Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Modern Nazism: Online Success - Meatspace Fail?

I was reading Rachel Ghansah's article on Dylann Roof and I noticed she had asserted a similarity between the IS "lone wolves" and Dylann Roof. This is something I have long held to be true.

Her writing is incredibly clear and it brought to mind several observations I had made on the issue of "Modern Nazism".  I want to be clear about this - by Nazism - I do not mean only the variety which we are traditionally used to, i.e. the whole Hitler/Swastikas etc... kind but a much wider group of self-destructive ideas that all converge on mass murder of perceived adversaries. Modern Nazism uses a much larger variety of wrappers to disguise it's mass murdering core. As with Hitler's Nazism - this wrapper serves to beguile and eventually indenture its adherents into permanent service of a mass murdering agenda.

The Nazism we all know is merely a variant of a pattern where one group of people decides they are superior to everyone else and must put everyone they don't like to death in order to secure their own "survival".  Perhaps one can think of it a kind of shared form of homicidal narcissistic personality disorder, where an entire group of people decide to focus on only what is best for themselves regardless of the cost to others. It is obviously extremely destructive. Once you have served its agenda even once it holds the power of a pervasive blackmail over you - you serve its goals purely out of fear of being exposed. This is the mire that most 1930s Germans found themselves in. Its existence in any form is extraordinarily dangerous.

After the end of World War II, most people in the world felt relieved. They told themselves that Nazism had been vanquished and there was no way it could rise again from the ashes of a fallen Germany. This is completely untrue. Nazism is a form of social dysfunction where mass murdering criminals seize control of state resources and use them to commit genocide. That evil will rise again and again. And each time it will have to be fought and defeated if humanity is to survive.

In the days before the internet, Nazi ideas existed in various fragments of the population. These fragments lived in geographic isolation and barring a major system wide economic coupling event, the Nazi ideas died localized to the small disparate groups they were born in.

With the proliferation of the communications - the phone networks, the internet and the mobile phone, trafficking in Nazi ideas has become much easier. This has created a rebirth of these ideas on the internet. And since everything is recorded and transmitted much more easily than before - one finds Nazism spreading rapidly across the internet. The speed of propagation of these ideas is quite stunning. Most of us watching the spread are alarmed by it. The ideas are spreading across national boundaries and in each country they are picking up a local wrapper that makes the core a potent threat to each delicate local equilibrium in these disconnected physical spaces. The sense of alarm is - in part - what drove responses to the Charlottesville Nazi Rally.

While JJMcNab one of the foremost authorities on far right extremism has cautioned against lumping people with the Nazis, I think it is fair to say that Nazi ideals appear to have a centripetal quality to them and that they are capable of providing an almost invisible web that ties hitherto disparate things together.

One of the main concerns that has cropped up after Charlottesville is that we saw online Nazi groups collect in one physical space IRL and present as a single coherent force that openly espoused Nazi symbols and chants. This was a remarkable change in the pattern of behavior because prior to this they had only been able to mount a presence in "meatspace" under a non-Nazi banner or as crypto Nazis in small numbers at much larger groups like Donald Trump's campaign rallies. The appearance of a large conglomerate of Nazis bearing arms in a public space in the real world is a sign that a kind of criticality has been reached.

Clearly Trump himself has enabled the online Nazis. He seems convinced that a political engagement with them is key to his survival. The jury is out on that part. However we do know that online Nazi presence has increased as the Trump Campaign has amplified their access to large bandwidth communication and outreach mechanisms. With each re-tweet Trump has pushed forth the Nazi agenda (while IMHO setting himself up to fail). Today Nazis like Chris Cantwell are able to openly state that they do not find Trump compliant enough to their agenda. They can openly say Trump is just a pawn in their overall strategy. It is unclear how long Trump will survive - others like him haven't survived long after the Nazis decide to put them in their cross hairs. And yes Nazis everywhere and in every age are extremely violent and unafraid to strike at heads of state or their family members.

Putin and the RIS seem to be stuck in a counter-productive relationship with these groups as well. I am somehow reminded of the disastrous Molotov-Ribbentrop pact or of the CIA's ill-conceived dalliance with violent Jihadis in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Putin may have his reasons, but the RIS really should know better.

The Boston rally demonstrates that for now - counter-protests vastly outnumber the Nazis. This puts online Nazism into the "meatspace fail" category. It will not remain there for long unless something is done to secure vital national security organisms from infiltration.

The proposed measures cannot proceed locally, it is best if a global collaboration is created to stop the tide of Nazi ideas. Only if the law enforcement agencies of the world work together can this menace be contained and kept locked into an online box*.

* bear in mind locking it into an online box will not stop Dylann Roof, or Rizwan Farooq/Tashfeen Malik types. Low level incidents will sadly continue as long as an online presence for Nazi ideas isn't completely stamped out.


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