Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Hatred and Ugliness

Sean Guillory has written about this topic brilliantly, but there have been enough new reports and misinformation that I felt compelled to update. According to Yandex statistics, the video is the most discussed topic on Russian-language internet blogs. If someone intended to attract attention, they certainly did that. And, as Sean discusses that is part of the ugliness, that modern society (Russian and elsewhere) is drawn to such acts of violence.

From a well-written Mail and Guardian article on the crime:

More questions were raised on Wednesday about a shocking internet video that shows Russian neo-Nazis beheading one man and shooting another, as police probed its origin and authenticity.

The video, which surfaced on Sunday in online diaries on Livejournal.com, appears to show a pair of masked men executing a Tadjik national and an ethnic Dagestani man in a forest with a Nazi flag in the background.

The mystery of its origins deepened as Russian law-enforcement agencies continued to analyse the video and consulted with foreign partners in countries whose computer servers had hosted the file.

A police official in the southern region of Adygea told the RIA Novosti news agency that a student in his early 20's had turned himself into police, claiming that "he is a follower of national socialist ideas and has spent two years spreading material on the internet meant to incite ethnic hatred, including the video".
Reportedly, the student (LJ user antigypsone) is "proud" of having posted the video on August 12, but was not the author. His accompanying text reportedly called for the "expulsion of all Asians and people from Caucasus, saying that armed action against them and their government supporters has been initiated. It also calls for Putin to resign and hand over power to the NSP." He is being held by police in Maikop, the capital of the Adygeya republic in southern Russia. It should be relatively easy to track down the other parties involved. The video was allegedly sent anonymously to antigypsone via email; however, Russian police seized the student's computer and are continuing to investigate.

But who may have committed the murders -- if the video proves to be authentic -- only grew cloudier three days after footage first appeared.

A superimposed title refers to "the arrest and execution of two colonists from Dagestan and Tajikistan by the National-Socialist Party of Rus" -- an ancient name for Russia. It then shows a masked man beheading one of the bound and gagged captives with a large knife and shooting the other in the head.

The previously unknown group circulated a statement online late on Tuesday, declaring "the start of our party's armed struggle against coloured colonists and the Russian bureaucrats who support them". It referred to itself as "the military wing" of Russia's National-Socialist Society (NSS), a Moscow-based neo-Nazi organisation.

The NSS denied there was any such wing, but added: "We acknowledge that any autonomous national socialist group could certainly have committed the execution ... shown in the video."

"It would be an entirely predictable reaction to continuing pressure on national socialist movements from the authorities," it said in a statement.

While state-controlled television kept silent about the story, speculation raged in print and internet media about whether the video and statement could be an initiative by secret services or a rival neo-Nazi group meant to bring down the NSS.

"Though there are some odd moments in the video; it seems clear that the two people in it were actually killed," said Alexander Verkhovsky, director of the xenophobia monitoring centre Sova, in an online interview at NewTimes.ru. "It looks less like a secret services operation than an attempt by other neo-Nazis to set up [NSS leader] Dmitry Rumyantsev," he said.

Sova's monitoring indicates that membership in neo-Nazi groups has surged in recent years in Russia, as have attacks on people of Caucasian and Central Asian origin.

According to Sova, 280 people have been the victims of racist attacks in Russia this year, including 34 deaths -- a 21% rise over the same period in 2006.

In July, police arrested a Russian neo-Nazi leader who had created a website with videos of attacks on foreigners that was popular among Russian skinheads.

The video of the purported execution has been removed from Livejournal.com, but was still being circulated in Russian-language neo-Nazi forums on wednesday.
Regarding the Sova Center for Information and Analysis hate crime statistics, it should be noted that they are quite incomplete. Other news sources are citing "More than 50 people have been murdered by ultra-nationalist groups this year alone" in Russia. There are no requirements for reporting such crimes as "hate crimes" within Russia, and the police are notoriously slow at investigating violent acts as hate crimes. Even in the U.S., where the FBI has been required since 1990 to track and report hate crimes, roughly only 17% of police jurisdictions supply hate crime statistics. With that level of reporting, 2005 FBI Hate Crime statistics indicate 7,163 hate crimes in the U.S. (16,692 total murders and 862,947 total aggravated assaults that same year). There is no break-down in the FBI data as to how many of the murders and aggravated assaults were the results of hate crime acts.

Many remain skeptical regarding the police response and their willingness to actually catch the criminals involved. From a RFE/RL opinion sidebar by Danila Galperovich:
Still another group, the National Socialist Society, opined: "From the moment Vladimir Putin called supporters of the 'Russia for Russians' slogan idiots and provocateurs, to the moment when the same Vladimir Putin said -- mumbling and with stipulations, but still -- something about the role of Russians in forming the state, not much time had passed."

It seems many of these web-savvy Nazi supporters are confident that many in law enforcement and the special forces already secretly share their point of view -- and that there's no point in provoking their anger now by criticizing them on the web.
It also would appear that Livejournal itself is exhibiting some denial as to whether a crime has even occurred:
Anton Nosik, a representative of Sup, the company that oversees the Russian section of LiveJournal, says the site has taken no action against the blogger who first posted the video.

"Preliminary censorship is, of course, impossible on the Internet," Nosik says. "People post what they feel must be posted, and write what they feel must be written. There is a list of things that LiveJournal users agree not to do, but posting pictures of an execution is not on the list. There is a clause forbidding comments that incite ethnic hatred, but whether it applies to this particular video is an open question."


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