Faking the News By Storm

Andrew Anglin

When a far right website called The Daily Stormer (named after Der Stürmer, said to be Adolf Hitler’s favourite magazine) gained publicity by offending readers, and before they were forced into obscurity after GoDaddy and Google, and even Russian web providers refused to register their domain, I gained access to their style guide (since it, along with a link, came up briefly in the mainstream news). I had no intention of writing for these people, but what I found in that document was a frank account of their thinking behind their practice of knowingly publishing racist and misogynist material.

To think this is OK, for one thing, the writer should be OK with the fact that they are writing for a group of unapologetic neo-Nazi white supremacists. The upshot is that they are quite honest about the fact that you (the first-time reader) won’t necessarily give them a positive reaction. What they are after is that while they made you angry, your subconscious accepts that information uncritically, according to The Daily Stormer understanding of human psychology. So, with enough unrelenting repetition of the same tropes, your mind will some day accept it. The Nazis understood the art of propaganda quite well, and it worked out quite successfully for their regime back in the 1930s. Anglin’s blog doesn’t seem all that different, nor is their effect any less calculated. As writer Luke O’Brien from The Atlantic wrote in the December 2017 issue, the site contained “non-ironic Nazism masquerading as ironic Nazism”, referring to their tendency to appear to be joking about committing hate crimes on individuals, except that they were not joking. The appearance of joking, according to The Daily Stormer style manual, was intended to hook the new reader into reading more from their website.

The content manager of the site was a young man named Andrew Anglin (who by now would be 36 years old). Not much was known about him after 2017. Described in most reliable accounts as growing up as a troubled and confused teenager, he developed his world view by travelling to the Philippines and various countries in Europe. He was always very much a part of the right-wing online world, honing his opinions on 4Chan, and setting up a series of blogs over the years on a wide variety of subjects, ranging from conspiracy theories to survivalism, where he fancied himself as akin to Commander Kurtz in the movie Apocalypse Now: living alone in the Philippine rainforest and far from villages, but having nearly infinite power over the villagers. It was an obsessive romanticism which forced him to say that life in a South Asian jungle wasn’t for him, blaming his difficulties on the villagers.

It appeared for a while, after Anglin was denied his registry of The Daily Stormer that he disappeared into obscurity. And it was pretty effective obscurity too: many people including police and the media, were unable to locate him, though it was widely belived that he was somewhere in the American midwest at the time.

During the time he was active, it was likely that his screeds were being copied and spread by Russian hackers to Facebook and Twitter and other social media. It did not seem likely that he received any attribution for his articles, since there didn’t seem to be a big increase in traffic to his site caused by this. The Russian Government must have known that an American living in Russia had registered a website dealing in spreading pro-Nazi hate while lionizing Tump and Putin. However, it is not clear that he benefitted financially or drew hits to his site in any discernable number, and after he had his application to register his site rejected by the Russian government (and nearly everyone else), he did not seem to wind up any richer for his efforts. He was just used as a cog in the Russian disinformation apparatus, then the minute American media shone a light on him, he was thrown away  like a broken toy.

A look at the Internet as of this writing shows that The Daily Stormer is back up, with nearly all the articles bylined by Anglin, with the site registered with the Russian registrar r01.su, under an SU top level domain (TLD)  (meaning the country code appearing at the end of his server URL is actually the Soviet Union, instead of Russia, which would have been RU). It is likely he is still living in the United States, since there doesn’t appear to be a requirement that he needs to have business dealings or residency in Russia to have a Russian TLD.

Suspicious youtube channels

I have been noticing over the past years, a couple of suspicious YouTube channels. For the past number of years, a number of fairly lefty videocasts, such as the news/comedy program Redacted Tonight seems to have “RT” as the provider of these rather polished video shows. “RT” is the video network Russia Today, based in Moscow, with offices and studios in Washington, DC. While the views expressed on Redacted Tonight fell within a certain tolerance a few decades ago, the views nowadays would be considered to be on the “far left”. I stop short of saying “radical left”, since this phrase is often uttered with an insufficient understanding of the word “radical”, and I don’t feel it applies to this program.

Below, host Lee Camp speaks on behalf of himself and the other creators of Redacted Tonight in a video posted last year as to the reasons why they chose RT as the vehicle for their comedy programs:

In his rather unusual way, Lee Camp has a point. No other major commercial media outlet would fund or support programming that would utter content that is critical of the military, corporate America, or their agenda. This would make us into aware participants of democracy, which goes agains what corporate America wants. They want us to be consumers. We can “vote” with our dollars for various products, not that the anticompetitive practices we have come to tolerate even provide us with a worthwhile choice between products.

Well, there are a lot of outlets that can provide the same thing as as what Camp claims RT is doing, and there is no reason why Camp and company could not start their own YouTube channel. However, it might mean that they would have to forego the flashy trappings of the RT studio. Because, that is what it means to be an alternative voice. Alternative voices are usually not well-funded, and don’t consist of a wall of multiple monitors, and a staff of layout artists, animators, cameramen, and sound engineers. Redacted Tonight would be considered small-budget for major media, but for “alternative voices”, such professional team efforts would be out of reach financially.

The question then becomes, how is programming from people such as Lee Camp benefitting Russia Today? Why would the Russians want to cause us to question our corporations and military? While I have watched enough of Redacted to form an opinion of whether they are disinforming us (it’s not obvious if it is), it is still consistent with the Russian penchant for sowing societal division through social media. However, it is barely perceptible by YouTube standards, since their videos typically garner not much more than 60,000 views, hardly a force to be reckoned with at the moment. They do have over 200,000 subscribers as of this viewing. To put that in perspective, one of my faviourite “math nerd” channels, 3Blue1Brown, has close to 2 million subscribers.

I wouldn’t normally feel this was that much worth writing about if it were not for the fact that there is another channel from another oligarchic nation. This time, China. CGTN is the China Global Television Network. They too have an American outlet, CGTN America, which is also in Washington DC. Of the few news videos I watched, I would characterize CGTN as more like the BBC in its reporting of foreign (American) stories, with not a whole lot of comedy competitive with Stephen Colbert, let alone Redacted Tonight.

The indices of Harper’s Magazine

I have been a fan of Harper’s Magazine since the 1980s. In particular, I loved the Readings section, as well as the factoids list (with citations) known as Harper’s Index, near the front of each issue. Here are 100 factoids I’ve researched from over the years, dates not important, but they have been taken from issues since 2000. I have favoured factoids that are not dated, but that was difficult as many good ones with dates crept in. The URL for Harper’s magazine is http://harpers.org, and is available on some newsstands, but not as many these days as in days previous.

  • Cost to produce Safeguard, the only U.S. ground-based long-range missile shield ever deployed: $23,500,000,000
  • Number of days in the 1970s that the system was operational before it was abandoned as inadequate: 135
  • Pounds of fuel required to maintain this year’s 11,500 Olympic torches: 2,029
  • Ratio of the amount of energy generated by 1 gallon of ethanol to the amount of energy required to produce it : 1:0.9
  • Number of times Colin Powell said, “I don’t recall” or, “I can’t recall” during his 1987 Iran-Contra testimony: 56
  • Percentage of global economic activity accounted for by the world’s 200 largest corporations: 27.5
  • Percentage of the world’s population that these corporations employ: 0.8
  • Minimum number of mentally retarded Americans who have been executed by the justice system since 1976 : 35
  • Estimated chance that a U.S. prisoner is mentally retarded: 1 in 14
  • Days after Time named George W. Bush 2000’s man of the year that Russians named Vladimir Lenin man of the century: 4
  • Places by which Russia’s ranking in the U.N.’s Human Development Index of living standards has fallen since 1990 : 31
  • Rank of the United States and Britain among nations whose residents are most likely to be obese: 1,2
  • Rank of Hungary: 3
  • Ratio of the number of pardons George W. Bush has issued turkeys to those he has issued human beings: 2:1
  • Ratio of the average life span of a commercially bred turkey to that of a wild one: 1:7
  • Year in which Disney’s Mickey Mouse copyright will expire if the Supreme Court reverses a 1998 extension this winter (2002): 2003
  • Minutes that a Massachusetts surgeon left a patient with an open incision while he went to deposit a check: 35
  • Percentage change since 1990 (to 2003) in the number of U.S. schoolchildren labeled “disabled” : +37
  • Chances that a U.S. adult does not want to live to be 120 under any circumstances: 2 in 3
  • Chance that an American adult believes that “politics and government are too complicated to understand” : 1 in 3
  • Chance that an American who was home-schooled feels this way: 1 in 25
  • Acreage of a Christian nudist colony under development in Florida (in 2004): 240
  • Percentage of the 13,129 varieties of dirt in the United States that are endangered: 4
  • Years in prison to which two ex-Pentagon officials were sentenced last year for taking bribes of money and prostitutes: 24
  • Number of years a North Carolina man has been in prison for stealing a television: 33
  • Rank, on the Turkish bestseller list in March (2005), of a thriller depicting a U.S. invasion of Turkey: 1
  • Rank of Mein Kampf: 2
  • Average percentage by which the power of the male heart declines between the ages of 18 and 75 : 20
  • Average percentage by which the female heart does: 0
  • Amount a Chinese online gamer made last year (in 2004) by selling a virtual sword he had borrowed from a friend: $850
  • Months later that the friend retaliated by stabbing him to death with a real knife: 6
  • Number of beetles that right-wing entomologists have named after Bush Administration officials: 3
  • Number of times that Mary, Jesus’ mother, is referenced by name in the Bible and the Koran, respectively: 19,34
  • Number of “Wal-ocaust” T-shirts sold by a Georgia man before Wal-Mart ordered him to cease and desist: 1
  • Ratio, in the United States, of the number of Wal-Mart employees to the number of high school teachers: 1:1
  • Portion of states where the projected climate in 2100 will not be able to sustain their official tree or flower: 3/5
  • Number of words spoken by Clarence Thomas during Supreme Court oral arguments since February 2006 (until Aug 2007): 132
  • Number by Samuel Alito, the Justice who spoke the second-fewest words: 14,404
  • Percentage of single U.S. women in their twenties who are “very” or “extremely” willing to marry for money: 61
  • Percentage of women in their thirties who are : 74
  • Percentage change since 1985 (to 2009) in the number of U.S. newspapers with reporters covering Congress : –72
  • Percentage of six- to nine-year-old American girls (in 2009) who wear lipstick or lip gloss : 46
  • Number of poppyseed bagels that could be made with Afghanistan’s annual poppy harvest : 357,000,00
  • Percentage of British elementary-school students who think Isaac Newton discovered fire : 60
  • Number of U.S. states that have more pigs than people : 3
  • Minimum number of birds that die from crashing into New York City windows each year : 100,000
  • Number of Bentleys purchased in Russia in 2000 and in 2010, respectively : 0, 113
  • Estimated portion of registered voters in Zimbabwe who are dead : 1/4
  • Average minutes more exercise per week that a heavy drinker gets than a non-drinker : 21
  • Portion of the total U.S. corn crop that goes to make ethanol : 2/5
  • Projected worldwide surplus of low-skill workers by 2020 : 93,000,000
  • Projected worldwide deficit of high- and medium-skill workers by that time : 85,000,000
  • Rank of China among global beer producers by volume : 1
  • Rank of the United States : 2
  • Percentage change since 1988 (to 2012) in U.S. teen-pregnancy rates : –36
  • In abstinence rates among white teens : +31
  • Among black teens : +56
  • Portion of Americans who don’t walk for at least ten continuous minutes at any point in an average week : 2/5
  • Percentage of American cats that are overweight : 58
  • Percentage of men in dual-income marriages who said they struggled with work-family conflict in 1977 : 35
  • Who say they do today (2013): 60.
  • Average annual cost of detaining an inmate at the military prison at Guantánamo Bay : $900,000
  • At a supermax prison in the United States : $65,000
  • Portion of all online advertising that is never seen by a human being : 1/2
  • Percentage of U.S. children in 1960 who lived in households headed by heterosexuals in their first marriage : 73
  • Who do today (2015) : 46
  • Estimated minimum gallons of water used annually to produce Coca-Cola products : 8,000,000,000,000
  • Ratio of money spent by Britons on prostitution to that spent on hairdressing : 1:1
  • Years in prison to which a New Mexico man was sentenced last year (in 2015) for shooting children with a semen-filled squirt gun : 18
  • Estimated number of people who will be driven into extreme poverty by 2030 because of climate change : 100,000,000
  • Percentage of the world’s civilian-owned firearms that are owned by Americans : 48
  • Number of Americans aged 60 and older who have outstanding student loans : 2,800,000
  • Portion of those borrowers who have taken on debt to pay for a child or grandchild’s education : 3/4
  • Percentage of children’s toys available in Sweden that contain banned chemicals : 15
  • Of sex toys available in Sweden : 2
  • Average number of people who die in avalanches in the United States each year : 27
  • Number of FBI confidential informants (in 2017) who worked for Best Buy’s Geek Squad between 2008 and 2012 : 8
  • Rank of Nebraska among states with the least liked state flags : 1
  • Number of days in January that the flag at the state capitol flew upside down before anyone noticed : 7
  • Number of US states in which fluorescent pink is a legal color for hunting apparel : 6
  • Chance an American has taken an “active shooter” preparedness class : 1 in 10
  • Percentage of US “active shooters” from 2000 to 2016 who were killed by police : 21
  • Who were killed by armed civilians : 1
  • Number of universities in which half of all the US tenured and tenure-track history professors are trained : 8
  • Number of the twenty largest German companies that are headquartered in the former East Germany : 0
  • Rank of Germany in consumption of nonalcoholic beer : 2
  • Of Iran : 1
  • Portion of Hawaii’s drinking water that comes from underground wells : 9/10
  • Gallons of raw sewage that leak into the ground from Hawaii cesspools each day : 53,000,000
  • Percentage change since 2009 in reports of human waste on San Francisco streets (in 2018): +391
  • Chance that a given day is a public holiday in Cambodia : 1 in 13
  • Rank of Disneyland among the happiest places on earth, according to Disneyland : 1
  • Percentage of Disneyland employees who worry about being evicted from their homes : 56
  • Number of dead people Americans have elected to Congress : 6
  • Factor by which a millennial is more likely than a baby boomer to claim they have a food allergy : 2
  • Number of states that allow roadkill to be salvaged for food : 31
  • Rank of Arabic among France’s most spoken languages : 2
  • Factor by which graduate students are more likely to experience depression or anxiety than the general population : 6
  • Percentage of Americans aged 18 to 34 who say they’d like to live forever : 24
  • Of Americans over 55 : 13