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Thursday, 24 March 2022

Was Professor M A R Barker a Nazi?


No, of course he wasn't a Nazi. But if you were unlucky enough to get caught in the stampede of denunciation this week you might have got that impression. For example, there was this statement by the Tekumel Foundation:

“What Professor Barker did was wrong and forever tarnished his creative and academic legacy. As stewards of the world of Tekumel, we reject and repudiate Serpent’s Walk and everything it stands for and all other anti-Semitic activity Professor Barker was involved with.”

Or have a look at this. Suddenly he's as friendless as Kevin Spacey.

I’m a bit less ready to cast the first stone. Others must make up their own minds, and I respect the Tekumel Foundation people and others for  stating what they believe, but I am far from convinced by the closet Nazi theory. This novel wasn't a dark secret kept hidden from public view. Professor Barker openly mentioned Serpent’s Walk to me and others in his correspondence in the 1980s. He was touting it around publishers (legitimate ones at that time, not the toxic publishers who came later) and I have seen the following letter that he sent about it to a major British publisher at the time:

“I do have a novel that is unsold and unwanted by anybody. This is what I call my ‘Nazi novel’. I did not show it to the Wollheims both because they don't do this sort of book and also because they are Jewish and would be terribly offended -- and they are nice people. I started out to write a ‘near-future’ thriller: young mercenary is hired to steal cannisters of germ warfare from an American stockpile in the 2040 A.D. period. This is used by a fearful Israeli government and various cronies to destroy the Soviet Union; the Soviets get in a retaliatory strike with germ warfare of their own, however, and take out many US, British, etc. cities. Out in India, where the young mercenary is employed, the descendants of the Nazi SS and other ‘refugees’ are quietly biding their time, building up economic resources for a come-back. With the presidency and vice-presidency of the United States open after the deaths of their incumbents, the Secretary of State takes over -- an old, reconstructed racist. He invites the Nazi movement to help in running the US. The mercenary hero, who is not a Nazi, is an employee of the Indian chemical company ‘front’ for the Nazis and gets into the situation as a sort of military expert for them. The Nazis manage to gain access to a giant computer with independent ideas, and they use this machine to rewrite Mein Kampf using every sales pitch and advertising trick in the book. The hero initially loves and marries an Indian girl, but later falls for a Nazi girl who is helping with publicity. The plot thickens, and various major events occur. The book ends with the Nazis taking over much of Western civilisation, and with our hero being chosen ‘Second FĂĽhrer’ and riding into the stadium to the ‘Sieg Heils!’ of the masses.

“The only people I can imagine enjoying this book would be skinheads and Sir Oswald Mosley. It would probably create as much fuss as Rushdie's Satanic Verses, and could not be published under my own name. Both the author and the publisher would become the target of many rude remarks, letter-bombs, hand grenades, and visits from Mossad. I mentioned this book just to show you that I am not completely dead -- yet. Still alive and working. I don't expect you to want to publish it. Nobody will. I cannot even sell it to the Neo-Nazi presses here; they would not accept the idea of an Indian girl marrying the hero.”

(Just to be clear, because a lot of people have not understood: that's a short extract from a longer letter that Barker sent to a British publisher with whom I put him in touch to talk about Tekumel novels. SS-GB had come out ten years earlier and Fatherland, another alt-history about Nazi victory, was only a few years away, so maybe he thought the British were obsessed with the War or something.)

So what is going on here? Some people have discovered that Barker’s father, Loris, was a fascist and they have gleefully concluded that means the Professor was as well. But Jeff Berry has pointed out that the Professor didn’t have a good relationship with his father and abhorred his views:

“It's my perception – aided by my reading through Phil's letter files, after he passed away – that Phil was playing one of his involved pranks on Loris Barker, his associates and their descendants.”

So the conclusion that Prof Barker was a Nazi sympathiser is a bit dubious. He wrote an alt-history novel with a US Nazi main character, and got the notion of doing it as a literary hoax under a pseudonym. Sort of L Ron Hubbard style only with politics rather than religion. We don’t assume Philip K Dick was a Nazi because he wrote The Man in the High Castle (actually, some people probably do). We don’t imagine that Thomas Harris is a serial killer, that Nabokov was a paedophile, or that Timur Vermes thinks Hitler was a good guy. Authors create characters – even the voice of the author is a character specific to the story they are telling. When they use a pseudonym, they’re signalling that even more strongly. Barker went further. I think he was creating a spoof writer who he could sell as a real person, enjoying the notion that if actual neo-Nazis bought into it he could shock them by revealing his own personal circumstances (an American convert to Islam married to a non-white woman).

Some have discovered that Professor Barker may have been listed on the editorial advisory board of The Journal of Historical Review, a Holocaust-denying magazine. Denial of the Holocaust is a monstrous lie, and to promote Holocaust denial is clearly anti-Semitic. But we still need evidence that Barker denied the Holocaust. A screenshot of the contents page of one issue in the early '90s (when he was actively trying to sell the novel) lists a “Phillip Barker, Ph.D”. Was that the Professor? It might well have been, but let’s not conclude that he’s more evil than Sauron just yet. I was a consulting editor on White Dwarf in the ‘80s – that doesn’t mean I agreed with their editorial or commercial policies. More to the point, if “Phillip Barker” submitted a letter or article to back up the credentials of “Randolph D Calverhall” (the author of Serpent’s Walk) that’s very likely just part of the cover story supporting his literary hoax.

And why do that as “Phillip Barker”? The Professor was Phil to his friends, but used his Islamic name professionally. Given its politics and readership, The Journal of Historical Review would presumably not have had anything to do with “Muhammad Abd-al-Rahman Barker, Ph.D”. To infiltrate them he went in undercover.

I accept I could be wrong, and if shown definitive evidence I'll change my opinion. In particular, if I see any statement from Barker that he denied the existence of the Holocaust then that destroys any possibility of a defence. Then guilt is clear. But to tar Barker as a Nazi, it's not enough to cite multiple pieces of "evidence" that all tie back to the novel, because if Serpent's Walk was indeed designed as a literary hoax then all of those collapse at the same time. To conclude that Prof Barker was anti-Semitic, we need separate and incontrovertible facts. For example, he ran roleplaying games twice a week for several decades. In all that time did he ever express anti-Semitic views to his players? Obviously not; they had no inkling of it. Other than Dave Arneson and a few others, Jeff Berry probably knew him better than any of his other gamers and is thus a reliable character witness. Mr Berry doesn't think it likely that Barker secretly harboured such views. Our only "evidence" is a novel, for which Mr Berry gives a credible explanation. As Barker deplored his father's political views, and his father was a fascist and anti-Semite, isn't the balance of probability that Barker was opposed to racism and fascism rather than the reverse?

None of this has anything to do with Tekumel, incidentally. Only an infantile mind mixes up the art and the artist. Even if Barker had been pro-Nazi, it would not have the slightest bearing on games played in the world of Tekumel. But I really don’t think he was pro-Nazi. It’s just one of those firestorms of public outrage that the internet loves. My own impression from over a decade of correspondence was that his politics were, if anything, progressive rather than right-wing. For example, does this sound like the statement of a white supremacist?

"The lack of interest in South Asia and the Middle East here [in the US] is astounding. We [ie his university department] cover a third of the human race, yet the Regents voted to close us down."

That’s just one of dozens of comments in letters over the years that expressed his delight in human diversity. If the Professor was a Nazi, he certainly hid it well. And remember:

Honi soit qui mal y pense.

63 comments:

  1. I think you're trying to defend someone you respected, someone you looked up to.

    And this is indefensible. Sorry dude, but this over.

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    1. I understand that it's over for you. I have a different opinion, based on my long correspondence with Prof Barker and the testimony of people like Jeff Berry.

      If new facts came to light that I found convincing then I'd add an addendum to this post, but even then I'll leave the rest of it because, when somebody is accused of something like this and cannot defend themselves, I'd always rather be the person who gave them the benefit of the doubt than the one who rushes to think the worst.

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    2. I think you probably ought to read what Dave wrote, this time with your reading comprehension spectacles on. Dude.

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  2. That synopsis doesn't sound as if he actually likes or enjoys the prospect of the world he created, although he must have enjoyed some aspects of the story in order to write it. This baffles me too: I don't actually condone robbery and beer-drinking on experimental steam motorcycles, but there are aspects of such a thing that I enjoy exploring and thinking about.

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    1. That's true of many creative arts. If I write a murderer or a dictator or a racist character, I need to get inside their heads. What they do is part of what humans do. That's a reason why I like roleplaying -- I often play characters who are very unlike me, and could very well play a Hitler or Crippen or Putin without actually letting those ideas trickle over into my real-life persona. Actors have to do it all the time. You can't play a convincing Richard III or whoever if you don't find those feelings and attitudes inside. Grown-ups find this process cathartic. But the internet is full of fanatics and children.

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  3. End if the day people are too quick to jump on the blame band wagon if they get even a whiff of bad behaviour from a well respected person, be they actor, writer or whatever. As you've said yourself you see it in a different light and youve got good evidence and a good understanding of why they might not need what others claim they are. Good for you Dave đź‘Ť

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    1. Thanks, Ian. And it's also not easy to refute those willing to condemn Prof Barker as a Nazi sympathiser because nobody has actually uncovered a single statement by him that expressed any anti-Semitic or pro-Nazi sentiment. He's actually being accused of having very secret thoughts that he never revealed to anyone who knew him -- the very epitome of thought crime.

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    2. Thought crime is publishing neo-nazi propaganda through a neo-nazi publisher for money, gotcha.

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    3. Go read the novel on archive.org and come back here and pretend it isn't pro-Nazi

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    4. MS: Read again what I said. The epitome of thought crime is being accused of harbouring secret thoughts that he never expressed.

      Gerald: Don't read Lolita, it'll make your head explode.

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    5. He literally expressed them professionally, as in, for money.

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    6. You still haven't read the post, have you?

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  4. He sold the book to National Vanguard. Even if it was some impish and whimsical jape on Barker's part, he accepted money for it from the publishers of The Turner Diaries, the most despicable book ever written.

    Even if he wasn't a Nazi, he had no problem taking money from Nazis to sell his book to Nazis, who specifically have to buy it from Nazis because National Vanguard books aren't sold in non-Nazi bookstores.

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    1. No clue as to the actual truth of the core situation, but honestly getting Nazis to give you money for a spoof novel, particularly when you know that Nazis are about the only people who’ll ever see or buy the book, would be an awesome way to scam the bastards.

      Again, at this point no way I can judge if that’s what Barker was actually doing.

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  5. Calling publishing a piece of neo-nazi propaganda through a neo-nazi press is "the very epitome of thought crime"?

    Read that reply back and realise how insane it sounds.

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    1. MS: You've got stuck on repeat. Go back and read what I actually wrote, rather than your rewritten version of it.

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  6. Gross. You're defending a White Supremacist who spent years on the board of a Holocaust Denial group.

    This is JUST what's come out so far. In a few weeks/months, your pathetic defense will look even worse. Stop worrying about liberals for a second and THINK. This is who you want to be associated with?

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    1. As I explained (I realize the post is too long for you to have actually read) I am not defending a white supremacist; I am giving my reasons for thinking he was not a white supremacist. But do please come back when you have any more evidence other than your own unshakable conviction.

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  7. As has been said, if you're at an event and one Nazi flag is flown and it isn't ripped down instantly - you're at a Nazi event. You can't defend the indefensible. He's done - and rightfully so.

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    1. Let's see if I can explain this in really simple terms. Suppose I defend somebody from the charge of murdering a child. Somebody says, "Don't you think that murder of children is indefensible? So you're defending the indefensible!" In short: go and study logic.

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  8. As has been said, if you're at an event and one Nazi flag is flown and it isn't ripped down instantly - you're at a Nazi event. You can't defend the indefensible. He's done - and rightfully so.

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    1. I heard you the first time. Do all you people think you have to comment twice, or is it just one would-be Robespierre with a set of internet IDs?

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  9. I don't think he's "more evil than Sauron", but I do think that minimising the impact of far right propaganda is evil in its most banal sense.

    Had it been just a "whoops badly-realised pastiche", that might not have been an issue for me. The fact it was actively suppressed by the TĂ©kumel society leads me to want a more precise statement against this from the MARB estate itself.

    Plausible deniability and "Mr Owl has never eaten me" are very much Nazi tactics. Paul Mason's recent *How to Stop Fascism* sets this out quite precisely.

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    1. I can't speak for the Tekumel Foundation, but so I don't know if they actively suppressed it. Certainly they knew about it because I mentioned it in a tweet several years ago. And anyway, who gives a damn what the MARB estate has to say about it? That's his wife btw, and I imagine her statement would be: "Phil wasn't a Nazi."

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    2. I hope that is the case, precisely if it is backed up with "here's a short extract from his diary that shows how amusing he found it to take neo-Nazi cash". Until that is the case, the ineptitude of his alleged satire will have to stand for itself.

      I don't think you are a far-right apologist here Dave. That you've personally corresponded with him understandably intensifies your emotions with these allegations, but I'm not sure that "Nabokov might have been a nonce" is enough of a justification for the novel's contents.

      (From a personal reader capacity perspective, I've a first in English literature from Southampton, with my best essay being on Ulysses, so I hope that's far enough from SF schlock.)

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    3. Ah, now we're onto a different and interesting point, Sean. Do I think his satire was inept? Yes. It seems like a pretty sick joke, badly executed, with no sensitivity and bags of the intellectual arrogance for which Barker was infamous. Jeff Berry talks about these very points in his own post.

      Still, I don't think any novel has to justify its contents. It might be a terrible book. (Barker wrote it, so I expect it's unreadably bad.) But thank you for sticking your neck out and saying I'm not a far-right apologist, at least!

      As for college degrees, I can't comment -- I have "a good degree" in Physics myself, but I was corrected on several points by some actual astrophysicists just this weekend.

      Anyway, enough of that. What I really want to ask is: Ulysses. Any good? Or not?

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    4. Is Jeff's post available publicly? Currently it's walled behind data acquisition.

      I don't think the novel needs to justify its contents. But if its contents amount to "ethnostates are good", then I certainly feel its author (or reasonably their estate) should point out that it's satire if the satire doesn't read as satire.

      re: Ulysses -- yeah it's worth the effort, unless you're not a fan of self-referential postmodernism

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    5. That "unless" is doing a lot of work, Sean... I suppose I will have to read it eventually, though. I will certainly read it long before I ever get to Serpent's Walk.

      Re Mr Berry's article -- it's long, and you'll have to register to read it all, but some key extracts:

      "1) Phil's dad, Loris Barker, was a very big name in the German-American Bund in the late thirties, and had connections to the Silvershirts / Loyalty League organization. Phil did not have a good relationship with his father, and was very dismissive of him, his activities, and his beliefs. Phil's college notebooks, which I have photos of, are full of satirical references to his father and the organizations he belonged to.

      "2) Phil was a devoted prankster and hoaxer. He loved to demonstrate that he was smarter and more clever then any of the people around him, and then laugh at them when they didn;t get his jokes. An example of this is "Ebon Bindings", which he wrote after being told that he knew nothing about the esoteric and occult by three of his early gamers - these were all active in the then-infant occult scene in the Twin Cities, back in the middle 1970s. See also the history of Llewellen Publishing and the Bonewitz brothers, Ike and Doc. EB is the result of Phil going into his collection of medieval South Asian manuscripts, filing off the serial numbers, and publishing the thing. He was delighted when I told him that a congregation in Illinois had burned a copy of the book, thinking it was a real grimoire, as it meant that he'd hoodwinked the gullible.

      "3) Phil had a nasty habit of liking to push people's buttons and rattle their chains. Once he found what he thought was a weakness in somebody's personality, he'd play on that to influence and control that person. It is, Dave Arneson told me, one of the reasons why Dave lost interest in being Phil's publisher; Dave nominated Phil for Mike Stackpole's GAMA "Hall of Shame", and Phil got the award for "Most Difficult Author In the Game Industry" at an Origins in Detroit; I still have the 'Ralphie', the statuette that Phil got, as I had to get up and give the acceptance speech.

      "4) It is my position that "Serpent's Walk" has nothing to do with Phil's Tekumel; it is irrelevant to Tekumel, and to Tekumel's creation and development. It does shed a lot of light on Phil's sense of humor and how he dealt with people; he *knew* he was smarter and more clever then anyone else, and it's my perception - aided by my reading through Phil's letter files, after he passed away - that Phil was playing one of his involved pranks on Loris, his associates and their descendants. It also backfired on Phil very badly, as somebody in his inner circle of the time mentioned it in local fandom and Phil was 'outed' on the website of a local author."

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    6. It is a big "unless"!

      Thanks for sharing the extracts from Jeff's commentary. If he quotes the specific parts that means he's confident Serpent's Walk is a joke, I'd love to read those too.

      Otherwise "I [Jeff] think it was a joke that's landed badly and Phil never made amends for" isn't enough for me to dismiss its negative impact.

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    7. Jeff probably could say a lot more, but since I'm already getting called a Nazi just because I'm sceptical about the interpretation of what happened, I reckon he's wise to keep quiet about it.

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  10. One thing I'm getting from all this is that a lot of gamers have an pre-adolescent understanding of literature. Go and read a hundred proper novels rather than Dragonlance and SF trash, then come back and see if you have a more enlightened viewpoint. (Don't feel you need to come back before then.)

    Oh, and read some logic books too; defending somebody from a charge of Nazism is very different from defending Nazism -- which I assure you I abhorred before any of you were even born.

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    1. Let's make it easy for people. let's compare & constrast these two conversations:

      Conversation 1:

      Alice: "I think Prof is a racist"
      Bob: "I fully endorse the Prof's views"
      Alice: "Bob, you are a racist too for agreeing with the Prof"

      Conversation 2:

      Alice: "I think Prof is a racist"
      Bob: "I disagree with you for this reason ..."
      Alice: "I think you are racist too for disagreeing with me because I have already made up my mind"

      So, what is the evidence both for and against the Prof actually being a racist? Yes, there is some pretty bad circumstantial stuff but also some pretty good evidence that he was trying to just pull the plonkers of the actual racists. That certainly wasn't a smart move (...effing idiotic if you ask me...) but is apparently consistent with his prior form.

      If there is evidence both ways, who are the judge and jury here? So far we seem to be having a trial by torch-and-pitchfork mob. In the absence of an actual judge & jury, feel free to decide for yourselves but if you don't look at all the evidence you are doing everyone a disservice

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    2. Could you explain the joke?

      1) perform valuable work for neo-nazis, furthering their cause

      2) uh

      3) huh.

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    3. Oh, I don't dispute that it was effing idiotic. But we all know that smart people, especially if they have academic-type smarts, often do the dumbest things.

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    4. MS:

      1) I didn't say it was funny. Presumably it amused Barker, but even Berry and Arneson said he could be a bit of an arse.

      2) and 3) Turning and turning in the widening gyre.

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  11. Dave, even if you don't think Barker was a Nazi, would you not agree that a) providing material to National Vanguard to sell (thereby helping them raise income) and b) serving for over a decade in a post attached to a holocaust denial journal amounts to collaboration? If Barker is more of a Quisling than a Hitler that doesn't exactly redeem him all that much.

    I found your point about White Dwarf to be particularly misguided. Sure, you may well have not agreed with their policies. But you presumably agreed that the subject matter of the magazine - tabletop RPGs and their promotion - was worthy of your time and support, yes?

    So if Barker put in a decade in a comparable role for the Journal of Historical Review, and if the JHR is to the promotion of Holocaust revisionism what White Dwarf was to the promotion of tabletop gaming (back in its glory days when you were involved), doesn't that say something about Barker's investment in the subject? (It is certainly a nigh-Andy Kaufman level of effort to go to in order to sell a joke.)

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    1. Fair point, Arthur. Barker wrote the book. He was presumably quite proud of it. He wanted it to be published, but he didn't want it under his own name because he didn't want to be personally associated with the sentiments. He approached a number of UK publishers (major ones, incidentally) and presumably US ones too. No go there, but he still didn't want it to languish in a drawer (authors are like that) and it probably gave him a kick to get money ($5000 in 1992, I'm told; useful on a academic's salary) from the sort of neo-Nazis his dad hung around with. Barker himself wasn't actually a Nazi, but the whole mob culture of the internet means that now a lot of dopes are programmed to start barking the moment anyone so much as accuses somebody of something like this. As I said in the post, I might be wrong, and if actual facts supporting Barker as an anti-Semite come to light I will accept that. But I'm still bloody glad I'm a Christian rather than a Pharisee about this kind of thing.

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    2. Is there any evidence that you would accept?

      Publishing neo-nazi propaganda through a neo-nazi publisher just leaves you utterly unable to divine his inner self. Over a decade on a journal of holocaust denial is basically doing your time for Mr G. Workshop in Nottingham.

      And he clearly wasn't a member of the actual German ruling party in the 30s or early 40s, if you want to ignore the neo-.

      So, since you're being so logical and reasonable and saying you'd accept evidence - what evidence would you accept?

      A hypothetical membership card is obviously part of the long con. The man's words would obviously not count either, as he'd be lying to maintain his cover.

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    3. I'll take literally any statement by Barker (as himself, not as a pseudonymous author) that expresses anti-Semitic or pro-Nazi views. At the moment we have the extraordinary picture of a guy who was allegedly a white supremacist but none of his friends, family or correspondents ever had the slightest inkling.

      See, I've answered you in good faith even though you used bad faith arguments in your question.

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    4. You write in your post that Barker appeared in a single issue of JHR in the early 1990s, when he was trying to sell his book. (Your description of the evidence as a "screenshot" sounds to me as though you doubt its provenance, although you may not have intended this.)

      Would you consider his continued presence on the JHR masthead in every issue published through 2002 to be additional evidence? Because this is easily verifiable through publicly-posted PDFs:

      https://archive.org/search.php?query=creator%3A%22Institute+for+Historical+Review%22

      This would, at least, mince your theory that his involvement was "very likely just part of the cover story supporting his literary hoax"— he remained affiliated for a full decade after the book was published. Does this change your mental calculus?

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    5. The picture from Barker's friends seems to be somewhat more mixed. See post #29 in this thread:

      https://forum.rpg.net/index.php?threads/from-reddit-m-a-r-barker-creator-of-t%C3%A9kumel-and-empire-of-the-petal-throne-wrote-a-neo-nazi-novel-in-1991.895130/page-3

      For context, "chirine ba kai" is not some randomer - they are one of Barker's close collaborators, were directly involved in the 2012 discovery of this material, and are about as good as an authority on Tekumel specifically as is still alive these days.

      chirine has this to say: "I worked for Phil from 1976 to 1988, and I am still baffled by him. He had a very complex and contradictory personality; he was capable of the greatest kindness and the most abject cruelty, sometimes in the same hour" and "Phil has been gone now for a decade, and he still confuses and baffles me."

      I find these particularly important because it means someone with a literal decades-long association with Barker could still find his personality difficult to fathom. Sure, that is not a statement along the lines of "Barker said antisemitic stuff to my face", but this and other statements from those who know suggests that Barker lived a highly compartmentalised life, so it might just be that he had the mental discipline to keep some of that stuff to himself in company where it would yield blowback and then be more open about that side of his political views at other points.

      You draw the line somewhere else, that's your decision - but the Tekumel Foundation are clearly convinced, and that includes people who worked very closely with Barker. So I would hesitate to characterise his friends as outright brushing this off; at least some of those friends run the Foundation, and seem to take this very seriously.

      Lastly: sure, he took National Vanguard's money. But National Vanguard wouldn't have offered him the money if they didn't think the book was worth it to them. Again, handing over to Nazis stuff they consider useful for propaganda purposes is collaboration with Nazis, and voluntary collaboration with Nazis is heinous and despicable.

      Would you be at least willing to say "Barker was a neo-Nazi collaborator"?

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    6. Fair points again, Arthur. Dave Arneson also seems to have considered Barker a difficult prick, and I think there's plenty of evidence from multiple sources to suggest that he could be manipulative and arrogant. (Possibly not unrelated to having a fascist father, who knows?)

      The Tekumel Foundation knew about the novel for years. It wasn't even a secret in the late '80s. So what new allegations have suddenly provoked their outrage? I haven't seen any statement from them clarifying that, though I notice they used the term "due diligence".

      Yep, Barker was an idiot. I'm told he took $5000 from the publisher for his novel. So for a mere $10,000 in modern terms he left a timebomb that has blown up his reputation. See comments elsewhere: very smart people often do the dumbest things. He wouldn't even have thought that made him a Nazi collaborator, but that is how many people will regard him from now on. I just think he was a fool.

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    7. James: I only mentioned screenshot because that seems more reliable than the online transcription (which lists him as "Philip", not "Phillip"). I don't know what actual involvement being on that advisory board entailed. Do you? Do we have articles or letters by him to the journal? Do we know how people got on the advisory board? Just as an example, I was recorded on Companies House as having made statements at company meetings that never took place. You can see why I want more than, "It says here, so that proves it."

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  12. If it was a “prank” (yikes) it worked. You posit he wasn’t an anti-Semite cuz he never got a swastika face tattoo. But he did Nazi-like things like published a book through the NV, and served on the editorial board of the JHR.
    If an individual got NAMBLA Books to publish a pro-pedophilia future-fantasy book, and was on the editorial board of a journal advocating pedophilia the onus wouldn’t be on us, the public, to to prove that person wasn’t a pedo.

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    1. I hope you're not on the jury if I'm ever accused of a crime.

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    2. Hey now, we're not talking about Piers Anthony here.

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    3. I'm not even gong to attempt the horrible puns that would involve!

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  13. It's funny what things people are instant experts on and which they admit to knowing nothing about. Like the pandemic -- suddenly all those people on Facebook who were telling qualified epidemiologists they were wrong about masks and vaccines. Or in the last month all of the military and geopolitical experts. Yet when I ask for DIY tips, all those instant experts are nowhere to be found.

    This seems to be another case. The Dunning-Kruger certitude is like a tsunami, yet Jeff Berry has access to all of Barker's diaries and many files of letters, and he explains at some length why he thinks these accusations are spurious. The link is in the post there if anyone wants to read his comments. If your mind is already made up, don't bother.

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    1. As I noted above, chirine/Jeff Berry seems to be saying different things on RPG.net than on his own private forum. (Incidentally, non-registered users can't get there to corroborate anything you said in your post.) And the Foundation as a whole seems to be deeply troubled by this.

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    2. I don't know if they're more troubled about it now than five or ten years ago. Maybe they know more. If so, it will no doubt come out in due course.

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  14. Can I make a serious request? Stop claiming that people are calling Barker a white supremacist. Some are, definitely, using the language imprecisely. Neo-nazis do tend to be white supremacists! But a key part of the claims here are that he's a neo-nazi despite his acknowledged appreciation of at least some non-white people. Which, you know, is something an awful lot of nazis and neo-nazis manage to square with their nazi beliefs, because it was never a coherent fixed ideology to begin with. Hell, a lot of the original bunch thought Islam was pretty cool.

    It would definitely help with the clarity of communication. Very logical.

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    1. Fair enough. I have seen some people saying he was a white supremacist, but didn't realize that neo-Nazis weren't all white supremacists. I guess what they are really saying is that he was secretly anti-Semitic, possibly with secret old-style Nazi leanings.

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  15. (Not sure if my comment from before submitted correctly. I don't see it here, so I'm retyping it from scratch, probably better this time. If you're wondering why people keep double-posting comments, well, that's almost certainly the reason why.)

    Here, you write that Barker was somehow going "undercover" doing his work for the Journal of Historical Review, a non-peer reviewed, pseudoacademic periodical focused on advancing Holocaust denial.

    What are you imagining he was doing "undercover" at a journal dedicated to denying the Holocaust?! What did he hope to accomplish there over the course of a decade??

    He wasn't promoting Serpent's Walk there… the journal didn't publish novels. (I guess they published "fiction" haha but not novels.) Working for that journal can't be construed as mere "thought crime."

    I think we must accept that Barker denied the Holocaust, and worked together with other antisemitic writers (including Actual Nazis) to deny the Holocaust.

    If we accept that, I don't see how we can split hairs about whether he was "just a Holocaust denier but not an antisemite." To believe that the Holocaust was fiction is to believe in an antisemitic conspiracy theory, even if you believe that not all Jews were "in on it."

    Note we don't strictly have to believe that he was "white supremacist" to believe that he was antisemitic. There's a strand of antisemitic belief that "Aryans" come in many colors, Indians and Germans alike, all aligned against the Jews. It seems plausible to me that Barker believed something like this, especially considering the plot of Serpent's Walk (which I haven't read, and don't intend to read).

    As for the idea that Serpent's Walk was a "literary hoax," I think we have to agree that even if Barker "intended" it to be a hoax, it was not a hoax in fact, because he never did the crucial "revealing his own personal circumstances" step you imagined here, which would make it an actual hoax.

    He never popped up and said, "Surprise! Randolph D. Calverhall is actually me, MAR Barker, and you're all fools for buying my hoax novel!" He just pocketed the money and slinked away.

    The fundamental error you and Jeff are making is to see that Barker was a nice guy and a good friend to you, and concluding "I know the REAL Barker. When he wrote and published this Nazi novel and worked with those other Nazis at a Nazi journal, he must have been fooling them."

    But if you can accept the idea that he went to such lengths to fool them, then you have to take seriously the idea that he was actually fooling YOU.

    You want to believe in him so badly that you're prepared to imagine he worked "undercover" with Nazis (to what end?) and wrote an entire Nazi novel "intended" as a hoax, but never actually executed the hoax, and that we should judge him by the intentions you imagine he had, instead of by his publicly visible actions.

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    1. I don't think he ever wanted anyone to find out that Randolph D Calverhall was him. He seems to have liked his private jokes, and too clever for his own good.

      What was he doing on the editorial advisory board for 12 years? Good question. What indeed did he ever do on that board? Did he go to meetings? Write anything? Correspond with anyone? I'd like to know, but I suspect there will never be any more information than the name Phillip (or Philip) Barker being listed.

      It's perfectly possible that he was fooling me, but to do so he'd have to have known my politics. Remember, he didn't write that letter about the book to me, he wrote it to a British publisher I put him in touch with. And it's a short extract from a much longer letter mostly talking to them about future Tekumel novels, which is what I had thought might interest them. So the only sting in the joke from my point of view is that they will have said, "He's written this thing that sounds like SS-GB" and I will have said, "Oh yeah, I heard he'd done something like that".

      Btw I don't *want* to believe in him. If he was a Nazi, okay then. When I see any actual statement from him about this, I'll tell you you were right to assume his guilt. My interest is in Tekumel, not its creator. I also like HPL, but I'm not going to tell you he wasn't an anti-Semite because he made no bones about it.

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    2. Elsewhere in this thread you've said that you think Barker was "a fool" but not antisemitic. Why not both?

      Talk to actual Holocaust deniers and they'll often tell you "I have no personal animus against Jews; I even have Jewish friends. I just think there's a Zionist cabal that has tricked the world into thinking that Nazis systematically slaughtered millions of Jews. My Jewish friends just don't realize that other Jews have tricked them."

      Maybe he didn't carry a personal loathing of Jews in his heart. Maybe he didn't think of himself as "antisemitic."

      But a "fool" who collaborates with antisemites on a journal dedicated to Holocaust denial for a decade is an antisemitic fool.

      Not because of what's in his heart, but because of what he has done.

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    3. Well, I think he was a fool because he's got himself remembered by many as an anti-Semite when I don't think he was one. But, sure, he might have been so closeted as anti-Semitic that he wasn't even aware of it; it's possible, as we know he had a very troubled relationship with fascist parents. There are homophobic gay people for similar reasons. But this is pure speculation.

      The jury is still out (I'm the jury, sorry) on whether he actually collaborated with Holocaust deniers or not. See point elsewhere about needing evidence of what that board was, how he got onto it, how long he was involved with it (if at all), and what he did while on it. I'm told somebody is doing due diligence on this (I assume that means more than just looking the term up in the dictionary) and as soon as I get more information I will post it here -- including a note that I was wrong, if that's what it shows.

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  16. Couple of things here. I can speak with some authority here as I was raised by neo-nazis. I know the book. The Serpent Walk is very similar to the Turner Diaries. Both are white supremacist training manuals pretending to be fiction in my opinion. At minimum both novel are steeped in long standing ideologies and practices of several hate groups.

    These were just the sort thing I was encouraged to read as my parents were indoctrinating me in the movement. Over 30s years later and I am still working get rid of that garbage. I was lucky and got out when I was 16.

    It is no secret books like this have been read and influenced mass murderers. Both books are published by the National Alliance. They are Nazis flat out. Sorry I cannot see the possibility of a joke here. No this is the kind of book American Nazis give their kids to read. I know because they did it.

    Barker "also served as a member of the Editorial Advisory Committee of the Journal for Historical Review. an advocate of Holocaust denial and revisionist pseudohistory." That's from wikipedia. Check the source listed, he is listed.

    So I checked out the website for the organization. Tons of white supremacist ideology. No let me be clear this is Nazi propaganda. In the blurb for one of the books published by the group, Hitler: Beyond Evil and Tyranny it says:
    " Hitler was certainly no demagogue. As Stolfi notes, “A demagogue tells his audience what it wants to hear. A messiah tells his audience what he wants it to hear.”

    You can guess what the rest of the book is like.

    I think it is pretty clear Barker was a Neo Nazi. the Editorial Advisory Committee is more than just denying the Holocaust. There is a video linked on their sight where the director, Mark Weber, gave lecture on how bad of a wrap Hitler gets and how great of a leader he was. This group is still going. Barker worked with these people and supported them.

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    1. I wonder if Barker was made to read the same kind of material by his father, who was in the (fascist) Silver Legion of America. It might explain what he thought he was pastiching. As Larkin said, "They fuck you up, your mum and dad." (Not mine, though, who were left-wing humanists and instead instilled in me a tendency to hope for the best in people.)

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  17. A clarification. I've seen people on forums discussing the long excerpt from Barker's letter quoted at the start of the post as if it was a letter to me. Easy mistake to make -- if you're the sort who can't parse something longer than a tweet. But no, that letter was to a UK publisher and was passed to me because I had introduced Barker to them to talk about Tekumel novels. He did mention the "Nazi novel" in a letter to me, but only in passing and it was of no interest to me. I just wanted him to answer questions about Tekumel.

    Somebody else on a forum said something like, "From Morris's statements I conclude he is more pro-Nazi than anti-Nazi". Extraordinary thing to say on a public forum. Don't they know about libel laws? But, for the avoidance of doubt, I'll make it clear that I am opposed to all bullying hate-driven mobs across the spectrum from Nazis to the Khmer Rouge. And I would like everyone to reflect on whether they would have been the people getting beaten up in '30s Germany or the people doing the beating. Cast the first stone only when you're really sure about that.

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  18. I am closing comments now, other than the final summary of all this below. And (for the avoidance of doubt) Nazis are vile, and any action that supports them is appalling. So, in spite of the opinion of several borderline-crazy comments that I put straight into junk, I am most definitely not defending Barker for any association with them, even if he did it as some kind of insensitive con rather than out of actual conviction. If I get any further information (actual confirmation of activity by Barker in support of the Journal of Historical Review would of course be conclusive) I will post it here.

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  19. So I've been musing, and there are two points I'd like to make.
    The first is a response to Dave's frustration with the simplistic reaction expressed by some. It seems there are now two types of people in the world. The first are those who see things in a dogmatic and absolutist way. It's the old political 'horseshoe' concept with an added dimension. Far left and far right are similar not because they believe the same thing, but because they think in an uncritical and narrow manner. Seeing the world in a binary, good guys vs bad guys way
    The other type are those who think and consider things rationally and (hopefully) with compassion. Using reason and cognitive empathy over raw emotional empathy. They see the world as a more complex and nuanced place.

    The second point is about the topic of Barker. Was he an evil Nazi? Let's have a look using the ethical lenses of utilitarianism and deontology, and also examine intent. (With apologies for my simplistic interpretation of ethical philosophy).

    We know he sold a work of fiction about Nazi's to a far-right publisher. We know his name was on their editorial board. We know Barker was vain and egotistical, he hated his father and had a big chip on his shoulder about his lack of literary success.
    The utilitarian question is: has this caused harm? By providing succour and materials for Nazi's I would argue yes it has, although minor in the big scheme of things.
    The deontological question here is what harm/benefit was there in these actions from a personal perspective? Well Barker got funds for his family, although he was not poor. He also may have felt he got one over on people which made him feel good. And for what harm? He may have felt it was very little. From a selfish perspective he gained something and lost little.
    Finally his intent. We don't know but can infer. I believe, based on what I have read, that he was a self-absorbed jerk. But we have no other evidence about racist or Nazi sympathies. Quite the contrary if we look at the Tekumel setting or the inclusivity of his gaming groups. It seems doubtful he wanted to cause harm (few do), but he surely minimised the harm it could cause when he sold the book.

    So my conclusion, based on the evidence I have seen so far is this. Barker was a jerk. Selfish, arrogant and lacking awareness or concern for his actions. Overall not a good person, clearly very flawed. But being an actual Nazi takes a lot of conviction as well as absolutist and very racist views. I see no evidence for personal belief in a Nazi viewpoint.

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  20. One thing to add to the above. Yesterday I got a call from a friend of mine who is a rabbi and also knew Prof Barker. He doesn't believe Barker was a Nazi either.

    Of course, that doesn't prove anything. Maybe the rabbi and I were both taken in. (Or maybe, if you share the ranting certainty of some of the comments I didn't publish, you think the rabbi and I are also Nazis and are covering for Barker -- in which case, Vladimir Putin may have a PR job for you.) But I append it here as further anecdotal evidence in Barker's defence.

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