Neo-Nazis are no joke—they just want you to think they are - Macleans.ca

Neo-Nazis are no joke—they just want you to think they are

A style guide for a neo-Nazi publication reveals what should be obvious, writes Tabatha Southey: darkness lurks behind their self-parodying ‘humour’

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Neo-Nazis, alt-right, and white supremacists encircle and chant at counter protestors at the base of a statue of Thomas Jefferson after marching through the University of Virginia campus with torches in Charlottesville, Va., USA on August 11, 2017. (Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

“Generally, when using racial slurs, it should come across as half-joking—like a racist joke that everyone laughs at because it’s true,” reads the style guide used by The Daily Stormer, a copy of which the Huffington Post got its hands on this week.

The Daily Stormer is a prominent America-based neo-Nazi and white supremacist website that takes its name and more from Der Stürmer, the tabloid newspaper of the Nazi Party. And what it seems to be saying with that “half-joking” advice and much else in the guide is: “Don the Magic Cloak of Plausible Deniability and come with us!”

This likely won’t come as a surprise to anyone who spends much time online. Many will have observed some of these far, far right fools prancing about under that just-kidding-maybe cover. They do this as if somehow we can’t see exactly what they’re up to, and as if what they’re up to isn’t being Nazis and working to recruit more Nazis.

The style guide instructs prospective contributors on how to use memes, “humour” and “ironic hatred” to “blame the Jews for everything,” that being the site’s “prime directive.” That Jews cause all the bad things “is pretty much objectively true,” says the 17-page primer, apparently penned by site editor Andrew Anglin. “As Hitler says, people will become confused and disheartened if they feel there are multiple enemies. As such, all enemies should be combined into one enemy, which is the Jews.”

The phrase “As Hitler says” is rather the point to that sentence. You use the words “As Hitler says” in that benign, casual, and authoritative way, and it doesn’t much matter what comes after them. You type “As Hitler says, ‘i’ before ‘e’ except after ‘c’,” and you are telling any burgeoning Goebbels looking for a home for their murderous musings that “yes, we’re those Nazis. Goose-step on over and pull up a chair.”

The guide also provides advice on formatting and grammar, site-specific terminology—“Moslem,” not “Muslim,” is the preferred Daily Stormer house style—along with a list of “racial slurs” that are officially “allowed and advisable” that leaves me wondering what exactly crosses a line.

Think of this document as Strunk and White Power.

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Keep it simple, keep it anti-Semitic: This is the guide’s message. Not all problems are created by Jews, aspiring Nazi ghostwriters are encouraged to say, but “if we didn’t have the Jews, we could figure out how to deal with non-whites very easily.” Similarly, “Women should be attacked but there should always be a mention that if it weren’t for Jews they would be acting normally.” “Jews are like hormones” seems to be the gist of it, as far I can tell, but until I hear someone say, “Yes, I ate half a cake and cried to an Adele song, it must be my Jews,” I can’t be certain.

The guide’s acceptable terms for women are, by the way, “Slut, whore, bitch, harlot, trollop, slag, skag.” That some of these words are antiquated to the point of near-whimsicality is by design. “The indoctrinated should not be able to tell if we’re joking,” Anglin explains. Put a funny hat on your hatred, play to the crowd.

Effectively utilizing these jokes—the so-called “lulz” in Internet parlance—is vital, the guide cautions, because “most people are not comfortable with material that come across as vitriolic, raging, non-ironic hatred.” Adding the “lulz”—expressing oneself dead seriously but in the cadence of a joke—throws that Cloak of Plausible Deniability over not just to the writer, but the audience as well. “No, I’m not really consuming literal neo-Nazi propaganda,” an as-yet-unconverted reader can tell themselves. “It’s just dead baby humour.”

“The goal is to continually repeat the same points, over and over and over again,” the guide stresses. “The reader is at first drawn in by curiosity or the naughty humour, and is slowly awakened to reality by repeatedly reading the same points.” It bears repeating that, to the writer of this guide, “awaken to reality” means “embrace genocide.”

We’re living in the Irony Age, and we’re forging it into deadly weapons.

What should be completely avoided by anyone who hopes to get their work featured on The Daily Stormer—where the policy is “if we don’t like [the articles] you can put them on your own blog or whatever, if we accept them for publication we will pay you $14.88”—is the “sometimes mentioned idea that ‘even if we got rid of the Jews we would still have problems.’ ”

“The Jews should always be the beginning and end of every problem,” Anglin cautions. Specifics include “poor family dynamics” and the “destruction of the rainforest.”

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Regardless of whether you were wondering, the “14 words” represent, for neo-Nazis, the words of David Lane, an American white supremacist leader and convicted felon whose mandate was: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.” Why 88 cents? Because H is the eighth letter of the alphabet. That “88” is an abbreviation for the “Heil Hitler” salute. Several photographs found on the website registered to white-supremacist mass murderer Dylann Roof featured the number the 88 and 1488 was written in the sand in one picture. (If I have to learn Nazi numerology, you’re gonna join me.)

If you rolled your eyes as you read that, because it’s difficult to take the whole concept of 1488 — it’s like someone telling you their “lucky lottery numbers” of genocide—the reality is that it has  worked. Somewhere between guessing and guffawing is where StormFront wants you to be, but make no mistake—gassing is where they want this to end.

There’s no ambiguity here. “This is obviously a ploy and I actually do want to gas [Jewish people, but that’s not the term he uses]. But that’s neither here nor there,” writes Anglin, and such an extreme position—and once again, this is a feature not a bug—is sometimes discounted as near-self-parody. Stormfront is not a site you have to go digging about on the net to find; it pops up, I have been sent links, and Anglin warns about the kind of posts that can get them booted off Facebook. But it is sometimes dismissed as too fringe to be worth addressing.

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This ghastly glibness has, however, seeped deeply into the mainstream—even before it was revealed, theirs was basically a playbook in heavy circulation—and everything Stormfront does serves to make much that would have shocked many of us a few years ago start to look comparatively centrist. They’re the reason people get to the thinking that “those guys in Charlottesville with tiki torches were just blowing off steam.”

The internet is a vast, fresh pitch, but we’re watching an old game. “Never believe that anti-Semites are completely unaware of the absurdity of their replies,” wrote Jean-Paul Sartre in 1946. “They know that their remarks are frivolous, open to challenge. But they are amusing themselves. …They even like to play with discourse for, by giving ridiculous reasons, they discredit the seriousness of their interlocutors. They delight in acting in bad faith, since they seek not to persuade by sound argument but to intimidate and disconcert.”

FBI statistics released in November show that anti-Semitic incidents accounted for 11 per cent of hate crimes of all types in the United States in 2016, and over 50 per cent of religious hate crimes, a slight increase from the year before. African-Americans, like the people Dylann Roof targeted in their church, account for by far the most number of hate crimes, yet again. This “foolishness” is fuel on a very real fire. It’s time we treated them as such.