MINOT, N.D. — Over the past weekend, amid ongoing controversy surrounding a Greta Thunberg mural, which was to be put in Bismarck (and has now been moved to Fargo), a conservative website suggested the artist behind the mural is maybe a Nazi sympathizer.
A blogger at The Minuteman Blog, who is anonymous to the public, found a photo of the mural artist, Shane Balkowitsch, wearing a T-shirt depicting Ferdinand Porsche.
Based on this connection, the blogger suggested Balkowitsch might harbor an affinity for Nazism.
"I don't know that we clearly understand all that goes on in the mind of Shane Balkowitsch. But I do know this… if I were a business, I'd want absolutely nothing to do with his artwork on my building," the blogger wrote.
In response, Balkowitsch has gone on social media and offered a bounty for anyone who can divulge the identity of the blogger who uses the name T. Arthur Mason, an apparent nom de plume.
"The first person to be able to identify who T. Arthur Mason at the Minuteman Blog is in our community will receive a FREE SIGNED PRINT of Greta Thunberg. I will also send a $100 donation today to the children of Standing Rock," he wrote in a post. "We know he is hiding behind an alias. Let us see how his stance holds up in public. Insinuating that I am a Nazi supporter will not stand."
There is a lot of stupidity to unpack here.
Suggesting that anyone, including Balkowitsch, is sympathetic to Nazism because of a Ferdinand Porsche T-shirt is unintelligent.
The Volkswagen Beetle was designed for Hitler, but I don't think driving a Beetle means you like Nazis.
Sure Porsche, like many prominent German business figures of his era, had ties to the Nazis. That's hard to forgive if it can be forgiven, but is it fair to carry on as if that affiliation were the only thing which defines them?
Wernher von Braun designed the V2 rocket, which Nazis used to bombard England, but after the war, he came to the United States where, among other accomplishments, he became revered as the father of NASA.
The latter doesn't excuse the former, to be sure, yet both of those things are true. Von Braun, like Porsche, is a complicated figure.
I know it may be a concept lost on many given the political climate in America today, but it is possible to admire someone's achievements despite the darker parts of their biography.
Suggesting someone is a Nazi, or at least a Nazi sympathizer because they wear a Ferdinand Porsche shirt, is the sort of shallow, troglodyte politics that is killing this country.
Not that Bakowitsch is handling it well. It's a bit cowardly to launch personal attacks on people from behind the cloak of online anonymity, but what purpose is there in offering a bounty to uncloak such a person if not to retaliate with harassment?
Will everyone feel better if the Minuteman blogger is unmasked, so that he can be targeted for more personal attacks? Perhaps efforts to get him fired from his day job?
Two wrongs do not make a right.
The folderol around this mural of Thunberg, a trite and superficial figure who will be a little more than a footnote in history soon enough, has been embarrassing for just about everybody involved.
Seriously, grow up.
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Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, a North Dakota political blog, is a Forum Communications commentator. Listen to his Plain Talk Podcast and follow him on Twitter at @RobPort.