Some heroes sit at a keyboard

Did you know that social media has a Nazi problem? Of course it does. But often it is subtle and requires expert scrutiny.

When Ksenia Coffman started editing Wikipedia, she was like a tourist in Buenos Aires in the 1950s. She came to learn the tango, admire the architecture, sip maté. She didn’t know there was a Nazi problem. But Coffman, who was born in Soviet-era Russia and lives in Silicon Valley, is an intensely observant traveler. As she link-hopped through articles about the Second World War, one of her favorite subjects, she saw what seemed like a concerted effort to look the other way about Germany’s wartime atrocities.

Coffman can’t recall exactly when her concern set in. Maybe it was when she read the article about the SS, the Nazi Party’s paramilitary, which included images that felt to her like glamour shots—action-man officers admiring maps, going on parade, all sorts of “very visually disturbing” stuff. Or maybe it was when she clicked through some of the pages about German tank gunners, flying aces, and medal winners. There were hundreds of them, and the men’s impressive kill counts and youthful derring-do always seemed to exist outside the genocidal Nazi cause. What was going on here? Wikipedia was supposed to be all about consensus. Wasn’t there consensus on, you know, Hitler?

So she sat down and got to work, and started pointing out the lack of skepticism in so many Wiki articles.

Not for the first time, Coffman has been removing material from the article about the tank division. She thinks it’s full of unsourced fancruft, the Wikipedia word for fawning, excessively detailed descriptions that appeal to a tiny niche of readers—in this case, those thrilled by accounts of battle. The article tells how “the division acquitted itself well” even against “stiffening resistance,” how it “held the line” and earned the “grudging respect” of skeptical commanders. One contributor has used the eyebrow-raising phrase “baptism of fire.” It’s as if the editors don’t see the part lower down the page where a soldier uses the phrase “and then we cleaned a Jew hole.”

The glorifying language, Coffman thinks, is a clear sign that this is historical fan fiction. It elides the horrors of war. If editors want such details to stay on the page, at a minimum they should use a better source than Axis History, a blog whose motto is “Information not shared is lost.”

Turn on the History Channel sometime: it’s the same thing. There’s a reason it’s called the Hitler channel, and it’s because it’s cheap and easy to grab WWII footage — often nothing but propaganda films which launder and present credulous versions of the story — and splice it into a story. Aren’t those Nazi uniforms stylish? Wow, those soldiers had to be brave and stalwart to stand up to a Russian winter. Gosh, so many tanks! Cool! Let’s not think about what those soldiers were trying to do.

You can also see it on YouTube and in video games and the newspapers, always focusing on drama and spectacle without questioning what the hell those assholes were hoping to accomplish. It just takes a little effort to peel away the gosh-wow veneer to expose the rot beneath, but someone has to make the effort.

Another example in real life, with modern Nazis: Richard Spencer is on trial, and is trying desperately to present himself as “the erudite founder of a thinktank who represented a version of white nationalism that took pains to avoid racial slurs and glorification of violence”. He’s not. The lawyers showed everyone what he says when he’s not putting on a show for the gullible.

The plaintiffs played audio for the jury of Spencer launching into a tirade in the presence of co-defendants Jason Kessler, Nathan Damigo and Elliott Kline after learning about Heyer’s death following the Aug. 12, 2017 rally. (The leaked audio was previously published by alt-right provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos in 2019.)

“Little fucking k*kes,” Spencer said. “They get ruled by me. Little f*cking octoroons… I f*cking… my ancestors f*cking enslaved those pieces of f*cking sh*t. I rule the f*cking world. Those pieces of f*cking sh*t get ruled by people like me. They look up and see a face like mine looking down at them. That’s how the f*cking world works. We are going to destroy this f*cking town.”

So hooray for Ksenia Coffman. Hooray for Michael Bloch, the lawyer out to expose Spencer. We need more warriors like that.

Is it OK to lie in your election campaign?

I notice that we’ve had some recent election setbacks, much of it driven by the usual Republican tactic of race-baiting. It’s going to get worse in the next election cycle. It seems the major approach they’ve taken is to lie forcefully about Critical Race Theory, inventing a new bugaboo to drive racists to the polls. And it worked!

A little clarity from the opposition on how CRT isn’t what the Republicans claim it is would have been nice. Here’s an example:

I guess it’s not illegal to lie through your teeth in order to get elected, but it sure would be nice if Democrats stopped being marshmallows who let them lie. I’m beginning to suspect they don’t particularly want to fight for racial equality, or labor, or tax reform, or any of those “divisive” topics that ought to be central to their platform.

Choices…at the movies!

I decided to blow off the work for the night and go to the movies. But now that the local theater coop has put in a second screen I’ve had to make decisions every time I go. Two choices! Oh boy!

The first option was The Eternals, the latest Marvel franchise entry. It’s another mob of superheroes, with immortality added on top of the ability to fly, to punch really hard, to shoot lasers out of their eyes*. That did not appeal. I did not go. I will predict that the ending of that movie is going to be another CGI slam-fest. Plus it’s another example of dredging the bottom of the IP barrel to come up with an obscure comic book that they can pump up into a big blockbuster. I hope it bombs.

The alternative was Lamb. Yes! That looked weird and surreal, and it was.

The story: Ingvar and Maria are an Icelandic couple (the whole movie is in Icelandic, with subtitles) who run a remote sheep farm. It’s beautiful, even though much of it is shot in a gray fog and mist, with the Icelandic scenery peeking through. It’s lambing time! They deliver several normal lambs, and then one brings them up short — we don’t see the lamb for quite some time, but for some reason Ingvar and Maria are enchanted by her, naming her Ada and bringing her into the house to raise her as their child. A good part of the surreal nature of this movie is how the couple are perfectly comfortable with, and even loving as their own child, a baby who has the head of a sheep and the body of a human child, as is eventually revealed. There’s something about Ada that makes people fall in love with her. I’ll say no more, except that the movie culminates in a bloody revelation.

I entirely enjoyed it. No punching. One semi-magical mystery. Good acting. People who were human and interesting in an extraordinarily unusual situation. Also, less than two hours long, while The Eternals goes on for 2½ hours, and another prediction: I bet it ends with a teaser to persuade you to watch the next movie in the franchise.

Go see it. Send a message that we want more unique movies, rather than more of the same ol’ same ol’. I think most people would enjoy it.

*No. Just no. Eyes don’t work that way. I hate it, it’s one of the worst conventions** of these kinds of movies.

**The worst is how “mutations” are handled. Somehow, single point mutations, or maybe insertions/deletions, are powerful enough to induce metaphysical powers that break all the laws of thermodynamics? I can’t accept it. Flies, mice, and cockroaches have comparable physiology and genetics to ours, so why aren’t there one-in-a-billion Drosophila variants buzzing around zapping everything with laser beams? Why aren’t there mice levitating? Why no rare cockroaches punching through walls with their super-strength? It’s all nonsense***.

***Nonsense is OK in the movies. The problem is when it overwhelms the human story. I enjoy Spider-Man or Captain America**** because of the themes of responsibility and sacrifice that I can relate to.

****But not Batman or Iron Man. They’re just rich assholes.

The Freezer of the Damned

Uh-oh. Apparently, I’ve been storing Satan in my freezer.

Conservative cable network Newsmax has sidelined White House correspondent Emerald Robinson after she made the utterly bonkers claim that COVID-19 vaccines contain a “bioluminescent” tracker linked to the Devil.

In a post that has since been taken down by Twitter for peddling COVID-19 misinformation, Robinson warned “Christians” that the vaccines include “a bioluminescent marker called LUCIFERASE so that you can be tracked,” all while suggesting to her followers that the shot was the “Mark of the Beast”—something she’s said before.

What do you know…someone who is just too batty for Newsmax.

A little more information:

  • There is no luciferase in the vaccines. That would be silly and pointless, since no, you can’t use it to track people.
  • Luciferase is an enzyme that reacts with a couple of common substrates to make light. If you want to make cells glow, you inject them with it, or in many cases you insert the luciferase DNA into the genome, and you get a cell that produces light, which is handy…if you are tracking its expression in a microscope.

  • I’ve also got some Lucifer Yellow in my freezer. This is not an enzyme — the compound actually glows bright yellow under fluorescent light. Likewise, I’ve used it for looking at cells, not people.

  • Do you even know how much this stuff costs? Last time I bought it, LY was about $600 for a vial containing 100mg. You’re not going to throw it into a dose of vaccines.

I have several other dyes in my freezer. 1,1′-Dioctadecyl-3,3,3′,3′-Tetramethylindocarbocyanine Perchlorate (DiI, for short) is a favorite, but who knows, it might be the name of some other Lord of Hell.

I have to stop being optimistic

I got out of bed this morning looking forward to my visit to the doctor. My tendinitis pain has been greatly reduced, I’m able to walk without any pain at all, and I expected to be told I can finally get rid of The F$#*!ing Boot. But no, it was not to be. There’s still some residual inflammation — touching the back of my heel hurts something fierce — so the doctor wants to clear out that last little pocket of trouble.

Two more weeks of The Boot. Plus a 5-day pulse of prednisone. It’s the opposite of what I wanted to hear.

To give me something to look forward to, at the end of those two weeks they’ll reassess, and if the tendon hasn’t calmed down, it’ll be time to look into surgery. The way things are going, I’m just going to assume it’s going to go badly and that I’ll get to celebrate Xmas break by going under the knife.

Damn. Well, I needed to be trapped at my desk to do a lot of grading, anyway.

First you strawman those who disagree with you, then you murder them with your car

I wish I could just laugh off this demented buffoon, Madison Cawthorn.

When I see the people that are in Washington, DC who are trying to insert their woke politics into our culture, trying to destroy western civilization, trying to take all of our morality away from everyone, trying to make everyone genderless, sexless, and Godless.

No one on the liberal/progressive side wants to destroy western civilization. We want to make our culture stronger, more humane, and more egalitarian. If you consider that an act of destruction, you have a warped vision of what society should be.

No one is trying to take away everyone’s morality. Morality is a good thing. We would like to diminish the kind of immorality that allows people to kneel on other people’s necks until they are dead.

Hey, remember when the conservative complaint was that we were licentious proponents of free love? I guess that wasn’t really their concern. Now their complaints have gone the other way, accusing us of making everyone genderless and sexless. No one wants to do that, although we would say that if you don’t want to have sex, you shouldn’t have to.

It’s true that I would like to see everyone godless, but I also know that you can’t force atheism on anyone. It’s a free choice, and that’s all we ask, is that everyone have liberty of conscience.

Madison Cawthorn is a ridiculous mad far-right looney-tune who has to invent absurd accusations to stir up hatred. His comments about what “people” in Washington, DC are doing are stupid and false, but his next words ought to concern everyone.

We want our country back, we want our culture back, and if you want to stand in the way that, we will run you over.

“run you over”–that would also be a misrepresentation of his own side in the culture wars, if it weren’t for the fact that right-wingers have been doing exactly that, and Republican lawmakers are working hard to make it legal to kill protesters with cars.

Ari Weil, a researcher at the Chicago Project on Security and Threats, counted six states that considered laws shielding drivers who attack protesters in 2017, but most of those “hit and kill” bills (as the ACLU refers to them) went nowhere. It took a few more years for the right-wing propaganda apparatus to fully numb conservative consciences, and prepare them to openly endorse an idea as plainly depraved as this one. In the meantime, the car attacks kept coming: In 2020, Weil tracked “72 incidents of cars driving into protesters across 52 different cities,” over the span of just over a month. The online far right memed about running over demonstrators regularly, and cops openly encouraged it in social media comments. Cops also, in cities such as New York and Detroit, participated in the practice themselves. In Boston last year, Police Sergeant Clifton McHale was recorded on a police body camera bragging about hitting demonstrators with a police cruiser. He was placed on administrative leave when that footage was surfaced by reporter Eoin Higgins. He is now, Higgins reports, back on desk duty.*

Now lawmakers seem to have overcome whatever reticence they may once have felt about formally endorsing automobile attacks. Five states besides Florida introduced similar bills this year, granting some form of immunity to people running into demonstrators. The Iowa measure passed the state House and awaits Senate approval. Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt just signed another version into law in his state. This one shields attacking drivers from criminal liability.

That last bit from Cawthorn is openly an incitement to violence. He will not face any legal difficulties for telling his constituents to murder unspecified people they don’t like with their cars. And shouldn’t he be in prison for inciting an insurrection already?