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Press freedom 598

GarconDuMonde writes "Reporters San Frontiers has released it's third annual worldwide index of press freedom. Although the majority of top-ranking countries are from northern Europe, it is perhaps more interesting to note where countries such as Switzerland, Italy, the UK and the USA fall (1, 39, 28 and 22, respectively)."
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Press freedom

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  • Isn't Switzerland (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 27, 2004 @10:56PM (#10649715)
    The country responsible for getting the Indymedia servers pulled?
    • by billstewart ( 78916 ) on Thursday October 28, 2004 @04:54AM (#10651481) Journal
      That may affect next year's report, but was probably too late to make this year's.

      Besides, Nobody's "responsible" for it. Everybody says it was somebody else, or that they're not allowed to talk about pending criminal investigations, or things like that.

      At least under the last few years of US procedures for computer search and seizure rules, the Indymedia attacks were mismanaged - they're supposed to take a copy and return everything ASAP for most cases, and they're supposed to be extremely careful of systems containing journalistic works in progress, which Indymedia pretty obviously had. And they didn't handle it that way.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 27, 2004 @11:00PM (#10649738)
    ... but don't practice it. It's pretty sad when you have to cringe every time you hear "... land of the free ..." Not that the U.S. is a bad place to live, mind you. The United States is the best place to live if you happen to like money.
    • Speak for yourself... I never cringe when I hear "... land of the free ..." ... neither do my Muslim, Jewish, Catholic, Hindu, Buddhist, Protestant and atheist classmates that are all allowed to believe and practice their faiths exactly as they wish.
      • For another six days, yeah.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 27, 2004 @11:21PM (#10649878)
        That sort of makes the OP's point for them.
        Guess what? There are many many other countries where that very same situation applies.

        I think the OP was saying that Americans love to pretend they are the only country that gets it right when it comes to ensuring people's freedoms.

        But the truth is that USA is actually behind a great many other countries for true freedom. Take it how you like, but when we see international reports on corruption, the free press, courts, fair trials, rights of citizens - we always see USA coming after about 10-20 other countries or more.

        Some of us just get a little annoyed that the Americans are always talking the talk, but are falling behind when it comes to walking the walk :)
      • Er, America isn't the only country that makes this a possibility nowadays, actually. Maybe 200 years ago... Maybe you could come up with a slightly more thoughtful rebuttal?
      • by kfg ( 145172 ) on Wednesday October 27, 2004 @11:36PM (#10649967)
        Just don't wear a T-shirt that says "Support Civil Liberties" on it.

        That's chargable as criminal trespass.

      • by microbox ( 704317 ) on Thursday October 28, 2004 @12:04AM (#10650118)
        I never cringe when I hear "... land of the free ..."

        Give it a rest, most of the developed world has exactly those freedoms, and they find that type of talk self-serving and counter-productive to real freedom.

        If the level of civilization is measured by how will it treats the old, sick and poor, then the USA if full of a lot of hot air.
      • Good thing that the US didn't have a president who thinks that Atheists shouldn't be citizens [] and demands that our troops off fighting a war not only pray for him [] but also send in a voucher to prove that they're doing it. And thankfully we dont force children to pledge [] loyalty to God.

        Oh wait....

      • Speak for yourself... I never cringe when I hear "... land of the free ..." ... neither do my Muslim, Jewish, Catholic, Hindu, Buddhist, Protestant and atheist classmates

        Have you asked any afro-americans and native americans?

        America has been, somewhat, the land of the free since the 1960s and the civil rights movement (and the current republican party originated as a protest against that, pandering to the white south -- a strategy originating from Nixon -- and is doing its best to undo all those gains.)

    • America has good freedom of the press unless you are taking about "Adult" subjects. Then it is problly illegal in South Carolina.
      • Well, from the news I get also the feeling that if you are a goverment emplyee and want to expose breking of laws by authorities or corruption or similar you cannot go to the press in US currently as the courts will threaten to jail the journalist to get him to tell who you are and most journalists will just cave in.
        • So whats your point?

          Unless you are giving clasified information away or activly working against some policy for your own benefit, as a government employee, you are covered by the wistle blowers protection. This basicaly says that your employer cannot retaliate against you if you expose wrong doings or ilegal acts.

          Also if you are exposing law breaking or coruption, then you should have already reported it to the authorities before going to the press about it. There should already be a trail on it.
    • And let's be frank, most of the US press aren't free - they're usually fairly expensive: only the larger corporations can afford them.

    • It's pretty sad when you have to cringe every time you hear "... land of the free ..."

      Just so you know, you don't have to.

      Hope this helps.
  • by Dancin_Santa ( 265275 ) <> on Wednesday October 27, 2004 @11:00PM (#10649743) Journal
    Comparing the Western European countries with vast freedoms of the press to the dictatorial or communist countries with outright persecution of journalists is eye-opening. What is most disturbing is that in this day and age that there still exists repression of thought in some countries. Control the media and you can control the minds of your subjects. To have a truly free thinking society means that the media cannot be controlled.

    The only problem with this is that it leads to significant growth of tabloid press. Look at Europe again with its outrageous papers like the Sun or Pravda. Just because the press is free does not mean that the information is better, just more voluminous.

    Like the internet, anyone in a free press country can publish what they like. Like the internet, it is up to the reader to filter out the gems from the trash.
    • by asciiwhite ( 679872 ) * <> on Wednesday October 27, 2004 @11:05PM (#10649774)
      Look at Europe again with its outrageous papers like the Sun or Pravda. Just because the press is free does not mean that the information is better, just more voluminous.

      Look at USA again with its outrageous media conglomerates like Fox. Just because the press is free does not mean that the information is better, just more voluminous.

    • The only problem with this is that it leads to significant growth of tabloid press
      Well then I ask you: How am I going to know when Jesus is spotted, who the fattest person is, how white Michael Jackson is today, and where the martians are? And they mark your post "insightful"...
    • Look at Europe again with its outrageous papers like the Sun or Pravda

      For what it's worth, the Sun is American owned (Rupert Murdoch) and Pravda is Russian only. It's hard to specify "European" newspapers, because there are no international European newspapers, only national ones.

      What is most disturbing is that in this day and age that there still exists repression of thought in some countries.

      Not at all, we in the western world haven't had complete freedom of press and speech for a long time, but

    • by myowntrueself ( 607117 ) on Wednesday October 27, 2004 @11:44PM (#10650018)
      "Control the media and you can control the minds of your subjects. To have a truly free thinking society means that the media cannot be controlled."

      Not even by corporations nor by shareholders nor managing directors.

      The reason that I believe that democracy cannot properly function in modern 'media-rich' societies is exactly this; who controls the media controls, among other things, *voting*behaviors* (I believe that human beings are extremely amenable to suggestion).

      Any media coverage of political matters risks being used as a tool to control voting behaviors.

      I like the *idea* of democracy but I fail to see how this sort of problem can be circumvented at all.

      • There are ways (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Featureless ( 599963 )
        Some of them are novel and have not yet been widely understood. We may employ rather modern technology to process, vet, and filter information through mechanisms not so dissimilar to slashdot's, that could make many organized disinformation campaigns more difficult. It is difficult to imagine such as-yet-unseen systems operating in a socially important way, on a large scale, but it was difficult to imagine the internet itself 15 years ago. The idea is simply to augment existing social and democratic convent
    • I think it was in Outfoxed that it was said: perhaps countries whose populace has instilled in them an inherent trust of the media are the easiest to deceive, as they will be the least likely to accept that they are being deceived.

      I'm not sure if I believe that, but I don't think it's a far stretch to manufacturing consent. It's interesting just how well thought can be manipulated by fabricating a false diversity of view.
  • Middle East (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Indy Media Watch ( 823624 ) on Wednesday October 27, 2004 @11:02PM (#10649750) Homepage
    It's interesting to note the results and see why it's difficult to trust ANY news coming from Iraq.

    How are we expected to know what's really going on when reporters feel threatened and ordinary Iraqis still don't trust the media after years of it being state controlled?

    There are other documented examples [] or Arab gangs intimidating the press to sing their own tune and it pretty well rights off any ability for readers to discern between news versus propaganda.
    • When it comes to things from middle east you can usually get atleast somewhat better picture if check out multiple sources information for each piece of news to try to get the different slants..

      I tend to try to look up any news in things like: [] Aljazeera for a quite extreme view. [] GulfNews as example of moderate arab media a bit further away.
      and many others as time and intrest permits.

  • by HotNeedleOfInquiry ( 598897 ) on Wednesday October 27, 2004 @11:04PM (#10649763)
    "Reporters Without Borders compiled the index by asking its partner organisations (14 freedom of expression organisations in five continents), its 130 correspondents around the world, as well as journalists, researchers, jurists and human rights activists, to answer 52 questions to indicate the state of press freedom in 167 countries"

    So this leaves lots unsaid. Basically, if correspondents say they don't have press freedom, they don't. Doesn't seem like a very scientific study to me.
    • by gollum123 ( 810489 ) on Wednesday October 27, 2004 @11:11PM (#10649807)
      Also the study did not address anything about the inherent bias in the media. The fact that the government does not control the media does not mean that we get unbaised coverage of the news. And a lot of times the ownership of the media is not even clear to judge which side they are more baised against. This is as dangerous as govt. controlling the media because people think that the media is free and fair which is not true.
      • Freedom of the Press does not mean that press is fair. Fair has nothing to do with it.

        Freedom of the Press means that if there is a right-wing channel, you are free to start a left wing channel. It allows for people to openly broadcast/write/etc whatever they like and not be censored because it agaisnt the goverment/an allie/a person.

        Don't get mixed up, you can never have a truely unbaised report. The best you can have is a broad range to pick and choose from so that you can make your own decisions.
    • by luvirini ( 753157 ) on Wednesday October 27, 2004 @11:11PM (#10649809)
      I think you ae partly missing the point.

      There are no really objective ways of measuring press freedom, as in the all repressed countires the press uses self-censure.

      Indeed you can mesure how many journalists are in jail and how many journalists are required to give up their sources and such on certain level, but the "but I cannot write about those things" cannot be measured in objective way.

      Thus the only way to try to get a grip on these issues is to ask the people in question, with anonymity.

    • Basically, if correspondents say they don't have press freedom, they don't

      But when have reporters ever looked deeper than a quote which they liked and which served their bias?

      See: An Open Letter to Reporters Without Borders [] which includes the comment: "Given that Reporters Without Borders receives 44 percent of its income from the European Commission, you are in no position to criticize any government for using speech".

      Given this, and other comments in this thread, I would apply a healthy dose of skepti
      • "But when have reporters ever looked deeper than a quote which they liked and which served their bias?"

        You may not like reporters, but this is a disgusting insult to decades of dedicated investigative journalists which have risked life and reputation to bring the truth to the people.
    • The rankings are accompanied by numbers in the righthand column which seem to be some sort of numerical index on the basis of which they constructed the rankings. Unfortunately, they don't, as far as I can tell, explain what these numbers mean.

      It is possible, however, to get a better idea of the basis for their characterization of the various countries. The English language section doesn't have much information (and has some screwed up links), but if you go to either the French or Spanish sections and c

    • So this leaves lots unsaid. Basically, if correspondents say they don't have press freedom, they don't. Doesn't seem like a very scientific study to me.
      Indeed, they should of used a cyclotron or at least a bunsen burner.
    • by rsidd ( 6328 )
      So this leaves lots unsaid. Basically, if correspondents say they don't have press freedom, they don't. Doesn't seem like a very scientific study to me.

      Maybe that's why India is ranked 120. Frankly, very little of India's press or media is government-owned, and I see savage criticism of the government every day, it's a nice change from the servile bootlicking of Bush that goes on in the US press.

      Indians do tend to be very self-critical. Also there was one notorious case of an expose of government corru

  • by freddie ( 2935 )
    That's the country on the top of the list.

    The truth is its worse than in the U.S.

    In Denmark you can be jailed []
    for making a comment online if a judge determines that it is racist.

    Makes you wonder what the motivation behind this study is.
    • And in the US you can be jailed for your comments online for any of a variety of reasons: because your comments are interpreted as a threat is just one.
    • by mjtg ( 173905 ) on Wednesday October 27, 2004 @11:15PM (#10649834)
      That's nothing. You can be jailed [] anywhere in the world if the US president thinks you're a terrorist. Give me a Danish judge any day.
    • Danes might be interested in speaking on a network like mine. The internet isn't our network anymore. Anyone who acts like it is, is just begging for trouble...
    • by Penguin ( 4919 ) on Wednesday October 27, 2004 @11:45PM (#10650025) Homepage
      No, that's not "The truth". That's just one story you pull out as it would explain everything. Please, that kind of anecdotal argument is just a way of disrupting an argument. You could probably google for a lot more regarding Denmark and throw other red herrings about stuff not related to free press (like we pay a lot in taxes :)

      It's true that the Danish penal code has parts regarding libel, slander, threats, etc. just as many other countries (penal code - "Straffeloven" - 266). This paragraph also contains a note regarding the above issues aimed at groups because of their race, color, ethnicity, faith or sexual orientation. Personally I don't think it's that different from targeting individuals (but hey, I'm a Dane :). The paragraph has been discussed now and then in the public, but the borders are actually quite wide. It's nothing like Germany or France (.. I pressume)

      Besides, this has nothing to do with press freedom. A Danish nazi party is actually allowed to run their own radio station at the ordinary FM-band.

      We did have an interesting case though regarding a radio documentary in 1985, where an interviewer talked with a bunch of young, declared racists ("Greenjackets"), spreading their racism. At first the interviewer was convicted of spreading racism at a lower court, but after appealing through the system (and even losing at Danish supreme court), he tried his case in front of the European Court of Human Rights [] which concluded that even though some of the statements made by the Greenjackets would be racist, the broadcast itself wasn't. You can read the entire case online [].

      It's actually a bit surprising when documentaries like Fahrenheit 9/11 (or, on a more serious level, Control Room), show how news are presented in the US. I think that many Danes weren't that surprised viewing these documentaries, because the Danish press already used several sources, meaning that a lot of the "surprising stories" in these documentaries weren't that surprising at all, since a lot of the footage had already been shown in public media.

      I am pretty worried of US citizens believing that each and every single thing about US is the best in the world. We have a more free press, less corruption [], a head of government elected by popular vote, but since we live in a world where people appearently get their "entire facts" based on one or two incidents (which is pretty usual at Slashdot - think of all the posts regarding any topic, where one would find a random incident about a webserver, a company, a product and continuously beat that argument in a manner like "How can you say this product is good, since (link to some old event)?"), nothing of this matters. It only matters if people are able to use Google to find that little piece of information, they care about and judge the rest of the world by that.

    • That's the country on the top of the list. The truth is its worse than in the U.S.

      The article is about free press...not free speech. I would think that America would beat most European countries in that respect.
  • by Behrooz ( 302401 ) on Wednesday October 27, 2004 @11:05PM (#10649773)
    I think that the biggest threat to the free press in the United States today comes from the owners of media conglomerates, not the government. The continuing centralization of media ownership and the ongoing lobbying campaign in support of media consolidation leave us with an oligarchy of giant media groups. Often, the major media outlets of a city are owned by one or two large corporations, with interlocking ownership.

    Under those conditions, the views of the owners are propagated without check, because there simply is no real independent mass media in most parts of the US today. They censor themselves, so the government doesn't have to.
    • Spot on. Exactly the same reason why Australia found itself down the list as well.
  • by LostCluster ( 625375 ) * on Wednesday October 27, 2004 @11:06PM (#10649781)
    Here's what they had to say about the USA and Canada The two North American giants score well A police raid in Canada on the home of journalist Juliet O'Neil and the national regulatory authority's stand against the pan-Arab radio station Al-Jazeera and the local station CHOI FM downgraded the country to 18th place. Violations of the privacy of sources, persistent problems in granting press visas and the arrest of several journalists during anti-Bush demonstrations kept the United States (22nd) away from the top of the list. Really, we're being accused of minor things in the grand scheme of things... the top of the list contries are just small enough to be lucky to have not had any incidents.
  • by Faustust ( 819471 ) on Wednesday October 27, 2004 @11:10PM (#10649797) Homepage Journal

    The reason is that they allow themselves to be completely neutral. They don't care if they have George Bush's money in a bank account or Saddam Hussein's money, it's all the same to them.

    When a country's government is neutral, it allows for the media to be more openly objective. These laws allow for equal treatment of everyone. The only problem with that is you are --I hate to sound cliche-- "helping terrorism."
    • by zx75 ( 304335 ) on Wednesday October 27, 2004 @11:28PM (#10649923) Homepage
      Helping, or failing to hinder? Glass is half-full/half-empty here. Switzerland doesn't aid and abet terrorism, does not provide a refuge for wanted criminals, they take care of themselves and expect the rest of the world to do the same.

      In truth, if some larger more influential and powerful nations *ahem* took an attitude more in line with the Swiss, there would be less conflict in this world of ours.
      • This claim that if some larger or more influential countries would take the attitude of the Swiss is ignorant.

        It is attitudes like that that resulted in the massacres in Rawanda. It is that very same attitude that is resulting in the same thing occuring in Sudan. Want more, Bosnia, Afghanistan, China, and even Checyna.

        Seems to me that the real issue is not that some countries are more influential but WHICH countries that are and what they are doing.

        I will take the current attitude of countries that do
        • At the same time, we (the US) created Saddam Hussein and are responsible for much of the power of the Taliban. Arguably we're creating the problems, or at least, some of them. The question is, are we actually helping the world more than we're hurting it, in this regard? Of course, a broader question is whether we help the world more than hurt it in all areas, but that's so subjective it's basically impossible to measure.
    • by theolein ( 316044 ) on Thursday October 28, 2004 @01:22AM (#10650657) Journal
      I don't fully understand this american hatred of Switzerland, since it mostly seems to fall in one of two categories: The Banks hiding illegal money and Switzerland's neutrality.

      As regards the banks, they are Switzerland's biggest employers and so do get more priviliges than they should, and they definitely did take anyone's money in the past. They don't, however, do this any longer. Saddam Hussein's money has been frozen for years and the Swiss authorities do give information on account holders to judicial enquiries from countries with which Switzerland has legal agreements. That is why criminals prefer to keep their money in the Cayman islands these days.

      But I never hear any such moral preaching against the Cayman Islands.

      Secondly, Switzerland is a tiny country that was surrounded by hostile nations for most of its history. For that reason the Swiss decided to become neutral, as it kept them from having to go through the ravages of the first and second world wars. Switzerland takes its neutrality seriously and doesn't support bullshit wars like the fucking stunt you yanks pulled in Iraq, or the fucking stunt that Saddam pulled in Kuwait.

      Switzerland is by no means perfect, (I live here and don't really like it or the people) but it minds its own business and would like other countries to do the same.

      I think you people who constantly preach about how morally corrupt Switzerland is are just ashamed of all the crap that your own country does.
  • by wsherman ( 154283 ) * on Wednesday October 27, 2004 @11:20PM (#10649867)
    Americans frequently claim that others are "jealous" of their freedom.

    It's interesting that they use "jealous" rather than "envious" because "jealous" implies a limited resource (two women wanting to date the same man, for example) whereas "envious" implies an unlimited resource (envying your friend's new computer - new computers are available to anyone who wants to buy one).

    There seems to be a subconscious fear in the United States that if the rest of the world gets "freedom" or "wealth" that the United States will somehow lose it.

    There is no reason the whole world can't have high levels of freedom and a high standard of living and high levels of education.

    The fear that the United States is preventing other countries from having these things seems to lead to the fear that if other countries get these things then the United States will lose them.

    Of course, depsite what most Americans seem to think, the United States doesn't come in first in most measures of quality of life (freedom of press, per capita income, education level, etc.) anyway so it's not clear what they are so worried about.
    • Americans frequently claim that others are "jealous" of their freedom.

      I've been an American for several decades now, and I've never heard any such thing. Perhaps you can name some Americans who claim this, of the masses who "frequently" do so. Be sure to include addresses and phone numbers.

    • That's interesting, but US citizens who actually believe the cliche "they hate us for our freedom" most likely did not arrive at that conclusion on their own. That's simply the propaganda they've been fed by their government. (Since 9/11, this line has been repeated by US politicians over and over and over ad nauseum.) So, no need to analyze the thinking process of such people -- most likely there isn't one at all.
  • It is sad and somewhat disturbing that my old home country, South Africa is only four places behind the bastion of the free world. Remembering back to the censorship and talking to those still there, I worry about what we don't hear in the mainstream (or perhaps any) press in the US. When did this situation start to occur, i wonder?

  • Surely the major goal of the co-ordinated 911 attackers was to instigate a defensive and vulnerable posture from US government, media and population.

    There can be no better horrific message than one which is seen worldwide in real time.
    • Surely the major goal of the co-ordinated 911 attackers was to instigate a defensive and vulnerable posture from US government, media and population.

      The goal was to provoke a rash aggressive response which would get the US into the "quagmire" they're in now, with no way out and getting worse by the day.
  • old media (Score:3, Interesting)

    by feelyoda ( 622366 ) on Wednesday October 27, 2004 @11:25PM (#10649905) Homepage
    You have 100% freedom with blogs, and they don't have borders.

    My examples here [] and here [] and in my sig. Visit them and enjoy your freedoms.
    • While I am sure you think that you provide some useful interpretation of the news and events happening in the world outside your living room, have you actually ever provided news?

      Didn't think so.

      Until you do, please do not pretend you are a journalist. You have the same place in the news food chainas the people who write letters to the editor do... You may think you have an interesting perspective or point of view perhaps, but do not imagine yourself to ever be in the same class as the people who put th
  • by Jameth ( 664111 ) on Wednesday October 27, 2004 @11:27PM (#10649917)
    In general, it refers to how much freedom members of the press are given, not to how free speech/publication is. For example, the US is cited for trouble giving press visas, and the arrest of reporters during demonstrations. It makes no mention of any other restrictions on speech, no mention of a climate that is hostile to some forms of the press, no mention of the way that the president grants the media access and chooses questions.

    The study seems to completely ignore non-official members of the press. A few years back, this would have been fine. However, the formality of the press is dispersing. Just look at the blogging community. That's the press. I think it's a useful metric, but definitely not the final statement on the issue.
    • The study seems to completely ignore non-official members of the press. [...] That's the press.

      How exactly are bloggers "members of the press"? They do not create news, they talk about it. Bloggers are pundits, not reporters. There is a difference. A very big difference.
  • Mexico was rated 95th this year. The reason given is violence against journalists in several specific states, which are mostly the same northern border states where most of the US businesses have relocated under NAFTA and where Mexican businesses that export to us under NAFTA have the substantial majority of their factories.
    How can we judge whether Mexico is in compliance with NAFTA requirements on such factors as pollution control or reciprocal use of US made systems? Do these places actually commit v

  • Years ago, I heard of a news service or 'paper
    that published its news reports intentionally
    delayed; the idea was that only after more of
    the stories & evidence coming out about an
    event have had a chance to flow out of the area
    where it happened does it make sense to publish

    Q: What's the name of that Newspaper or Service?

    Do they have a web site, at which we can read
    some/all of their news?
  • Misleading (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Tablizer ( 95088 )
    I remember once this subject came up, and somebody pointed out that even though Canada scored higher, they actually do things such as filter pamphlets from certain political groups, including certain Jewish groups. Freedom of press and freedom of speach can be two very different things. Ideally, both rankings should be presented together, otherwise you give a lopsided picture.
  • ... the journalists' satisfaction with other aspects of their country to affect their responses.

    The article is quite short on details -- what exactly were the questions, and how were the response calibrated.

    I'm also curious, who they found in North Korea to talk to?

  • by toupsie ( 88295 ) on Thursday October 28, 2004 @12:45AM (#10650421) Homepage
    Being 22nd in the World, I am surprised that John Ashcroft didn't invoke the Patriot Act to suppress this report! I will put the USA up against any other country in the world on the number of press outlets that are operating within our borders, print, radio, TV and internet. The Freedom of the Press is so prevalent in Bush's USA that I am almost going deaf from the cacophony of screams of people saying their right to free speech is being abridged.
  • by Penguin ( 4919 ) on Thursday October 28, 2004 @12:54AM (#10650485) Homepage
    Steven Colbert: After all, it was Thomas Jefferson who said "Everyone imposes his own system as far as his army can reach."
    Jon Stewart: No, that was Stalin. Thomas Jefferson said that he'd "Rather have free press and no government, than a government and no free press".
    Steven Colbert: Well, what else would you expect from a slave-banging, Hitler loving queer?

Nothing ever becomes real till it is experienced -- even a proverb is no proverb to you till your life has illustrated it. -- John Keats