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"Nazi, Schmatzy"

I have a confession to make.  I own, although I do not display, a Nazi flag.  I also have (on display in my office) an Iron Cross, a German helmet, and a samurai sword (all replicas).  At home I have a collection of miniature diecast German tanks.  I have some strange music, too.  I own a CD called "The Best of Communism: Selection of Revolutionary Songs."  I also have on my iPod a selection of Japanese military marches from the 1930s and 1940s.

Does all of this make me a Nazi, a Communist, or a supporter of Japanese militarism?  No.  I find all three abhorrent.  Yet I also find those ideologies fascinating, just as, although I have no love for war, I find military history fascinating.  All this helps to explain why I've dedicated my career to the study of 20th century history.  In particular, I want to know why totalitarianism managed to gain so many adherents.

Another confession: at one time I considered becoming a World War II reenactor, and, because because of my German ancestry and my interest in totalitarian ideology, I thought about joining a group that took the German side.  I ultimately decided against it, for the same reason that I don't display that Nazi flag that I own--because it would be misunderstood, and used against me.  In addition, although I suspected that most of those I would meet in the group would have been motivated by the same things that drove me, I feared that there might be some in the organization who were really pro-Nazi.

All of these things are on my mind today, of course, because of the case of Republican House candidate Rich Iott.  On the one hand, I sympathize with the guy, who seems to be nothing more than a military history buff.  (He's also portrayed a U.S. soldier in World War I, and soldiers on both sides of the Civil War.)  On the other hand, if I ever found myself mulling over a run for public office I'd want to make sure that, whatever the explanation, there weren't any photographs of me in a Nazi uniform floating around.

Should this prevent him from joining the House of Representatives.  No.  Should it matter at all?  Maybe a little.  If I were a resident of Ohio's 9th District I'd want to learn a bit more about Iott, just to make sure there were no political undertones to his decision to reenact as a German soldier.  Of course, I suppose to be fair we should also ask whether members of this group of Red Army reenactors are Communist sympathizers, or whether those belonging to this organization are clandestine monarchists yearning for the return of the United States to British rule.

Categories > History

Discussions - 17 Comments

Barney Frank dresses up like a woman. Does that make him a woman?

If you really don't think that you've done something wrong does it really qualify as a confession?

Although I guess it was a sarcastic confession of sorts, from the get-go, right?

I see nothing wrong with possessing such items, but having perused enough auctions and flea markets with that stuff in my day, I think it's rather fair to say that your approach to collecting such things is not exactly typical - neo-Nazis really crave and seek out a lot of that stuff (esp. the genuine historical articles; which makes me wonder if some entrepreneur is making reproductions somewhere), unsurprisingly.

Perhaps there are differences among the re-enactment groups, but what I want to know, John, is would you join an historical reenactment group whose idea of history (as described on their own site) is this:

"We salute these idealists; no matter how unsavory the Nazi government was, the front-line soldiers of the Waffen-SS (in particular the foreign volunteers) gave their lives for their loved ones and a basic desire to be free."

and

"We honor the men (and women) who really experienced the war, and we salute their courage and loyalty to put their lives on the line in defense of their native soil."

I mean, going by that line of thinking, I'd hate to hear a similar take on the 9/11 terrorists!! It would be like Bill Maher's comment (that got him canned) times ten.

Anyway, those quotes are from the group that Iott was a part of.

It strikes me as far-fetched that someone would join a group - which takes so much pride in being so particular (fetishistic?) about precise details and accuracy (at least when it comes to guns and uniforms) - without actually looking into what they're really about, idea-wise.

Groups like Wiking are not only disrespectful of history (So, going with their "defense" schtick, did Poland invade Germany, or what?), they create a polite cover for those with neo-Fascist mentalities to exhibit their sympathies publicly, but with a paper-thin veneer of plausible deniability.

Aside from this particular loathsome Nazi play-acting group, I never got the reenactment thing. Devoid of the actual life context, the actual existential severity of combat and of looking into the abyss of mortality, it strikes me as pointless simulation, playing - at least from the participant angle. It could be interesting I guess as a spectator to a reenactment, assuming that it was a well-done production with something like acting being done by the performers. But even then, it's combat, which can get monotonously redundant after a while - bang-bang-splat, bang-bang-splat, etc., etc.. There's probably a reason why the opening scene of "Saving Private Ryan" wasn't 2 hours long. If it isn't the real thing, it lapses into grotesque tedium.

I have played wargames for over 40 years. I am fond of the folks who do re-enactments, though I never got into it myself. I cry when I read Lee's words, "It's all my fault!"

When I re-fight Gettysburg, I won't command the ANV. I guess my admiration for Lincoln is too profound.

But, on the East Front in WW 2, it's rather Satan vs. Beelzebub. Then, I like the German side, just because it requires elan to do it in time.

None of this should mean anything in the world of electoral politics.

This whole burst of smoke is stupid.

This morning in my fed tax class I was looking at Craig's post and reading the story when I overhead the guys in front of me talking about Rich Lot. Apparently the story was also making talk radio rounds. The entire subject comes at a bad time for Toledo Law republicans. Who are already aware that there are some small white nationalist groups in the area.

It would be easier to brush this off, but ever since Kyle Bristow came to the law school a familliar if synthetic sort of controversy has errupted.

Kyle Bristow is "loosely affiliated with the teaparty"(he is actually a republican precinct delegate).

Kyle Bristow of Michigan State fame, caused an uproar when his YAF group brought in Brittish Nationalist Nick Griffin to MSU. This among other so called incidents resulted in the SPLC putting him in the top 10 on its annual hate watch list.

On Columbus day Kyle released a fictional book by the name of White Appocalypse, it is available for sale on Amazon.

On the other hand my take on this is that Kyle is an upper middle class white boy who likes to read Norse literature, history, banned books and anti-zionist conspiracy theories, he brews his own beer, is soft spoken and quiet in class, he is a gun collector and incredibly polite and well mannered in private. He is also a great shot at the shooting range. But I feel like being around him is akin to wearing a nazi uniform.

It strikes me that in many ways Kyle Bristow is or will be the same sort of attorney as Fred Phelps. That is in some sense I doubt the authenticity of Bristow's nationalism and I doubt the authenticity of Phelps's christianity. He is just playing a sophisticated game, on the fringes of the first ammendment.

But what if I am right and Kyle is not really a Nazi as he is made out to be by the SPLC, what if I am also right and Phelps is not really a fire and brimestone true believer. What if it is far more likely they are just those who decided to play the scapegoat side of the game, in order to drive a narrative and shape first ammendment limits?

What if I happen to know that Kyle has gay and minority and even jewish friends and that it is all a sort of master hoax with indicia to sell books, and sort of keep the specialty of racist alive?

I also happen to know that Kyle's book is several magnitudes worse than Mein Kampf and the Turner Diaries combined. So in some sense he deserves his SPLC ranking, and in another sense he does not.

That is the authentically certified by the SPLC real pro-nazi, really isn't because the underlying motive is not adherance to a particular belief but a grasping for power attention, and curiosity towards political play.

In some sense one could argue that Bristow and Phelps as first ammendement pioneers are just as academic in their persuit of hate as John Mosier and Rich Lot are and maybe even more so since Mosier and Lot maintain some semblence of decency with greater respect for the quasi-fictional entity(an immaginary rational person) of societal moral sensibility.

Craig, do you have links to that group's "mission statement" you quote? I'd like to hear the context in which they appear.

I'm interested to know where you're getting them because what Iott is quoted as saying in the article is perfectably reasonble (ie it's good to know history so you don't repeat it and if you're going to reenact it somebody has to be the bad guy). I'm trying to figure out if this is a non-story or an act of stupidity on his part (unless someone presents evidence to the contrary I have no reason to believe he's a white supremacist).

The link to the Wiking site is in the Atlantic article that I already posted, but since people appear to be jumping to the guy's defense without even digging the slightest bit past the guy's claims of plausible deniability, I'll give you the direct links. The full context - while sometimes tedious and boring in places - hardly comes off as less incriminating.

Here's the link where, quite amazingly, they endeavor to explicitly put the neo-Nazis and white supremacy groups well at arm's-length, in their bold red "Disclaimer", but then, in the same paragraph say "We honor the men (and women) who really experienced the war, and we salute their courage and loyalty to put their lives on the line in defense of their native soil, no matter what nationality or government."
wiking dot org/main.html

(you get the idea of the address)

Again, if you were in the SS in WWII, you weren't playing "in defense of [your] native soil" - period.

Unless of course, you've really taken Hitler's own rhetoric to heart.

Oh, well, here's a fairly disturbing little factoid that I just discovered in the process of getting those links for you (now I guess I should thank you).

Check out this Google cache - this is where the group says "We salute these idealists."

http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:pivc3YZ9Ei0J:www.wiking.org/topics/history.htm+wiking.org+%22We+salute+these+idealists%3B+no+matter+how+unsavory+the+Nazi+government+was%22&cd=2&hl=en&ct=clnk

and here's the page currently. I guess they think that the historical revisionism of "[T]he front-line soldiers of the Waffen-SS (in particular the foreign volunteers) gave their lives for their loved ones and a basic desire to be free." by itself would be okay without the "We salute these idealists" part!!

http://www.wiking.org/topics/history.htm

Amazing. So, do you think that the site might have scrubbed any other text at the same time that Iott's pics were taken down?? I don't know, but that seems very possible. Regardless, the text that remains shows me that these people are getting too caught up in their roles. This is like meeting the "actor" Anthony Hopkins for dinner and having him order the liver with chianti and then hearing screams from the kitchen.

The whole thing about the volunteer soldiers from Nordic countries doesn't wash, either. That is part and parcel with the contemporary white supremacist movement in Europe ("duh...Hey, maybe Sweden ain't so bad after all !!"). In fact, white power groups calling themselves "Nordic Boys" populate central Europe and employ the Sonnenrad Rune (a sort of twisted swastika) that the Wiking site highlights, as well.

"This is like meeting the "actor" Anthony Hopkins for dinner and having him order the liver with chianti and then hearing screams from the kitchen."

Haha, you are really detached from reality. If anything it's like Anthony Hopkins playing Hannibal Lecter then telling you he finds the character interesting and enjoyed played him. Your knee-jerk reaction is to immediately conjure up neo-Nazis, which let's me know this conversation isn't going anywhere.

But for the record, that particular SS unit WAS composed entirely of foreign volunteers under German officers (most of them joining to fight the Russians - hence the call to fight Bolsheviks on the website). I don't think the men who dress up as members of the Army of Northern Virginia are racists, I don't think men who dress up as Nazi soldiers hate jews, I don't think men who dress up as barbarians want to sack Rome, and I don't think actors who play cannibals want to eat human flesh. But hey, whatever gets you through the day.

Vaya con Dios!

All of this underlines why we should try to learn more about Rich Iott. Nobody to my knowledge is claiming that he wrote that flawed history of the unit. It's not even clear how involved he was with this particular group--as accounts have repeatedly pointed out, he and his son have been involved with a great many such groups. How do we even know that he read the language that's being cited here? The worst Iott can be charged with in the absence of further evidence is not being careful enough about his affiliations.

What makes this particularly frustrating is that the charges that this renders Iott unworthy of a seat in the House of Representatives are inevitably coming from members of a party that was perfectly willing to see a former Klansman hold a Senate seat from West Virginia for more than fifty years.

"What makes this particularly frustrating is that the charges that this renders Iott unworthy of a seat in the House of Representatives are inevitably coming from members of a party that was perfectly willing to see a former Klansman hold a Senate seat from West Virginia for more than fifty years."

Bingo.

"What makes this particularly frustrating is that the charges that this renders Iott unworthy of a seat in the House of Representatives are inevitably coming from members of a party that was perfectly willing to see a former Klansman hold a Senate seat"

I'm not a Dem. I would be bothered if ANY candidate knowingly joined such a group.

Watch Iott being interviewed by Anderson Cooper (yeah, I know, by the "gotcha media" guy on the Communist News Network - oh brother...).

Iott is so blase and so clueless. He clearly has a history deficiency. As someone said, he hasn't even learned one of the first rules of politics (or civilized humanity?): Don't defend the Nazis. While the site itself touts itself as educational, Iott says it's not, so he's not the least bit bothered that the site, which previously "saluted" this SS division (before the site-scrub which I noted earlier), has zero mentions of Jews, Slavs, Gypsies, gays - all groups that were explicitly targeted by the entire German war machine.

Iott is not even willing to use the word "collaborators" for soldiers who came from countries that had been invaded by the Nazis and then fought for them while their fellow countrymen back home fought and died in struggles against the Nazis. If that's not a collaborator, or turncoat, I don't know what is. If these volunteers hated socialists and communists, that's fine (although, again, we run into a contradiction to the fact-challenged "liberal fascism" meme, and Redwald's recent rants - if the Nazis were socialists, why would one sign up with them to fight... socialists??), but it would make sense to first eject the Nazis and then wait for (while building defenses) or pursue the Commies. To leave one's country in the hands of the Nazis - are you really comfortable calling them a lesser evil?? - and their genocidal actions, to pursue (but only IN PART) another enemy, well, that's problematic, isn't it? And one can be sure that the ranks of volunteers did contain some of those conquered nation's anti-semites and hardcore racists.

(As for Byrd, there's no defending his significant involvement with the Klan while it lasted, and racism contaminated him in a very, very serious way. That said, there's a good case to be made that he, not only verbally and symbolically, but also substantially and explicitly rejected his former views and worked hard to make amends for them. Iott could follow such a lead and simply condemn this group's problematic historical revisionism. One needn't denounce the entire concept of historical reenactment (including role-playing of various bad guys) to denounce one particular group's failure to unambiguously describe armies which perpetrated and facilitated horrendous evils in accurate and appropriately judgmental terms, not some kind of twisted relativism.)

Iott's overly generous willingness to try to see things from the perspective of this group of SS soldiers makes him look very bad, for good reason.

I think that non-ideological and non-political reenactors and reenactment groups exist, but I think this particular group's historical revisionism indicates that they are not among such groups. Yes, I understand that their bright red disclaimer shows that they don't want to be attached to the Klan or to any white supremacist groups, and they denounce them, but that they are able to whitewash the Holocaust (and associated evils) from the Nazi project while promoting their anti-Communist goals, this makes the group look very, very questionable, and at the very least, quite stupid - especially if education is one of their goals.

I'm not a Dem.

Maybe not officially. But certainly sympathetically.

If by "sympathetically" you mean that I'm disgusted by them, have little to no respect for most of them, and very rarely vote for any of them, then yes.

disgusted and rarely vote for them

because they're not liberal enough for you

The most serious issue with all this is the use of the San Serif font! I can't see "Iott" and not think "Lott."

And that, good folks, brings back bad memories.

Don makes a great point about the font.

As for the romantic Nazi dress-up games, though, as a corollary point to John's (and Julie's) that these charges are coming from the party that tolerated Robert Byrd, well...

What's even more frustrating (aside from the fact that I'm not a Dem, and always happy to critique them) is that the same people who are trying ever so hard to minimize this ("Nazi, Schmatzy"????) and shrug it off as much ado about nothing are the same ones who not only look the other way, not only tolerate, but generally promote Glenn Beck (an Ashbrook-honored speaker, no less) as some kind of public educator on history and politics. The guy who sees Nazi and fascist conspiracy phantoms just about everywhere - especially if a Dem is involved - and probably even in his morning bowl of Fruity Pebbles.

Glenn Beck's maniacal chalkboard ravings have some legitimacy, but this guy being a member of a group that describes the Nazi SS as playing "defense" as people we should "salute" - that's really just no big deal ???

And again, it's not so much that someone needs to play the role of the bad guys to do reenactments - I understand that, fine.

The problem is that Iott's particular group distorts history shamelessly to make the SS look like some kind of valiant freedom-fighters.

Iott isn't even willing to condemn that, and that's the problem.

The thread is almost certainly dead, but for any lingerers, here are a couple more good articles about Iott's antics, from historians:

http://www.historynet.com/on-being-a-wiking.htm

http://www.hnn.us/articles/132462.html

I am an attorney practicing in North Texas. I have known Kyle for years. He's a great guy and one of my best friends. I am also familiar with the SPLC. They are nothing more than a far-left organization masquerading as a civil rights group. They way they operate is incredible predictable and quite juvenile. Let me explain:

The SPLC's goal is to silence - or at the very least chill - conservative political speech. They do this by naming groups with whom they disagree as "hate groups" and writing about them in their intelligence report which, allegedly, they distribute to law enforcement. The implication is that those who disagree with the SPLC (to wit, conservatives) are somehow conspiring to commit criminal acts against minorities. In reality, many of those targeted by the SPLC doing nothing more than protecting their own interests.

It would not be considered unusual for a black man or a hispanic man to be part of an organization dedicated to protecting black or hispanic interests. Many - although not all - do good in their communities. There is one in Dallas county dedicated to improving schools in a heavily black school district. There is nothing racist or wrong about that. Schools ought to be improved. There are hispanic interest organizations that promote an improved immigration system. I think there ought to be an improved immigration system (although my idea of what that is probably far different from theirs). Very few people believe that organizations such as this are racist (although some may well be).

But what if I lived in a predominantly white area with a distressed job market, failing schools, and a problem with criminals coming in from out of town? I decide to start a white-interest organization to promote the hiring of people living in the community, improving the schools, and stopping street crime. None of these things are particularly controversial, but the fact that it is a "white interest" organization would instantly cause the SPLC to have a fit. They would allege that our group encourages discriminatory hiring practices, segregated schools, and racial profiling. It would be added to the so-called "hate group" list and Jesse Jackson would be talking about it with Chris Matthews by the end of the week.

Reasonable minds can disagree on issues such as homosexual marriage, illegal immigration, and affirmative action. The SPLC refuses to accept this fact. To disagree with the SPLC on issues such of these is what the SPLC calls "hate speech". When white people stand together to promote the interests of white people or western culture, that is what the SPLC calls a "hate group." And when members of "hate groups" get together and use "hate speech" in the presence of those who may disagree, that is what the SPLC calls a "hate crime". When the SPLC says it stands against hate, it is really saying that it stands against freedom.

I am think there are certainly some organizations on the SPLC lists that deserve to be there. Unfortunately, the SPLC has expanded its definition of hate to encompass such a broad range of political viewpoints that the very word "hate" is now devoid any discernible meaning. This lack of meaning is intentional, because now the SPLC can use the word "hate" to describe practically anything. They used this expanded definition of hate to include Kyle Bristow and MSU-YAF. They aren't fighting KKK street thugs like they did in the 80s; they have made an enemy out of someone who is as highly motivated as he is intelligent. They are not used to this type of fight, and its one that I think Bristow can and will win.

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