Archive for May 8th, 2005

Nazis Have Mothers, Too

13

In Boston, Mother’s Day had
dawned cold and wet as an iced mackerel upside the head, and by one in
the afternoon, nosing the White Whale through
the heart of downtown Boston, Milk St. and Federal, it had only gotten
worse.

Temps were in the low 40’s, our fingers were numb, and we could see
our breath. Second Sunday in May, our ass. Where was global warming when
we need it? We left the car in a marginal space, and headed for the New
England Holocaust Memorial for the Mother’s Day, Jewish Remembrance
Day, Neo-Fascist and Anarchist Jamboree scheduled for Faneiul Hall.

We had no idea of what to expect, but the juxtaposition of so many contrary
currents of contemporary culture had proved an irresistible lure. Several
blocks away we could already hear the chants of "Workers of the World
Unite."

What we found, when we reached the small plaza in front of Faneiul Hall
and Quincy Market, was some kind of flea market of progressive ideologies.  There
were communists, socialists and libertarians.  There were anti-globalization
protesters, anti-fascist activists, anti-racist white guys and anti-war
organizations.  There
were protect the environment people, protect endangered species folks
and stop exporting jobs fanatics. A knot of swarthy, well-dressed gentlemen
were carrying signs advocating a "Free, secular, non-violent Middle East."

A wane cadre of black-clad lurkers on the fringes couldn’t have been
more easily identified as the anarchists had they wearing scarlet A’s
on their heads.

We heard three or four portable PA setups, all spouting sappy psuedo-revolutionary
rants and chants, like: "Nazi Scum – racist pigs – go back under the
rock you crawled out from under" "Money for Jobs Not War" "Kick the Ass
of the Ruling Class!"

But there was no evidence of Nazis anywhere.  Not even an anti-gay
marriage sign.

After casing the entire area, the Dowbrigade and his trusty sidekick/aide/son
retired to a nearby McDonalds to review the situation.

"Do you think they chickened out?"

"Just because they’re Nazis doesn’t mean they’re stupid.  They
probably sent a couple of scouts ahead, in disguise, or at least dressed
like normal people, to check out the crowd, see if it was safe."

We glanced outside at the potpourri of radical crackpots and wannabe
tough guys, "I guess they decided it wasn’t."

"If they don’t show up, they’re gonna look like pussies.  They’ll
show." My assistant seemed confident.

We made another circuit around the Quincy Market, and in back of
the Hall discovered an unrelated protest against the production and
consumption of veal.  It reminded us we hadn’t been to the Sunset
Portuguese restaurant on Cambridge Street in way too long – incredible
veal marsala, and roast rabbit to die for. Maybe for our assistant’s
21st birthday, next week.

We had just about convinced him that they weren’t going to show. It
was cold, and the air smelled like it was going to snow. We wanted
to crawl back into bed, watch the baseball game on TV. We looked around
at the bizarre collection of radical rabble with nothing better to
do on Mother’s Day, and saw the pitiful remnants of the once-proud
American left.

The anarchists were an especially sorry bunch. Skinny and stunted
and pale and withdrawn, we didn’t se a one who could have given our
grandmother a tussle in a dark alley.  In their black scarves
and ski masks they looked about as scary as teenaged Draculas on Halloween.
They carried signs with creative comments like "Smash Nazis" and "Death
to the Fascists."

We were getting ready to blow on out of there when a cry went up from
the fringe of the crowd, up Congress towards downtown.

"They’re coming! They’re coming!"

In fact, a small gaggle of black clad Neo-Nazis had rounded the corner,
surrounded by a ring of police, and were approaching the Holocaust
Memorial. The crowd began to rush in that direction.

There were only about 12-15 of the Fascists. Although dressed in black
like the Anarchists, it was easy to tell them apart – the Nazis were
big guys, thick and tall and athletic looking.They were enclosed in
a ring of about 20 cops.

As more protesters and anarchists ran to meet the Nazi’s, more police
ran to that side of the crown to protect them.  By this point
Congress Street, the area around Faneiul Hall and half of Government
Center had been blocked off to traffic.

"Hold the line," shouted the cops, as the crowd surged forward. The
street cops, augmented by black leather clad riot cops (common sartorial
theme here), formed a phalanx around the small group of skinheads and
began moving slowly down Congress.

The anti-Nazi protesters, maybe a thousand in number, fell
back but began organized chants. We were standing next to a young perfumed
dandy gotten up in a retro Carnaby look, with a candy-striped DNK
jacket, silk scarf, curly hair cascading over matching earrings, who
recited
along,
under his breath in a hoarse venomous whisper, "Nazi scum, you can’t hide – We’re
charging you with Genocide" He was so excited we thought it wise to
put a couple of people between us and him.

As this unlikely parade made its way down Congress it became obvious
that they would not make it all the way to the actual Holocaust Memorial.  The
stopped about halfway down the block, where a cement staircase came
down from the City Hall Plaza above.  There, the Nazi’s stopped
and sort of set up shop behind police barriers and lines of cops and
riot police.

The crowd pressed as close as they could get, which was about 10 or
15 feet away. The Nazis had signs of their own, which reflected a marginal,
if twisted, sense of humor: "There’s No Business like Shoah Business"
"Six Million Lies" "Free Ham Sandwiches" and the simple yet eloquent
"Nuke Israel"

The crowd was going wild.  We could practically hear the spittle
coming out of the megaphones and PAs as the speakers were rendered
inarticulate by rage and indignation. The crowd was not all anarchists,
they were just in the front.  Behind them were all the longhaired,
hippie, jewish and leftist groups, as well as a nice leavening of clueless
tourists asking "What’s going on?" and several foreigners with borderline
panic on their faces.

The anarchists were trying their best to get the crowd stirred up,
and expand their ire from the Nazis to include the cops.  They
were clearly trying to cause a  confrontation, but how could they
get the rest of the crowd on their side if it  came to a street
battle? How to equate the cops and the Nazis?

Suddenly we heard a new chant that answered that question. "The cops,
the courts, the Nazis and the Clan, all are part of the Bosses’ plan!"
Somehow we didn’t think they were referring to Steinbrenner or Springsteen.

It was at this point that things almost got out of hand. Someone threw
a full bottle of water, then something heavy in what looked like a
sock. One of the skinheads theatrically pretended to blow his nose and wipe his ass with
an Israeli flag. A Jewish-looking kid in a Yarmulke went ballistic
and threw himself at the police line separating the two groups. A waiting
cop smacked him in the head with his nightstick and the kid staggered to his knees and started
bleeding profusely.

The cops reacted as if on cue and with lines of horses moved  the
crowd back so there was a 40 or 50 foot buffer zone between the 15
Nazis and the thousand angry protesters. The anarchists working the
loudspeakers got even more worked up, if possible. "The cops are stealing
our rights! They are just protecting the bosses! And not just that,
now they’re hitting us with sticks in the street! These fucking pigs
are the 4th Reich, and they’re protecting the 3rd Reich, they’re protecting
the fascists.” The voice on the megaphone rose to a screech.

We haven’t seen so much posturing, gesturing and insipid rhetoric
since the last teacher’s strike in the Ecuadorian Andes! It was hard
to tell
who were the bigger drama queens, the Fascists or the anti-Fascists.
The cops looked as though they might be amused if they weren’t so pissed
off about standing up their mothers.

We thought about the Nazis and their mothers. Did they call them from
pay phones to explain why they had to be in Boston this drizzly day?
Did their mothers understand?

After about 30 minutes of taunts and chants, there was movement among
the cops and, as we suspected, the skinheads were escorted up the stairs
into the plaza, which had been closed by police much earlier. In the nearly empty plaza they were hustled into a police van and driven to a nearby T station.

We realized
the cops had the whole thing choreographed from the get go – the walk
down Congress, the half hour in the protected bay below the stairs,
the quick getaway into inaccessible space. It was like being at the
Circus, or the Zoo. They led the animals out, let the people spit at
them and hurl abuse, and then led them away.

We left amused but mildly disturbed.  Is this what public political
discourse had devolved into, at least between presidential debates?
Was what we had seen political theater, or social satire, or a slick
display of public safety management in a techno-police state?

Or something else altogether?

Here is a link to some
of the photos we shot
, and below is a list
of the shots included (photos by Dowbrigade)

  • Picture 1: The anarchists getting warmed up,
    waiting for the Nazi’s. Note
    predominant black garb and masks.
  • Picture 2: "Dairy Cows Never Have a Happy Mother’s Day" : Anti-veal
    protesters
  • Picture 3: The Dowbrigade supports the forces of order, of course,
    and his squat is in no way editorial comment
  • Picture 4: Chaos as the Nazi’s enter Congress street, surrounded
    by a phalanx of police, and are met by the vanguard of the Anti-fascist
    forces.
  • Picture 5: This is the closest the Anti-Nazis and the Fascists
    got to each other – almost arms length with a thin blue line between
    them.
  • Picture 6: The riot cops and horses start to push the Anti-nazis
    back, so the Nazis can march to the memorial.
  • Picture 7: A combination of riot cops, street cops, horseback cops
    and motorcycle cops protect the Nazis.
  • Picture 8: Riot cops march down Congress street, past swastika
    banner
  • Picture 9: Cops escort Nazis down Congress street to prepared area
    for "demonstration"
  • Picture 10: Nazi’s, surrounded by police, march down Congress –
    note masked infiltrator
  • Picture 11: Cop on horseback orders girl in yarmulke to get back
  • Picture 12: Nazi’s (note camouflage pants) in the protected area,
    surrounded by cops
  • Picture 13: Six million lies. Cops do NOT look happy protecting
    these creeps
  • Picture 14: Same shot, different angle
  • Picture 15: "There’s no business like Shoah business"
  • Picture 16: "Nuke Israel" and "Free Ham Sandwiches"
  • Picture 17: Angry anarchists confront police, accuse them of protecting
    Nazis, then of being Nazis
  • Picture 18: Staring down a police horse – not quite a tank, but
    the same idea
  • Picture 19: Serious muscle, serving the state

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Anything

ø

Don’t know how we missed this one yesterday. Wiki-mania has reached
the mainstream, or at least the comics pages of the Boston
Globe
. What
is a Wiki? Simply one
of the most fascinating experiments in communal knowledge ever attempted.

A Wiki is basically
a web page that ANY VIEWER can change, alter, add to or erase at any
time.  Madness? Anarchy? Well, actually quite
useful for a variety of collaborative projects and information sharing.  For
example, we are using a Wiki to develop a central source of "Getting
Started" materials (videos, manuals, walk-throughs, workshops) for people
who want to try blogging for the first time, called the "Blogging
101 Project
". It has been working quite well for the small group
of participants, separated by geography and schedules, despite having
been defaced several
times by malicious outsiders.

(Actually, looking at it this morning while creating the above link,
we note it has been vandalized again.  We may have to take the unfortunate
step of requiring visitors to sign in with a name and email address before
making changes to the page – the virtual equivalent of starting to lock
the doors when you leave the house. Gratuitous commentary on the stupidity
of vandalism would be redundant.)

Wikipedia is the flagship project
of the Wiki revolution – nothing less than an attempt to create a living
encyclopedia of the current state
of human knowledge.  Anyone can add, alter, amend or correct any
entry.  Despite predictions of infinite varieties of failure, the
actual effort is surprisingly complete and correct. It has captured enough
imaginations of trustworthy and knowledgeable people that a critical
mass has been reached which overwhelms isolated havoc wreckers. When
people put false or opinionated stuff up it is usually eliminated in
minutes.

A recent
article in the Los Angeles Times
by Crispin Sartwell explores
the phenomena:

So is it to be trusted? Does it have the credibility of Britannica?
Well, I have monitored over a decent period a number of entries on matters
about which I know something and have found them almost invariably accurate.
And I have watched some of them grow, becoming ever more elaborate and
interlinked.

In fact, open architecture is in some sense the only possible way to do what
an encyclopedia purports to do: represent the state of human knowledge in real
time. Such a project is by its nature so huge that it requires what Wikipedia
has: thousands of experts, editors, checkers and so on with expertise in different
fields working over a period of years. Also, Wikipedia,
unlike the World Book, for example, or even Encarta, is updated continuously.
When we use the term "public
property," we usually mean state property, but Wikipedia compromises the
concept of ownership without dispossessing anyone: It is truly public property.

What is perhaps most fascinating about Wikipedia is its demonstration in practical
anarchy. It is an ever-shifting, voluntary, collaborative enterprise. If it is
in the long run successful, it would show that people can make amazing things
together without being commanded, constrained, taxed, bribed or punished.

It is still an experiment, the outcome and ultimate  utility of
which is still very much up in the air.  The Dowbrigade has it permanently
on the menu bar of his browser, and checks it before Encarta or Britanica.
We encourage our readers to check it out.  Look
up something you consider yourself an expert in. Evaluate the correctness
of what you find. If there is something you know more about than what
you find, add to the
collective
knowledge.
You never
know who might be needing it next.

LA Times Article

Wikipedia itself