Prussian Blue, NAACP, what’s the difference?

Hoo boy.

Via The Poorman Institute and an anti-Holocaust denial mailing list that I belong to, I’ve learned of an analogy so breathtakingly bad that I have a hard time not blogging about it, mainly because it relates to a topic that I’m very interested in (Holocaust denial) and a related topic that I’ve written about before, namely the white supremacist, Hitler-admiring, Holocaust-denying pop tarts that make up the white nationalist singing duo Prussian Blue. Oddly enough, it comes in the form of a complaint about “racialist double standards” from conservative blogger LaShawn Barber, in which she asks:

So why are white racialists vilified? That’s easy. Because whites are seen as historically powerful oppressors. Even when their colonialism and missionary work actually improved living conditions of the conquered and the heathen, they were and are still evil in the eyes of many. They are guilty as charged forever and have no moral authority to be proud of who they are, at least not in public.


I suppose it depends on what you mean by “improved the living conditions.” And never mind driving Native Americans from their land and stuff like that. I’m sure they’re much happier on reservations now. Or what about those slaves? Their living standards were certainly improved, weren’t they? Colonialism may have “improved” the living standards of some nations, but the cost seems a bit high. However, Ms. Barber was just getting warmed up, and this is where her rant impacted one of my frequent blogging topics:

One double standard example: The anger vented against 13-year-old Lynx and Lamb Gaede of the singing group Prussian Blue, who openly express “white pride,” but not against 7-year-old Autum Ashante’ (or her father), a “black nationalist” poet.

[…]

Before reciting the “Black Child’s Pledge,” Ashante’ asked white students to remain seated. In a tax-subsidized school. If expressing white pride is hateful, so is the drivel that comes out of that child’s mouth. Incidentally, she and her father are members of the Nation of Islam.

My jaw just about hit the floor when I read this.

So let me get this straight. Ashante asked white students to stay seated while she read a pledge with the black students. Crude and inappropriate in a public school? Yes. Racist? Posssibly. To be condemned. Sure, I’ll condemn it. I don’t like any such over racialism, particularly expressed in a public school. But is it as bad as what Prussian Blue does with each new CD and at their concerts? No way, not even close. Lynx and Lamb Gaede are unabashed Hitler-lovers, white separatists, and neo-Nazis one of whose songs praised Rudolf Hess and others of which frequently contain lyrics like this:

When the man who plows the fields is driven from his lands.
When the carpenter must give away what he’s built with his own hands.
When a mother’s only children belong to her no more.
And black masked men with guns come bashing down the doors.
Where freedom exists for only those with darker skin.
Where lies and propaganda will never let you win.
Where symbols of your heritage are held with such contempt
And benefits of country ‘cept tax are you exempt.

Aryan man awake
How much more will you take?
Turn that fear to hate
Aryan man awake.

Oh, and their little sister is named Dresden, as well. Cute, eh? She even makes appearances on Stormfront Radio and visits to the Holocaust denial organization known as the Institute for Historical Review, while the girls of Prussian Blue have also been known to hang out with Larry Darby, the Holocaust denier who also happens to be an atheist that I’ve written about before. They also seem to think it’s cute to pose for advertisements in T-shirts with smiley Hitler faces on them (photo below).

No, LaShawn, Prussian Blue goes way further than merely “expressing white pride.”

Ms. Barber is clearly unaware of where Prussian Blue took their name from, and that is a story that shows the depths of their racism and Nazi sympathies. The Poor Man Institute only alluded to it and provided a link to a rather lengthy and technical explanation, but let me give the Readers Digest version. Basically, Prussian Blue is an issue that Holocaust deniers like to use for pseudoscientific hand waving when they claim that the gas chambers at Auschwitz and other camps could not have been used as execution chambers. It begins with the observation that, when bricks (as in gas chamber walls) are exposed to cyanide (as in Zyklon-B used to kill Jews in gas chambers), a reaction between iron and cyanide can take place that can leave a blue residue:

There are a number of compounds known colloquially as the “iron blues.” Insoluble Prussian Blue, for example, is Fe4[Fe(CN)6]3. [Orac’s note for the chemically challenged: CN = cyanide and Fe = iron.] It can be formed by the addition of Fe(II) to [Fe(III)(CN)6]-3.

[…]

Prussian blue only forms with very high concentrations of CN. The concentrations in the gas chambers were such that ambient water, given time to reach equilibrium, might theoretically have approached concentrations of 0.2 or 0.3 M – but more likely on the order of 0.1 M or below – as shown in Appendix I.

i-3e500bc54cbbd5d4ef7336da7510b394-DSCN0105.jpgWithout getting into all the gory details (which can be found here and here, for those so inclined to delve into the chemistry, Prussian blue is at the heart of one of the favorite techniques of Holocaust deniers. In essence, the claim boils down to this. Zyklon-B was not used just for homicidal gas chambers in which Jews were killed en masse. It was also used for fumigating and delousing clothing in large chambers. Holocaust deniers will point out that Prussian blue has often been found on the bricks in the remains of fumigating chambers but not on the remains of the gas chambers. Holocaust deniers combine this observation with a really bad “analysis” by Fred Leuchter (a.k.a. “Mr. Death“). Basically, Leuchter surreptitiously and illegally obtained pieces from the remains of gas chambers at Auschwitz/Birkenau and Majdanek and then had them analyzed by a laboratory for cyanide compounds without telling the laboratory where they came from (indeed, he lied to the company and said that they were about a workman’s comp claim). In his infamous report (known in Holocaust denial circles as the Leuchter Report) found only no cyanide or only trace amounts in samples the gas chambers and higher concentrations in the “control” samples taken from the delousing chambers. Leuchter concluded that, because he found much lower (or even undetectable) concentrations of cyanide compounds on the gas chamber walls than on the walls from delousing chambers, the gas chambers could not have been used as homicidal instruments. Much of the above is perhaps an oversimplification, but I suspect that’s what Ms. Barber needs to be made to understand why her analogy is so bad.

There were many fallacies and much bad scientific methodology in the Leuchter report, the details of which are beyond this discussion. One big problem was that Leuchter took chunks of brick when any cyanide residue would only be on the surface of the bricks, a sampling technique that would hugely dilute any residue present. (Indeed, after 40 years of exposure to the elements, it’s actually fairly amazing that he found any cyanide at all on the bricks!) Another huge mistake was that Leuchter made the assumption that it would take higher concentrations of Zyklon-B to kill humans than to kill insects; thus he expected that the concentrations of cyanide would be lower in the delousing chambers. Unfortunately for Leuchter’s credibility, exactly the opposite is true as far as the toxicty of cyanide gas in humans versus insects. Indeed, it can take as much as 16,000 ppm cyanide and an exposure time of several hoursto kill insects, whereas it only takes 300 ppm cyanide or even less and an exposure of minutes to kill humans. Basically, the differential toxicity of cyanide for humans and insects necessitating the use of much higher amounts of cyanide in the delousing chamber, coupled with Leuchter’s shoddy and scientifically inappropriate methodology, explain his results. Other, more rigorous analyses have found cyanide residues in the gas chambers, as described in the links above.

All of this is merely my own Respectfully Insolent way of pointing out to Ms. Barber that the very name Prussian Blue, when coupled with the Gaedes’ white nationalist leanings, Hitler apologia, and association with radical white nationalist and Holocaust denying groups like the National Vanguard and people like David Duke, is clearly a statement of Holocaust denial. Or perhaps Ms. Barber thinks it’s just a coincidence that the Gaedes picked that name. More likely she was simply ignorant of the significance of that name. Outside of Holocaust deniers and those of us interested in fighting Holocaust denial (not to mention chemists who deal with cyanide reactions), not many people even know what Prussian blue is. The Gaedes (or their parents) certainly knew what it is when they dubbed their singing duo Prussian Blue. It’s a name that sounds perfectly innocuous–unless you happen to know something about the techniques of Holocaust denial. Explaining a bit about that is my unique contribution to the debunking of Ms. Barber’s wingnuttery.

Near the end, Ms. Barber concludes with a massive straw man:

If defending and advocating for your race is a bad thing, it should be bad across the board. Disband the congressional black and hispanic caucuses. Shutter the NAACP, which has become nothing more than a clique of partying elitists who give out awards to pedophiles. Why are racial minorities allowed to honor their race, while whites are not? Why is there a stigma against being proud of your white skin, but not black or brown skin?

It all depends on what you mean by “being proud of your skin.” If you mean celebrating your ethnic heritage or being proud of your ethnic background, I could point out that white people (Poles, the Irish, Italians, etc.) form organizations to celebrate their heritage all the time without being racist or neo-Nazis, but The Poorman Institute already did that. I could also point out that there’s nothing necessarily racist about forming a “white pride” organization. Even so, I must then ask why virtually all the the “white pride” organizations that I’m aware of are racist, anti-Semitic organizations, and virtually all of them are at least sympathetic to Nazi-ism, if not outright neo-Nazis. (If Ms. Barber or anyone else can point me in the direction of a “white pride” organization that is not inherently racist and/or neo-Nazi in its orientation, I’d be very interested.) Finally, I could point out that Ms. Barber’s apparent implication that the NAACP and the black and Hispanic caucuses in Congress are no different white racialist organizations like the ones that Prussian Blue associates itself with is wrong on so many levels that I hope that I don’t have to spell it out explicitly to her.

I’m probably hoping for too much, though.

Ms. Barber may have had the germ of a legitimate point to make, namely that the standard for determining who or what is racist should not vary based on whether you are white, black, Hispanic, or any other race. Unfortunately, her equating of avowed neo-Nazis (like the Gaedes) to the Congressional Black and Hispanic Caucuses and the NAACP coupled with her clear lack of knowledge about just what the significance of the name Prussian Blue is among Holocaust deniers and neo-Nazis buried what little valid point she might have been able to make otherwise in a huge steaming, stinking, historically ignorant, bad analogy. Her attempt to delegitimize the NAACP and the Congressional Black and Hispanic Caucuses only served to emphasize the shoddy reasoning behind her comparison.

Tags: Prussian Blue, White Nationalism, Holocaust denial