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Saturday, September 2, 2017


Because the events in Charlottesville were so calamitous and the fallout both extraordinary and ongoing I am going to write several blogs on it over the next few weeks. This is partly because the ripples from Charlottesville, whether in terms of online censorship, street violence, protests, Donald Trump, the Mainstream Media, and right and left wing responses to it, are still happening. It is also because I wanted some time to see how the dust settles…

On Sunday August 13th, the day after clashes between supporters of the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville and leftwing opponents had left dozens injured and a 32 year old woman, Heather Hyer, the online white supremacist newspaper, The Daily Stormer, lobbed a satirical grenade into the media storm that events in Charlottesville had caused and unleashed carnage.

For those unfamiliar with The Daily Stormer website, it is a virulently anti-semitic, humorous, OTT and rightwing news site inspired in part by the notorious Nazi era newspaper, Der Stürmer, which was published from 1923 until1945 and the collapse of the Third Reich. Its editor, the ebullient and fanatical ‘jew baiter’ Julius Streicher, was arrested and tried at Nuremberg for crimes against humanity and executed. 

Founded in July 2013 by Andrew Anglin, a 32 year-old Alt-Right supporting white supremacist, and run as a news site, The Daily Stormer, is unashamedly and outrageously racist and antisemitic, publishing stories that are often very funny while being savagely satirical and, depending on the reader, either deeply offensive or highly appealing, particularly to a young audience. 

A bit like Family Guy mashed with VIZ comic, OZ (a 1970s anti-establishment magazine prosecuted for obscenity, regularly raided by the police and constantly attacked by the mainstream media), and Charlie Hebdo magazine whose cartoons of Mohammed led to it being attacked by Islamic terrorists in 2015 and the murder of twelve of its employees. In a typical example of the Stormer’s sense humour on June 8th, the day of the UK’s general election, it endorsed the labour leader Jeremy Corbyn with the ringing praise that he would “exterminate the entire Jewish race”, while the Conservative party leader Theresa May was dismissed as a “childless old woman with zero stake in the future of Britain who looks like a Cenobite”.

It was that mischievous sense of humour that led, on August 13th, to the exploding grenade. The article on the woman killed in Charlottesville was, even by the Stormer’s questionable standards, deliberately inflammatory and began with the headline: ’Heather Hyer: Woman Killed in Road Rage Incident was a Fat, Childless 32-Year Old Slut’. The article itself, written by Andrew Anglin, went on to state that most people would be glad that Hyer was dead as she was a fat slob who, had she lived until the average female life expectancy of 81, meant she would have been leeching off men’s work for another 49 years. Hence her death was a plus, with the added bonus that it took out a Bernie Sauders supporter.

Appearing less that 24 hours after Hyer’s death, and at a time when the US media was in a full ‘shock and awe’ mode against anyone, or any group on the Right politically - from the KKK through to the Alt-Right, from Trump supporters to mainstream conservatives - the article exploded just like petrol thrown onto a fire in a burning building. 
This was full-on confrontation, upsetting not just the liberal left but wrong footing and alienating many on the Right and Alt-Right who were already reeling from the backlash following Hyer’s death and the events that had played out at Charlottesville. Yes, it was satirical, but at this stage no one, and least of all a hyped-up media who were now seeing neo-Nazis under every bed, had the inclination to debate the subtle nuances of describing a recently killed woman as a ‘fat slut’.

The backlash which began within hours of the articles appearance, while perhaps predictable, seemed to catch everyone by surprise. Go Daddy, the company that had hosted The Daily Stormer since its formation, and who made a virtue of its stance defending free speech and opposing censorship, gave The Daily Stormer just 24 hours notice to move its domain to another provider. This action forced the Stormer to register with Google, who, following complaints from leftist activists who were now buzzing around The Daily Stormer like angry wasps, cancelled the Stormer’s registration within hours of being asked to do so by activists. For added credibility Google also closed down The Daily Stormer’s Youtube channel as well (Google owns Youtube). This action then prompted Cloudfare, an internet company whose services help protect websites from cyberattacks, to also terminate The Daily Stormer’s account, in what was, like Go Daddy, a complete reversal of their previous neutral, anti-censorship stance.

These actions, all of which happened over the space of a couple of days, took The Daily Stormer off line, while making its figurehead Andrew Anglin and his web savvy hacker colleague, Andrew Auernheimer aka ‘Weev’, into a sort of cyber Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. It also heralded in a period of increasingly  farcical cat and mouse antics between the internet establishment and The Daily Stormer as it started on a seemingly never ending period playing “What’s My Domain” as the Stormer website hoped from one host to another.

Starting very briefly with China and .wang, the Stormer then moved to Russia and .ru where it lasted about a day before it was closed down only to resurface a few days later with the perfectly the suited .lol , which unfortunately lasted for just a few hours. After that the Stormer went dark, as in the dark web, the part of the web that is hidden from search engines and favoured by government agencies and notoriously gangsters, drug dealers, terrorists and paedophiles. 

The so called dark web enables The Daily Stormer to exist and to be visited by any one who downloads a TOR link (the Daily Stormer’s hosting company on the dark web) but it is effectively
removed from public view, the aim of its enemies. So, after a weeks absence The Daily Stormer resurfaced again in the real world, this time with the domain, where it bloomed, like some rare and poisonous Orchid, for a couple of days before vanishing once again into the darkness. 

Predictably, and almost heroically, nearly a full three weeks after it was booted off the web, The Daily Stormer resurfaced yet again, this time bizarrely via an Albanian host  using .al. But it was not to last, and after three days of normal life in the daylight The Daily Stormer has, at the time of writing (September 2nd 2017), once again been consigned to the wilderness that is the dark web.

Many initially rejoiced in what they saw as the death of The Daily Stormer, especially the majority for whom it was just a name in a news story about some obscure racist, anti-semitic and nasty hate site. What did it matter if it was banned? Well, it matters a lot regardless of what the The Daily Stormer says or stands for, as this is the first time in the democratic West, where the internet was heralded and defended as a vehicle for freedom and free speech, where outside of criminal and illegal activity, ideas, opinions and so on were free, and no more so than in the United States, where under the First Amendment, The Daily Stormer, has every right to say what it likes, no matter how offensive it is.

Ironically, a side effect of all this is that The Daily Stormer is no longer an obscure website, because with each resurfacing, the traffic to the site, like people flocking to see some rare event, has grown, with the domain getting in excess of half a million unique visitors a day. Consequently, the longer this farcical game of internet cat and mouse continues, the more publicity The Daily Stormer is going to get, with now even the BBC covering and naming it in a news feature describing its banning.

Another side effect of The Daily Stormer’s banning is that whereas it was originally dismissed as just a neo-nazis hate site, its plight now seems like bullying and victimisation, and the new world order loves a victim. Indeed, as The Daily Stormer is pitched from pillar to post on a weekly basis by massively rich, unregulated corporations, so increasing numbers of mainstream organisations and even leftist journalists are beginning to question the validity of Silicon Valley censoring opinions it doesn’t like. So much so that Google, Go Daddy and Cloudfare’s actions may prove to be one of the biggest shot in the foot incidences ever …

© Nigel Wingrove 2017

See also:

WHOSE SPEECH! OUR SPEECH! Part 1 - Charlottesville 

WHOSE SPEECH! OUR SPEECH! Part 3 - The Great Shuttening

WHOSE SPEECH! OUR SPEECH! Part 4 - Tomorrow is Another Day

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