Who Said It: Elon Musk, Voltaire, or Kevin Alfred Strom?
To learn that Nazis don’t rule over you, all you have to do is say bad things about Nazis. Nothing bad will happen to you.
Last weekend, Twitter CEO Elon Musk found himself swirling in another maelstrom of online fart-rage after he retweeted a meme falsely attributing the following statement to French Enlightenment philosopher Voltaire:
To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize.
The meme included an image of a giant hand crushing a huddled group of people. The image allegedly originated from an anti-child labor cartoon from the 1910s. Underneath the image was the phrase “We need to rise up against children with leukemia.” As far as I can tell, Musk was attempting to make some kind of joke about how children with leukemia are unreasonably powerful.
The leukemia angle was immediately ignored. Instead, it took approximately one metric jiffy for people to make it all about Jews.
For starters, there is no evidence that Voltaire ever said anything remotely like the “true rulers” quote that has been perennially attributed to him, just like he never said, “I disapprove of what you say, but I defend to the death your right to say it.”
In 2022, Thomas Massie, a Republican Congressman from Kentucky, was widely scolded and subjected to the humiliating ritual of scornful public fact-checking for tweeting the same image that Musk tweeted last weekend.
In 2019, actor John Cusack had tweeted the same image, but with the embellishment of a blue Star of David on the sleeve of the giant hand that’s coming down from the sky to squash the hapless crowd, along with the phrases “Follow the money” above the picture and “Isn’t it obvious?” under it. At first, Cusack defended the tweet, claiming he was merely criticizing Israeli atrocities against Palestinians. Then he blamed a “bot” for posting it, and then, when that alibi wasn’t working, he claimed he’d “mistakenly retweeted an alt-right account,” adding:
It’s clear that even if it was Israel’s flag & even if you don’t have [an] anti-Semitic bone in your body, it is still an anti-Semitic cartoon. Because it deploys anti Jewish stereotypes. . . . I [retweeted] and quickly deleted an image that’s harmful to both Jewish and Palestinian friends, and for that I’m sorry.
What are these “anti-Semitic bones” of which he speaks? Where do they come from, and how do people wind up with them in their bodies? Even more disturbingly, who’s putting them there?
Suggesting that Jews aren’t really powerful, that they don’t rule over anybody, and that everyone is free to criticize them with impunity, Australian Senator Cory Bernardi was forced through the social-media meat grinder in 2015 for again attributing the quote to Voltaire. Unlike Cusack, Bernardi made no mention of Jews or Israel, but this didn’t spare him from having to endure a pro-Jewish struggle session.
So if Voltaire wasn’t the source of the original quote, and if the original quote didn’t mention Jews anyway, why does anyone who requotes it get accused of anti-Semitism, besides the quite uncomfortable and bitterly ironic fact that these continual moral panics surrounding the quote only serve to reinforce the idea that you’re not allowed to criticize Jews?
It’s because the passage on which the original quote is based came from Kevin Alfred Strom, a member of William Luther Pierce’s iteration of the National Alliance and a founder of National Vanguard, which was based in what has become the notoriously Nazi-unfriendly town of Charlottesville, Virginia. The relevant passage, which I’ve highlighted in bold, was part of Strom’s “American Dissident Voices” radio broadcast from August 14, 1993 titled “All America Must Know the Terror That is Upon Us”:
To determine the true rulers of any society, all you must do is ask yourself this question: Who is it that I am not permitted to criticize? We all know who it is that we are not permitted to criticize. We all know who it is that it is a sin to criticize. Sodomy is no longer a sin in America. Treason, and burning and spitting and urinating on the American flag is no longer a sin in America. Gross desecration of Catholic or Protestant religious symbols is no longer a sin in America. Cop-killing is no longer a sin in America — it is celebrated in rap “music.” The degradation of beautiful young girls in disgusting pornography is no longer a sin in America. The killing by the multiple millions of the next generation in the womb is no longer a sin in America. But anti-semitism is the ultimate sin in America. But as things get worse and worse, we are losing our fear of this silly word. We all know who it is that controls the wealth of our nation through their exchanges and counting-houses in New York. We all know who it is that has deformed the minds of two generations of Americans with their television programs.
Thirty years later, the indefatigable Strom is still plugging away at his American Dissident Voices broadcast and is the media director of a revived National Alliance.
Nearly all of the mainstream media fact-checking outlets who correctly attribute the misattributed Voltaire quote to a paraphrase of Strom’s original passage wasted no time referring to Strom as a “neo-Nazi” and a “Holocaust denier.”
Since Hitler’s Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei ceased to exist after 1945, and since I am an obsessive nitpicker regarding factual matters, I’m unsure what is meant when any post-1945 figure is referred to as a “neo-Nazi” or simply a “Nazi,” but as far as I can tell, it means “someone who suggests you’re allowed to criticize Jews.”
The same goes for the blunt term “Holocaust denier,” which in modern parlance always seems to mean someone who makes sweeping statements such as “it never happened.” I’ve never run across someone who says that Hitler loved Jews, that Hitler’s policies were Jew-friendly, or that the Nazis didn’t kill any Jews during the Second World War. At most, these “Holocaust deniers” may allege that fewer than six million Jews died during the war. They may question the methods used to kill them, such as whether they were killed in gas chambers. Or even if they’re willing to say that exactly six million Jews were killed, and all of them were killed in gas chambers, they might say that these ideas are being used to silence and punish any criticism of one Jew, all Jews, or even the idea that the people who now call themselves Jews are not the blood descendants of the ancient Hebrews. Or even if you say something as benign as “Hey, wait a minute — it wasn’t only Jews who died in the Second World War,” you run the risk of being called a “Holocaust denier.” Thus, since I’ve never encountered anyone who seriously says “Nothing bad happened to Jews in the Second World War,” I feel compelled to deny the existence of “Holocaust denial” as the term is currently constructed.
But once you are slandered as a “Holocaust denier,” it appears obvious that not only are people allowed to criticize you, they’re allowed and even encouraged to deny your basic humanity or even your right to exist.
Being called a “Holocaust denier” or a “Nazi” these days is akin to being called a “child molester.” And this brings us to that other thing about Kevin Alfred Strom. The first line in Wikipedia’s page on National Vanguard reads as follows:
National Vanguard is an American white nationalist, neo-Nazi organization based in Charlottesville, Virginia, founded in 2005 by convicted sex offender Kevin Alfred Strom and former members of the National Alliance.
Wikipedia’s bio of Strom mentions that he’s a neo-Nazi in the first paragraph and shows the judiciousness and elegant sense of restraint to wait until the second paragraph before it notes:
In April 2008, Strom was sentenced to 23 months in prison for possession of child pornography.
A neo-Nazi and a pedophile? He must be the worst person who ever lived!
Now, I shouldn’t have to explain that under the current cultural rules, one risks the appearance of being an apologist for both the ritual murder of Jews and for child pornography merely by suggesting there may be more to the story, but I feel compelled to explain that’s exactly what the current cultural rules are. And although I’ve never claimed to be a mind-reader, my guts tell me that most people are aware of the fact that this is how the rules are, that you are not permitted to criticize certain groups or historical narratives without facing social and personal devastation, and that all of this adds up to the uncomfortable fact that whether or not Kevin Alfred Strom is a neo-Nazi or a pedophile whose skeleton is composed entirely of anti-Semitic and child-molesting bones, it seems foolish both to dispute the accuracy of his notorious statement and to publicly state that his notorious statement seems accurate. That’s exactly how poisonous and insane the current climate is. The fact that so many online commenters choose to remain anonymous is a tacit admission that the current climate is, without question, poisonously insane.
On Strom’s personal website, he does a deep dive into the “more to the story” angle regarding his criminal conviction. He states that Judge Norman Moon — who was also the judge who lowered the civil judgments against the defendants in the Sines v. Kessler case regarding 2017’s ill-fated Unite the Right rally — dismissed other charges against Strom of child enticement and witness tampering without even having to hear a word from Strom’s defense. He goes into extensive detail documenting how his ex-wife — whom he’d recorded demonstrating what he calls “violent and threatening behavior” — was sleeping with a member of the federal “Joint Terrorism Task Force” that initially seized the computer on which the offending images were said to have been found. He links to his statement to the court that he gave during his plea bargain that stipulated the only thing to which he was pleading guilty was inadvertently downloading, and then immediately deleting, the images. I very strongly suggest you read all three links in this paragraph before commenting below. Either Strom is an exceedingly brilliant liar, or he makes a very strong case in his defense.
I’ve never interacted with Kevin Alfred Strom. All I’d ever known about him before this past week was that he was a member of Pierce’s National Alliance and the author of that quote which is perennially misattributed to Voltaire and which will now probably be misattributed to Elon Musk for the next 100 years.
A few months ago, when I wrote about El Salvador’s president rounding up suspected gang members and imprisoning them during blind trials, a lot of commenters cheered this phenomenon but seemed to miss my point that the suspected — not confirmed, merely accused and convicted in private — gangsters were being crammed into tiny cages not on substantial murder charges, but of vague allegations of “terrorism.”
As our doddering Chief Executive recently told a graduating class at a historically black college, he and his Justice Department think that “the most dangerous terrorist threat to our homeland is white supremacy.”
I had thought it was a comedian who said, “A jury is 12 people who are too stupid to get out of jury duty,” but according to a single anonymous source on Reddit, it was National Basketball Association player Charles Barkley’s attorney, so don’t quote me on that. But consider the truth in that saying, regardless of whoever said it. Also consider how negatively charged the modern atmosphere is toward alleged “white supremacists.” No matter your personal feelings about Kevin Alfred Strom’s statements, criminal record, or physiognomy, it seems that the primary factor in his lifelong blacklisting is that he dared to criticize people who he seemed to feel ruled over him.
Also consider that one day — perhaps not in the distant future — you may be dragged into court on what you think are absolutely fraudulent “terrorism” charges merely for comments you anonymously made online. You may also face a jury completely composed of illiterate morons who judge things not based on the facts in the case, but on how you look — and to them, your clean suit and crisp, well-oiled haircut may make you look like a “Nazi” to them.
Of course, other things happened last week. Among them was the reemergence of a 2020 video clip where the former CEO of Chick-fil-A — a fast-food chain that was formerly a conservative darling due to the fact that it had once taken a stance against gay marriage — is shown shining a black rapper’s tennis shoes and stating that white Americans should approach blacks with a “sense of humility, a sense of shame, [and] a sense of embarrassment.”
Last week, The Telegraph also revealed that Cambridge University’s Department of Anglo-Saxon, Norse, and Celtic (ASNC), in its rush to foist an “anti-racist” narrative upon its gullible student body, now actively “seeks to dismantle the basis of myths of nationalism — that there ever was a ‘British’, ‘English’, ‘Scottish’, ‘Welsh’ or ‘Irish’ people with a coherent and ancient ethnic identity — by showing students just how constructed and contingent these identities are and always have been.”
In Germany, “chaotic court scenes” erupted and “protestors clashed with police” after members of an “anti-fascist” group received prison sentences for violent attacks on suspected “neo-Nazis” between 2019 and 2020. It may mark the largest German prosecution of anti-Nazi violence since the legal takedown of the so-called Baader-Meinhof Gang of the 1970s through the 1990s.
But, since I’m permitted to calls ’em as I sees ’em, I spent most of this week’s column focusing on Elon Musk, Voltaire, Kevin Alfred Strom, and the possible ramifications that misinformation and moral hysteria may one day have upon my readers.
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