On the Inside of a Confrontation with Nazis in a Digital World
By Ilan Moskowitz
There are times in your life when you find yourself embroiled in some kind of buzzworthy conflict that has both malicious attention and proud support drawn to aspects of your life that simply aren't the art you create. It sounds vain, but anyone who writes, draws, plays music or otherwise has tried to express themselves in the larger creative conversation of our times will understand this need for an audience. And anyone who has spent so much time seeking the public eye as an artist can imagine the fear of needing to suddenly protect one's identity with the many ways you've created to be found online over the years.
Enter this business card for a bigoted, alt-right, international fake news organization called the Daily Stormer. Their site has lots of info on the meetups, under the guise of 'book groups,' which actually give these internet trolls some face time in a non-rally type setting with their otherwise internet-only Nazi counterparts. It's a chance to have a beer anonymously amongst other white people at a bar.
I'll let you read the news story to get a description of what went down. It's largely accurate, though in no way the story I was signing on for when I decided to go on the record in hopes to be part of this 'service industry speaks out about a rash of Nazi bar activity' piece which was germinating over our phone discussions. Apparently, ever since Trump got elected, all the Nazis had pride enough to walk the streets and it seemed like an apropos time for a solidarity piece on the nature of '86'ing various hate groups when necessary. Cory even named a few bars which he had been 'talking to about such incidents.' But none of that was printed, as you can see, just my name on blast in the biggest quote on the pare as some lone hero.
Nazi sites put up the location of the Brew hall and the phone number. I changed my Facebook name twice at the behest of Corey (who also gave me two 'decent' Portland Detectives' cell phone numbers and the number for the Assistant District Attorney, for Pete's sake) so that no Nazis could hack me.
Every other Lucky Lab employee in their little Nazi phone video got hacked; most because they felt the need to reprint the article on Facebook feeds and tagged people who would be interested or were involved.
I quit my pizza job at the Lucky Lab brewery, a cushy job washing dishes that I had held for months. Militant antifascist groups started showing up at my job when I wasn't there and demanding to see me; enlist my help in identifying these bigots and locating them. I was never around to see them, but it reeked of a lynch mob from the nervous descriptions I got.
These guys showed up at a funeral for one of the lucky lab founding Brewers looking for me and apparently made a disrespectful scene in trying to get a hold of me which required them to be thrown out. Talk about irony.
The bar itself never was visited directly by Nazis, despite the employees all weaponizing themselves and never leaving the bar for smoke breaks alone, but they received plenty of fuzzy phone calls from Nazis of Adolph speeches.
What made me quit was receiving a phone callfrom one of my Lucky Lab coworkers to genuinely see if I had been attacked by either the Nazis or antifascists. That's when they told me nobody felt safe with me around the job and they were all wondering why I didn't just quit.
I don't mean to sound ungrateful, but misguided Jews I knew would tag my fake Facebook names - the ones I created for anonymity, quite obviously from their tongue-in-cheek references like 'Matches Malone' - in connection with the article. It's sort of unbelievable. If these were the WWII Nazis with the blowtorches and shiny boots, getting my cover blown like that would have gotten me murdelized! Can you imagine if they were going around mid 1930's Poland shouting about the Jewish guy they knew personally who had pissed off the Nazis? Fuck no! I can't stress again how relieved I am that these Nazis are wisecracking internet trolls who hide behind their white privilege and racist law.
These were proud, obligatory posts the misguided Jews were leaving in which they'd alert all their Jewish friends about a local hero and insist that the whole Jewish internet community re-post the sensational story. Snowball effect. These posts would have comments like 'so proud of [insert pseudonym], I could never do what he did!'
Lots of people sent the bar cards and posted on Twitter, etc. that they would now eat again at the lucky Lab or felt more comfortable there now because of this incident (or sometimes because of me directly). If they had ever stopped eating at the Lucky Lab, it would have been for its mediocre, overpriced food, not its racial politics. It could be any of the predominantly white breweries around that part of town in the predominantly white city.
Nobody could tell these Nazis from any of the other white people getting drunk on sugary beer at the Lucky Labrador. That's the only reason Nazis got to meet there for weeks with such a largely Jewish staff. No one who worked for the Lucky Lab could figure out who the hell these bigots were. When you look at the photos of these crackers, they are all nondescript, bearded white dudes in plaid and trucker hats.
I mean, seriously, have you been to Portland? That's what was so disturbing, they looked just like everyone else.
That scared me for a week. I was scared to walk alone. I actually weaponized myself and took count of which friends had rifles in case I got jumped by another group of ten guys and could manage to escape. Fuck the cops, I mean, those guys showed up amidst the fight with these proud Nazis and said 'You seem to have this under control here.' I mean, there was a man running around playing a bag pipe in the fucking street, for christ's sake. Why are we paying these cops?
These were lynch mob type people, right? But no, they were just internet trolls. And after all of it, I was pissed. That's when I gave this bitter interview in Oregon Jewish Life for what apparently was a Holocaust Memorial issue/article on contemporary Nazis. Here below is the quote where I decided to plug my art in exhaustion from being such a personal target for so long. Click the text to read the whole article.
Ilan says his reaction is consistent with his other activities as a journalist and musician. In April, his comic book-rock group Millennial Falcon plans to record an anti-Nazi single, and his journalist group Fake Publishing Millionaires plans to send out postcards opposing Twitter as legitimate political communication.
Ilan says he stepped up at the Lucky Lab because he sees apathy as a real danger to a free, democratic society. On March 16 he quit his job at the bar because of harassment – “Neo-Nazis hacked everybody’s [employees’] Facebook.”