A Second Life for Nazism?
22 July 2009
Second Life is now well known for its virtual world, in which users interact with each others Avatars, computerized graphical representations of themselves or their alter egos. Most do so without any problems, but it should not be a surprise that, like so much of the internet, this virtual world reflects some of realitys worst features.
Two years ago, concerns were raised with regards to Jihadist activity within the forum. It is perhaps not surprising that Second Life has attracted others whose activities are obstructed, monitored or shunned in normal society. In June of last year, Jewish Second Life user Anais Atlantis logged onto Second Life to shop in a virtual judaica store, only to find that she was confronted with a copy of the The Turner Diaries, the bible of neo-Nazi terrorism, which had been implanted in the store by Second Life neo-Nazi users.
But its not just judaica shops that attract questionable items. One Second Life store sold Nazi paraphernalia and Nazi uniforms. The excuse given by the people who run the store that they are simply history buffs was undermined by the fact that they have banned Second Lifes Jews from entering the store.
The store was actually set up by a group called the Furzi Manuschaften, or Furzis furry Nazis for short. The group says that it does not condone racism or fascism, but its image is an Avatar dressed in Nazi uniform, giving a Sieg Heil salute. The shop has been closed by Second Life, following complaints.
Others in Second Life have created characters wearing yellow stars, and one has even created a gas chamber.
Second Life has strong Community Standards that ban users from uploading content that is ethnically or racially hateful, or that includes derogatory or demeaning language or images in reference to another Resident's race, ethnicity, gender, religion, or sexual orientation"; more to the point, they appear willing to apply them, for instance in the closure of the Nazi memorabilia store. It is not clear whether the gas chamber pictured above has been removed, although the user who created it is still active. There are now growing demands for Second Life to ban the use of all Nazi symbols.
It is important to remember the obvious point that there is a strong element of fantasy to all this, and it does not automatically follow that a Second Life Furzi is also a real life neo-Nazi. To ban all Nazi symbols and images from a virtual reality game may seem censorious to the point of parody. Equally, though, virtual Nazism should not automatically be dismissed as just a game: the users are real people, albeit living out fantasy lives, and you can guarantee that neo-Nazis, like jihadists or other violent extremists, will explore any opportunity to use online platforms to organise, propagandise and recruit. Nazism was defeated, but left a permanent scar on the real world. Why give it a second life in the virtual world?