“keep the doors of immigration closed to the entrance of certain aliens whose condition is known to be detrimental to the stamina of the race, such as feebleminded, idiots, morons, Insane, syphilitic, epileptic, criminal, professional prostitutes, and others in this class barred by the immigration laws of 1924.” —“A Plan for Peace,” Birth Control Review, April 1932, pages 107-108
Will Progressives erase the history of their racist heroes, or only their racist enemies?
Much of the country has demanded the elimination of references to, and images of, people of the past — from Christopher Columbus to Robert E. Lee — who do not meet our evolving standards of probity.
In some cases, such damnation may be understandable if done calmly and peacefully — and democratically, by a majority vote of elected representatives.
Few probably wish to see a statue in a public park honoring Confederate general Nathan Bedford Forrest, one of the founding members of the Ku Klux Klan, or Supreme Court Justice Roger B. Taney, who wrote the majority opinion in the racist Dred Scott decision that set the stage for the Civil War four years later.
But cleansing the past is a dangerous business. The wide liberal search for more enemies of the past may soon take progressives down hypocritical pathways they would prefer not to walk.
In the present climate of auditing the past, it is inevitable that Margaret Sanger’s Planned Parenthood will have to be disassociated from its founder. Sanger was an unapologetic racist and eugenicist who pushed abortion to reduce the nonwhite population.
Should we ask that Ruth Bader Ginsburg resign from the Supreme Court? Even with the benefit of 21st-century moral sensitivity, Ginsburg still managed to echo Sanger in a racist reference to abortion (“growth in populations that we don’t want to have too many of”).Why did we ever mint a Susan B. Anthony dollar? The progressive suffragist once said, “I will cut off this right arm of mine before I will ever work or demand the ballot for the Negro and not the woman.”
Liberal icon and Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren pushed for the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II while he was California’s attorney general.
President Woodrow Wilson ensured that the Armed Forces were not integrated. He also segregated civil-service agencies. Why, then, does Princeton University still cling to its Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs? To honor a progressive who did a great deal of harm to African-American causes?
Wilson’s progressive racism, dressed up in pseudoscientific theories, was perhaps more pernicious than that of the old tribal racists of the South, given that it was not regionally centered and was professed to be fact-based and ecumenical, with the power of the presidency behind it.
In the current logic, Klan membership certainly should be a disqualifier of public commemoration. Why are there public buildings and roads still dedicated to the late Democratic senator Robert Byrd, former “exalted cyclops” of his local Klan affiliate, who reportedly never shook his disgusting lifelong habit of using the N-word?Why is Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black, once a Klansman, in the 20th century, still honored as a progressive hero?
So, what are the proper rules of exemption for progressives when waging war against the dead?
Do they tally up the dead’s good and bad behaviors to see if someone makes the 51 percent “good progressive” cutoff that exempts him? Or do some reactionary sins cancel out all the progressive good — at least in the eyes of self-styled moral superiors to those hapless Neanderthals who came before us?
Are the supposedly oppressed exempt from charges of oppression?
Farm-labor icon Cesar Chavez once sent union thugs to the border to physically bar U.S. entry to undocumented Mexican immigrants, whom he derided as “wetbacks” in a fashion that would today surely earn Chavez ostracism by progressives as a xenophobe.
Kendrick Lamar, one of the favorite rappers of former president Barack Obama, had an album cover featuring a presumably dead white judge with both of his eyes X’d out, surrounded by black men celebrating on the White House lawn. Should such a divisive racialist have been honored with a White House invitation?
What is the ultimate purpose of progressives condemning the past? Does toppling the statue of a Confederate general — without a referendum or a majority vote of an elected council — improve racial relations?
Does renaming a bridge or building reduce unemployment in the inner city?
Do progressives have their own logical set of selective rules and extenuating circumstances that damn or exempt particular historical figures? If so, what are they?
Does selectively warring against the illiberal past make us feel better about doing something symbolic when we cannot do something substantive? Or is it a sign of raw power and ego when activists force authorities to cave to their threats and remove images and names in the dead of night?
Does damning the dead send a flashy signal of our superior virtue?
And will toppling statues and erasing names only cease when modern progressives are forced to blot out the memories of racist progressive heroes?
by Victor Davis Hanson// National Review
An October 2015 piece published here about the potential dangers of tossing out or posting online your airline boarding pass remains one of the most-read stories on this site. One reason may be that the advice remains timely and relevant: A talk recently given at a Czech security conference advances that research and offers several reminders of how being careless with your boarding pass could jeopardize your privacy or even cause trip disruptions down the road.
In What’s In a Boarding Pass Barcode? A Lot, KrebsOnSecurity told the story of a reader whose friend posted a picture of a boarding pass on Facebook. The reader was able to use the airline’s Web site combined with data printed on the boarding pass to discover additional information about his friend. That data included details of future travel, the ability to alter or cancel upcoming flights, and a key component need to access the traveler’s frequent flyer account.
A search on Instagram for “boarding pass” returned 91,000+ results.
More recently, security researcher Michal Špaček gave a talk at a conference in the Czech Republic in which he explained how a few details gleaned from a picture of a friend’s boarding pass posted online give him the ability to view passport information on his friend via the airline’s Web site, and to change the password for another friend’s United Airlines frequent flyer account.
Working from a British Airways boarding pass that a friend posted to Instagram, Špaček found he could log in to the airline’s passenger reservations page using the six-digit booking code (a.k.a. PNR or passenger name record) and the last name of the passenger (both are displayed on the front of the BA boarding pass).
Once inside his friend’s account, Špaček saw he could cancel future flights, and view or edit his friend’s passport number, citizenship, expiration date and date of birth. In my 2015 story, I showed how this exact technique permitted access to the same information on Lufthansa customers (this still appears to be the case).
Špaček also reminds readers about the dangers of posting boarding pass barcodes or QR codes online, noting there are several barcode scanning apps and Web sites that can extract text data stored in bar codes and QR codes. Boarding pass bar codes and QR codes usually contain all of the data shown on the front of a boarding pass, and some boarding pass barcodes actually conceal even more personal information than what’s printed on the boarding pass.
As I noted back in 2015, United Airlines treats its customers’ frequent flyer numbers as secret access codes. For example, if you’re looking for your United Mileage Plus number, and you don’t have the original document or member card they mailed to you, good luck finding this information in your email correspondence with the company.
When United does include this code in correspondence, all but the last three characters are replaced with asterisks. The same is true with United’s boarding passes. However, the customer’s full Mileage Plus number is available if you take the time to decode the barcode on any United boarding pass.
Until very recently, if you knew the Mileage Plus number and last name of a United customer, you would have been able to reset their frequent flyer account password simply by guessing the multiple-choice answer to two secret questions about the customer. However, United has since added a third step — requiring the customer to click a link in an email that gets generated when someone successfully guesses the multiple-choice answers to the two secret questions.
It’s crazy how many people post pictures of their boarding pass on various social networking sites, often before and/or during their existing trip. A search on Instagram for the term “boarding pass”, for example, returned more than 91,000 such images. Not all of those images include the full barcode or boarding record locator, but plenty enough do and that’s just one social network.
Nohl notes that the six digit booking code or PNR is essentially a temporary password issued by airlines that is then summarily printed on all luggage tags and inside all boarding pass barcodes.
For anyone interested in how much of today’s airline industry still relies on security by obscurity, check out this excellent talk from last year’s Chaos Communication Congress (CCC) in Berlin by security researchers Karsten Nohl and Nemanja Nikodijevic. Nohl notes that the six digit booking code or PNR is essentially a temporary password issued by airlines that is then summarily printed on all luggage tags and inside all boarding pass barcodes.
“You would imagine that if they treat it as a password equivalent then they would keep it secret like a password,” Nohl said. “Only, they don’t, but rather print it on everything you get from the airline. For instance, on every piece of luggage you have your last name and the six-digit (PNR) code.”
In his talk, Nohl showed how these PNRs are used in code-sharing agreements between and among airlines, meaning that gaining access to someone else’s frequent flyer account may reveal information associated with that customer’s accounts at other airlines.
Nohl and his co-presenter also demonstrated how some third-party travel sites do little to prevent automated programs from rapidly submitting the same last name and changing the PNR, essentially letting an attacker brute-force a targeted customer’s PNR.
My advice: Avoid the temptation to brag online about that upcoming trip or vacation. Thieves looking to rob someone in your area will be delighted to see this kind of information posted online.
Don’t post online pictures of your boarding pass or anything else with a barcode in it (e.g., there are currently 42,000 search results on Instagram for “concert tickets”).
Finally, avoid leaving your boarding pass in the trash at the airport or tucked into that seat-back pocket in front of you before deplaning. Instead, bring it home and shred it. Better still, don’t get a paper boarding pass at all (use a mobile).
By Brian Krebs
After spending weeks running op-eds about the value of political violence against those with whom Antifa disagrees, The Washington Post finally covered an Antifa riot honestly: as a violent attack on peaceful demonstrators. Their headline: “Black-clad antifa members attack peaceful right-wing demonstrators in Berkeley.”
Here’s the Post:
Their faces hidden behind black bandannas and hoodies, about 100 anarchists and antifa— “anti-fascist” — members barreled into a protest Sunday afternoon in Berkeley’s Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park. Jumping over plastic and concrete barriers, the group melted into a larger crowd of around 2,000 that had marched peacefully throughout the sunny afternoon for a “Rally Against Hate” gathering. Shortly after, violence began to flare. A pepper-spray-wielding Trump supporter was smacked to the ground with homemade shields. Another was attacked by five black-clad antifa members, each windmilling kicks and punches into a man desperately trying to protect himself. A conservative group leader retreated for safety behind a line of riot police as marchers chucked water bottles, shot off pepper spray and screamed, “Fascist go home!”
The question is whether the Post will continue with its honest coverage, or will revert to the same sort of “both sides” routine they decried from President Trump on Charlottesville. That, in fact, was the only part of Trump’s remarks that deserved accolades: his willingness to state openly and truthfully that violence came from both sides in Charlottesville. Antifa is a blight, and the Leftist media’s obsession with excusing their violations of civilized behavior in pursuit of dragon-slaying supposed Nazis must stop.
by BEN SHAPIRO
In order to make the deadliest ideology of the 20th century palatable to young Americans, “Communism for Kids” is coming to a bookstore near you.
This newly released book from MIT Press “proposes a different kind of communism, one that is true to its ideals and free from authoritarianism.”
The death toll from communist regimes in the 20th century is well-documented. One study found that more people were killed under communism than homicide and genocide combined, and only 9 million more people were killed in World War I and World War II combined than under governments of this ideology.
Another study showed how the mass killings of civilians by their own governments took an immediate nosedive after the collapse of the Soviet Union and international communism.
According to the Amazon synopsis, the book weaves a fairy tale of “jealous princesses, fancy swords, displaced peasants, mean bosses, and tired workers.”
It is bewildering why MIT Press would publish a book that cutesies up the political creed that gave the world Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong, Fidel Castro, and many more of the world’s most prolific mass murderers. None of these brutal dictators are mentioned in the book, according to The Washington Free Beacon.
Communism seemingly gets a pass to be reimagined as a sweet fable while it’s inconceivable that a book called “Fascism for Kids” would ever be printed by a reputable publisher.
Marion Smith of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation wrote, according to The Washington Free Beacon:
While I can imagine a book so titled that would make a valuable contribution to a reader’s understanding of the truth about communism, the book MIT Press published is not it. ‘Communism for Kids’ whitewashes and infantilizes ideas that, when put into action, have cost more than 100 million lives.
This odd attempt to get kids into communism is unlikely to spawn a new generation of true believers on its own, but it does highlight the growing problem for younger Americans who are generally clueless about even recent history.
As The Daily Signal previously reported, a study from the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation found that millennials, in particular, are stunningly ignorant about what occurred under the Soviet Union and other communist regimes just a generation ago.
One-third of millennials surveyed actually believe that more people were killed under former President George W. Bush than under Soviet dictator Stalin.
If one truly wants to teach young Americans what communism is really about, it would be better to hand them a copy of the classic “Animal Farm,” by George Orwell.
The book is an allegory—using farm animals as stand-ins—about the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia a century ago. The revolutionary promise of “all animals are equal” is used to overthrow farmers, but quickly turns into a new, even more oppressive tyranny under animal overlords
A reign of forced labor, intimidation, and terror puts the animals under the thumb of their new masters—their ideals used to prop up an all-powerful regime. The refashioned creed becomes “all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” In the end, human, or rather “animal,” nature proved to be more powerful than any ideology.
As the Roman poet Horace once said: “You can drive out nature with a pitchfork, but she will ever hurry back.”
This lesson from Orwell would be a much better way to teach young people about destructive ideology than a fanciful account of how “true” communism—minus the mean authoritarian stuff and mass murder—would be truly grand.
Under communism, tyranny is a feature, not a bug.
It seems communism is back in vogue at The New York Times.
A sad but common issue in the modern West is that progressives have created a fanciful and distorted picture of socialism to make it seem like an intriguing alternative to American-style capitalism.
Ikea socialism—with Sweden as the model—is an utterly distorted, but at least understandable, example for leftists to trot out as a demonstration of success.
And it’s even a bit amusing how they try to dance around the fact that Venezuela—which is utterly collapsing and egregiously abusing human rights—is a socialist country they praised just 10 years ago.
But The New York Times now has actually found a way to create fanciful notions of Soviet-style authoritarianism—and whimsical tales of its influence in America—in a new section dedicated to the “Red Century,” which explores “the history and legacy of communism, 100 years after the Russian Revolution.”
While some of the pieces explore the horrors and failures of communist rule, others delve into topics that would seem funny if the subject matter weren’t so horrifying.
For instance, the Times ran what can aptly be described as a “puff piece” on Vladimir Lenin, the man who led the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia and is linked to the death and murder of millions of people.
They published a pro-Lenin puff piece.
They actually did it. https://twitter.com/nytopinion/status/894636582589923328 …
The article, titled “Lenin’s Eco-Warriors,” paints the man as some kind of Siberian John Muir, and incredibly concludes that leaving “landscapes on this planet where humans do not tread” was the Soviet dictator’s “legacy.”
As absurd as that piece was, the Times managed to outdo itself with another article on, no joke, “Why Women Had Better Sex Under Socialism.”
This piece is an idealized account of how life under an absolutist government could be liberating and possibly a better model for the feminist movement.
The author wrote:
Those comrades’ insistence on government intervention may seem heavy-handed to our postmodern sensibilities, but sometimes necessary social change—which soon comes to be seen as the natural order of things—needs an emancipation proclamation from above.
The absurdly romanticized account of life under tyrannical government explains little of the hopelessness of a system where an individual has no hope and no future.
These examples certainly weren’t the first, or the worst, instances of the Times engaging in communist revisionism. One of the most egregious examples of “fake news” in the mid-20th century was conducted by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Walter Duranty in the 1930s.
Duranty, who was the Times’ Moscow bureau chief, wrote a series of glowing pieces about the USSR’s policies under General Secretary Josef Stalin in 1931.
While millions of people were starving in Ukraine, Duranty reported back that things were going swimmingly under the communist regime despite a few bumps in the road.
“Enemies and foreign critics can say what they please,” Duranty wrote. “Weaklings and despondents at home may groan under the burden, but the youth and strength of the Russian people is essentially at one with the Kremlin’s program, believes it worthwhile and supports it, however hard be the sledding.”
He attacked reports that portrayed the Soviet policies in a negative light as “malignant propaganda.”
Though the total number of deaths due to forced starvation in the Holodomor is unknown, estimates are generally around 3 million from 1932 to 1933.
It would be good on The New York Times if it ran a piece about Duranty’s egregious reporting and disinformation campaign that gave Americans a distorted picture of communist reality, but, alas, that hasn’t happened amid the various fables about socialist “successes.”
It may seem easy to dismiss The New York Times accounts as eyerolling fantasies of the left trying to defend a broken ideology, but the danger of this historical revisionism is real.
Dangerous Historical Fantasy
A worrying study sponsored by the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation found that millennials are generally clueless about communism.
“Just 37 percent of millennials had a ‘very unfavorable’ view of communism, compared to 57 percent of Americans overall,” according to a Daily Signal report.
Perhaps even worse, a full third of millennials say they think that more people were killed under former President George W. Bush than under Stalin.
Historical ignorance of communism’s crimes is ultimately dangerous.
As The New York Times joins with others to peddle a warped image of what communism is really about, generations that have never witnessed its horror may be lulled into buying the clichéd line that “real communism has never been tried.”
As historian Sean McMeekin wrote in his book, “The Russian Revolution,” after communism’s “century of well-catalogued disasters … no one should have the excuse of ignorance.”
Communist revival is growing in Western countries even as it is nearly extinct in places it was tried. This is folly fueled by historical blindness.
“Today’s Western socialists, dreaming of a world where private property and inequality are outlawed, where rational economic development is planned by far-seeing intellectuals, should be careful what they wish for,” McMeekin wrote. “They may just get it.”
In addition to the ongoing security monitoring by the IDF of what is happening in the Palestinian territories, Coordinator of Government Activities in Territories conducts psychological warfare against Hamas leadership in Gaza—using a Facebook page to publish embarrassing details about senior Hamas officials, and in particular about its head, Yahya Sinwar.
Facebook has served as a platform for digital warfare between Israel and Hamas for years, but that has recently taken an interesting turn.
About two years ago, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), Major General Yoav Mordechai opened an Arabic-language Facebook page called al-Munnaseq (the coordinator), which serves as a method to bypass the Palestinian leadership and communicate directly with the Palestinian population.
In the past, the page has accumulated an impressive number of 200,000 followers, most of them Palestinians from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, as well as from various Arab countries.
The page officially provides information in Arabic for the Palestinian population, but it is also used for propaganda, shaming and psychological warfare, especially against the de facto Hamas administration in the Gaza Strip, but also with the Palestinian Authority.
The Facebook page includes stories that embarrass the leadership in Gaza which originate within Israel’s intelligence community.
These are stories that Hamas does not approve the publication of and are silenced, as they might embarrass its leaders or harm the tactical ties that the Gaza leadership is conducting with neighboring Arab countries, such as Egypt.
Recently, for example, two stories have been published on the page, which show Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar in a bad light.
One of them deals with his nephew Ahmed Sinwar, a married man and father, who was caught commiting adultery with a married woman who herself has children. The nephew took advantage of his contacts in Gaza, and with the help of his uncle the matter was put to rest.
When the information reached Israel through its intelligence channels, the defense establishment decided to use the coordinator’s page and publicize the matter in order to inform the Gaza public and embarrass Sinwar.
The story was published in Arabic and the page stated: “The punishment in the Hamas terrorist organization for adultery is stoning to death, but will Ahmed Sinwar be stoned? Probably not, and the reason is that if you are close to the Hamas leadership, the usual legal system does not apply to you. Know, dear citizen of Gaza, that you can do whatever you want, especially if your uncle is Yahya Sinwar.”
Another one of Sinwar’s nephews was entangled in a financial corruption affair that was also silenced, but in Israel they again decided to shame the nephew and his family for the sake of informing the Gazan public about the separate legal systems for close associates of Hamas and the common people of Gaza.
The page stated that “everyone else would have been sent to prison for a long time, but not the family and associates of the tyrant Yahya who do whatever they like and enjoy nepotism and special privileges. Meanwhile, the residents of Gaza are forced to set themselves on fire or to live on the street in poverty, while the corrupt Sinwar family enjoys the benefits of power.”
At the same time, COGAT and other elements in the defense establishment have been working in recent years to close Facebook pages that incite and support terrorism.
Recently, for example, the Facebook page of the Shuafat refugee camp has been shut down. The admins of the al-Munnaseq page published a post, taking pride in the closure and saying they were responsible for it. This caused a storm on the Internet to the extent that even Al-Jazeera, the largest Arab news channel in the world, referred to this in a special article that criticized the connection between Israel and Facebook.
Hamas occasionally tries to fight the phenomenon, and the organization’s security forces in Gaza instruct the public not to enter the page and to ignore its publications, but without much success.
by Elior Levi|
Amid the chaos of Charlottesville, two specters from the previous century’s darkest hours have re-emerged. Alongside the well-publicized Nazi symbols on full display during the “Unite the Right” rally, so too were Communist hammers and sickles brandished by the opposing anti-fascist or “Antifa” protesters. Many have rightfully condemned the neo-Nazis and their Ku Klux Klan allies leading Riefenstahl-esque, torchlit processions through our streets, but there has been virtual silence about the neo-Marxists and anarchist comrades hurling bricks and incendiary bombs, all the while refusing to acknowledge communism’s long record of totalitarianism, racism and death.
Lining up against one another in public, clubs and bats in hand, those on the far right and the far left are horrifying replications of our nation’s greatest historical foes. At their respective beginnings in the 1910s and 1930s, both the communists in Russia and the national socialists in Germany comprised tiny minority factions in their countries. But they became the loudest, the best organized and the most violent.
Indeed, 78 years ago this week, Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich and Joseph Stalin’s USSR co-launched World War II by signing a nonaggression pact. Negotiated by Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov and German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop, their regimes agreed to conquer Europe by dividing it in half. Fascism and communism ignited a conflict that would consume millions of lives by marching shoulder-to-shoulder into battle.
Within days of signing the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, Hitler’s armies invaded Poland. Over the next several months, Stalin invaded Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania and the other half of beleaguered Poland. For nearly two years, the Nazi SS and Soviet NKVD (predecessor to the equally-dreaded KGB) intimately collaborated. Soviet secret police, for instance, rounded up German Jews who had escaped to the Soviet Union and handed them over to the SS.
Then in 1941, Hitler broke the pact and attacked the Soviet Union. When the war ended, the Nazi regime was finished, but the Soviet empire lived on — sustained by its domination of Eastern Europe. Partisans in the Baltic forests who had fought occupying Nazi forces promptly repositioned their rifles toward the Red Army. And pro-fascist collaborators slotted seamlessly into the Eastern Bloc’s nascent state security apparatuses.
Even as late as the 1980s, most in the West expected that the Soviet Union — despite its obvious weaknesses — would persist indefinitely. However, refugees from Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, Poland and other “captive nations” began organizing protests on Aug. 23, the anniversary of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, calling it “Black Ribbon Day.” They stressed to the world that Stalin — who was made over by fellow travelers in the West as “Uncle Joe” — was actually an enemy of peace in World War II. They further urged Americans to oppose the Soviet Union, which still controlled much of Central and Eastern Europe.
On Aug. 23, 1989, in the midst of revolutions throughout the Soviet empire, approximately 2 million people joined hands in a human chain that stretched over 370 miles across Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania to protest communist influence. The event, known as the Baltic Way, was a powerful symbol of peaceful popular resistance to totalitarianism. A little over two years later, on Sept. 6, 1991, the Baltic states reclaimed their independence, and on Dec. 25, 1991, the Soviet Union finally ceased to exist.
Unfortunately, over the past two decades, the evils of Soviet communism and Stalin’s critical role in the Axis have been largely forgotten. Within Russia, Stalin is increasingly viewed as a national hero, an opinion that has grown along with the size of Russia’s Communist Party in the Duma, and has been additionally fostered by Vladimir Putin’s own party, United Russia.
Black Ribbon Day remains important because it lays bare the fact that fascists and communists continue to use the same tactics to demonize, isolate and crush their adversaries. Historical amnesia, grievance culture and political violence make for a toxic cocktail. It is the responsibility of every American to study the past — to seriously study it — and to grasp what is necessary to guarantee “liberty and justice for all.”
The dearth of basic historical education in public schools — combined with the substitution of civics for divisive identity politics — has bred cynicism, turning the millennial generation cynical and away from the democratic project. This explains, in part, why those under the age of 30 are far more likely to engage in protests than to vote, participating in peaceful revolutions, as our country’s Founders had wished, at the ballot box. For this reason, it is critical to remember that Nazism and Soviet communism are two sides of the same totalitarian coin.
- Marion Smith is executive director of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation.
In their ongoing attempt to paint everyone on the Right in the darkest hues, some mainstream Leftists have decided that anyone who slams Antifa must be a Nazi sympathizer. This started almost immediately after the Charlottesville white supremacist terrorist attack, when President Trump suggested there was blame on “many sides.”
The problem with Trump’s statement was its vagary: it was unclear whether Trump was blaming ideology of “many sides” or violence of “many sides” or both. But Trump’s vagueness led The New York Times to this pronouncement:
But the tragedy in Charlottesville — specifically, the death of a young woman at the hands of a Nazi sympathizer who the authorities said ran her down with his car — undercut the notion that the black-masked radical leftists who smash windows and hurl firebombs are an equal menace.
That’s a rather incredible statement, since Antifa has been radically violent over the past couple of years. They’ve initiated riots in Sacramento, Berkeley, and Seattle; they’ve threatened violence in Portland, Chicago, and Dallas. They just spent the weekend attacking police officers.
But the “don’t condemn Antifa or you’re a Nazi sympathizer” talking point has become quite popular. Jeet Heer of The Atlantic put it this way:
Imagine being so addicted to glib both-sides-ism that that you don’t understand unique dangers Nazis pose to humanity. https://twitter.com/josh_hammer/status/899113866596057088 …
5:59 PM – Aug 20, 2017
So, is it downplaying the threat of Nazis to point out the threat of Antifa?
There are two measures we must examine in terms of any moral comparison between Antifa and neo-Nazis. First, there’s the ideological. Then, there’s behavior.
Let’s begin with the ideological. Antifa has no clear-cut ideology, but they seem to be a mashup of communists and anarchists. Neo-Nazis are white supremacists who believe in the innate inferiority of non-Caucasians, and therefore believe that they have the right to oppress other groups. It’s fair to say that Nazism is a uniquely evil philosophy, more evil than the communist philosophy, even though the communist philosophy of Antifa was responsible for tens of millions of deaths globally. So if we were to say that communism is as evil as Nazism, we’d be wrong. By the same token, if we were to whitewash communism, we’d be even more wrong.
Then there’s the question of violence. When conservatives condemn Antifa, they’re pointing out that use of violence in response to peaceful protest by evil people is more dangerous than peaceful protest by evil people. Those who initiate violence in a free society are a bigger problem than those who preach evil; the whole point of civilization, as Max Weber stated, was to give the state a monopoly on the legitimate use of force other than in self-defense. Breaking that compact and equating speech with violence is a serious threat to a civilized country. Condemning Antifa for their violent tactics in Boston, for example, should be required of all decent citizens in the same way that condemning Nazi ideology should be.
But this whole argument is a fraud anyway. Very few Americans stand in favor of Nazism, and the Left’s game of broadening out the label “Nazi sympathizer” is merely a political ploy. Antifa is evil. So is Nazism. Two things can be evil at the same time. Anyone who doesn’t believe that should do a little historical research on Stalin and Hitler.
But there are far more Americans condemning Nazism in the last two weeks than Americans who seem willing to condemn the breakdown of law and order. In fact, many mainstream Leftists are now defending Antifa. And that may make Antifa and its attendant violence a serious threat to the social fabric.
Animal experts are baffled by the public’s intense affection for a mammal that barely moves. ‘They’re just overcome with emotion.’
What’s the perfect form of therapy for a world that’s more frantic than ever? An animal that appears to do absolutely nothing.
One freezing February morning this year, Kayla Premack, 27, arrived at 3:30 a.m. and waited for hours in a sleeping bag at Denver’s Downtown Aquarium. Never mind the sharks, otters and turtles. She’d come to take a selfie with Aspen, a two-toed sloth.
Only the first 100 people in line that day would get photo opportunities with the aquarium’s most popular resident, and Ms. Premack, an office manager, was determined to be one of them. It didn’t matter that she already has at least 50 photos of him. “Sloths just invoke this happiness inside of me,” she said.
The slow-moving mammal, which has exploded in popularity in recent years, has caused some unusual reactions from its fans. MaryCharles Wolfe, 21, lost her breath and started sobbing when she saw a sloth for the first time last month at The Houston Zoo.
“How do you look at that and not think it’s the sweetest?” she said. “In this world with chaos and grossness everywhere, sloths don’t do any wrong. They can’t do anything.”
Kayla Premack with Aspen, a two-toed sloth at Denver’s Downtown Aquarium.Photo: Kayla Premack
Ms. Wolfe said she wished her own lifestyle allowed her to spend 20 minutes eating a green bean.
Animal keepers have grown accustomed to people shedding tears upon seeing a sloth, even bawling hysterically on the ground. “They’re just overcome with emotion,” said LynnLee Schmidt, a curator at Denver’s Downtown Aquarium. “I think to myself: What do I love that much?”
Psychologists who study crying say people are wired to cry when they see things that seem vulnerable, like cute baby animals.
Yet sloths are radically different from most creatures. They spend much of their lives hanging upside down from tree branches in the tropical rainforests of Central and South America. They move slowly to conserve energy and blend in with the forest to avoid jaguars, harpy eagles, and other predators.
It can take them a month to digest one leaf. Sloths typically move their bowels once a week, climbing slowly down the tree to do so, and can lose up to a third of their body weight when it happens.
Their natural expression looks like a smile. They are solitary creatures who are often stressed at the sight of humans.
Sloth characters in children’s movies like “Zootopia” and “Ice Age” have helped boost its popularity. A video in 2012 of actress Kristen Bell sobbing after her husband surprised her with a sloth for her birthday went viral. Sloths now star in weddings, proposals, and birthday parties.
Some sloth admirers say there’s more to it: People have a yearning for a less frenetic lifestyle, free of smartphones and pressures to be more productive. “Sloths are the antithesis of the modern condition where you succeed by doing more,” said Jon Leland, a senior director for the fundraising site Kickstarter. “Sloths have succeeded by doing less.”
One of his projects, on animal meditations, asks listeners to pretend to be a creature in an audio recording. The sloth meditation follows a three-toed sloth as it reaches for an appetizing leaf–an eight-minute endeavor. It was by far the most popular with at least 4,000 downloads.
A two-toed sloth, choloepus didactylus, circa 1893 pictured in an engraving by an unnamed artist in Lydekker’s Royal Natural History.Photo: Mary Evans Picture Library/Everett Collection
Sloths weren’t always so beloved.
From the Middle English word slowth, sloth refers to an avoidance of activity. Sometime in the early 1600s, the word became attached to the slow-moving animal, usually found in the tropical rain forests of South and Central America. Around the same time, the Christian church formally added sloth as one of the seven deadly sins, vices believed to be spiritually fatal.
This cemented the animal’s reputation among explorers and biologists as a defective monster for the next few centuries. In the late 1700s, French biologist Georges-Louis Leclerc examined a specimen of a sloth and called it “the lowest form of existence.”
Even as recently as 15 years ago, people hardly showed any interest in the sloth, which they considered to be “gross, slow and dumb,” according to Kelliee Caron, founder of The Sloth Center in Rainier, Ore. Now the demand is so high the center has been offering overnight sleepovers in the same room with sloths.
“It’s just gone insane,” she said.
A two-toed Sloth sits in a tree at London Zoo’s exhibit ‘The Clore Rainforest Lookout’ in 2007.Photo: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images
Vicky Perez, a college student in San Antonio who has spent hours watching videos of sloths, has a tattoo on her lower calf of a sloth sitting on a cloud while drinking a martini. At a local concert, a man spotted her tattoo and, she said, proceeded to show her a tattoo on his rear end of a sloth hanging from a branch.
“I was just like, oh my God, this person’s my soul mate,” Ms. Perez said. “But I never saw him again.”
Neil Parish, a legislative director with the Michigan House of Representatives, said his relationship with his girlfriend developed early on through texting “creepy sloth memes” to each other. They recently saw a sloth for the first time at The Creature Conservancy in Ann Arbor, Mich.
“We see ourselves in the sloth,” Mr. Parish said. “They aren’t lazy, just a little slow…and their strength is underestimated.”
Kim Ellis, vice president of the Creature Conservancy, which has hundreds of animals, said 91% of visitors who request to see a specific animal ask for the sloth. The conservancy is now charging an extra $50 for a group of four to view a baby sloth.
Wildlife conservationists oppose people having sloths as pets. Caring for them is complex, and it’s difficult to replicate a rainforest environment in a home, they say.
Brian White, an attorney in Houston, said he has fielded calls for legal advice on sloth pet ownership, which is regulated by state and city laws on exotic pets. It typically costs at least $5,000 to buy one.
Sloth researchers are increasingly concerned that the widespread obsession with sloths is resulting in more poaching. Among the six species of two-toed and three-toed sloths, two are endangered.
Zoos are still clamoring for them.
Lynn Yakubinis, an Atlanta-based animal keeper in charge of maintaining a healthy sloth population in the U.S., decides when baby sloths in captivity that have naturally become independent from their mothers are ready to go on exhibit at another zoo. She said 31 zoos are currently on a waitlist for a sloth, approximately double the typical demand, but she only has 14 available. There are more than 200 sloths in American zoos and aquariums.
Ms. Yakubinis has a message for the zoos that have been on the waitlist for years: “I greatly appreciate their patience.”
By Nicole Hong WSJ