars, and degenerates who, spouting the Jewish line, will slaughter our message with half-truths, slander, and the ever-used sophistry. Avoid engaging in non-productive debates with enemy activists. It is often difficult to distinguish between the Enemy's dedicated lackeys, and the misguided who are merely parroting what the Jewsmedia has taught them."

Kleim is keenly aware of being monitored: "WARNING: Be aware that EVERYTHING you post will be seen by the Enemy. All of your posts may be catalogued and archived for future use by the Enemy, either by self-appointed 'Net police' like the notorious Ken McVay, or by lurkers from the so-called 'Anti-Defamation League' and the 'Simon Wisenthal Center.'

The above-mentioned McVay is doing a great deal to earn his notoriety among the Ultras and to keep their community from growing. McVay, a 55-year-old transplanted American (now holding dual US-Canadian citizenship)lives on Vancouver Island. He'd been a World War II buff when he was younger, and when he began to run across Ultra propaganda on the Internet--especially Holocaust denial--he went back to his books to try to refute the Ultras' version of history.

Out of the "flame wars" he fought online during the early 1990s emerged the information equivalent of a gigantic weapons dump: The Nizkor. Created by McVay and his supporters, Nizkor is a Web site that is also an immense archive. It includes detailed refutations of common Ultra assertions (for example, that the concentration-camp gas chambers were nothing of the sort), and much more. McVay has included detailed dossiers on many Ultras, storing the messages they have sent to various newsgroups over a period of years. Also included are such documents as the complete judgement in Jim Keegstra's original hate-crime trial.

The first of Nizkor's goals is to forestall the Ultras' efforts to discredit democratic government--as they do, for example, in speculating that the Oklahoma City bombing was actually a US government plot. Second, by tracking and responding to Ultra posts, Nizkor sustains a documented debate rather than allowing Ultra assertions to go unchallenged.

The third goal is probably the most important: "To foster a critical frame of mind which will help to protect the unwary from the deceit of hate propaganda." Although he once supported the idea of suppressing Ultra propaganda on the Net, McVay now sees documented argument as the best response to it.

"It was a gradual change," he says, "over perhaps a year... and it was UseNet, and the Internet, that changed my mind. I came to understand that the key to dealing with insidious racism is through education. Suppression does not provide a cure,although it may be satisfying for a short time -- all it serves to do is drive the problem underground."

Graham Forst doesn't agree with McVay's new attitude, but feels Nizkor is the only practicable way to counter Ultra propaganda. And while McVay is on the Ultras' side of the free-speech issue, they don't seem especially grateful. Don Black says he feels "amused and flattered" by the attention he gets from Nizkor, and Digital Freedom's Marc Lemire says the project helps propagate his viewpoint.

"McVay does, to a certain degree, advance our cause," Lemire says. "He offers all our messages on one site. An inquisitive person can log in and read what we have said over the past years. Which, of course, helps us. I personally consider McVay as a childish reactionary. In one of the first messages I ever received from him, he claimed I wear diapers and was an idiot. His information is generally inaccurate and outdated."

Kleim echoes Lemire's claims and also soft-pedals Nizkor's effect: "Actually, we consider McVay a nuisance, like the common house fly, rather than a real problem. He has done us more good than harm. Many sympathetic people have 'discovered' us by perusing his archives. * Most people don't care about what McVay is peddling. Only certain segments of society, Jews, political agitators of the ultra-left like 'Anti-Racist Action,' and allied groups, give a hoot about what McVay and his friends are doing."

McVay, in turn, doesn't care what Lemire and Kleim say: "I am not doing this to change Milton Kleim's mind. I am doing this because millions of people know next to nothing about the Holocaust, and the ugly racism which denies it. It is all, sadly, ancient history to most of the population. They are not, however, indifferent - - they read, they query, and they learn to determine the truth for themselves."

On the evidence of some posts, not all Ultras are as dedicated to free speech and legal action as they claim. In "Stormfront-L," a listserv run by Don Black, a Canadian sympathizer recently proposed a scenario "in which we assume power democratically, but then keep it. The only problem with this would be the necessity to combat opposing ideas to prevent an uprising. This would impinge on our right to 'Free Speech' that we hold so dear."

Another Ultra responded: "Yes, I believe that certain 'rights' that are now available would probably not be so in a fascist state. However, I am not interested in preserving 'Free Speech' as it is defined today, I am interested in preserving the Aryan race."

McVay recently reported an attempt by an Ultra supporter to "mail-bomb" his Internet server, swamping the computer with unwanted messages. (The mail-bombing failed and the Ultra lost his own computer account.) He also argues that Ultras like Ernst Zundel support free speech only when it suits them.

McVay says he does not intend to abandon his efforts against the Ultras. "Me? I'm in this for life. These guys offend me deeply. The public needs to understand that the Internet is borderless and near-indestructible. It is the one place on earth where you can educate tens of millions --billions, in years to come -- it is a tool for the racists, yes, but I have seen ample evidence that it is a far more powerful tool for those dedicated to fighting racism."

Journalists reporting on this issue face an ethical issue also. No doubt such articles would stir some interest in Ultra organizations and views, increasing the 200,000-plus Stormfront "hits" (log-ins to its web pages and files) already counted in the past year. Some may join Ultra groups as a result. But readers will also look in on Nizkor, which is not exactly neglected. Last June Nizkor was counting 33 visitors a day but this February it recorded 532 daily visitors--117,768 hits on its various files in that month alone.

Neither side is going to go away, and many people are going to continue to push for the silencing of the Ultras. Some will argue that the best way to fight them would be to ignore them. They might invoke the German poet Friedrich von Schiller's famous line: "Mit der Dummheit kampfen Gotter selbst vergebens." ("Against stupidity, the gods themselves struggle in vain.")

The most dangerous ideas, though, are those that go unchallenged. The Ultras do everyone a favour, however unwelcome and unasked-for, by questioning the very premises of democracy and equality. If nothing else, they should make us reconsider our dependence on hate laws which suppress debate rather than promote it--and which actually promote Ultra goals by publicizing people like Ernst Zundel and Jim Keegstra.

John Dixon, a philosophy instructor at Capilano College and a member of the executive of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, says all hate-propaganda laws should be repealed. "Immigration policies, race relations, the Holocaust -- these are all legitimate topics for discussion and debate by a democratic citizenry; that is, if you believe, as civil libertarians do, that a genuinely democratic citizenry must have the freedom to communicate with one another about any and all matters of political consequence."

McVay and the Nizkor, in turn, challenge the Ultras to document their assertions or lose the debate; significantly, the Ultras prefer to make personal attacks on McVay as a hireling of the Jews who is in the anti-Ultra business only for money from sympathetic Jewish organizations.

Some may wish Ken McVay would shut up and quit giving the Ultras the attention they desire. But "Nizkor" is Hebrew for "We will remember." Remembrance is brief if not shared. And as Santayana observed: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

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Virtual School Middle of Nowhere Brad Cox


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