Gamebook store

Friday, 25 March 2022

Pollution by association

So today I thought I’d have a go at defending J K Rowling…

Only kidding. I’ve already got morons on forums yapping that I’m a Nazi. Next thing they’d be saying I’m a Muggle sympathizer.

(For the record, if you want to insult me, take your pick from: socialist, humanist, agnostic, internationalist. Old-style leftie, obviously, not one of these new ones that hate freedom of speech. I guess Remoaner is a bit out of date, but still available if you prefer old-school slurs. Theresa May called me "a citizen of nowhere", but that's more of a badge of honour than an effective insult. Still, facts don't matter to the sort of people who bandy these accusations around.)

Recently I read The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin. I didn’t like it much (review here) but the opening couple of chapters, set at the height of the Cultural Revolution, should be required reading for everybody who is going to be allowed to wield a keyboard online. I know that some people hate having to, you know, actually pay for books, so here's that bit free courtesy of the publisher.

Only a few years ago, we might have imagined in the West that we’d abandoned blasphemy thinking for Enlightenment values. Well, that light’s flickering. You know how denunciation works – fail to condemn and, bang, you’re guilty too. And if you’re interested in that (you should be; we desperately need to vaccinate our minds against it) the book you should definitely read is Darkness At Noon. Or, failing that, at least watch that TNG episode with the lights.

Comments are back, but after yesterday got as shouty as Yale Law School let's try to revert to the more sedately ivied ambiance of St Aldred's common room. (I guess you can add "elitist" to that insult list.)


  1. I appreciate your take, Dave - and particularly the fact that you're willing to engage civilly with the comments on the other post. It's a stance few people take these days.

    I can say nothing valid about Prof Barker, as I never knew the man, have never spoken directly to anyone who knew him and anything I know about the Serpent's Walk is based purely on (recent) hearsay. And I don't propose to read it.

    Just reading the synopsis he gave in the letter you cite was enough to make me feel queasy. The most charitable interpretation is that he was blase - but I can't help feeling that actually getting it published turns him into a useful idiot for Neo-Nazis at best.

    1. You've hit the nail on the head, Raymond. I think he fooled himself into thinking he was outsmarting them, but in fact he was most definitely a useful idiot in their service.

      Of course, back in the early '90s nobody ever imagined the Nazis would really come back as a serious threat. Hence stuff like The Boys From Brazil, which could afford to treat them like sci-fi villains. Barker's novel (which I'm not going to read either) may have been more prophetic than he thought.

      I should have been a bit more civil, but the tone of some was provoking and I'm not in the best of tempers this week as I'm suffering from covid. Normal service will be restored as soon as my immune system remembers to do its job..!

  2. In terms of fictional Cultural Revolution, I'd strongly recommend Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien. I knew a little about 20th C China before reading, but Thien's book brought the human tragedy of the revolutions so vividly to life. It spans many aspects of recent Chinese history, and affected me more than anything else I've read in years.

    I don't comment often enough on your excellent blog Mr Morris, but yours is one of the few I rush to read when the old feed reader pings. Thank you.

    1. Thank you for those kind words! I'll take a look at Ms Thien's book (just ordered it) as I'm very familiar with literature of '30s Germany (Isherwood, Keun, etc) and the equally monstrous crimes of the Khmer Rouge, but I'm sketchier on the details of the Cultural Revolution. As you say, it's the individual human tragedies that are so harrowing. Any political force that decides that people's lives, happiness and freedom of thought are theirs to crush and control needs to be opposed -- and somehow understood, because that bullying mob mentality and murderous tribalism is something sadly intrinsic to human beings, or some of them at least, and it's way past time we found a way to guard against its continual re-emergence.

  3. I know nothing of Tekumal/MAR Barker, other than briefly considering buying some gamebooks quite a few years back, if Dave's a Nazi, my name's Keith The Hamster.

    1. Thanks, Keith... er, I mean Andy. I think if any of these forum heroes actually wanted to know my politics, they really wouldn't have to look very deeply in my books. Too bad for authors that we don't get royalties for all the people who hate us without knowing anything about us.

    2. The people who hate you for your perceived politics should at least have the decency to buy your books so they can tear them apart, both metaphorically and literally. Then you could get the royalties for them.

    3. I wish they would, because if they read my books they might discover what my actual politics are! Instead, one guy said he was going to buy a Fabled Lands book but now wouldn't. As I said in this post, I don't mind being insulted, but at least they could insult me for my actual political views instead of made-up ones.

  4. I was reminded of the recent occasion when the UK's esteemed* prime minister attacked the leader of the opposition, claiming that he had protected Jimmy Saville. This demonstrated your point about how widely the perception has returned that this sort of abuse is acceptable. And of course, it encourages its continuance.

    I assume the J K Rowling mention at the top was a reference to Putin's bizarre claim that Western cultural sanctions on Russia were just like woke people 'cancelling' Rowling. Like there's no difference between expressing an opinion on the trans issue, and ordering a brutal invasion of a neighbouring country (and then sending people to prison for 15 years if they call it an invasion).

    One might have hoped that this stark comparison between 'someone expressing an opinion' and 'someone being responsible for the deaths of many thousands of people' would bring some sense of proportion to those who feel their time is well-spent accusing a dead man of being a Nazi, and then persecuting anyone who expresses doubt about the accusation.

    *sarcasm, natch.

    1. Actually, Putin hadn't endorsed JK at the point I wrote that; I just reached for her as a public figure who seems guaranteed to whip up hysteria among the forum chimps. Given the horrendous real-life violence happening right now in Ukraine, maybe the coddled keyboard warriors of the West will pause for thought, check their privilege, and get a little less extreme over simple differences of opinion. We should be able to debate points like this without resorting to the kind of smear tactics that the Nazis themselves loved.

    2. I think there’s a lot of “pointless moral posturing” and “virtue signalling” going on from the “woke” people raging and cancelling in righteous fury.

    3. I'm not well disposed to accept a ticking-off from the Red Guards who have come and told me that my lack of certainty is all down to me being a Nazi sympathizer too. Those people really are just hysterically virtue-signalling. (Btw I’m not referring to any of the comments you can see here when I say that. Both posts received much more offensive comments that I just chucked in the bin.)

      Others who under various pseudonyms have told me I'm just being contrarian, old or stubborn -- well, I do at least admire their robust hostility to anti-Semitism, so I don't think they are virtue-signalling, but they should try not to get angry with people simply for not agreeing with them on a matter of opinion.

  5. Hi Dave. You mentioned you had COVID this week so wanted to hopefully add some cheer to your day with the following story. My apologies in advance if I go on too long but I guess you’re well used to it after the week you’ve had.

    In 1982 when I was 8 years old, our rather eccentric Headmistress at my tiny village school changed my life. She was a true maverick who did as she pleased, coming up with the full year’s curriculum as she went along which consisted of art, art, art, books and a bit more art. Even for 40 years ago it was quite unusual - I once spent 8 months trying to make a pair of medieval bellows, I kid you not. And I never even finished them.

    Anyway, one afternoon, completely out of the blue (on obviously a book day) she spent about 15 mins reading aloud from a brand new book called The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, asking the class to make the decisions. It had just come out in the shops and those 15mins blew my tiny mind.

    A couple of years later, at the age of 10 years old, I was playing D&D almost every day with my brother and older friends and then in 1985 the game changer happened. I can remember seeing the first Dragon Warriors book and I was entranced. I got all six as soon as they came out (I seem to remember 1-3 came out together(?) as I recall waiting for Out of The Shadows and it seemed to take an age but I could be wrong).

    I was so blown away that I decided to start a Dragon Warriors Fan Club with my best friend. He didn’t roleplay at all so obviously never played DW but for some strange reason he wanted in. Even stranger I let him in. A choice I would later regret.

    Around '85/86 I wrote to you telling you how much I loved the books and that I wanted to start a Dragon Warriors fan club. I never expected a reply. However, I was very much mistaken. You were unbelievably kind and generous with your replies, taking time to write back and telling us the latest news and little scoops we could add to the fan newsletter. I remember that despite our young age you were never patronising and always really enthusiastic. I mean this was when I was around 11-12 years old and I was corresponding with my favourite RPG creator and he’s thinks it’s a GOOD IDEA. I just couldn't believe it.

    Unfortunately, artistic differences and a fistfight between myself and best friend (which actually severed our childhood friendship permanently) meant the club folded way too prematurely. I kept all the letters and bits you sent me, they were beyond value to me, priceless... and then whilst moving house around 15 years ago they were somehow lost in transit which I’m still trying to come to terms with. Like the legendary lost Wicker Man footage, I am desperately still hoping the letters will turn up again, in an aunt’s loft or something. It's the hope that kills us.

    Anyway, after all that waffle I just wanted to say thank you. Thank you for your time and energy back in 1985/86 when I was a kid and also for your fantastic canon of work which I enjoy all of. Your work has inspired me no end and given me countless hours of enjoyment around the table with friends.

    When I got back in to roleplaying (remote rpg’ing felt quite appealing during lockdown) after a hiatus of nearly 20 years the first thing I reached for was Dragon Warriors (the second was to back Jewelspider of course).

    Having obviously bought all the reprinted Dragon Warriors stuff... I still found myself picking up the battered old paperbacks, all first editions and all dogeared and with broken spines. I think I've certainly got my money's worth out of them and continue to do so.

    ps by the way the Fan Club was called 'Tains' as it was an amalgamation of my friend's and my surname. A truly terrible name and as my last name ends in IN I even got second bloody billing!

    pps I have never played Tekumal ;-)

    1. That does cheer me -- thanks. And after a week of this bloody covid, plus getting smeared as a Nazi, I was in need of a lift! Your headmistress sounds like the kind of teacher we all need in our lives. It was a pleasure to hear from DW players, and it reminds me of the nice letters I used to get from SF authors and publishers like Don Wollheim and Gerald W Page when I was about 12. I guess they were also guided and inspired by authors who wrote to them when they were kids, so the lesson is as Alan Bennett says: "Take it, feel it, and pass it on."

    2. What a great tale of childhood. The joy you've gotten from Dave's stuff is heart-warming.

  6. I went back and read your other post to see what all the fuss was about. It's clear that many people are making judgments based upon snap opinions or claims rather than facts.

    In my view many of the political problems stem from many people's inability to differentiate a fact from an opinion. I wish they taught this properly at school, as I was in my mid-20s working in engineering (having to present safety cases for nuclear submarines to external reviewers) before I properly realised the differences.

    A fact is verifiable, while an opinion has uncertainty. Because it is uncertain an opinion requires an argument and evidence to support its adoption. Hence the need for experts on complicated topics or things which are in the future.

    So the less uncertainty there is for an opinion the more likely it is to be valid. An opinion without argument or evidence is just faith (cf religion).

    1. I agree that basic reasoning really needs to be taught in schools. It’s vitally important for a functioning democracy, yet many people are completely clueless about it.

      I take the view that somebody is innocent until proven guilty, but there are two problems here. First, people are terrified not to immediately be heard denouncing somebody who is accused of being a Nazi. If they say something like, "I'll denounce his views if he really was a Nazi, but can we just get all the facts first?" then the risk is that other people will denounce them. Fear makes them join in the yelling, and that drowns out any hope of a sensible discussion. I’ve had personal experience of that; suddenly people are screaming that I must be a Nazi too. I don’t know if they understand that I could defend somebody from a *charge* of murder without condoning murder. It’s really hard to tell on what level (if at all) their reasoning works. They act more like a religious mob.

      Second, because these people live on the internet, they have a very low bar for what constitutes evidence. Shared memes within echo chambers convince everyone that they are instant experts. One guy said, “They have done due diligence, that means it’s a fact.” No, that means somebody has told you they are researching the facts. You still have to be presented with them to draw your own conclusions.

      My opinion is that Barker was *probably* a fool who thought he was playing a clever hoax, but in fact only succeeded in trashing his reputation for all time. If more evidence ever shows up from the "due diligence" into his involvement with those Holocaust-deniers, I'd take a different view. Promoting denial of the Holocaust is definite and serious anti-Semitism, and for that I wouldn't forgive him. But we don't have that evidence; we only have his name on a list.

      I am certainly not 100% certain of my opinion, on this or anything else. Currently I'm about 80% on thinking that Barker was attempting a hoax, and 20% on thinking he might actually have been a Holocaust-denier. It’s the people who are absolutely certain that their opinions are absolute truth who we need to watch out for – a notable characteristic, ironically, of the Nazis themselves.

    2. At the risk of attracting the pitchfork brigade myself, I'll comment that I don't even think most of the Nazis were absolutely certain themselves. I suspect that a lot of what they 'believed' was believed out of expediency, a characteristic which we can see plenty of examples of in the modern world.

      So it's not so much that we should watch out for the people who are absolutely certain their views are true: we should watch out for those who insist that their views are true, and use various bad faith methods in order to corral others into agreeing with them

    3. H H Kirst said after the War that if he'd actually read Mein Kampf he would never have become a Nazi -- which becomes a story point in his novel Party Games.

      I expect the majority of Nazis were going along with the mob. Kirst himself said, "One did not really know one was in a club of murderers" -- though I'm not sure how he could have overlooked the state persecution of Jews throughout the '30s. Like a lot of former Nazis, maybe he found it convenient to convince himself that he never knew what was going on.

      Of course, the whole point of those Nuremberg rallies was to blot out individual thought & reason and get everybody chanting the same mindless slogans. They didn't want anybody questioning the faith. Hitler would've loved social media.

  7. While I really appreciate your attempts at a more sensible and nuanced conversation (a Sysyhpus scale work in any day of the week), I wonder if the heated feelings of the last week is ready for it. Noble attempts at least. I think it would be quite easy to see where you stand, smearing attempts aside.

    Trying to stop people from running away wild eyed with "tar and feathers" is admirable. We do that a bit too easy online. I'm really grateful for the post of your from yesterday. It might be needed when feelings have cooled down a bit. Thanks.

    That being said, I'm not sure if I'm any happier imagining professor Barker as such an arrogant fool that he really did all that he did as some kind of prank. That paints the picture of someone so abysmally arrogant and clueless, and the same time insensible and stupid that it boggles the mind. Creating what he did, and fraternizing with that crowd is quite repulsive in itself. I would consider what he did as promoting denial of the Holocaust actually, regardless of what he thought he was doing.

    If it was a hoax, I find it an unimaginably disgusting one. Sadly I've heard enough that indicate that he could be a pretty awful person sometimes, so maybe that's what it is.

    I would be happiest if I never ever heard the name M.A.R. Barker again.

    1. I agree that he has tarnished his reputation forever. I will continue playing Tekumel, but my image of the kindly old Prof who used to write detailed answers to all my gaming questions is long gone. Some of his personal friends have described to me offline how manipulative and unpredictable he could be -- kind one minute, cruel the next. He's a rather sad and bitter looking figure now.

      Still, I'm glad I wrote the previous post because I don't think we should give in to mob justice ever. Some nutcases are now smearing me as a Nazi, and if others shut up from defending me in case they get accused -- well, that's exactly what lets the Nazis in. (Insert name of alternative thought-controlling bullying nationalist/racist/other ideology here.)

      But I can't defend him from being arrogant, thoughtless, insensible, etc, who pulled off a very disgusting hoax. He has ensured that he will forever be remembered as a Holocaust-denier, whether or not he was one. If he imagined it was all a fiendishly clever kind of joke, it certainly turned out to be at his expense.

    2. This isn't exactly devils advocate, but it connects with something I went through recently. There's a body of music which flirted with Nazi imagery. I don't mean obvious neo-Nazis like Skrewdriver; I'm talking about EBM stuff like Laibach, Front 242, SPK etc. Now back in the day I liked this music a lot. Went to a club in London (the Hard Club, would you believe) where it was played. Now there has been a lot of debate as to whether the bands who made this music were endorsing the ideology. Almost certainly, in most cases, they weren't. In many cases, they were distinctly anti-Nazi. But there are still some lingering zones of ambiguity. I was thinking about this recently, based on something I was writing for a music fanzine, and searching on the web I found Brian Duguid (yet another UK fanzine editor of the 80s who went into music publishing) had tackled the issue. And I found myself agreeing with him: there comes a point where 'flirting' with this stuff... is just stupid. You can maybe make a case for the Sex Pistols, but after that it starts getting very hard to defend on shock value, because it's been done so much. The Hard Club was full of people in Nazi regalia. Maybe they were ironic. Maybe they were performing detournement. I'm not going to take to Twitter to denounce them, but I now find myself sighing, and thinking that they were very, very stupid (I wasn't wearing Nazi gear myself, so I think I can drop one of the 'verys').

      Luckily, at my age I don't go clubbing so much, and EBM music functions best loud and at a club, so it's not much of a loss if I just give a pass to Laibach et al. But should I give up playing in Tekumel games (in a hypothetical universe in which it's possible for me to get a gaming group together)? As with your H P Lovecraft example, and maybe even more so, I don't think there is any reason to stop playing Tekumel. A novel, like a song (such as Morrissey's 'National Front Disco'), may have a clear ideological position, but I don't think Tekumel does, at least until it is interpreted by a ref and players. Running Tekumel doesn't mean you endorse slavery, or human sacrifice, or whatever, and surely only the most moronic of the current anti-Barkers would assert that he did.

      So while I feel that EBM is tainted by a foolish flirtation with Nazism, and I won't listen to any music by Morrissey after his first couple of albums, I think it is perfectly possible to continue playing in Tekumel. Unless of course you are the sort of person who has gone through your family history in detail and identified the full extent to which you have benefitted from slavery, and then gone and made reparations. Anyone who hasn't done that should just, as you reminded them earlier, remember Jesus's advice about throwing stones.

    3. Why not simply say "I'm sorry. I was incorrect and hasty and denied, in the face of evident proof, that someone I admired was secretly a horrible, horrible racist and neo-nazi. This was incorrect, and I have been further convinced by testimony of the man's friends that he was capable of deceitful and cruel actions while keeping this side of himself hidden from others. My apologies for speaking harshly of the many people who were hurt and insulted by my defense of him as an innocent man with a few errors in judgment who was being smeared by busy-body mob justice."

      Because at this point you've basically conceded the point bar 'maybe in his heart of hearts he was not actually a nazi, maybe a huge jerk who loved pretending to be one and palling around with them.' What is there left of your initial response to defend other than your own petulance and penny-ante 'well maybe the people who are mad at those who defend nazis for poor reasons are the REAL nazis, hmm!?' devil's-advocating?

      If you make a mistake, admit it. You were wrong about this man. He fooled you. Being incorrect, admitting it, and even admitting that the reasons you were incorrect weren't pure and noble will be far, far less harmful and humiliating to your reputation in the long run than doubling down on battles that you started by eagerly losing.

    4. In the late '70s it was even possible to go to gigs and run up against people wearing swastikas. They might have meant it as ironic, but it was always stupid and insensitive -- and when Prince Harry did it 30 years later. I've bought Laibach albums myself back in the day (oops, yet more proof that I'm really a Nazi) but, sure, I'll continue to play Tekumel regardless of whether Barker turns out to have been an anti-Semite, because it has no connection with what he got on with in his personal life.

    5. Sorry, comments are getting all out of order. That one was for Unknown (the latest of many Unknowns). This one is for Draarthros:

      I've already said in comments that if I see evidence of Barker's anti-Semitic views then I will concede I was wrong. Actually, I think the original post says exactly that. But what says much more, I think, is your comment that I need to admit my motivations are not "pure and noble". You don't allow for any possibility that anyone could disagree with you unless they are a knave, then? Of course, I'm not claiming to be noble. I'm just stating that I have not seen evidence that convinces me Barker was a Nazi. And I accept that the lack of that evidence doesn't mean it doesn't exist, just that nobody has come forward with it yet. Perhaps the Tekumel Foundation's promised "due diligence" will reveal it next week, in which case you'll get to see me revise my opinion. But if you think I'm ever going to say that the reason I insisted on reasonable doubt is because I'm some sort of secret racist myself, as if decency is somehow a terrible crime, and if you think I would lie just to protect my relationship in the eyes of people for whom I have very little respect -- not gonna happen.

    6. I'm put in mind of Siouxsie Sioux wearing a Swastika armband in the late 70s. For shock value, I assume, rather than commitment to any ideology.

      It feels like a different time though. I had a Nazi Stormtrooper and German Tank commander outfit for my Action Man. Nowadays, that seems really weird - I had toys of Nazis! I mean, I had SAS outfits, and American infantry, too. The Nazis were just the baddies - like Stormtroopers in Star Wars. It's weird even though I had grandparents who served in WW2, it seemed a long way away (not something they ever talked about). It felt like they were stock villains - 'Allo Allo, Indiana Jones. You could hate the Nazis because everyone agreed they were bad.

      Looking back, it all seems incredibly naive now - lax even. I feel really uncomfortable with it, especially now that Nationalist sentiment is on the rise and people who actually support it are causing real grief and attempting coups in the USA.

    7. The 'lack of that evidence' is the foundation devoted to hagiography of the man and his work said 'we went over this classic of american neo-nazi literature that american neo-nazis enjoy to this day and we can conclude it's evidently written by him, which substantiates us finding all the evidence in his papers that he personally wrote it' followed by 'also it seems readily verifiable that he was on the board of editors for a neo-nazi journal dedicated to holocaust denial for a decade.'
      There is no application of Occam's razor here that favours your arguments and coming in after all of this evidence was already presented to say 'well, he definitely wasn't a nazi!' and 'well I'm not convinced, we'll see what we know in a week' does not in any way shape or form make you seem reasonable, even-handed, or diligent. It makes you seem like a man arguing the sky is puce, which would generate less hostile response than arguing that a man you admired cannot be a neo-nazi, and would generate a LOT less of a hostile response than dragging the topic up one day later to grumble about how everyone who's mad at you for defending a dead neo-nazi is a busy-body know-it-all mob-justice hang-'em-all nazi themselves.

      Think on that. Your response to 'this man you liked was a neo-nazi, and there is substantial proof' was 'I don't believe this proof and you all sound like nazis.' If that doesn't explain why people have good reason to be angry with you, I don't know what would.

      For what it's worth though, you don't seem like 'some sort of secret racist' to me. A real secret racist, like Barker, can keep their opinions under wraps when in company they don't believe can be trusted, and only pops out of hiding post-mortem, if at all. It's much more likely you're a stubborn old fool who'd rather die on this hill of becoming 'Dave Morris, who called people who discovered a neo-nazi the real nazis' than admit poor judgment - in your prior assessment of Barker's character, in your denial of the evidence, or in your denunciation of the people who don't follow your opinion (who, AGAIN, you have been comparing to nazis themselves).
      And that is what I mean by your motives not being pure and noble. This is all about finding a way to salve your ego by being close-enough-to-correct about SOMETHING.

    8. To be clear: fighting Nazism is an admirable stance -- it's an abhorrent, brutal creed; none of us here support it. That doesn't mean you get to call everyone who disagrees with you a Nazi. But thank you, anyway, for saying I don't seem to be a secret racist! I am a stubborn old(ish) fool, but in this case I'm simply stating my honest opinion, not aiming to be contrarian.

    9. Replying to Ray (boy, these threads get confusing)... When I was growing up, all the British boys' comics had several war stories. They seemed obsessed with it, but also it seemed definitely a thing of the past. The Nazis seemed like an alien menace that had been trounced once and for all. We couldn't imagine them making a comeback -- although there were plenty of other equally nasty ideologies still around at the time. I suppose that's how come they made "Heil Honey, I'm Home" (! ). I never saw it but -- good lord, what were they thinking? And that was the same year Barker was touting his book around the legit UK publishers. A very different world from now, when a tyrant can invade a neighbouring sovereign state using Hitler's very own playbook and then accuse that state's government of harbouring Nazis.

  8. While I haven't even looked at the moronic inferno of the gaming forums today, I have been called by some friends who did. Sounds like an extremely toxic environment. But mostly it reminded me of this old account by Carol Blymire:

    'In office space near a client, a young woman was meeting with her boss. She was (by my estimation) in her late 20s. The boss (also a woman) was giving her feedback and reviewing edits she had made on something this young woman wrote.

    'They had been speaking in low tones, but their volume got louder toward the end of the conversation because the young woman was getting agitated about a particular edit. That particular edit was correcting the spelling of “hampster” to “hamster”. Apparently she had used the phrase “like spinning in a hamster wheel” in this draft (presumably) speech or or op-ed.

    'The young woman kept saying, “I don’t know why you corrected that because I spell it with the P in it.” The boss said (calmly), “But that’s not how the word is spelled. There is no P in hamster.”

    'Young woman: “But you don’t know that! I learned to spell it with a P in it so that’s how I spell it.” The boss (remaining very calm and professional), let’s go to and look it up together. (Mind you, this is a woman in her late 20s, not a 5th grader.)

    'The young woman insists she doesn’t need to look it up because it’s FINE to spell it with a P because that’s HOW SHE WANTED TO SPELL IT.'

  9. You obviously aren't a Nazi sympathiser, as anyone who knows anything about you at all knows. I've only seen that claim once in the wild, although I normally avoid the dumber parts of the Internet.

    That doesn't mean you're right however and it's generally a good principle to tackle the best arguments of your ideological opponents rather than the worst.

    Where I specifically disagree with you;

    Innocent until proven guilty - Not the general concept. But while IANAL, the legal burden of proof has already been met. The closest parallel is the Terrorism Act and its provisions for proscribed organisations. Barker has met section 12(1) and section 12(1A). I don't see the argument for requiring a higher burden of proof than the courts here.

    The level of evidence against Barker;

    You've suggested there isn't any, but Serpent's Tail and 12 years on the IHR's editorial advisory committee are in fact primary evidence. If you write off the evidence that exists, of course there isn't any left.

    You've pretty much said you'll only accept a signed statement from Barker about how supports the Nazi ideology. Again, that's way above the legal burden of proof; courts don't only convict on a confession.


    People that knew him (including Jeff Berry and yourself) didn't see any sign of it. I can certainly emphasise with the human instinct not to believe someone you knew and liked held abhorrent beliefs. But that very instinct leads to a partisan analysis. And a very common one; the stereotype is the mother who doesn't believe their "good boy" could have done the heinous crimes he's accused of. I'll also note that (to the best of my knowledge) Berry's statement was from before the IHR stuff came out and he's not said anything more recently. If I'm wrong on that, please correct.

    We also have the argument that younger Barker had said things that run counter to the later book. I accept that. I'm just not sure how "Barker changed" isn't an obvious explanation. Peter Hitchens is a conservative, not a Trotskyist.

    Final bit of evidence for the "hoax" theory is the letter that you've provided from Barker to a major publisher. Thank you for providing this; it's genuinely really useful to have another piece of primary evidence to sort this out. My problem is that it confirms some things - Barker mentioned this to people rather than keeping it a secret and he considered various publishers before it got published by National Vanguard. What it doesn't do (anywhere) is mention the words "hoax", "joke", "satire" or "thought experiment". So it can't support that theory.

    I'm going to ask why your burden of proof is so different here? Why is that theory acceptable without a statement from Barker himself? You've confirmed he mentioned this book to various people, yourself included. Why did he not at any point say it was a hoax work?

    To conclude this post and stop wasting your bandwith with essays, the problem you have is this.

    Those that think Barker held Nazi sympathies have the verifiable facts that he wrote a pro Nazi book, was published by Nazis and sat on a Holocaust denial journal's panel.

    Those that think it was a hoax have nothing but hearsay and speculation to go on.

    Those are not equal and my conclusion is reliant on what is out there in front of us, rather than trying to read Barker's mind.

    To repeat, I don't think you're a Nazi or sympathetic to Nazi ideology in any way. I think you can be something of a contrarian and that it's led you down an intellectual cul de sac in this particular case.

    1. Those are all very good points, and I certainly concede that it's possible Barker was a closet Nazi. I still think it's more likely that he was a "useful idiot", in Ray's phrase, but I'm not stating my opinion as an absolute fact.

      If we are constructing this as a legal case, the membership on that JoHR editorial advisory board is the point I would like to see clarified. At the moment *all* I know is that a name -- very likely him, but even that isn't sure -- is listed at the start of the '90s.

      I know two people who got listed on the editorial board of different magazines without their knowledge. (Just regular academic journals, not neo-Nazi ones!) I mentioned how I personally have been listed at Companies House as voting at board meetings that never even happened.

      So that's the due diligence I'm hoping to see from the Tekumel Foundation. They've had decades to look into this. Have they found how Barker's name came to be listed there? Did *he* know it was listed there? This could be very damning evidence, but nobody has seen it yet.

  10. Hi Dave, I understand that you don't want to jump to conclusions. But you also wrote that you have no intention of reading Serpent's Walk. I was still trying to work out my feelings on what I'd been hearing, so I went ahead and read the novel. I really recommend that you do so as well. Read Barker's own words, in the context of a work of fiction, and you may be able to come to a personal conclusion on the matter. I no longer have any doubts, personally.

    1. I'll confess, my lord baron, that just reading Barker's pitch to the UK publisher made my skin crawl a bit. I believe that no subject is off-limits in a novel, but Barker is no Nabokov -- hell, he's no Raymond Feist, even -- so I fully expect it is trashy, toxic and badly written too. I really wish he had never written the thing, or thrown it away when he failed to find a single legitimate publisher who wanted it. A glance at the reviews online indicate that it's a favourite among neo-Nazis, so I can certainly agree that Barker ended up giving them something that they have gleefully embraced as propaganda for their cause. Pretty horrifying and, despite what some people have thought, I'm not defending him, just stating that I still think it's more likely he did not personally have pro-Nazi views. We will probably never know for sure.

  11. Hi Dave ! On my Facebook account, I had to express myself about the new facts on Pr. Barker. Clearly, even if everything he's being reproached with is true, that doesn't turn him into a Nazi. For what I know, the world of Tékumel (which you made me discover, thanks !) has nothing to do with Nazism, it's even the opposite of the dreamt-of Reich of Nazis.
    However, don't forget that not all Antisemites and Revisionists are Nazis. In France, for example, we have a Jewish presidential candidate (Zemmour) who is obviously racist (even more than Le Pen !) and a Black "humorist" (Dieudonné) who made fun of the Holocaust in his shows.
    I don't agree with you considering "Serpent's Walk" as a hoax. A "hoax" is a fake which tries to show how ridiculous the opposing opinion is. For example, imagine if someone (Barker for example) would come up with "the missing chapter of Mein Kampf" where Hitler would write that "Real Aryans" should drink their urin... Of course, some Nazi weirdos might follow this new "commandment" and that would be a hoax. But that's not the case with a piece of fiction taking back some Antisemite arguments like "Zionists are dominating the world". Otherwise, "The Protocols of the Elders of the Zion", though we know it's fake, could be called a hoax too.
    Likewise, if the facts are true about this, Barker should have never sat on the board of the "Institute for Historical Review". Someone as cultured as Barker should have known about their real views and wouldn't have joined their ranks if he didn't share their opinions.
    I can tell you about myself : I have a lawyer's degree but, because I have a disability, no-one wants to hire me. However, two years ago and completely unexpectedly, I was contacted by a lawyer from another city, a very distinguished man who told me he was ready to hire me and that I may even got his law firm when he retires. What a good surprise ! However, after some research, I found this lawyer sits/sat on the board of one of the main Francophone website of "alternative news" whose director is a friend of the Hezbollah (sorry for giving the link : ) and who now endorse the view that Ukrainians are "Nazis" (of course, I'm still jobless).
    So, in all honesty, asserting that Barker didn't know what he did is hardly tenable. But that doesn't prevent anyone from enjoying Tékumel which has nothing to do with Nazism or Antisemitism.

    1. A well-reasoned argument as always -- thanks, Olivier. True, the point that actually matters to me is to salvage Tekumel from this mess, not defend Barker's reputation. If even his friends won't stick up for him (if indeed he had any friends) then it's not my job. I'm still not convinced he knew the harm he was doing, but we all agree he did do harm. Might as well draw a line under it there until the Tekumel Foundation is reveal the fruits of their due diligence into his Journal of Historical Review involvement. (Not sure if anyone has claimed he was also on the IHR board; maybe that will come out.)

      Sadly, I think this will forever taint Tekumel. If anyone mentions it in ten or twenty years' time, most people's first thought will be, "The thing that neo-Nazi guy wrote". Those forum wights are already combing through the Tekumel books picking out things they think are coded references to Nazism. I and my gaming buddies will continue to play our Tekumel campaign, but I expect we will much less often turn back to the books and ask, "What did the Professor say about this?" We'll detach it from his memory and carry it off in our own direction.

      Thanks also for the personal note, which is a very timely reminder that we need to be on guard these days against resurgent anti-Semitism. When Barker wrote his nasty/Nazi book, and Siouxsie Sioux wore a swastika armband, they probably thought it was just a bit risqué -- but now racism, totalitarianism, nationalism are all pouring out into the open again. It depresses the hell out of me, and I can see why younger people are so agitated about it. It's their future that is at threat.

  12. There's also a DS9 episode "The Darkness and the Light" where Kira and her friends are being hunted down by a Cardiassian because she killed innocent Cardiassians during the occupation. Her argument that the Cardassians who folded shirts on Bajor were just as guilty as the Cardassians actually perpetrating the war crimes is supposed to show how far the whole guilt by association thing can go. I guess if you look into enough degrees of someone's circle, you'll find someone that has extreme opinions. Never mind that the person may not have shared them, talked about them or even known that the other person had them - for all I know, my dentist could be a Nazi (I very much doubt it - she's lovely and doesn't judge which is my favourite quality in a dentist), but I wouldn't know.

    On the other hand, I can get why guilt by association can be such a seductive thought process, especially with revelations about famous people getting away with various crimes for decades. People can end up ignoring and enabling these actions either because it profits them or because facing up to them would disrupt the social order. However, there is a line between people who actively cover these things up or turn a blind eye for their own benefit and people who did not know and would not have been able to know. We need to be vigilant for these things, but not go over the edge because that leads to witch hunts where, for example, the people who voted for Brexit because they genuinely thought there was an economic benefit from other trade deals or who just wanted to express frustration at a system that they perceived had ignored their problems get confused with nazis.

    Also, we should stop making evil synonymous with Nazism. There are lots of other philosophies out there allowing people to commit atrocities. I think that things like VE day and the fall of the Berlin wall made too many people think that the case was closed on those particular conflicts, where in actual fact, it is becoming all too clear that people who oppose democracy have just been biding their time and we didn't notice because they didn't have a moustache of a particular style. Maybe thats' why certain parties have got away with using chemical weapons on UK soil How about evaluating peoples' actions for what they are instead of jumping to labels? And how about focusing on the people committing real atrocities instead of some dead professor who wrote some stuff that came across as nazi?

    1. That's one of the best summaries I've seen of all this business so far. Thanks, Stuart. And as I don't think anyone can usefully add any more to the discussion after that, let's make it the last word and close comments now.