Friday, June 19, 2009

How We Can Conquer Hate: An In-depth Analysis

Museum On Wednesday, June 10, James von Brunn allegedly shot and killed a security officer at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC. 

A brief news advisory online from one of the wire services that day said there was a shooting "near" the museum.  My first thought was, "That's odd, there's usually nothing like that going on in that area."

I went to Twitter where my local news channel KESQ-TV (@KESQ) had a tweet stating that the shooting was "at" the museum.  I immediately confirmed the story online at  the Washington Post and then felt it was important enough to turn on the TV and see what was going on.

Holy Western Empire Shortly after the incident, MSNBC had identified the alleged shooter as James W. von Brunn, an 88-year-old Caucasian man from Maryland.  They were reporting about the perpetrator's history of white supremacy beliefs and then the newscaster read information directly from his racist, anti-Semitic, and hateful website Holy Western Empire (, which is not active at the time of this writing.

During the initial MSNBC news report, I figured the life of von Brunn's website would be short, so I immediately  visited it and downloaded (free of charge) the first six chapters of his book, "Kill the Good Gentiles."  I have it in PDF format and am happy to email it to anyone upon request.  I've only been able to get through 15 pages or so because it is a vile book filled with very hateful writing, but definitely required reading for anyone interested in helping to combat hate.  Instructions on how one can view cached pages of von Brunn's website are located at the end of this article.

On June 11, the day after the shooting, MSNBC reported that authorities charged  von Brunn with first-degree murder in the June 10th attack and were considering additional charges relating to hate crimes.

On the day of the incident, alert and heroic museum security guards stopped von Brunn cold in his tracks on  and he was taken to an area hospital.  On June 14, according to UPI, "The suspect [von Brunn] wounded in the killing of a guard at Washington's Holocaust Memorial Museum is expected to recover, the FBI said."

Stephen Tyrone Johns Von Brunn reportedly shot and killed 39-year-old Holocaust Museum  security officer Stephen Tryone Johns during the incident.  The museum has set up the USHMM Officer Johns Family Fund for people who wish to donate in his memory to assist his family in their time of need.  Those who prefer to donate the old-fashioned way should make checks payable to USHMM Officer Johns Family Fund and mail them to USHMM, 100 Raoul Wallenberg Place, SW, Washington, DC 20024.

RabbiDaveRabbi David Vorspan, Founding Rabbi of Congregation Shir Ami in the San Fernando Valley and a rabbi for conservative congregations in California for decades, is no stranger to anti-Semitic incidents. 

"I myself experienced anti-Semitism as a counselor at Camp Ramah in Ojai, when the 'Ojai Boys' and sometimes the dreaded 'Ventura Boys' would, on rare occasion, yell anti-Semitic curses from the roadside," Vorspan told "Crusader's Corner."   Vorspan was a counselor at the camp in the mid to late 1960s.

In the mid to late 1970s, I was a student at Loara High School in Anaheim and a member of Temple Beth Emet, which was located directly across the street from the high school.  At that time, Vorspan was the temple's rabbi. 

On the first day of school one year (or right after a vacation break), students arrived at school to see a huge swastika painted on the school auditorium wall facing the temple.  In addition, white supremacy newspapers were inserted through the slots of all student lockers.

Upon my arrival to school that day, I became very upset about the incident and immediately went to visit Rabbi Vorspan at the temple.  He was instrumental in consoling me and coordinating an investigation with an Anaheim Police Department detective regarding the matter. 

In the 1980s, when Vorspan was rabbi at Temple Beth Ami in Reseda, he once discovered "a paper with a swastika taped to our front door."

Jessie Daniels Photo Jessie Daniels, PhD, is currently Associate Professor of Urban Public Health at Hunter College in New York.  According to her website, "In every course I teach there is a focus on the intersections of race, class, gender and sexuality . . ."

I conducted lengthy e-mail interviews with Professor Daniels and Rabbi Vorspan for this article.  Daniels' interview with "Crusader's Corner" will be published in its entirety in my next blog post.

Was Law Enforcement Lax re von Brunn?

I seem to recall that shorty After 9/11, many Muslims and people from the Middle East fell under the law enforcement radar in the United States.  Many who had absolutely no connection to terrorism were interrogated and/or arrested. 

In the Holocaust Museum shooting, we have an elderly Caucasian convicted felon who has clearly been espousing hate for decades, but I have to wonder whether law enforcement dropped the ball by not keeping a watchful eye on him.

"From what I've read in the news, law enforcement was very much aware of this man," Vorspan said. "However, when one gets to his late 80s, people like this don't register as too threatening."

"What most people tend to forget is that prior to September 11, 2001, the largest incident of domestic terrorism was the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City by Timothy McVeigh - a Caucasian, and like von Brunn, a white supremacist," Daniels told "Crusader's Corner."

Rev. Wright Adds Fuel to the Fire

According to Time magazine, on the day before the museum shooting,  Rev. Jeremiah Wright is quoted as saying, "Them Jews ain't going to let him [Obama] talk to me. I told my baby daughter that he'll talk to me in five years when he's a lame duck, or in eight years when he's out of
office . . ."

I asked Vorspan and Daniels for their reaction to Wright's comments.

"My reaction is one of sadness that a man could espouse such misguided hatred, especially being a 'man of the cloth,' Vorspan said. 

"Jews do not hold sway over President Obama, any more than Rev. Wright could as his pastor.  He is very much his own man, reflected on the positions he is taking in regard to Israel and the Middle East," he added.

"I think it's wrong to equate Rev. Wright's statements with the actions of von Brunn, which is what a lot of people are doing when they bring this up in this context," Daniels said.

"There are many ways that 'hate speech' is implicated in the death of the guard, Mr. Johns, at the Holocaust Museum -- von Brunn's hate speech, the hate speech of right-wing pundits like Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly that give space to such violence. . ."

Should Websites Spewing Hate Speech Be Banned?

A poll at Racism Review asks:  "Do you think social networking sites (like Facebook) should remove groups with racist content?"  Results (as of this article):  "Yes" (74.0%, 221 Votes);  "No" (26.0%, 76 Votes)
Total Voters: 297.

I inquired about this very issue with both Rabbi Vorspan and Professor Daniels.

"Such web sites should be banned," said Vorspan.

"I believe it is better that they not be given any platform to spread their hatred.  One can know one's enemy without giving him license to gain additional adherents," he added.

"In my view, any website that espouses racism, anti-Semitism or other hate should be removed (either by law enforcement or by the ISP) and the publisher of that hate speech should be held accountable," said Daniels.

"While I strongly believe that the U.S. should adopt laws that are more in line with other democracies that regulate hate speech, I'm realistic enough to realize that this kind of change may take long years to accomplish."  

Best Ways to Educate People About Hate?

"I have found that such places as the Museum of Tolerance become excellent educational experiences to help people understand the power of words and hate-filled actions," said Vorspan.

"That's a good question and one I've spent most of my adult life trying to answer," said Daniels

"I think there are all sorts of ways that people can educate each other about hate that have a less 'professional' focus -  blogging, for example.  Part of the reason that Joe Feagin and I started our blog Racism Review was to educate people beyond our usual audience of college students and the few people that read academic articles and books."

twitterLogoAn interesting aside, I discovered Professor Daniels on Twitter (@JessieNYC), which despite its naysayers has become a very valuable tool for me (and millions of others) to hook up with others in Cyberspace to work on important social issues. 

I had my doubts as first, but am now beginning to see firsthand that Twitter is a beneficial conduit that can be used to educate people all over the world about hate and its consequences, which include the recent tragedy at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. 

Professor Jessie Daniels, the author of "Cyber Racism: White Supremacy Online and the New Attack on Civil Rights," also helps produce and maintain Racism Review, a blog which explores  racism and hate.  Racism Review is a must for any diehard activist!

As of this writing, requests for e-mail interviews from "Crusader's Corner" with spokespeople from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) have not been acknowledged.  Attempts to reach Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism were also unsuccessful.

quotation marksQuotes Worth Repeating

"I loved my father. But what he did was unforgivable . . . You know, the only bond we had was father and son.  We didn't like each other very much." - Alleged shooter's 32-year-old son, Erik von Brunn (ABC's "Good Morning America")

"I think it's important to come back because if you don't, they win . . . It's a form of terrorism," museum visitor Tammi Miller, 17, said of the facility's reopening following the June 10th incident.  - UPI

@hotlou (on Twitter):  "Holocaust Museum shooter expected to survive ... as does the opportunity for me to kick him in the fucking testicles."

Suggested Reading Suggested Reading
(if any of the links below have expired, please search for the articles via Google or similar search engine.)

"FBI: Child porn found at von Brunn's home" - MSNBC News 6/19/09

"The Internet Angle: Cyber Racism and Domestic Terrorism," blog article  posted on that site by Professor Daniels in "Racism Review."

"The ugly consequences of open hatred," commentary by "Miami Herald" columnist Leonard Pitts.

"Thoughts on the Holocaust Museum"
by Gina Acosta and Andrew Hiller, "Washington Post."

"My mother, the Jew Judge" by Lauren R. Taylor, "Washington Post."

"Where Anti-Semitism is Mainstream"  by Richard Cohen, "Washington Post."

"Elderly Criminals: Lessons from the von Brunn Case" by Raina Kelley, "Newsweek."

"Was Holocaust Museum Gunman Really a Lone Wolf?" by Eve Conant, "Newsweek."

"Von Brunn, Bad Apples, and Hegemonic Whiteness"
by Matthew W. Hughey, assistant professor of Sociology and African American Studies at Mississippi State University.

How to View Cached Pages of von Brunn Website

To view cached pages of the website, simply go to Gigablast, type in "" (without the quotes) and then click on "cached" (which will include more graphics and other info than cached pages from Google). 

I was only able to find the front page of his site cached, but people who want to spend more time searching Gigablast can probably find the other pages. 

Gigablast also has a cool feature where one can click on "older copies" from the cached page to see the history of the page and it's various revisions.  For von Brunn's site, the available history dates all the way back to August 2002!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Fuck Censorship!

no-walmart I've been writing articles with this headline for decades because censorship really pisses me off, especially when it involves Wal-Mart (or other huge retailers) selling co-called "clean" versions of music CDs to consumers. They've been doing this for more than a decade, so this isn't a new issue.

These so-called "clean" albums totally fuck with the concept of artistic freedom and I hope more people (and artists) will understand the concept of censorship and take action. Consumers should stop purchasing “clean” albums and artists should stop consenting to their production! (The movie industry with their stupid MPAA rating system is also to blame for much censorship, but that's an article for another day.)

green-day-21st-century-breakdown-cover When it comes to "clean" albums, most artists look the other way because apparently they rather make money by having Wal-Mart sell censored versions of their work than not to sell their work at all. Popular music group Green Day appears to be a rare exception to the rule and has basically told Wal-Mart to fuck off. Other artists should follow their lead.

"Wal-Mart's become the biggest retail outlet in the country, but they won't carry our record [21st Century Breakdown] because they wanted us to censor it," Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong said in a recent interview published in the Washington Post and other media outlets.

"They want artists to censor their records in order to be carried in there," he said. "We just said no. We've never done it before. You feel like you're in 1953 or something."

Hopefully this recent controversy will only help Green Day sell more copies of 21st Century Breakdown, their latest album, which I recently downloaded from Zune Marketplace and listened to in its entirety. It happens to be a great album that I probably would never have known about had it not been for the censorship story.

Oddly enough, Wal-Mart sells "clean" CDs of rapper Eminem? They might as well just take a blank CD-ROM, stick it in an Eminem CD cover and put that up for sale. More profits for everyone involved! A "Clean" Eminem CD is an oxymoron, the equivalent of "clean" CDs for comedy greats George Carlin, Lewis Black or Cheech & Chong. All I can say is "no fucking way!" Thank God, if there is one, for Zune Marketplace, Napster, HBO, and others who offer uncensored material for people with discriminating tastes such as me.

As far as I am concerned, Wal-Mart will be (or has been) responsible for the ruination of America as we know it, so if you are a staunch supporter of fair labor practices, civil and human rights, and other freedoms, just say no and stop shopping there! Also, please support artists who oppose censorship of any kind!

Be sure to check out Green Day's website.
and also the Wal-Mart Watch website.

book banning On a related note, U.S. librarians are facing a growing number of complaints about the books on their shelves these days, according to a recent article distributed by United Press International (UPI).

Written complaints to public and school libraries seeking the removal or restriction of materials rose from 420 in 2007 to 513 in 2008, The (Nashville) Tennessean reported recently. The challenges led to 74 books being taken off shelves.

The newspaper said the Library Association of America recently issued its list of the 10 most-challenged books of last year. Among them was "The Kite Runner," a New York Times best-seller, and the teen drama series "Gossip Girl."

These book censorship stories remind me of when I was a teen growing up in Banaheim, California, in the 1970s when the Anaheim Union High School District school board became nationally famous for book banning. At that time, books we could not read in the classroom included the likes of "Sounder," "Catcher in the Rye," and almost anything written by Mark Twain.

Several months ago, I read an article about a Corona del Mar High School school teacher (in Orange County, California, of course) who was told he couldn't have drama students perform the play "Rent" because it evidently was too gay. According to several media sources, the school principal said she needed to review the script's inclusions of "prostitution and homosexuality." In lieu of "Rent," the drama teacher had the students perform "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown," which certainly no one would find offensive.

My philosophy is that books are like the radio, TV, or Internet. If you don't like a book, don't read it. Don't like what you hear or see on the radio, TV, or Internet, change the "station" or turn it OFF. But please keep your paws off the on/off switches of my radio/TV/Internet and don't ban or censors books, plays, movies, CDs or other media in stores, schools or libraries! After all, the year is now 2009, not 1984!