The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Shofar FTP Archive File: people/m/mcvay.ken/1996/press/georgia-straight.0496


The following appeared in The Georgia Straight, a weekly newspaper in
Vancouver, B.C., on April 11.

Nazis on the Net
by Crawford Kilian

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. 

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 Project.
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 varioua 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 Project, 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." 

-30-

Sidebar: 

Web Addresses

Stormfront: http://stormfront.wat.com/stormfront/

This provides access to a great many other Ultra pages in the US, Canada and
Britain.

Nizkor Project: http://www.almanac.bc.ca

Nizkor also provides links to some Ultra sites as well as anti-Ultra groups.

Vancouver Progressive Home Page: http://www2.portal.ca/~comprev/

This site links with many anti-racist groups.


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