Interview: Lancelot Rice

Q: The latest controversy concerning anti-Muslim comments by Markus Abernathy has become a polarizing affair. Can you tell our readers more about your involvement in the controversy and why the Universal Triumvirate has taken to boycotting the MicroWiki community in response?

A: Well, I suppose that Markus has always sort of been very open with his remarks, as people tell me it goes back way before now. When I first arrived in March of this year, I always kept him on the peripheral, but he wasn’t as active during that time of year. Recently in June, I started to gear back up into activity as the Universal Triumvirate neared its summer elections. As we all know, a very tragic event happened just a few short days ago with the Orlando shootings, leading to a plethora of opinions being voiced against Muslims or against homosexuality.

In a thread titled “I am a Muslim so that makes me?”, Markus really came all out with his prejudiced comments by saying that they were a race “tainted by their religion”. Of course, this all tumbled downhill and people began giving him negative reputation for such comments. The last straw for me really was when he said in a round-about way that they were an inferior race. Now, I’ve known Muslims before, and I had a friend who tried to kill herself because people always thought of her as a terrorist, or they would spew racial slurs at her. I began to publicly voice my opinion, calling for a ban on Markus. Eventually, we started boycotting the wiki because I didn’t want to be around Markus and his hate speech.

The last straw really came when I woke up one morning and saw that Jonathon of Austenasia had said to simply ignore Markus. At that point, I realized that I just couldn’t be involved with a website that refused to take action on hate speech or even tell Markus to lower the rhetoric. I respect Jonathon’s opinion, he pays for the website and all, but I felt that he just really dropped the ball with that decision.

Q: The “ignore” option suggested, all the same, might accomplish more by alienating Abernathy’s participation. After all, if he is a troll, one would expect him to move on to whichever website would next provide him a stage and an audience if he is not gaining the attention he seeks at MicroWiki. Is it fair, then, to suggest that MicroWiki’s administration team are condoning hate speech by inaction?

A: Well that’s the thing, he’s found a group of people that indulge him and he knows he can come back at any point to provoke a response. He’s been around for years at this point. I don’t think the whole “ignore” solution is the right avenue because I don’t see him leaving anytime soon.

I don’t know if it’s fair to say they condone hate speech. I’m sure they’re all nice enough and level-headed people; however, when you fail to reprimand someone for hate speech in a place like an Internet forum where you have the distinct ability to ban them, it really shows a big failure to do what is right. I think somewhere near 60% of people polled said they favoured some sort of punishment for Markus, and that’s a clear majority of the community.

Q: Since the announcement of the Universal Triumvirate’s boycott, while several individuals and micronations have followed suit, there has been a backlash from others who feel that the boycott goes too far. What’s your response to those people?

A: To those people, I would like to say this: there is a difference between our movement and the movement of the New Starland government. The New Starland government claimed that the “old guard” were the problem and that she was a “lion” leading the new guard.

I do not believe that. I believed that a sensible approach had to be taken, and one which all of the community could agree on. An example needed to be made that you could not promote hate speech against a certain race and get away with it unscathed.

I closed my embassy to the website in order to avoid Markus – because it’s the internet, I’m not going to stay on a website that hosts someone who advocates that racism – and as it turned out, a few people decided to follow me for various reasons of their own. This is a boycott by a group who collectively believes there should be more action by the part of the site moderators, and until then, we’re going to stick together.

Q: What specifically needs to happen for the Universal Triumvirate to lift the boycott in the immediate term?

A: Simple – an immediate ban of Markus for any period greater than two weeks. I feel like this action would make me come back immediately and praise the action of the forum moderators, and apologize for boycotting MicroWiki. It’s just a simple matter of doing what is right instead of doing what is popular.

Q: You suggest a minimum ban for two weeks, but it seems as though the administration team aren’t open to this option at present. Is there any room for the Universal Triumvirate to be flexible in this demand, are you willing to accept an alternative approach if proposed?

A: Sure, I’m not an unreasonable person and I could accept some form of punishment. The problem seems to be at this point that they are ignoring him and trying to close their eyes to make the problem go away. Any punishment for Markus would give me a strong reason to open back up relations, but continued inactivity and indecisiveness on the moderators’ part seems like their choice of action at this moment.

Q: How can the community, its administrators and participants, work together to prevent a future recurrence of this episode?

A: I don’t think there’s one thing that would immediately solve the problem. The forum has a bad habit of people derailing threads, being loose with curse words and other offensive language, and the occasional troll.

Ironically, the solution that I can think of which would solve the problem has roots in the business we are in: government. I think the moderator team needs to sit down at least once every two weeks in a chat and talk about all of the things they can do to better the website, as well as who should be banned and what new rules need to be made. This team should be unbiased and should really try to work for the betterment of the community in general. I think that the forum can be saved, but we really need a group of people who will devote themselves to keeping the forum clean.

Q: Any final thoughts?

A: I hope that this interview sheds some light on our movement, and hopefully the members of the MicroWiki forum will stop berating us for doing what we think is right. Thank you, Mr. Sinclair.

Comments provoke MicroWiki angst

Controversial comments by New Israel’s Emperor, Markus Abernathy, during religiously-charged conversations on the MicroWiki forum has triggered significant backlash, resulting in some micronations and micronationalists announcing a boycott of the community until he is disciplined.

The controversy began on June 11 when Bradley of Dullahan, in reviving an inactive community discussion on Islam, launched into an emotionally-fuelled tirade against Islam in which he suggested that it was “the single most evil and despicable and destructive [religion] on the planet”, describing its god as an entity who “treats humans as slaves”, and its central prophet as “a pedophilic warlord who caused the destruction of the Roman Empire”.

Bilal Irfan, who practices Islam, issued a measured response to the comments, refuting the content of the tirade; however, this only served to provoke Bradley, an apparently staunch Christian, further. “Your religion is heresy. Why on God’s earth would God send another prophet after the Messiah which is following the Torah and the Bible the LAST prophet and the saviour of mankind!” he charged.

On June 13, the day of the Orlando, Florida, mass-shooting, during which a Muslim killed 49 individuals, the row escalated when Abernathy became involved. Abernathy, both rhetorically and randomly, in response to Irfan’s attempt to explain the meaning of sections of the Quran that had been quoted by Bradley, asked if Irfan “would have been happier had the Mohammedans won in the Battle of Tours … and destroyed Christianity?” Abernathy went on to suggest that Christianity is at war with Islam, by no fault of the former. Irfan took offence to the comment, expressing his belief that Abernathy was insinuating that, because he was a Muslim, this implied that he was either a terrorist, a killer, or a preacher of hate.

The argument subsequently spilled over, with other community members becoming involved in support of Irfan and in opposition to Abernathy and Bradley’s opinions on Islam. Decorum quickly exited the stage as the “your religion is right and pure, yours is wrong and evil” pronouncements of Abernathy in particular triggered strong responses, including from Abernathy’s fellow Christians.

Yesterday, the spat escalated further when Suzuki Akihonaomi called for the community to exclude Abernathy, as well as Bradley, and Paolo Emilio, on the basis that those two individuals were highly thought of by Abernathy. Collectively, she accused the group of “[upsetting] the balance of the micronational community,” and suggested that their actions would serve to cause a permanent split in MicroWiki. Akihonaomi called for the membership to refrain from commenting on any post made by the three individuals, and for the exclusion to be enforced by the recently-revived Grand Unified Micronational intermicronational organization. The exclusion would only cease if the individuals agreed to “end their flame warring and personal attacks”.

A community poll started by Ned Greiner suggested that, as of press time, two-thirds of voters are in favour of taking serious disciplinary action against Abernathy; however, several questioned whether enforced banishment of him from the forums, as suggested by Greiner, was an appropriate response to the situation. “It’s every user’s choice to reply to [Abernathy’s] threads,” said Matthew Cummings. David Sarkozy further opined, “if people just totally ignored [Abernathy’s] comments … situations may not escalate so drastically. Don’t let him bait you into argument with his bombastic comments.” The owner of the MicroWiki website, Jonathan of Austenasia, was equally measured in his response. “I’ve been saying this right from the beginning. If somebody annoys or offends you, ignore them,” he told the membership.

Yet for a limited group of members and their micronations, the situation warranted a more severe political response that included a boycott of the MicroWiki community in an attempt to compel Jonathan and the forum’s administration team to discipline Abernathy.

In announcing its boycott of the forums, the Universal Triumvirate described it as a means of protesting “radical hate messages”. Triumvirate Chancellor Lancelot Rice suggested that his, and his micronation’s, continued involvement on the forum would amount to “sponsoring hate messages” and “racist sentiment” unless the administration team took action against Abernathy. Other micronations quickly followed suit, including Cinnamon Creek, Nedland, and Whestcorea. Several micronationalists also joined, such as Greiner, Dallin Langford, Kit McCarthy and Henry Twain.

There are indications that the community is starting to move on from the affair in spite of the limited boycott. Irfan, for his part, continues to participate on the forums, as do most participants, with the offending discussions slowly moving into the past. There is even hope that a key lesson can be learned from the episode – “We need to lighten the atmosphere. Create new threads not for religion, but for culture, diplomacy, economy and so forth,” suggested Nicholas Kaos.

Do you think the Universal Triumvirate led boycott is an overreaction?

  • Yes (64%, 14 Votes)
  • No (23%, 5 Votes)
  • Not Sure (9%, 2 Votes)
  • No Opinion (5%, 1 Votes)

Total Voters: 22

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New Israel declares independence from Würtige Empire

WÜRDIGELAND – New Israel’s Emperor has declared independence from the Würtige Empire, citing a desire to not be dominated by Würtige and its legislature’s intention to override certain New Israeli laws.

A vassal of the Würtige Empire since September 2014, New Israel’s Emperor, Markus Abernathy, announced earlier today that he was unilaterally seceding due to comments made by several individuals within the Würtige legislature dating back to an August 3rd discussion regarding New Israel being granted memberstate status. That status, since granted with the unanimous approval of all individuals involved and confirmed by a treaty, is now in dispute as a result of Abernathy’s discovery of the comments leading up to the legislature’s vote on the matter.

Abernathy, in a post to the MicroWiki Community forums, shared copies of the unedited chat logs that included the comments. The logs appeared to be authentic and those involved have not protested otherwise since their publication; however, those involved in the conversation decried the loss of privacy caused by the sharing. Given that the unedited logs contain irrelevant and personal discussions, the Coprieta Standard will not be providing links to the unedited logs.

One comment made by Richard of Mercia, particularly noted by Abernathy in his announcement to declare independence, was regarding a desire to grant New Israel’s status change within the Empire as a symbolic gesture of dominance. The move would “show [Würtige’s] dominance in the wake of the Freedomian Aggression (referring to Abernathy’s previous controversial micronation),” Richard said; however, he also acknowledged that New Israel and Abernathy’s involvement would nonetheless be a positive addition to Würtige over and above any such symbolism. That was however proved insufficient to detract from the seriousness of dominance comment, which only served to re-open old wounds from a period of conflict between the two micronations from 2013 until New Israel when became a vassal.

Abernathy’s announcement also contained excerpts of comments by Arthur Labão, Würtige’s Emperor, and James Frisch. Labão seemed resigned to the need to accept New Israel as a full memberstate, and stated in a somewhat defeated manner that “We’ll just have to hope we can overrule [Abernathy’s] insanities,” referring to certain laws within New Israel that would clash with Würtige’s fundamental legal principles. Frisch meanwhile suggested that the “New State Joining Treaty,” as it is colloquially known, be amended to require only a two-thirds majority to overrule any such conflicting New Israeli law. While reasonable to except a memberstate to comply with its fundamental legal principles, Labão’s comment appeared to only inflame Abernathy.

“Several provisions of the Würtige Constitution violate deeply-held religious and political views of [New Israelis],” Abernathy said, suggesting that New Israel could not adhere to such provisions. “In conclusion, the policies of the Würtige Empire are irreconcilable with the Word of God and the Constitution of the Holy Empire of New Israel,” Abernathy stated defiantly as he declared independence.

To observers, it is not clear why New Israel consented to join Würtige as a constituent memberstate while having such irreconcilable differences with the Empire’s fundamental laws and policies; however, it is clear that Abernathy regrets that decision and wishes his micronation to regain its sovereignty.

The manner by which Abernathy is seeking to attain that goal – through a unilateral declaration – has nonetheless caused a row with Würtige officials. “I have no problem with New Israel declaring independence … but for heaven’s sake do it legally,” pled Richard, referring to the New State Joining Treaty’s specified process through which New Israel could achieve sovereignty. That procedure requires a simple majority of the residents of New Israel to vote in favour of the measure, allowing it to secede lawfully with or without the consent of the Würtige government.

Shortly before press time, Abernathy announced that he had no intention to comply with the secession provisions of the treaty. “Those who oppose this move simply view the matter in a different way,” he said. He further charged, with evident emotion, that “the evidence I have provided shows that the majority of the Würtige leaders violently oppose the existence of [New Israel];” however, the willingness of those same leaders to unanimously vote in favour of New Israel’s full memberstate status, which provided New Israel with stronger representation and rights as compared to that of a vassal, challenges that allegation.