Respectfully, EFF & Tor, you’re wrong

Der Stürmer

In this small opinion piece I will give you the reasons journalists and bloggers are too slack or ignorant to table when ‘reporting’ on the reasons given by the Electronic Frontiers Foundation (EFF) and the Tor Project for opposing a ban on the American neo-Nazi hatespeech vehicle, Daily Stormer.

All the reasons cited by the EFF to oppose censoring the Neo-Nazi Daily Stormer web site by denying it registration, DNS propagation, and CloudFlare services are impeccable.

If the underlying premisses were realistic.

At the core of the EFF’s thinking is the assumption that policy and law in a functioning democracy should be the transparent levers by which unacceptable conduct is addressed.

But the USA is no longer a functioning democracy, and its policy and law is compromised at the highest levels by publicly elected officials who openly support hate groups, violence, and even murder. POTUS is just the most conspicuous example.

How many black people will be legally executed by cop in USA streets today? How many will be sentenced to life in privately operated concentration camps?

How many women will be raped by police vaginal cavity searches? How many will be raped in far less restrained ways? How many of those will be slut shamed when they speak up. How many will be denied abortions to terminate consequent pregnancies?

Do I really need to go on about a changing daily reality in the USA that makes the EFF’s assumptions null and void?

Let’s look at the specifics.

The Daily Stormer takes its name from the Nazi German weekly tabloid newspaper Der Stürmer, meaning ‘The Stormer’, run by Nazi propagandist Julius Streicher as a yellow-press propaganda rag that was relentlessly anti-Semitic, spewing endless racist vitriol, and fuelling the Third Reich’s atrocities.

Streicher was so extreme and profligate in his abuse of power that even the Nazis stripped him of his public offices and party rank. Only Hitler’s loyalty to an old comrade permitted him to continue publishing his hate sheet.

Hitler biographer Joachim C Fest wrote that ‘Julius Streicher, the Nuremberg schoolmaster’ built a ‘reputation as the spokesman for a scurrilous kind of pornographic anti-Semitism. Streicher seemed obsessed by wild fantasies of ritual murders, Jewish lust, world conspiracy, miscegenation, and lascivious black-haired devils panting after the innocent flesh of Aryan women.’

Third Reich historian William L Shirer described Streicher as ‘a noted pervert and one of the most unsavory characters in the Third Reich.’

At the Nuremberg war crimes trials he spouted unrepentant monologues of anti-Semitism and Nazi propaganda. He was hanged for crimes against humanity in 1946.

This is the example after which the Daily Stormer styles itself. The most extreme expression of prejudice and hate-speech in Nazi Germany. Not ‘sort of’, but literally.

There were other Nazi publications less single-mindedly bigoted and still indisputably Nazi that the American neo-Nazis could have chosen as a model. But they did not.

There is no question here of ‘but not all neo-Nazis are that bad’. Yes they are! They advocate mass murder, rape, and brutal violence. By this advocacy they are guilty of incitement and conspiracy. By the slackness, profligacy, and maybe even support of American judicial and law enforcement offices, they have not been held accountable for their lawlessness.

If now corporations step in to protect their own commercial interests by distancing themselves from such monstrous recidivists, why should we disagree?

These corporations are not known for being held to any public duty outside the letter of the law, and have always been within their rights to act unilaterally on any issue they regard as salient to their profitability. Including public relations exercises. Why should we now condemn them from doing so in opposition to vile and odious barbarians?

Tor has a different mission to the EFF. Its project was always to circumvent any black letter law. Tor is an anarchist project, as much as that is possible in the context of a project that requires collaboration of many individuals.

I applaud the gutsiness of standing against all laws and sanctions, but I cannot help but wonder whether offering a last refuge to sex traffickers, drug smugglers, international assassins, and neo-Nazis, among many others who can find useful internet infrastructure in Tor, is worth the absolute freedom Tor’s people defend.

When it comes to opposing the recurrence of the Nazi terror, I side with anyone willing to stand up and say: ‘Never again!’ If you don’t, get ready to recite Pastor Martin Niemöller’s refrain:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak for me.

I say this to you coming from a German family that could prove its ‘Aryan’ ancestry for several generations during those dark days in the 1930s and ‘40s, when that kind of thing was the difference between life and death, and the lights went out all over Europe. If I, who should have nothing to fear, nevertheless fear these people strongly enough to commit to any fight against them, what should you be thinking?

I can’t tell you that. But I urge you: Keep the lights on in America today!

[I wrote this comment partly because the other threads where the topic was being debated were overrun almost immediately by trolls. In this thread I can and will block them.]

1 thought on “Respectfully, EFF & Tor, you’re wrong”

  1. I do not fault any of your points and for the record I believe that racial, religious, gender identity and other types of vilification is wrong and it is a good thing if impressionable people do not read such propaganda. In addition any incitement of violence shouldn’t happen.

    On the face of the facts, that Neo-Nazi website should be blocked if those with access to power to block could be trusted in perpetuity. I would include extremist religious groups promoting violence as targets for this also.

    I separate the issues of corporate censorship and government censorship although they both have the same risks to freedom of speech.

    Censorship as a prudent corporate public relations tool to distance themselves from being seen to enable “such monstrous recidivists” is in the short term a good thing, but I fear future use of freedom of speech restriction to censor someone that I do not hate so much.

    And I see other examples corporate censorship in news” outlet’s non-publication of facts not supporting corporate vested interests of politics, tax policy or climate change.

    If it were a government banning the publishing of vile Nazi propaganda the implication to me is clear that a precedent and mechanism for the government to ban any publication that the persons in power wanted to. You state (and I agree) that the US government is “…no longer a functioning democracy, and its policy and law is compromised at the highest levels by publicly elected officials…”. I do not trust such a government with the levers of censorship.

    I also have much of a problem with some in the progressive left (which I see myself part of) who attempt to stop hard right speakers and rallies. I believe these actions serve more to promote such events rather than stop them.

    My social media is currently bombarded with advertisements for former Brietbart editor, Milo Yiannopoulos, a character I have nothing in common with but has a speaking tour (promoted by Penthouse AU) at an undisclosed venue near in the cbd.

    Now our Premier is supposedly banning him from government venues because of what he has said about his underage sexual experiences and “association with Nazis”. http://www.penthouse.com.au/articles/opinion/how-the-media-tried-to-destroy-milo-yiannopoulos

    I believe in the implicit right of the individuals to freedom of speech. I believe this right has been subverted already by government regulations and corporate power and would argue it shouldn’t be any further.

    Once we start accepting exceptions to freedom of speech it makes it easier for government and corporations to expand restrictions at their whim.

    In a perfect world quality education and full constructive engagement with the economy might restrict number of individuals drawn to extremist groups. Naïve yes, but the fault is with society being dysfunctional which allows the vulnerable to be subjected to vile propaganda.

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