The Real Reason We Publish Transcripts (Historically Speaking)

For years we belonged to the "never explain" school of blogging. Show them, don't tell them, we thought. Only recently did we realize the shortcomings of that philosophy. Nature abhors a vacuum. Sometimes unanswered questions can create an air of mystery where it doesn't necessarily exist.

Something we have always wondered about: What is he thinking.

We also can't forget the other side of the coin: explaining yourself has the potential of making you look like a moron lacking in self awareness who insults the intelligence of his readers and that is the last thing we want to do. We walk a very fine line with this story.

We published the Ravenite transcripts and then Sammy the Bull Gravano's court testimony transcripts years after we initially received the printouts from a source. We published the Ravenite transcripts first, then the testimony. Why have we been focusing on transcripts so much lately? The answer is, because we heard that Gravano was doing a podcast. No, it wasn't an attempt to "leverage" online interest in Sammy or anything like that. Our humble intent was to try to keep him honest by reminding folks what he said back in 1992. No, we don't expect you or Gravano to know or care. We did it for our own reason because we believe that someone should.

We’re not saying Sammy is not honest. In fact, we believe but cannot confirm that he largely adheres to the truth, or the truth as he told it. (That is typically as good as it gets.) But we simply don't have the time or inclination to listen to every one of his podcasts from beginning to end to find out. We barely have time to publish here as much as we'd truly like. So there is that.

But we have to scrape off another layer of that onion, because there is more to the story. The truth is, we had an historical reason in the back of our head too.

In 1933, immediately after he became Reich Chancellor, Adolph Hitler shuttered a newspaper called the Münchener Post (that is the Munich Post in English). Hitler called it the poison kitchen. It was a socialist newspaper that originated in Munich, Germany, in 1888. Yeah, we know, socialism is very bad, no one wants socialism, etc., but that has nothing to do with anything here. 

That Munich newspaper fought a decade-long battle with Hitler and the Nazi Party at a time when the Sturmabteilung were killing people (Jews especially) in the street and waving their blood flag and shouting into their megaphones their credo of hatred and nonsensical bullshit. It was not a good time to wave the flag of honesty (it wasn't a good time for much of anything). But those journalists at the Münchener Post fought the good fight to the bitter end.

No, for God's sake, we are not trying to equate the frigging Mafia with the Nazis. 

We're italicizing because it is long and some will get bored. Honestly, we don't know how anyone could find this boring, but some might. We're not including the link because there is some commentary there about America's current political situation that we want to avoid. We're making an historical point here about the power and mystery of truth. We're not seeking to fuel political debate. But if some find that boring they can skip down to the bottom where something else is lurking. 

This is excerpted from Against Normalization: The Lesson of the Munich Post by Ron Rosenbaum who wrote a book called Understanding Hitler that we recommend.

The story of Hitler’s relation to the media begins with a strange episode in Hitler’s rise to power, a clash between him and the press that looked like it might contribute to the end of his political career. But alas, it did not. In fact, it set him up for the struggle that would later bring him to power.

It was one of the crucial, almost forgotten incidents in the dark decades before World War II — the November 1923 Munich “Beer Hall Putsch,” Hitler’s violent attempt to take over all of south Germany in preparation for a strike against Berlin.

Hitler and his swelling Nazi party had been threatening a power move for months. Threatening first violence, then alliance with one of the other factions. Hitler was keeping them off balance, promising he’d not use force with one, scheming to use it with another, finally betraying his word to all.

At the very apex of the Beer Hall Putsch, a clash between his militia and Munich’s chief opposition newspaper, the Munich Post, may have changed the course of history, giving evidence that Hitler had the potential for a far more ambitious course of evil than anyone in Germany believed. Only the reporters who had been following Hitler seemed able to imagine it.

On the night of November 8, 1923, amid a clamorous political meeting in the Bürgerbräukeller, a huge echoey beer hall where political meetings were often held, Hitler stood up, fired a pistol into the air, and announced his militia had captured the three top leaders of southern Germany’s Bavarian province and handcuffed them in a back room in the beer hall. The next morning, he declared, his Stormtrooper militia would capture the capitol buildings and then head north to Berlin.

It didn’t happen. That morning there was a firefight on the bridge to the city center that ended with Hitler’s forces having failed to cross that bridge, Hitler flinging himself — or being flung — on the ground amid gunfire in ignominious defeat.

What caused his defeat? Some have suggested (myself among them) it was Hitler’s fateful decision to detach his elite private militia, the forerunner of the SS — the Stosstrupp Hitler — and send them on a mission to trash and pillage the offices of the Munich Post, the newspaper he called “the poison kitchen” (for the slanders about him they were allegedly cooking up).

Trash and pillage they did. I saw a faded newsprint photograph of the after-action damage to the Munich Post — desks and chairs smashed, papers strewn into a chaos of rubble, as if an explosion had gone off inside the building.

By the mid-’90s, when I first saw that picture, the memory of this chief anti-Hitler newspaper during his rise to power from Munich to Berlin had virtually disappeared from history. But while researching my book, I’d found a cache of back issues crumbling away in the basement archive of a Munich library, seemingly untouched for years.

Cumulatively, the stacks of issues told the story of a dozen-year-long struggle between Hitler and the paper, which began soon after the mysterious Austrian-born outsider appeared as a fiery orator and canny organizer on the Munich streets in 1921.

The Munich Post never stopped investigating who Hitler was and what he wanted, and Hitler never stopped hating them for it.

As Hitler sought to ingratiate himself with the city’s rulers (though never giving up the threat of violence), the Post reporters dug into his shadowy background, mocking him mercilessly, exposing internal party splits, revealing the existence of a death squad (“cell G”) that murdered political opponents and was at least as responsible for Hitler’s success as his vaunted oratory.

And in their biggest, most shamefully ignored scoop, on December 9, 1931, the paper found and published a Nazi party document planning a “final solution” for Munich’s Jews — the first Hitlerite use of the word “endlösung” in such a context. Was it a euphemism for extermination? Hitler dissembled, so many could ignore the grim possibility.

The Munich Post lost and Germany came under Nazi rule — but, in a sense, the paper had also won; they were the only ones who had figured out just how sinister Hitler and the Nazis were. I believe Hitler knew this. And so, back in 1923, when Hitler had thrown the opposition into disarray and division, he saw the chance to eliminate the Munich Post. And he took it and tried, though he failed at that, too.

After the 1923 fiasco, Hitler served nine months of a five-year sentence for rebellion and pledged to stay out of politics. But his parliamentary party didn’t quit, and eventually Hitler had demonstrated enough neutral behavior (discounting the murders committed by the Nazi death squads not directly connected to him) that he was allowed to campaign again. Was it a mistake? Had he learned a lesson? As it turned out, Hitler used the tactics of bluff masterfully, at times giving the impression of being a feckless Chaplinesque clown, at other times a sleeping serpent, at others yet a trustworthy statesman. The Weimar establishment didn’t know what to do, so they pretended this was normal. They “normalized” him.

And so they allowed him and his party back onto the electoral lists, the beginning of the end. Democracy destroying itself democratically. By November 1932, his party had become the largest faction in the Reichstag, though not a majority. After that election though, it looked as if he’d passed his peak: his total vote had gone down. It looked like the right-wing parties had been savvy in bringing him in and “normalizing” him, making him a figurehead for their own advancement.

Instead, it was truly the stupidest move made in world politics within the memory of mankind. It took only a few months for the hopes of normalization to be crushed. As Sir Richard Evans, the leading British historian of the period has proven at painstaking length, the Reichstag Fire was not a Hitler plan to excuse a takeover through martial law. It had indeed been the work of a Dutch man, Marinus van der Lubbe. But Hitler, ruthlessly and savagely, took advantage of it, instituting martial law and crushing electoral democracy. There would have been another excuse. Once in power Hitler was going to go on maximizing it until the “final solution.”

And the Munich Post never stopped reporting on this ultimate aim and on Hitler’s use of murder, decrying any attempts to “normalize” the tyrant. They kept fighting until two months after his January takeover. In March 1933, when the Nazis ruled the media and the Post was “legally” shut down. There had been a few other brave journalistic souls — Konrad Heiden, Fritz Gerlich. But swiftly, oh so swiftly, the order of the day became “gleichschaltung” — “realignment,” or forced conformity, savage normalization. Goebbels and other Nazi propagandists made it their crusade to get the German body politic “adjusted” to the new reign of terror. “Gleichschaltung” meant normalize or else.

Hitler’s method was to lie until he got what he wanted, by which point it was too late. At first, he pledged no territorial demands. Then he quietly rolled his tanks into the Rhineland. He had no designs on Czechoslovakia — just the Sudetenland, because so many of its German-born citizens were begging him to help shelter them from persecution. But soon came the absorption of the rest of Czechoslovakia. After Czechoslovakia, he’d be satisfied. Europe could return to normal. Lie!

Speaking of the truth, etc., we referred to a podcaster as a demon from hell in a recent story. We didn't mean it the way it sounded. In that story on What We Learned Mob Blogging etc., we weren't making a moral judgment call. Besides, the only thing diabolical about him, as far as we can tell, is his cleverness, creativity, and ingenuity. And his editing and speaking abilities.

When we wrote that we were assuming the viewpoint of those on the wrong end of his wit. In fact, we have been listening to him all week.  We do not agree with him completely as we fancy ourselves a journalist-blogger type of guy who very much wants to communicate with anyone who has a story to tell. 

The podcaster is called MRE and we write this because you have to give the devil his due (we're kidding) we mean, you have to give credit where credit is due. MRE ruthlessly attacks "mob rats" who he finds on YouTube, but he does it with a great bit of wit attached to it. He is on a mission. 

He's keeping his true identity hidden, and he has his own code. A self-proclaimed troll, there are certain lines he won't cross. He is attacking every mob informant who is alive, it seems. We have covered and interviewed at one time or another just about every turncoat he lashes into in his podcasts, some of which clock in at over an hour. He has been doing them frequently since we think about the beginning of the summer. He has special animus for John Alite and it seems he started up around the time John's latest tome, Mafia International, arrived.

He focuses on John and his brother Jimmy Alite. So of course certain individuals think John Junior is funding him. We don't think so but sometimes we wonder if some wiseguy finally got fed up and figured out a way to start sending some crap back. But then, we wonder, would a wiseguy really bother?

MRE is a troll, he freely admits, but he doesn't live in his mom's basement (he clarifies that he, in fact, lives in his aunt's basement). His accent sounds Boston to us, but we could be and usually are wrong. 

Remember The Jerky Boys, the two-man comedy act from Queens that specialized in tape recording hilarious prank telephone calls? Boston accent or not, MRE's vibe and delivery are such that he could easily pass for the "forgotten" third Jerky Boy. Do yourself a favor and listen to the Jerky Boys here -- after you do, you'll probably want to hear all their other prank calls.)

Speaking of John Alite, he was featured in a recent Daily Mail story, one of the countless newspaper articles written to leverage that recent Wall Street Journal report on the modern mob. The article makes claims that we do not believe accurate. John was around John (Junior) Gotti, and that Daily Mail story very much creates the impression that he was around both Gottis, John Junior and John Senior. If he was, that is news to us. Did John say that or did the reporter misunderstand the facts, we can't say. But we have also heard John make claims on YouTube that we find difficult to swallow.

John does himself no favors by attempting to blur some of the facts to make himself look a certain way if that is what he is trying to do. We tell him this in the hopes of helping him.