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Peter Strempel
Engaging the Abyss
Engaging the Abyss

Gone walkabout
This account will be unattended and inactive for the foreseeable future.
It is time to explore Google Plus as it is now, and with fresh eyes. The Google Plus I joined in 2011 is visible now only in glimpses between the cracked façade of progressive plastering and painting jobs.

I will not delete this account so that discussions are preserved and history is not erased.

I will still beon Google plus, under my name, but under a different account, with zero followers, and some curiosity about how I would go about getting to see what I want to see. Like a newbie.

If I haven’t immediately followed you again, it might take a while, or just drop in and I’ll do it right away.

I noticed that the old circles aren’t an option any more; ig they didn't already exist, I see no way to create them or add people to the pre-existing categories. Maybe I will learn different over time.

My avatar for this account will go dark. The new avatar is pretty similar to what you may have grown accustomed to.

Cheerio and toodle pip, old chaps and chapesses, wombats and ducklings, Sausage dogs and kidlets!
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Do they taste like Chicken? Can we get them from the Google stand?

I'll just have the corndogs, kfanks.
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Where are collections?
For two years now the Goog has been pushing people to contort themselves to gather posts into collections. This morning I wake up and find that you can't get to collections anymore because the Goog has dropped the links and, apparently, all consciousness of its own product from the search function.

So come on now, all Goog boosters and functionaries, let's have your explanation - have you kindapped the kids? Are your intentions rape and blood sacrifice? Is your contempt for users already so maxxed out that you just killed the communities without ransom demand?

+Google+ +Google+ Developers +Google
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In this latest reincarnation of the skin, how do people access their collections?

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Respectfully, EFF & Tor, you’re wrong
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.]
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Back in the Pleistocene of my youth, unimaginable to at least two generations of youngsters now, for a lack of ubiquitous internet, mobile gadgets, and PCs, I showed up for a massive demonstration organised by the British Anti-Nazi League.

Sure, I was as opposed to being beaten up by skinheads and boot boys as the next kid, but I did this because I had Jamaican friends … and there was this girl …

My father almost disowned me. ‘Don’t you realise who’s behind this?’ he fulminated. ‘It’s the Soviet Union! You are being used as one of Lenin’s “useful idiots”!’

Even at that time I was not naïve enough to suppose this wasn’t at least partly true. The Anti Nazi League was in fact established by the Socialist Workers’ Party, and enjoyed some funding directly from Moscow. The later 1970s were still a high tide in the Cold War.

What my father didn’t understand is that I had no reason to cleave to his post-war experiences, and every reason to align myself with Jamaican friends, who were being targeted by the police as much as by the Nazi skinheads.

There was a house in Brixton where I was always welcome. It was divided into four flats, all tenanted by Jamaican immigrants who nevertheless lived as one large community, everyone contributing what they could, with enough to spare to lavish on a skinny white boy like me. They were soulful, decent people. Generous and kind like no one else I met during my childhood sojourn in Britain. Sometimes I went there to talk and listen to Blue Beat Ska and dub reggae. Sometimes I slept there. They always fed me. They always gave me things they thought I might need.

It seemed like the most natural thing in the world to align myself with their concerns about racist violence directed against them.

People not alive and conscious at the time might find it really difficult to imagine the era. Jimmy Carter was POTUS. Labour’s James Callaghan was UK Prime Minister. Leonid Brezhnev was the Soviet General Secretary.
Rock Against Racism, a collaboration of bands taking sides had been formed in 1976 because some established stars spoke racism openly.

Eric Clapton – yes the Eric Clapton - had spoken in favour of Enoch Powell, who had made his famous speech forecasting ‘rivers of blood’ as the consequence of coloured people from the former British Empire’s outposts actually moving to Britain. Clapton had told fans at a Birmingham gig 'I think Enoch’s right ... we should send them all back. Throw the wogs out! Keep Britain white!’

Also in 1976 David Bowie – yes, that David Bowie – said to Playboy magazine and other publications: ‘I think Britain could benefit from a fascist leader. After all, fascism is really nationalism,’ and ‘I believe very strongly in fascism ... People have always responded with greater efficiency under a regimental leadership. A liberal wastes time saying, “Well, now, what ideas have you got?” Show them what to do, for God's sake. If you don’t, nothing will get done. I can’t stand people just hanging about.’

And then, of course, there was that Irish girl, Sandy, from a big family of socialists. I had such a crush on her. And she was organising a whole bunch of us to come to the rally. There was really never a question about it, my father’s blessing or not.

On the big day, Sunday, 30 April 1978, we were bused to the gathering points near Trafalgar Square that was already crowded when we got there. Crowding Trafalgar Square and its approaches is not a casual thing to do. From there we were to march to Hackney. It was a festive atmosphere. There would be a concert later. There was a genuine cross section of people there: old guys in suits; lots of young people like me; conservatively dressed Indians, natty Rastafarians, women who looked like housewives, and women who didn’t look that way at all; gays and straights, punks, rude boys, rockers, and hippies; and grandparents with their kids and grandkids.

We marched. There were trade union banners and political flags. There were megaphone sloganeers, and we chanted as expected. There were thousands upon thousands of people. It was like the entire city had turned out.

And then the skinheads turned up.

Not very many. Two to three hundred against several thousand of us.

But I was scared. There was a group of about thirty of them right there, ten feet away, jeering and throwing beer bottles and cans. I couldn’t see any police. I was young and not really a street-fighter.

We all linked arms to face them and the march stopped right there.

Then a bunch of big men – trade unionists, Rastas, turbaned Indians, and even some of the older lads I knew at the time, pushed to the front of the no-man’s land between us and the skinheads, and stood in front of us with their arms folded across their chests. The message was pretty clear: ‘Come on then you wankers! We’ll give you the beating you came for.’

It didn’t happen. The skinheads weren’t that suicidal. And eventually the police turned up to stand between the two sides. I have seen similar things since, but I was always struck by the imagery of a few black Bobbies among the white faces of their colleagues, protecting thugs who would have gladly kicked the shit out of them in a late night tube station, or a dark alleyway anywhere from Birmingham to the East End.

The march lasted a long time. I remember my feet being sore and my voice being hoarse from yelling slogans.

We came to the end in Victoria Park, South Hackney. The Clash, X-Ray Specs (Polly Styrene almost bursting eardrums as she screeched ‘Oh Bondage! Up Yours!) Generation X (Billy Idol’s old band, though I don’t actually recall seeing them), the Tom Robinson Band (a kind of anti-bigotry Billy Bragg before Billy was out of short pants), and Steel Pulse (roots reggae) were playing. It was a euphoric experience where I thought everyone was friends and we all shared the same ideals.

Later that evening a few of us travelled back to Camden Town by tube. I thought we might run into skinheads again, but there was just a sea of people sporting the distinctive red, black and yellow Anti-Nazi League buttons, and the stark black and white Rock Against Racism badges.

Our destination was a party where the kids from my school had organised to meet up if we got separated during the march – and of course we did.

There was punk rock and heavy dub reggae, reefers and beer, girls and … did I mention girls? Some of us watched the news on the telly: 100,000 marchers! Some scuffles between the skinheads and the demonstrators that I didn’t see up close and personal. Some broken National Front heads. Few arrests. Talking heads saying we had behaved well.

That night had a magical feel to it. Like we had achieved something. Like we had made a difference. I got very drunk on mixing cider with beer and was miserably sick for a few hours, but it didn’t matter: my friends and total strangers stuck with me and made sure I was OK.

I don’t know that we did make a difference. Margaret Thatcher was elected Prime Minister a year later, and about nine months after that I emigrated to Australia.

I never did get together with Sandy, for whom I was probably too young and politically too uncommitted.

There has been no need to march against Nazis since; Australia has been blissfully unafflicted by all but the smallest minority of such thugs. And yet, as our dull-witted politicians struggle to make themselves relevant, they emulate what they see in the USA and UK, adopting some of the most nauseating traits of collaborators with far right groups. That does embolden a redneck racist fringe here. Guess where they get their examples from.

And that is why US politics is so important here, down-under. Why a sustained stand against fascism in the USA is so important to me personally.

I hope, in a way, that I will never have to march against fascists again. But I will if I need to. This time as a middle aged white guy in a suit, to say openly that resurrecting fascism is not OK, even for middle aged white guys in suits.

I hope there are still middle aged white Americans who feel the same.
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