Back in the giddy aftermath of the presidential election, I poked fun at a woman in Florida who claimed (on PRI’s “The World”) that – “honest to God” – Obama was the Anti-Christ. Well, it turns out she was right, apparently.
Over on The Pirate Bay – and no doubt elsewhere – you can now download an eBook with the full story:
[NOTE: I’ve turned the text of the entry into a graphic image to render it unsearchable and avoid spreading this ridiculous but disturbing rubbish, and in particular the links and names associated with it, while at the same time bringing it to your attention. For the same reasons, I am not providing a link to this entry on The Pirate Bay – you can find it readily enough if you have a mind to.]
There’s not much to say about this screed itself. It’s a depressingly predictable hodge-podge of all the usual suspects of America’s neo-Nazi nutjob rantings: antisemitism, paranoid fantasies about the UN (“The black helicopters are coming!”), ignorant and outdated anti-Communism, tinges of Christian fundamentalist millenarianism, the terror of miscegenation, childish racism. But it is perhaps worth considering how this pathetic rant is being disseminated.
The Pirate Bay is a fairly notorious website based in Sweden that is used for sharing files – particularly software, TV and films, music, and of course porn, most of it in violation of the copyright terms of the material – over a P2P (peer-to-peer) file-sharing system called “bittorrent.” Here’s how The Pirate Bay describes itself (errors and all):
The Pirate Bay is the worlds largest bittorrent tracker. Bittorrent is a filesharing protocol that in a reliable way enables big and fast file transfers.
This is an open tracker, where anyone can download torrent files. To be able to upload torrent files, write comments and personal messages one must register at the site. This is of course free.
The members at The Pirate Bay represents a broad spectrum of file sharers. Therefore material that seem offensive might be available. Do not contact us if there is anything you find offensive, instead focus on the material that you find positive. The Pirate Bay only removes torrents if the name isn’t in accordance with the content. One must know what is being downloaded.
The Pirate Bay has some legitimate uses – for instance, some users make their own music or texts available through it, assuring that their work is very widely and easily – and freely – available. Some porn websites and other companies also seem to make some material available in this fashion – with links to where a viewer/user can get more, for a price. Sort of a “loss leader” approach. Of course most of the material is, as the site’s name emphasizes, pirated, but I’m not interested in getting into the ills or merits of Internet piracy here. Instead, I want to focus on content like the above “Antichrist” eBook.
This “Antichrist” eBook is, sadly, an example of the legitimate uses of P2P networks – to provide a system for rapidly and widely distributing work (art, music, literature, etc.) produced by individuals without access to normal systems of publication/production and distribution. And it is by no means an isolated example of profoundly objectionable material available on The Pirate Bay and other P2P systems.
A simple search on The Pirate Bay for “zionist” turns up about 295 items. Not all of them are antisemitic rantings. There’s also, for example, The Routledge Atlas of the Arab-Israeli Conflict (though this will be a “pirated” item). But the majority of the items found with this search look pretty depressing. They include a range of works denying the Holocaust, speeches by well-known racists like David Duke, texts claiming to prove that HIV doesn’t cause AIDS, and of course all the usual suspects of antisemitism.
The Internet has been a real boon to lunatic fringe groups preaching a range of paranoid and hate-based beliefs – bizarre fundamentalist Christian sects that long for the “rapture,” survivalists hiding in their bunkers from those black helicopters, anti-choice groups posting home addresses of doctors who provide abortions and encouraging people to attack them, white supremacists and neo-Nazis, holocaust deniers and all of that. Among other things, it allows these groups to circumvent the few efforts made to restrict them, such as Germany’s anti-Nazi laws. And of course it insures that these views are much more widely available than they were in the pre-Internet days of cheaply xeroxed pamphlets through the mail and so on.
It’s not clear what can or should be done. We know, through bitter experience, that most attempts to restrict hate speech end up impacting people like us – leftists, queers, people espousing real alternatives or “speaking truth to power” – as much if not more than their intended targets. Like the anti-porn internet filters that block access to legitimate information on birth control and sexuality. And, just to address this specific case, The Pirate Bay makes it clear that they will not take action against content just because it is objectionable or offensive – rightly so, I think – pirates can’t also be police.
Woody Allen, I believe, has a joke about supporting the right of Nazis to march because then we know where to find them. Well, the increased visibility and accessibility that the Internet has provided these creeps cuts both ways. They may be hard to find in the real world, squirreled away in dingy apartments in Minneapolis and Florida or backroads bunkers in Idaho, but we know where they are in cyberspace, and there are a range of cyberspace equivalents of the “Louisville slugger” approach to debating Nazis.
But, as with the “Louisville slugger school of nonviolent civil disobedience,” there remain serious questions about whether such approaches are warranted or legitimate, whether they don’t risk turning us into our enemies or playing into the hands of the forces of reaction, and more simply whether they are effective. What does it mean to support free speech – does it mean we have to let stuff like this circulate? What about filters – like those porn filters – that would block access to hate sites and materials – would those end up backfiring as well? I can imagine terrorist-oriented filters that prevent access to, for example, Al-Jezeera’s useful English language news service. I don’t have any answers, but I do know how sick at heart I feel when I stumble across hateful crap like this, how helpless in the face of its zombie-like persistance (really? still? in the 21st Century?). Doing something to dispel that feeling of helplessness would be nice. Blogging about it seems a bit too passive, too much like just dusting off the old “Nazi punks fuck off” button, and as the song says, “wearing badges is not enough / in days like this.”
UPDATE: The St. Petersburg Times is reporting today (6 June) on a Florida pastor who will be delivering a sermon on Obama as the anti-Christ… honest. Is it any wonder that so many people oversees think the United States is full of dangerous religious nutters? Obama as the anti-Christ, America as the Great Satan, it all starts to blur together, our fundamentalist extremists with theirs, doesn’t it?