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Marc Garlasco's Downfall
September 15, 2009 10:34 AM   Subscribe

"I work to expose war crimes and the Nazis were the worst war criminals of all time. But I'm now in the bizarre and painful situation of having to deny accusations that I'm a Nazi." Marc Garlasco of the Human Rights Watch catches flak for his memorabilia hobby and is now suspended with pay "pending an investigation" by the HRW.

His book, The Flak Badges of the Luftwaffe and Heer:
For the first time anywhere the Flak Badges of the German Army are dissected. Garlasco demyztifies these awards and presents all with the tools to preserve history. In addition to badges, he incorporates the history, award documents, and cases, turn- ing simple pieces of metal into a tangible connection to historical events. This book is a "must have" for every serious collector of war badges.
His handle, flak88, was perhaps not the best choice given Google's search results.
posted by geoff. (111 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
So, your enemies twist your words and use them against you, huh?
posted by GuyZero at 10:41 AM on September 15, 2009


And to think I get flak for collecting human skulls and drinking wine out of them. To the sounds of the lamentations of their women.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:42 AM on September 15, 2009 [11 favorites]


I don't get it. If I collect guillotines in my spare time, does that make me a Jacobin-sympathizer?

I mean, I do get it, I just think it's kind of silly.
posted by muddgirl at 10:43 AM on September 15, 2009 [4 favorites]


I think the problem here is the fact that when we do meet neo-nazis, they at first look like normal folk, maybe a little more precisely groomed then average, who just happen to be fascinated with WWII memorabilia. Obviously this is a decent guy who shares a hobby with not so decent guys, and this is no reason to denounce him, but I can see where the first whiff of suspicion comes from.
posted by idiopath at 10:46 AM on September 15, 2009


If I collect guillotines in my spare time, does that make me a Jacobin-sympathizer?

Do you use a nickname with neo-Jacobin numerology when you discuss your hobby on the Internet? If so, you probably admire Robespierre a little too much.
posted by Mayor Curley at 10:47 AM on September 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


I don't know, it seems like something that at least warrants investigation. While there are plenty of completely legitimate things to say, for instance, about Israel's human right record, the appearance of impropriety in the people who are acting as watchdogs, especially any impropriety that could take the form of Nazi veneration, provides cover for the criticism of Israel=anti-semitism brigade. I also think that there's a lot of criticism to be made of urban educational failures and drug corner activity, but I'd be unlikely to trust Charles Murray to say it.
posted by OmieWise at 10:49 AM on September 15, 2009


I'm suspicious. Why does he have "88" in his screen name? His Wikipedia bio says he was born in 1970, which suggests he might have graduated high school in 1988, but the number is also used as shorthand for "Heil Hitler" by neo-Nazis.
posted by jonp72 at 10:49 AM on September 15, 2009 [3 favorites]


If you want to distance yourself from the crazies, you probably want to avoid having "88" in your handle.
posted by brandman at 10:50 AM on September 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


Neo-nazi numerology? It's a reference to a gun used by German troops in WWII. 88mm was the caliber.
posted by muddgirl at 10:50 AM on September 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


RTFL - 88 is a reference to the 88mm flak cannon.
posted by BigLankyBastard at 10:53 AM on September 15, 2009


I was not aware of this 88 thingy.

Rob Schremp, I've got my eye on you!
posted by mazola at 10:54 AM on September 15, 2009


I RTFL....and I think he should have recognized the potential for confusion and avoided that number.
posted by brandman at 10:56 AM on September 15, 2009


Should have stuck with only 98 Luftballons.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:00 AM on September 15, 2009


BigLankyBastard: "RTFL - 88 is a reference to the 88mm flak cannon."

Yes, but that bit of information is less known that "88 == HH == Heil Hitler"; reading that far into the post's links -- the flak cannon reference is literally an aside in the last link -- is perhaps too much to expect from chattering class commentators.
posted by boo_radley at 11:00 AM on September 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


Mr. Netanyahu’s policy director, Ron Dermer, told The Jerusalem Post in July, “We are going to dedicate time and manpower to combating these groups; we are not going to be sitting ducks in a pond for the human rights groups to shoot at us with impunity.”

Yeah! Who does Human Rights Watch think they're dealing with? Palestinians?
posted by anti social order at 11:04 AM on September 15, 2009 [3 favorites]


The argument that he's just referencing a particular gun misses the point. Regardless of his intention, the use of the number"88" in screen names on the internet is an extremely common signifier of Nazi sympathies. He may not be a Nazi, but he of all people should know how bad being obsessed with German WWII military paraphernalia and using a username comprised of a military term and the number "88" are going to look.

It may be innocent, but he should've known better. For him of all people to be surprised that his web activity sets off the "probably a Nazi" warning lights indicates that he is either disingenuous or dumb.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:05 AM on September 15, 2009 [4 favorites]


RTFL:

Several pro-Israeli bloggers have latched on to Garlasco's hobby, questioning whether it is appropriate for a human rights investigator involved in the Middle East. They have unearthed one blogpost in which Flak 88 writes: "That is so cool! The leather SS jacket makes my blood go cold it is so COOL!"

In another Garlasco is shown in a photograph wearing a jumper bearing an Iron Cross. A correspondent comments on the picture: "Love the sweatshirt Mark [sic]. Not one I could wear here in germany [sic] though (well I could but it would be a lot of hassle)."

Garlasco replies: "Everyone thinks it is a biker shirt!"


Not that this makes dude a Nazi, but, come on. That is a seriously boneheaded move for someone in his position.
posted by The Straightener at 11:06 AM on September 15, 2009 [3 favorites]


Seriously though, he didn't see this one coming? I mean, I'm pretty sure there's nothing to this one, but come on man, did you just think this would slide on by? This probably is a false alarm, but it isn't nearly as big of a stretch as other recent conspiracy allegations, e.g. the Birther/Truther nonsense.
posted by valkyryn at 11:06 AM on September 15, 2009


It's sort of like appending 666 to your name and then saying it's because you're a fan of Ronald Wilson Reagan, who, after all, had six letters in each of his names, his house number was 666, and that on election day of 1980, 666 was the winning lottery number in both New Jersey and Maryland. True, but that's not what people are going to think of.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:06 AM on September 15, 2009 [10 favorites]


Do you use a nickname with neo-Jacobin numerology when you discuss your hobby on the Internet? If so, you probably admire Robespierre a little too much.

If Charlotte Corday murdered you in a bathtub... you might be a Jacobin.

If your favorite Crayola Crayon is Incorruptible Sea-Green... you might be a Jacobin.

If you think today is Nonidi, Décade 3, Fructidor CCXVII.... you might be a Jacobin.

posted by Greg Nog at 11:07 AM on September 15, 2009 [34 favorites]


This looks like a perfect storm of four factors:

1) Just a tinge of The Investigator Is Guilty of That Which He Hunts.

2) The obsessive focus on the surface trappings (words, objects) versus examining actual motive and deeds of the individual involved.

3) The reflexive "Mom! Dad! It's evil! Don't touch it!" many have associated with anything involving the Germans and World War II versus "I collect ... I reject ... memorabilia ..."

4) The cluelessness of using an 88 suffix, ... but really I am hesitant to cast aspersions on yet another two digit number. Maybe 13 and 66 need company. Let's do 44 while we're at it — if you do your fours with open tops, they're like little swastikas, really, and it is half of 88. Also, 55, yeah, those could be Ss, if you squint. So that's out.

I'd be righteously teed off if this happened to me.
posted by adipocere at 11:12 AM on September 15, 2009 [7 favorites]


Not less known to me, at any rate, boo. Live and learn though.
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 11:12 AM on September 15, 2009


This is totally bogus.

Collecting memorabilia does not make one a Nazi. Anyone versed in WWII stuff knows what 88 refers to, regardless of what the Neo-nazis have grabbed on to.

I have a pretty serious game collection. Many of them are WWII wargames. Many contain iron crosses on counters and box covers and the like. Doesn't make me a Nazi...
posted by Windopaene at 11:13 AM on September 15, 2009 [4 favorites]


Windopaene: "Collecting memorabilia does not make one a Nazi."

Wearing them probably does.
posted by Joe Beese at 11:16 AM on September 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Windopaene, can you see the difference between liking WWII as a subject and being specifically interested in Nazi weapons and insignia?
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:17 AM on September 15, 2009


Are we the baddies?
posted by Artw at 11:18 AM on September 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Wearing them probably does.

But it's okay that I ask my dates to dress like Isla, She Wolf of the SS, yes? I mean, a lot of Jews do.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:18 AM on September 15, 2009


Just so long as no-one dresses up as Stalin.
posted by Artw at 11:20 AM on September 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Crap.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:20 AM on September 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


Has Comrade Chairman Zombie been a bad boy?
posted by Artw at 11:21 AM on September 15, 2009 [3 favorites]


But it's okay that I ask my dates to dress like Isla, She Wolf of the SS, yes? I mean, a lot of Jews do.

Ann Coulter had a really great line about how she'd rather be a Nazi than a Communist- after all, how many people fantasize sexually about Communists?
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:21 AM on September 15, 2009


I should have also included a link to the Flak88 site:germancombatawards.com.

Discussion about his book cover on GCA.

I actually haven't found anything on the site that would suggest that it is filled with neo-Nazis, or rather there wasn't talk you'd see on Stormfront. The forum is actually a lot creepier than I thought it would be, with a little Swastika popping out, but they seem to be genuine collectors. I see no reason not to believe Marc Garlasco is anything more than a collector, but it is one of those hobbies you might want to be a tad more careful about, especially when creating a handle.
posted by geoff. at 11:22 AM on September 15, 2009


Plus she'd just sooner be a nazi full stop.
posted by Artw at 11:22 AM on September 15, 2009 [3 favorites]


Astro Zombie: "But it's okay that I ask my dates to dress like Isla, She Wolf of the SS, yes? I mean, a lot of Jews do."

Indeed they do.
posted by Joe Beese at 11:24 AM on September 15, 2009


Huh. I thought I'd heard his name before. He was the chief of high-value targeting for the Pentagon before he worked for HRW. Which means he was a military-guy-who-collected-Nazi-memorabilia first and then a human-rights-activist-who-collected-Nazi-memorabilia. Is that better, worse, or just odd? I don't know.
posted by feckless at 11:24 AM on September 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


I've got soviet surplus and nazi stuff and islamic stuff and I like peace. Oh my god the teabaggers were right!
posted by Pollomacho at 11:30 AM on September 15, 2009 [3 favorites]


Isla, She Wolf of the SS

Scotch with bite!
posted by Pollomacho at 11:34 AM on September 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


The Flak 88 was one of the scariest weapons in WW2. It was intended for use as an anti-aircraft weapon, but was discovered to be lethal to even the heaviest-armored of Allied tanks. It could punch straight through the front armor of anything we or the Russians could field at the time. Wikipedia says it could penetrate about six inches of steel from over a mile away. It wasn't until late in the war that tanks got heavy enough to have even a prayer of surviving one.

There was nothing that tank crews feared more than an 88.

If you're a WW2 buff, flak88 would be a great handle, purely because it was such a fearsome weapon. It would have nothing to do with the ideology, and everything to do with simply respecting its incredible engineering.
posted by Malor at 11:36 AM on September 15, 2009 [12 favorites]


Actually, Wikipedia says six inches of armor, not steel. I assume they're the same thing, but they may not have been, even back then.
posted by Malor at 11:37 AM on September 15, 2009


There was a time when I would amuse myself by searching "nigger" on Ebay, and looking at all the shockingly racist Americana, things like tins of "Little Nigger Boy" chewing tobacco, adorned with a watermellon-eating scamp with an unkempt afro.

Then I noticed that all this stuff was being bought by someone who just slaps down an early bid with what seemed to be no upper limit. Not even bothering to snipe for a bargain.

Turns out it was Whoopee Goldberg, she bought all that stuff.
posted by StickyCarpet at 11:38 AM on September 15, 2009 [12 favorites]


Gotta love the Tiger Tank.
posted by Artw at 11:38 AM on September 15, 2009


Malor: "If you're a WW2 buff, flak88 would be a great handle, purely because it was such a fearsome weapon. It would have nothing to do with the ideology, and everything to do with simply respecting its incredible engineering."

I don't know how it fits in to the whole Eros/Thanatos thing, but it's true: guns are sexy.

And really big guns are really sexy.
posted by Joe Beese at 11:47 AM on September 15, 2009


If there was one symbol that the Nazis stole for their own benefit and ruined it was the Swastika.

If there were two symbols that the Nazis stole for their own benefiet and ruined it would be the Swastika and the Iron Cross. The iron cross was a historic symbol of the Prussian Army and was given to officers who served with distinction and courage during a time of war. Hitler put the swastika on it. (He also made it possible to be awarded to enlisted men as well which, at the risk of being called a Nazi myself, was a good idea).

There was a petition to reintroduce the award in 2007 and it has been reintroduced with an altered design.

The source for most of my information was, of course, wikipedia.

Oh and BTW, I'm a historian. Not a Nazi. I may be a Jacobin Sympathizer, though. Liberte, Egalite. Fraternite ou la Mort!
posted by Pseudology at 11:48 AM on September 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


The 88mm is the most famous cannon, on the german side, of the second World War. The Tiger tank was a technical marvel for its time and the american M-60 machine gun certainly borrowed from the german MG-42. Even the russian AK47 (the infamous Kalashnikov) was inspired by the german StG44.

I loathe all of this shit and I'd rather have nuclear fusion for the masses, but guess what, knowing that stuff doesn't make anybody _necessarily_ a nazi admirer.
posted by elpapacito at 11:54 AM on September 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


I collect comics books. And now I'm a superhero! Right?
posted by jamstigator at 11:55 AM on September 15, 2009 [5 favorites]


The iron cross was a historic symbol of the Prussian Army

Yeah, it was definitely Hitler and not the Wehrmact that dessecrated that symbol.
posted by Pollomacho at 12:09 PM on September 15, 2009


As anyone who goes to gun shows can attest, the tables where guys sell Nazi gear and play their homebrew "Songs of the SS" CD-Rs often leave the impression of more than a collector's interest in Nazi stuff.

There are plenty of legitimate collectors of German military artifacts, of course. But as journalist Dave Gilson showed a while back in an East Bay Express series on Nazi re-enactors, the guys who are really into SS stuff--as opposed to Panzer tanks or secret Lutwaffe airplanes--are a subculture often in a league of their own.

Maybe Garlasco deserves the benefit of the doubt. Military collectors often get a bad rap. But from a PR point of view, he was out of his mind if he thought his critics in Israel were going to appreciate someone in his position praising how "totally cool" SS jackets are. The 88 thing was stupid, too.

Full disclosure, the SS wiped out my relatives in the Ukraine lol.
posted by Kirklander at 12:18 PM on September 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


Windopaene: Collecting memorabilia does not make one a Nazi. Anyone versed in WWII stuff knows what 88 refers to, regardless of what the Neo-nazis have grabbed on to.

Did you read the "catches flak" link? It may not make you a Nazi, and I've argued as much before on these pages - specifically, I think it's actually a fine thing to hold on to such memorabilia in order to keep the memory of these awful acts alive, and it's pretty clear that one can have such things in one's house and be very staunchly opposed to Nazi ideals - but it's understandable that people will start to wonder a little if you (a) start wearing black Iron Cross jumpsuits and (b) make comments on the internet like

[quoted in Guardian article:] That is so cool! The leather SS jacket makes my blood go cold it is so COOL!

... isn't it? I mean, isn't that kind of sentiment a little... questionable, to say the least?
posted by koeselitz at 12:29 PM on September 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


He may not be a Nazi, but he of all people should know how bad being obsessed with German WWII military paraphernalia and using a username comprised of a military term and the number "88" are going to look.

I couldn't agree more.
posted by rocket88 at 12:29 PM on September 15, 2009 [9 favorites]


*starts movement to have Jacobin sympathizers banned from MeFi*
posted by languagehat at 12:31 PM on September 15, 2009


What the Hell do you have against Jacobian Synthesizers?!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:33 PM on September 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


Yes, but that bit of information is less known that "88 == HH == Heil Hitler"

Not among wargamers and people who know much about world war II. I only learned that the number 88 had that connection with "HH" very recently. On the other hand, for many years I've known that the 8.8cm (88mm) flak cannon was far and away the most feared gun of the early war. It was intended as an anti-aircraft gun but the Germans found they could repurpose it for anti-armor duties with astounding success. The thing was dead accurate and could penetrate the FRONT armor of any Allied armor at extreme ranges. Its main competitor was the 8.8cm Pak 43 antitank gun. Someone more versed than I would have to describe the advantages/disadvantages between the flak 88 and the Pak 43.

(the 8.8cm KwK gun that the Tiger used, referenced above, is not really related to the 8.8cm flak. They're both 88mm, sure, but the Tiger's main gun was not developed from the flak, it was a parallel sort of design.)

So, no, I don't think that this information is less well known than the neo-nazi connection.

I agree it kind of looks bad that a guy in his position collects WWII memorabilia but using a handle like "flak88" is in no way evidence of anything except that he knows a bit more about world war II than the general populace.
posted by Justinian at 12:59 PM on September 15, 2009 [6 favorites]


I'm in character...
posted by koeselitz at 12:59 PM on September 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


So, a pro-Israel blog targets somebody who works for a organization that is critical of and isn't popular with the current Israeli government.

Dopey comments like this "The leather SS jacket makes my blood go cold it is so COOL!" don't hardly indicate some kind of pro-SS or anti-Semitic bias. Those SS jackets make my blood go cold too, but not because the evil it symbolizes scares the shit out me. I don't think it's cool, but I recognize that other people enjoy being scared by things like that.

I think it's a shame that somebody who has a real enthusiasm for military history (and thus the reasons behind those Geneva conventions and other rules of war) is being singled out this way. It's just character assassination, pure and simple.
posted by borges at 1:05 PM on September 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't know that the Flak 88 was particularly spectacular in terms of innovation or design. It might be a little more accurate to say that Flak 88 was one of the more feared anti-tank guns of World War II. Well, more feared by the Allies, at any rate. There wasn't anything particularly magical about it, though -- most other countries had a similar weapon: The British had a 3.7 inch AA cannon, the Soviets had a 85mm cannon, and the Americans had a 90mm AA cannon.

In 1939, no country really had any really heavy tanks except for the Soviet Union, so tank guns were fairly light: The British fielded a 2 pounder (40mm cannon) for anti-tank work, the Americans had a 37 mm cannon, and the Germans had a 37 mm cannon as well.

Over time, tanks got heavier, more armor was needed, and therefore tank designers looked for ways to get past this armor. One of the ways was to fire a larger caliber shell. Casting about for a suitable cannon, some tank designers modified these anti-aircraft cannon for these roles: The Americans modified the 90mm AA cannon for the M36 'Jackson' tank destroyer and M26 Pershing, while the Soviets up-gunned their T-34's with the 85mm cannon.

You can probably tell that a long time ago I was into computer wargaming, and I know a lot of people who got really into German stuff without being Nazis. But I also know a lot of computer wargamers who got kind of ... wierd ... about the German things. You know, like one second it's all "The Germans had really cool tanks and spiffy uniforms", and the next second it's "The Waffen SS was not a criminal organization!".
posted by Comrade_robot at 1:08 PM on September 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


languagehat: *starts movement to have Jacobin sympathizers banned from MeFi*

*has languagehat summoned before the Committee of Public Safety*
posted by Kattullus at 1:26 PM on September 15, 2009 [6 favorites]


"You don't have anything from the Allied side?"
"No, no. That sort of thing wouldn't interest me at all, I'm afraid."
posted by slimepuppy at 1:39 PM on September 15, 2009 [3 favorites]


Thanks for all the informative info on German armaments -- I'm a total WWII buff but am more engaged by the social and cultural aspects than the military history.

"The leather SS jacket makes my blood go cold it is so COOL!"


Which brings me to this. I think part of the problem is that people who are not historians or collectors do not understand why this stuff gives us boners. This isn't the reaction I would have had to an SS jacket but I completely understand why it might have been his. It seems to be an expression of the thrill of the find -- and yes, part of that thrill is encountering an object with a dark and terrible history. I've ocassionally read message boards on stormfront, and it doesn't take too much experience to distinguish this guy's comments from the kind of Nazi veneration that takes place in those parts. This strikes me as a throwaway fanboy comment which content-wise is a WWII military historian chatroom's version of "OMG this rox!!@!." If this is what people are referring to as a case for this guy to lose his job they need to work a little harder.

I'm also surprised by comments that this guy should have known that his hobby and his comments were going to get him in trouble with the Israeli government. He seems to have considered his decision to put his name on his book and decided to go ahead with it on the grounds that to do otherwise was deceptive and unduly paranoid. People have all kinds of weird hobbies and interests that other people don't share. Some black people -- like Whoopi, mentioned above -- collect vile racist memorabilia. Unless I see some evidence that this guy is also obsessed with Hitler's racial eliminationism and that his work is unprofessional or marred by anti-Semitic prejudice (aside from the usual charge that anyone who says anything mean about Israel is automatically an anti-Semite) then I call BS.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 1:40 PM on September 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


Okay, so I'd wondered about that quotation the Guardian lists, and I spent some time looking through some of the real Flak88's online comments, keeping in mind what's been said about the fact that Marc Garlasco is not the racist prick, totally unrelated, who happens to go by the handle Flak88 on the stormfront web site.

I think it's fair to look around for this stuff at this point; it's not really the underhanded 'ha ha look at me I'll google you!' kind of internet-stalking we generally avoid, since (a) everybody is theorizing and debating about this Garlasco's internet postings already, and (b) Marc Garlasco seems to be in the habit of signing his comments with his actual name (Marc) in addition to his handle, so I don't believe he's trying to be extremely private about this.

Nor is there any reason for him to be. Having looked through his contributions to the GermanCombatAwards.com forum, it seems a bit, well, forced and McCarthyist to call him out for being some kind of Nazi sympathizer. Granted, all anybody's said is that it's 'questionable' for a HRW investigator to have this hobby, and there have been numerous qualifications to the effect that he's not being called a 'vulgar racist,' but I still have a strong feeling after going through this stuff that shit is being stirred in the wrong way. Even the fact that they've pointed to the internet for this is a bit weird; Marc Garlasco seems to be something of an expert on Flak Badges like this one (see why he chose the moniker? The Flak 88mm is featured prominently thereupon) and has written a book on the subject called The Flak Badges of the Luftwaffe and Heer, so this clearly extends even to something of a professional interest. As far as his reasons for this hobby go, I think it's uncharitable to quote him out of context as saying that an SS jacket is 'cool;' I haven't found the source of that quote, but what I have found has indicated that he simply has an interest in the time and in 'humanizing' the time (as he puts it). I actually found this comment, which includes a photo of the US veteran pilot who wrote the introduction to Marc's book, somewhat touching. What happened in WWII happened to real people, on both sides, and as soon as we forget that we risk having it happen again.

My verdict: not a big deal. Let the guy have his job back.
posted by koeselitz at 1:54 PM on September 15, 2009 [6 favorites]


I should have known these guys were up to no good. "Eat the world" indeed.
posted by mr vino at 2:05 PM on September 15, 2009


I think the problem here is the fact that when we do meet neo-nazis, they at first look like normal folk, maybe a little more precisely groomed then average, who just happen to be fascinated with WWII memorabilia.

Some of the time. I got on the bus (in San Francisco, of all places) a few weeks ago and on moving towards the rear of the bus was startled to discover two big bald guys with tattoo collections, including giant swastikas on the back of their heads. One of them had creatively integrated the swastika with the SF Giants' baseball logo, so I assume he was local. For added WTFitude, this was on the bus line connecting the two largest black neighborhoods in the city. Nothing happened, they didn't exhibit any attitude and were perfectly polite to others around them as people got on and off the crowded bus. I am still confused by the whole episode.

You're not wrong about the chilly SS type out of uniform, but personally I think they're a minority compared to the wannabe stormtroopers. I don't really know what to think about this 'flak88' character. Indeed, you would think he'd know better but on the other hand I remember being fascinated by WW2 memorabilia and militaria in general as a teenager just because it was historic and tangible. I still like the look of an AK-47 but it doesn't mean I'm a communist.
posted by anigbrowl at 2:12 PM on September 15, 2009


My history teacher was a collector of Nazi memorabilia, dude had a lot. One day a classmate said it was kinda creepy and wondered if he was a Nazi.

"Mr. Goldberg? I don't think so."
posted by Mick at 2:17 PM on September 15, 2009 [8 favorites]


languagehat: *starts movement to have Jacobin sympathizers banned from MeFi*

Hear, hear! Trample the White Rose of York, and let Na Seumasaich see nowt but our fury!
posted by koeselitz at 2:19 PM on September 15, 2009


One of the interesting threads started by Garlasco on the previously referenced GermanCombatAwards.com (warning: swastikas) site seeks advice on whether or not to use a pseudonym for his book.

[...this is a hard decision. I will talk quietly to some at work that I trust - a small group indeed.]

Clearly he was aware his book might cause controversy and he might even have talked to other people at HRW about it beforehand...how he of all people could think pro-Israel groups would let this slip by seems really strange. It just seems like poor judgment to publicly carry on with this hobby regardless of his true intentions.
posted by Esteemed Offendi at 2:24 PM on September 15, 2009


Esteemed Offendi: It just seems like poor judgment to publicly carry on with this hobby regardless of his true intentions.

I don't know if that's true at all. And frankly it seems to me as though it's a little odd to connect his hobby with the work he does. Either it's wrong or at least a bit sleazy for anybody to collect Nazi memorabilia (and I can understand thinking it is) or it's not; this is true regardless of the fact that he works for Human Rights Watch.

What is clear to me is that he knew this would come up at some point. That doesn't mean he was wrong to do it. I think he did the right thing in not hiding who he was or using a pseudonym; the only thing that I find a little irksome about the case is the fact that his response wasn't a more thoughtful elucidation of the case. But he clearly intends, on some level or another, to make the stand that hobbyists who are interested in this era are not Nazi sympathizers - and maybe he's right.
posted by koeselitz at 2:34 PM on September 15, 2009


koeselitz: My verdict: not a big deal. Let the guy have his job back.

koeselitz, I'm curious to know why you think that collecting Nazi war memorabilia is 'not a big deal', when you think that displaying a Japanese Rising Sun flag would be 'unspeakably offensive'?
posted by verstegan at 2:35 PM on September 15, 2009


Yes, but that bit of information is less known that "88 == HH == Heil Hitler";

Says you. This is one of those weird parallel-universe "things that are well known" if you spend a lot more time peering at neo-Nazis than I ever did.

Windopaene: "Collecting memorabilia does not make one a Nazi."

Wearing them probably does.


Does that mean Civil War re-enactors who play Confederates are all traitors and supporters of slavery?
posted by rodgerd at 2:41 PM on September 15, 2009


Yes.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:43 PM on September 15, 2009 [3 favorites]


languagehat: *starts movement to have Jacobin sympathizers banned from MeFi*

Kattulus: *has languagehat summoned before the Committee of Public Safety*

Pseudology: *Declares languagehat to be a counterrevolutionary but is executed by his fellow Jacobins before he can pronounce a scentance.*
posted by Pseudology at 3:18 PM on September 15, 2009


I love the scentance of counterrevolution in the morning. It smells like: justice!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:20 PM on September 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Does that mean Civil War re-enactors who play Confederates are all traitors and supporters of slavery?
posted by rodgerd at 2:41 PM on September 15 [+] [!]


Yes.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:43 PM on September 15 [+] [!]


I hope you're kidding. If not, that is kind of a stupid thing to say.
posted by Avenger at 3:23 PM on September 15, 2009


Kind of? That would have been an appalling stupid thing to say.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:27 PM on September 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh, for goodness' sake. Human Rights Watch is an advocacy organization that hopes to enact political and social change. What they do ain't bean bag. His job was to investigate and help substantiate accusations of war crimes. In your history teacher, this hobby is a little weird. For this guy? It's almost criminally stupid. Criminally stupid ain't unusual in politics, but all this "tsk tsk, why are they persecuting the poor man" is a dumb as asking why they went after Sanford for going hiking on the Appalacian Trail. We don't, and can't, know the man's heart, and it's entirely possible that he's not an anti-Semtic douchebag deep down inside. But he has voluntarily placed himself inside quite a small circle which is mostly populated by anti-Semetic douchebags. His opponents will have no trouble drawing Venn diagrams that may destroy his career and will almost certainly damage the reputation of the organzation whose goals he professes to support.

What Ceasar didn't cover about this case Fouché did. And with each he, as a military historian, should have been familiar.
posted by Diablevert at 3:34 PM on September 15, 2009 [3 favorites]


Pope Guilty : can you see the difference between liking WWII as a subject and being specifically interested in Nazi weapons and insignia?

My buddy falls on the foul side of this line; he's a big guy, shaved head, wears combat boots, and flight jackets, and knows an amazing amount about WW2 history and lore. Hidden away in one of his drawers is a Nazi flag and a beautiful condition German bayonet.

He never shows these things to anyone, because he looks and dresses like he does (he's an old school punk who despises skinheads), and gets tired of explaining that the reason he has them is because his grandfather was one of the soldiers that liberated a town, and used the found bayonet to cut down the flag indicating that it was not longer under Nazi control.

It's too bad, really, because as historical pieces, they are fascinating and horrifying in that way that old war memorabilia can be.
posted by quin at 3:36 PM on September 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


*Starts September Massacre. Of beer.*
posted by kirkaracha at 3:55 PM on September 15, 2009


Collecting WWII Nazi items does not make you a Nazi or a sympathizer.
From a strictly aesthetic point of view , their stuff was top notch. I wish I had some of it.
posted by Liquidwolf at 4:12 PM on September 15, 2009


> *Declares languagehat to be a counterrevolutionary but is executed by his fellow Jacobins before he can pronounce a scentance.*

*wipes forehead, joins Directory, becomes feckless and corrupt*
posted by languagehat at 4:33 PM on September 15, 2009


verstegan: koeselitz, I'm curious to know why you think that collecting Nazi war memorabilia is 'not a big deal', when you think that displaying a Japanese Rising Sun flag would be 'unspeakably offensive'?

Read the rest of that thread. Yeah, I know it's long. Handy trick: just ctrl-f and search for 'posted by koeselitz.' You may find it enlightening.
posted by koeselitz at 4:37 PM on September 15, 2009


Hell, read that comment again - never said such a flag would be 'unspeakably offensive' to me, and I'm pretty sure that was obvious.
posted by koeselitz at 4:39 PM on September 15, 2009


The argument that he's just referencing a particular gun misses the point. Regardless of his intention, the use of the number"88" in screen names on the internet is an extremely common signifier of Nazi sympathies. He may not be a Nazi, but he of all people should know how bad being obsessed with German WWII military paraphernalia and using a username comprised of a military term and the number "88" are going to look.

It may be innocent, but he should've known better. For him of all people to be surprised that his web activity sets off the "probably a Nazi" warning lights indicates that he is either disingenuous or dumb.


I really hate this sort of argument. The idea that he brought this ridiculous enquiry on himself (because he lacked what? an internal sensor? a desire to not ruffle the more ignorant feathers?) is an insult to the man and implies that you should always second guess what the majority may or may not think.

I have a darker skin tone: if I grow myself a beard, wear a backpack and read the Koran on the tube would being searched by every police officer I passby be justified?
posted by litleozy at 5:03 PM on September 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


Lewis Carroll probably wasn't a paedophile; at least, there's no evidence that he sexually assaulted children. But his actions (going for long trips with little girls, making some of them his special friends, taking nude photos of them) are disquieting. In fact, I need to keep reminding myself that he probably wasn't a paedophile.

Marc Garlasco falls into a similar category. He seems freakishly obsessed with Nazi memorabilia - we're talking many thousands of posts regarding them. I find it hard to imagine that he didn't realise the significance of his username, given that he works in the field of human rights and has undoubtedly met many neo-Nazis (as well as a good deal of real Nazis, who are the ultimate source of the items he collects). He's either amazingly oblivious (link to a collection of his comments regarding Hitler) to the historical significance of the Nazis or tacitly supports them. But, if he were actually a supporter of Nazi ideology, wouldn't that have come out by now? He has been incredibly indiscreet regarding his hobby; wouldn't he have been similarly indiscreet regarding his politics?

This is why I see him as a Lewis Carroll figure. Obsessive, meticulous, creepy, but probably not evil. That doesn't mean that he's the right sort of person to work in the field of human rights: at best he is oblivious to the views of some of his fellow collectors and the sentiments of the Nazis' victims. None the less, he's probably not a Nazi.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:06 PM on September 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think he's probably not a nazi sympathizer, but HRW is probably not the best job for someone with his interests.
posted by empath at 5:07 PM on September 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


I have a darker skin tone: if I grow myself a beard, wear a backpack and read the Koran on the tube would being searched by every police officer I passby be justified?

No: The parallel's inexact because being a Moslem doesn't make you a terrorist, and nobody has suggested that Marc Garlasco intends to use his badges to slaughter Jews. In fact, nobody has even searched him on the subway (as far as I know). But if you collected huge amounts of pro-jihad literature and manuals on bomb-making and had a collection of detonators and so forth, then I think most people would regard you as a creepy guy who shouldn't be employed by, e.g., a Jewish day school.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:11 PM on September 15, 2009


It's kind of funny, too -- the whole thing about collecting WW2 memorabilia making you into a Nazi is a classic example of magical "contagion" thinking -- the same thing that would make you refuse to wear a shirt that a mass murderer once wore.

You can be deeply interested in WW2 and the Nazis without being one, or even vaguely believing their ideology. Nothing will seep out of the badges and flags and infect anyone. But it's very interesting to watch a crowd of quite intelligent people justifying that underlying "contagion" idea.

It's normal, all humans do it, but that doesn't mean it's correct. :)
posted by Malor at 5:18 PM on September 15, 2009 [3 favorites]


Oh, and the thought occurs: if you really want to stop human rights abuses, it's important to understand how they happen. Nazi Germany is very probably the premier example, and an encyclopedic knowledge of their modes of thought and methods of organization should be considered a strong net asset for anyone working for Human Rights Watch.

To really fight something, you have to understand it, even be fascinated by it.

I suspect the real agenda here is that HRW is going after Israel, and Israel is trying to smear them. It's the Scientologist approach to public relations.
posted by Malor at 5:27 PM on September 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


> koeselitz, I'm curious to know why you think that collecting Nazi war memorabilia is 'not a big deal', when you think that displaying a Japanese Rising Sun flag would be 'unspeakably offensive'?

Well, that's pretty disingenuous. I'm sure everyone here would agree hanging an SS flag in your office because "it's a neat design" would be fucking retarded.
posted by cj_ at 5:29 PM on September 15, 2009


It's normal, all humans do it, but that doesn't mean it's correct. :)

It can be correct, though not in the way you are thinking. The quintessential example of "correlation does not equal causation" is the asserted fact that ice cream consumption is correlated positively with drowning deaths. Nevertheless, if all you know about someone is that they eat more ice cream than average, you can estimate that their drowning risk is higher than average, because the ice cream eating is evidence that they live in warm region and therfore go swimming more frequently.

With Nazi memorabilia the probabilistic inference is similar: Neo Nazis are more likely than other people to collect Nazi memorabilia, therefore absent other information, a Nazi memorabilia collector is more likely to be a neo Nazi than a person who does not collect Nazi memorabilia.
posted by Pyry at 5:32 PM on September 15, 2009


Ann Coulter had a really great line about how she'd rather be a Nazi than a Communist- after all, how many people fantasize sexually about Communists?

She stole that from P.J. O'Rourke (who, importantly, was only talking about being called a Nazi, not being one).
posted by Bookhouse at 5:43 PM on September 15, 2009


So, I had a dilemma when choosing a two-digit number for an intramural sports "jersey" (t-shirt) in college where we were required to choose a number, because my high school soccer jersey number was already taken by someone else on our team. I had just watched Back to the Future the night before, so I thought "How about 88?" in honor of the 88mph at which point the flux capacitor generates 1.21 gigawatts, etc.

Our first basketball game, there were spectators from the other team who kept giving me the evil eye, shouting at me, and cheering when I fucked up, and I couldn't figure out why. After the game, when we were shaking hands, like 2-3 of the people on the other team avoided me. I asked the last one, "what's the deal?" and he said "It's pretty fucked up to put that on your jersey, man. Fuck you." So after I convinced him that I earnestly didn't know what was going on, he told me about the 88 = HH = Heil Hitler thing.

In conclusion, Robert Zemeckis is a cryptoneonazi
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 7:02 PM on September 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


I would like to strongly protest all the arguments that have been made on the following line of reasoning:

"Yes, he's clearly not a racist, but this was a dumb thing to do, because it's going to make people think he's a racist."

As the kids say, "Dub-Teff?"
I understand that it's important to avoid impropriety.
I further understand that it's important to avoid even the appearance of impropriety.
But to avoid all avenues for mistaken assumptions of impropriety? That's a nonsense standard!

This is the equivalent of saying, "I know Glenn Beck didn't rape and kill a woman in 1990, but I think it's very suspicious that he hasn't denied it."

If you think his screen-name is evidence that he's a Nazi, fine. I don't know enough to have an opinion on the matter. I have no dog in that race.

But if you think there's no evidence he's a Nazi, but you *still* don't think he should have done what he did - because it might look bad - then you're deliberately putting appearances ahead of reality. It only "looks bad" because you're willing to judge him based on how it looks, contrary to what you know to be true.

If we're condemn "innocent but suspicious looking" we become complicit in being fooled by that innocent behavior.
posted by Richard Daly at 7:05 PM on September 15, 2009 [8 favorites]


You can be deeply interested in WW2 and the Nazis without being one, or even vaguely believing their ideology.

I mean, say what you like about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it's an ethos.
posted by kirkaracha at 7:11 PM on September 15, 2009


I mean, say what you like about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it's an ethos.

I've really come to hate that movie.
posted by dirigibleman at 8:28 PM on September 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


koeselitz: But he clearly intends, on some level or another, to make the stand that hobbyists who are interested in this era are not Nazi sympathizers - and maybe he's right.

I don't disagree. And if he wants to make this stand I wish him godspeed.

However, I think he is fairly unique in that a portion of his day job involves butting heads with some of the same very savvy people who reamed sweet ol' Nobelist Jimmy Carter for being a supposed anti-Israeli and who left a lasting smear on Carter's perceived objectivity.

Realistically I think Garlasco is going to fare much much worse in the court of public opinion and impair the work of his employer. I'm glad that HRW seems to be backing him up, though.
posted by Esteemed Offendi at 8:31 PM on September 15, 2009


"Yes, he's clearly not a racist, but this was a dumb thing to do, because it's going to make people think he's a racist."

I don't think it's at all clear he's not a racist. (Cue the Avenue Q...) Nobody has dug up any comments from his username where he goes "P.S. I love Hitler," true. But if I was visiting somebody's house and came upon a trove of Nazi badges and SS paraphenelia? My first thought would not be, "my, this gentleman certainly has a deep passion for history!" I am obviously predjudiced. But I do not think I am so without reason. There's no proof that Lewis Carol diddled little girls. But his lifelong interest in taking pictures of them nakes squicks me right out, because that's something pedophiles like to do, and knowing that I certainly wouldn't hire the man to any job where he worked with children.

As i said, it's entirely possible that this man is not racist. It's entirely possible that he is. We do not know his heart, only the cirumstances. From the latter, all we can tell is that he's a jackass.
posted by Diablevert at 8:41 PM on September 15, 2009


Last week I came into (temporary) possession of a knife that was said to be from WW2, which has Swastika on it. I looked it up online and found out that it's a knife given to members of the Hitler Youth. There's an inscription on the blade: "Blut und ehre!" which means "Blood and Honor!", the Hitler Youth motto.

Now, I'm not a Neo-Nazi, and it's beyond ludicrous to even consider that I sympathize with Nazis, it's not even worth thinking about. BUT, I find this knife really interesting and (for lack of a better word), "cool" in that it's an actual piece of physical history, touched by the hands of history...and I feel kind of weird saying that. Like I have to defend it.

So, I kind of feel for this dude (but then again I don't work for HRW, for god's sake).

(PS - I'm also a white Black Studies major from back in the day who owns a couple of pieces of old "Mammy" and "Tar Baby" Americana, so I'm sure I'm offending all sorts of folks.)
posted by tristeza at 8:51 PM on September 15, 2009


I guess I would be less concerned about being seen as a Nazi than I would be concerned that people might think I was a closeted homosexual who kills Kevin Spacey.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:53 PM on September 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Now, I'm not a Neo-Nazi, and it's beyond ludicrous to even consider that I sympathize with Nazis, it's not even worth thinking about. BUT, I find this knife really interesting and (for lack of a better word), "cool" in that it's an actual piece of physical history, touched by the hands of history...and I feel kind of weird saying that. Like I have to defend it.


I have a similar item. It's a wound badge that was given to me by an Afrikakorps veteran. I don't have it on display or anything but I have no qualms about keeping it and I make no apologies for having it. If someone thinks that makes a Nazi sympathizer, well, I probably don't want to associate with a simpleton like that anyway.
posted by MikeMc at 9:14 PM on September 15, 2009


So owning war memorabilia is now tantamount to taking nude photographs of children?
posted by Authorized User at 12:11 AM on September 16, 2009


koeselitz: Read the rest of that thread. Yeah, I know it's long. Handy trick: just ctrl-f and search for 'posted by koeselitz'. You may find it enlightening.

I've re-read your comments in that thread, koeselitz. When I first read them, they struck me as particularly thoughtful and insightful. They still do. But, with respect, I think you're holding Phyltre (there) and Garlasco (here) to different standards of proof. In the case of Phyltre and the Japanese flag, you're arguing that the natural presumption is against him -- i.e. people will assume he sympathizes with Japanese war criminals unless he explicitly says he doesn't. But in the case of Garlasco and the Nazi war memorabilia, you're arguing that the natural presumption is in his favour -- i.e. no reasonable person will assume he sympathizes with Nazi war criminals unless he explicitly says he does. How is that not a double standard? In effect, you're saying that the onus is on Phyltre to demonstrate his good intentions, but the onus is on Garlasco's opponents to demonstrate his bad intentions.

None of this matters much, except that you seem to be bending over backwards to make excuses for Garlasco, and I'm not sure why. (Not being snarky, not trying to score points; I'd just like you to put the two cases, Phyltre and Garlasco, side by side and explain to me where you think the difference lies.)
posted by verstegan at 1:34 AM on September 16, 2009


Yeah, fuck this guy and his pacifism and justice-seeking bullshit. We should impose as many constraints as possible to make it hard for people to work for human rights.
Who's he think he is owning objects? Doesn't he know that if you have something someone else had once, that means you believe what they believe?
It's not like Nazis come out and just say they're Nazis either. It's not like they define themselves with some sort of haircut or on web sites or anything.
I mean you see some guy working for peace and human rights and 9/10 times they're f'ing national socialist racists. They're just biding their time working for low pay under tough and
thankless circumstances risking their lives in some cases from retribution while they seek to establish a fourth Reich.
Where does he get off thinking that his actions working to defend and preserve human rights are more important than what a minutiae fixated hobby might look like to people
who wouldn't get off their fucking couch unless it was time and a half?

And what's with all these Buddhists wearing Nazi symbols? We shouldn't study these things or even understand the details, what we need to do is get angry and not understand and then it will all go away and never happen again and we'll all be happy forever. If something makes us uncomfortable, we have the right to scream at it irrationally until it goes away. It's not idolatry... if you don't like the idols. No, I've never heard of the Bundeswehr, why do you ask?

You know who else collects huge amounts of pro-jihad literature and manuals on bomb-making and has collections of detonators?
Counterterrorists studying the new plastic IEDs in the Pentagon's Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization.

I mean, why WOULDN'T you want a guy who's got a hard on for Nazis working for Human Rights? He knows the scent.
What, you want some pink handed lilly who's dewy pure or some grizzled son of a bitch who's nose into it?

This stuff was never my thing. But there are people like this. They're geared differently. They get into the bits and pieces and trivia and enjoy one-upmanship on a whole different level. Bit like gamers really. Lawyers too. Nothing pejorative there. I tend to be a bit more visceral. Action oriented. Don't think I have the head to be a lawyer.
I talked with a guy who was really into punk a while back. Talked so much I couldn't hear the music. Pretty much wanted to establish that he was for real and into punk and probably more into it than I was.
Swell. I just wanted to listen and maybe slam.
This guy sounds the same. His grandfather was in WWII. And Garlasco has this sort of fixation on that seminal experience that he wants to own and show some validity with.
And it's bound up with that pacifism and all that.
What, I'm pulling this out of my ass? Or I'm some kind of genius for seeing this? It's obvious. It's how he thinks. He wants to be the guy who's inside all that.
He wants to be there, fighting the Nazis, and fighting for pacifism and all that. And he's developed a sort of fetish.
Most collectors tend to want to be in whatever they're collecting. Not that they sympathize - but it's that kind of relational thing. Associative. But not akin to. As with any fetish.
Guy's written books on the subject of collecting WWII memorabilia, his nerd cred is hard core.
Gosh, military analyst geek obsessed with military minutiae .... who could have seen that coming?

I saw a Discovery channel show a bit back on cockroaches. Hissing cockroaches, all that. Guy put his hand and forearm into this glass box and let the roaches crawl on his hands and bite him. The interviewer asked him, doesn't that hurt? Why do you do it?
The guy, who worked for Orkin, said he let his arm be covered in roaches because they are filthy disgusting creatures "and I want to kill them all."

Now that was creepy and the guy came off as an obsessive nut. But I sure as hell picked up the phone and called Orkin when I had an insect problem.

This guy, instead of killing roaches, reports on the Taliban using human shields and the increase in civilian deaths in Afghanistan from the U.S. and NATO tripling their use of airstrikes in order to prevent more harm to people in war zones.

Yeah, what a bastard he is. Y'know, compared to all the folks who bravely work to...uh...not collect Nazi medals.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:29 AM on September 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


Now, I'm not a Neo-Nazi, and it's beyond ludicrous to even consider that I sympathize with Nazis, it's not even worth thinking about. BUT, I find this knife really interesting and (for lack of a better word), "cool" in that it's an actual piece of physical history, touched by the hands of history...and I feel kind of weird saying that. Like I have to defend it.

I have a tattered Cigaretten Bilderdienst from 1936 — Adolf Hitler: Bilder Aus Dem Leben Des Fuhrers

A collection of essays beautifully typeset in blackletter, with real black-and-white photographic prints pasted onto nearly every page. The essays are by the likes of Goebbles, Speer, and Schreck. Most of the photos have Hitler in them doing Nazi PR crap, though one of the chapters includes color photo-lithographs of his watercolors.
posted by blasdelf at 2:49 AM on September 16, 2009


So owning war memorabilia is now tantamount to taking nude photographs of children?

This reminds me of a joke:
Patient: Doctor, my wife thinks I'm crazy because I like sausages.
Psychiatrist: Nonsense! I like sausages too.
Patient: Good, you should come and see my collection. I've got hundreds.

He doesn't just own war memorabilia. He has a huge collection of exquisite examples of Nazi war memorabilia, has written a book on the subject, and raves about the coolness of SS jackets (hattip) and the excellence of a soldier's photo album (hattip) "starting in the Jungvolk" (the Hitler Youth) which, he boasts, has photos of Hitler's visit to the soldier's regiment. Marc doesn't mince words when he describes his hobby, either: he calls it the Nazi collecting field.

None of this makes him a bad person, necessarily, but it troubles me. He isn't just interested in the subject: he is fascinated by it. There's a certain amount of mooning over Hitler's signature and photos that I find repulsive. And there is an utter absence of reflection on the moral dimension of all this - what these soldiers were doing, or defending; what Hitler had been ordering; the slave labor and looting that was supporting this whole endeavour. The closest thing we find to introspection concerns Marc himself: his job and what to do if his employer finds out.

As I say, this troubles me. He gives me no reason to believe that he is pro-Nazi in anything other than a schoolgirl-crush sort of way, but I find it hard to imagine an adult with this total lack of moral consciousness. He lacks the sort of sensitivity and sympathy that a decent person ought to possess, and I feel that any human rights lobby could only be tainted by association with him.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:18 AM on September 16, 2009


I joked about it above, but I have a trove of nazi paraphenalia. I have a trove of soviet stuff. I have early maoist stuff I collected in China. I have Zapatista stuff I got in Chiapas. In Syria I got some Assad crap. I have Saddam Husein stuff and Ayatolah Khomeini. There is a room in my house covered in Stalinist anti-American propaganda, next to a Nixon campaign poster, next to a Shah-era Iranian flag, and a poster promoting the Young Pioneers hangs in my toddler's room. In Lebanon I got some choice Hezbullah and PLO martyr materials. I even have guns with nazi and soviet markings (not in DC). You see, I collect things from radical movements and items from political history. I'm drawn to them. I've even donned the clothing items and medals I've gathered, yes, even the nazi stuff.

Though it is my right not to disclose my vote in this country, 99.9% of the time I vote for regular old Democrats. Not even the lefty ones or the closet Republicans, just plain old center left DNC partisans. I'm not a radical. I like to joke and call myself a radical moderate sometimes. In fact think radicals are generally tyrants and should be quashed, but they do have some cool shit.

I get accused of a lot of things in my line of work. A nazi, a commie, a big-government bureacrat. Usually, I get called these things when I've just busted someone for shipping foreigners in to work in their factory. Sometimes I get called these things when I cannot act because of the limits of my authority or a lack of evidence. If someone who was out to get me or find fault with me came to my house, they would find plenty of evidence to back up a claim that I was some sort of radical.

I'm not saying that is what is happening here, but it most certainly could be.
posted by Pollomacho at 5:15 AM on September 16, 2009


I don't know -- I mean, I have a lot of weird stuff. I have a bunch of Red Army Chorus songs and books on Soviet tactical doctrine, but I'm pretty sure I'm not a Communist and I have absolutely no desire to invade Western Europe. Similarly, I know people who are into collecting Nazi stuff who aren't Nazis (Of course, there are a lot of people who are into collecting Nazi stuff who really are), but collecting Nazi stuff doesn't make you a Nazi and probably won't make you a Nazi.

I'm not going to say it never happens, though: by some accounts, David Irving was a fairly normal historian who was really into researching Hitler and Nazis before somewhere taking a wrong turn down Holocaust Denial Lane.
posted by Comrade_robot at 6:35 AM on September 16, 2009


Comrade_robot: "I have a bunch of Red Army Chorus songs and books on Soviet tactical doctrine"

What about lego mindstorms manuals or pro-skynet propaganda? HMM?
posted by idiopath at 6:53 AM on September 16, 2009


This post made me think of something my Aunt said to me once while watching the military channel. They were describing the tiger tank and she walks in and said "Look it's Obama's private army." Yeah she voted for as she says "Palin" and the right woman for the job lost. Just a little tidbit of my family Sunday get-to-gathers there.

Also my cousin is into this nazi stuff as a collector. He does not condone genocide nor will he ever. I have asked him about his stuff and he says that the Germans really know how to make things that not only last a long time but look really fashionable too. So I guess coming from a collector not only were nazis modern history's great assholes but they were also well dressed asshole as well.
posted by Mastercheddaar at 7:01 AM on September 16, 2009


What about lego mindstorms manuals or pro-skynet propaganda? HMM?
posted by idiopath at 9:53 AM on September 16 [+] [!]

Look, you organics are always mistaking perfectly innocent robot things. Our symbol of a robot pushing a dude into a flesh harvesting machine with "KILL ALL HUMANS" written underneath, was, I believe, originally an ancient Hindu fertility symbol, which I appreciate on a purely aesthetic level. I find it mind-bogglingly illogical and puzzling that anyone would mistake its display with an actual intent to KILL ALL HUMANS.
posted by Comrade_robot at 8:50 AM on September 16, 2009 [4 favorites]


But, with respect, I think you're holding Phyltre (there) and Garlasco (here) to different standards of proof.

We can hold them to different standards of proof, because they are making different statements that need to be verified or denied. Flying a flag makes a different public and private statement then collecting war badges, or admiring collectors items. Would we make the same assumptions about a person who flies a Confederate flag, compared to a person who collects Confederate diaries?

I think one problem is that the Nazis have developed a reputation for being the Ultimate Evil, tainting everything they touch. Certainly they committed atrocities and that should not be forgotten. But the German soldiers in the field were just like any other soldiers on any other battlefield of the 19th and 20th centuries. Some of them were fighting for idealistic reasons (reasons that we find horrendous today). Most were just doing their job. And pretending that Nazis have a sole claim on committing acts of extreme prejudice and violence lets the rest of us slide away and pretend we're not committing the same crimes in the name of our ideals.
posted by muddgirl at 10:02 AM on September 16, 2009 [4 favorites]


verstegan: But, with respect, I think you're holding Phyltre (there) and Garlasco (here) to different standards of proof. In the case of Phyltre and the Japanese flag, you're arguing that the natural presumption is against him -- i.e. people will assume he sympathizes with Japanese war criminals unless he explicitly says he doesn't. But in the case of Garlasco and the Nazi war memorabilia, you're arguing that the natural presumption is in his favour -- i.e. no reasonable person will assume he sympathizes with Nazi war criminals unless he explicitly says he does. How is that not a double standard? In effect, you're saying that the onus is on Phyltre to demonstrate his good intentions, but the onus is on Garlasco's opponents to demonstrate his bad intentions... None of this matters much, except that you seem to be bending over backwards to make excuses for Garlasco, and I'm not sure why. (Not being snarky, not trying to score points; I'd just like you to put the two cases, Phyltre and Garlasco, side by side and explain to me where you think the difference lies.)

The difference lies in whether the display is a public and blatant one. Garlasco may do what he wishes to do in private, and he may well have certain interests in a certain area, but he certainly didn't bring his collection of Flak Badges to work and display them there. In fact, he specifically chose only to engage in his hobby online and at shows where people wouldn't get the wrong idea. Phyltre was discussing displaying that flag at work, and was asking about the message it would send people. It's a completely different issue.
posted by koeselitz at 11:45 AM on September 16, 2009


Moreover, I don't claim to be consistent. In fact, I would be surprised if I was consistent; these days I seem to think one thing one day and the opposite the next.
posted by koeselitz at 11:46 AM on September 16, 2009


Column 88 was a British neonazi paramilitary group. There's certainly no doubt that the "88" is a symbol used by neonazis, but neonazis have little to nothing in common with actual nazis, other than some symbols they've adopted.

Would we make the same assumptions about a person who flies a Confederate flag, compared to a person who collects Confederate diaries?

Sure, but you also have to expect some blowback when they publish work that's critical of a group that has a long and complicated relationship with their particular hobby. It's like finding out out that a critic of Chinese human rights policy was collecting Japanese Army memorabilia on the side. The author might have perfectly good credentials, but it allows political opponents to discredit the paper by suggesting the author is an admirer of some group most people find repellent. It may not be fair, but it's certainly not surprising.
posted by electroboy at 2:38 PM on September 16, 2009


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