After Twitter exploded, the Times tapped national editor Marc Lacey to respond. (This time last year Liz Spayd would have replied as the Times’ Public Editor, but the paper eliminated her position this summer, replacing it with a more amorphous Reader Center.) “The point of the story was not to normalize anything,” Lacey writes, “but to describe the degree to which hate and extremism have become far more normal in American life than many of us want to think.” Read more…
At Catapult, Black UVA alum Taylor Harris writes about explaining the racist violence on the Charlottesville campus to her six-year-old daughter, who hadn’t yet personally encountered racism or ever learned about racist violence.
Only a day before the “Unite the Right” protest that led to white supremacists beating Dre Harris and killing Heather Heyer, her daughter and husband had been right there, buying ice cream. Harris wrestles with informing her daughter, because she doesn’t want to rob her of her innocence.
We’ve talked about her beautiful brown skin and thick, curly hair, and she has a sense for why Rosa sat and Dr. King died. But we’ve never discussed anything this present, this evil, this close to home.
Did I tell you she calls this city beautiful? She, gorgeous with her huge brown eyes and tight curls. She is proud that her daddy teaches at the university, the one she has no idea was built by her people. We don’t start there, though. We start with that day and what happened on 4th Street on the downtown mall and why those white people were rallying in her hometown in the first place. We use the word racism.
And what happens next isn’t fair. What happens is that burden folds itself over her shoulders, a mantle I don’t want her to carry, and she says:
“Uh oh. We’re black people.”
I cannot bring her back.
“Is this gonna happen every day in Charlottesville?” she asks.
Which part? I want to ask. The racism, the destruction of black neighborhoods, the hidden pockets of public housing among great wealth? Yes. But a racist rally and a car crash? No.
Here she is, learning norms, feeling her way through fear, wondering if she’s next. She’s 6, you know. Her school supply list still calls for blunt-tip scissors. I heard the terrorists hid weapons in bushes.
We have dinner plans that night, and as we get into the minivan, she murmurs, “I just can’t believe what happened in Charlottesville.” She still conjugates some of her verbs incorrectly, and this time I don’t fix it when she says, “Is Mimi white or brown? Would they have foughted Mimi?” She wants to know if her light-skinned grandmother would have been in harm’s way. Look at the world opening like a pop-up book before her.
In the week since white supremacists descended on Charlottesville with tiki torches blazing, tech companies have begun to eliminate website hosting or accounts run by neo-Nazis. The decision to kick people off the internet—a world many of us occupy in equal measure, if not more than we do the physical one around us—is not one taken lightly, and these companies have remained cautious until proven complicit.
The CEO of Cloudflare, Matthew Prince, explained in a public blog post why he chose to drop the Daily Stormer, a hate-mongering website that published openly racist, anti-Semitic, misogynist screeds, including a post about Heather Heyer. “Our terms of service reserve the right for us to terminate users of our network at our sole discretion,” writes Prince. “The tipping point for us making this decision was that the team behind Daily Stormer made the claim that we were secretly supporters of their ideology.” (ProPublica skewered Cloudfare earlier this year for providing the Daily Stormer with information about people who criticized or complained about the website’s explicitly offensive content.)
Cloudflare is not alone in abandoning Nazi clients. As Adrienne Jeffries reported at The Outline, in the last few days Squarespace has dropped an array of so-called “alt-right” sites, including the think tank of neo-Nazi poster boy Richard Spencer. On Tuesday, Sean Captain at Fast Company noticed that publishing platform WordPress.com (the parent company of Longreads) is no longer hosting the website for the ultra-nationalist organization Vanguard America. (The man who drove the car that killed Heyer and injured 19 other people was allegedly a Vanguard America member, though the organization has tried to disown him.) Read more…
Kevin Wheatcroft, a man in Leicestershire, England, has amassed the world’s largest collection of Nazi memorabilia, estimated at a value of £100m. In this story from the archives of the Guardian, Alex Preston tours Wheatcroft’s private collection, which includes weapons and uniforms, paintings and photographs, Hitler’s furniture, 88 military tanks, and even the door to Hitler’s cell in Landsberg, where he wrote Mein Kampf.
On the way home I read Wheatcroft’s father’s autobiography and then stared out of the train window, feeling the events of the day working themselves upon me. The strange thing was not the weirdness of it all, but the normality. I really don’t believe that Wheatcroft is anything other than what he seems — a fanatical collector. I had expected a closet Nazi, a wild-eyed goosestepper, and instead I had met a man wrestling with a hobby that had become an obsession and was now a millstone. Collecting was like a disease for him, the prospect of completion tantalisingly near but always just out of reach. If he was mad, it wasn’t the madness of the fulminating antisemite, rather the mania of the collector.
Many would question whether artefacts such as those in the Wheatcroft Collection ought to be preserved at all, let alone exhibited in public. Should we really be queueing up to marvel at these emblems of what Primo Levi called the Nazis’ “histrionic arts”? It is, perhaps, the very darkness of these objects, their proximity to real evil, that attracts collectors (and that keeps novelists and filmmakers returning to the years 1939-45 for material). In the conflicting narratives and counter-narratives of history, there is something satisfyingly simple about the evil of the Nazis, the schoolboy Manichaeism of the second world war. Later, Wheatcroft would tell me that his earliest memory was of lining up Tonka tanks on his bedroom floor, watching the ranks of Shermans and Panzers and Crusaders facing off against each other, a childish battle of good and evil.
Patrick Leigh Fermor | Abducting a General: The Kreipe Operation in Crete | New York Review Books | November 2015 | 31 minutes (8,432 words)
Below is an excerpt from Abducting a General, Patrick Leigh Fermor’s recently published memoir of a remarkable military operation in Crete: the kidnapping of a Nazi general. It was the only such kidnapping to have been successfully undertaken by the Allies. During his lifetime Leigh Fermor was Britain’s greatest travel writer, best known for A Time of Gifts. As recommended by Longreads contributing editor Dana Snitzky. Read more…
Sarah Helm | Ravensbrück: Life and Death in Hitler’s Concentration Camp for Women | Nan A. Talese | March 2015 | 48 minutes (13,071 words)
During World War II Hemingway organized a private spy network, which he jokingly called the Crook Factory, and gathered information about Nazi sympathizers on the island. But in a secret, 124-page report on Hemingway, the FBI—which feared his personal prestige and political power—expressed resentment at his amateur but alarming intrusion into their territory, and unsuccessfully attempted to control and vilify him.
In October 1942 the local FBI agent told J. Edgar Hoover that the American ambassador had granted Hemingway’s request “to patrol certain areas where German submarine activity has been reported” and had given him scarce gasoline for this purpose. Hemingway thought that his boat, the Pilar, fully manned and heavily armed but disguised for fishing, would attract the attention of a German submarine. The sub would signal the Pilar to come alongside in order to requisition supplies of fresh water and food. As the sub approached, Hemingway’s men would machine-gun the crew on deck while a Spanish jai alai player would throw a small bomb into the conning tower. Fortunately, for both Hemingway and the Germans, he never actually encountered an enemy submarine.
—Jeffrey Meyers, writing in Commonweal about Ernest Hemingway’s long involvement with Cuba, where Hemingway lived for twenty years.
They were fleeting and unlikely collaborators, for lack of a better word. He was a son of Jewish Hollywood royalty, she a Nazi fellow traveler and propagandist, though they had a few things in common, too: both were talented filmmakers, both produced enduring work, and both would spend the second halves of their lives explaining or denying past moral compromises. Which isn’t to say the debits on their ledgers were equal—far from it. Read more…