No, Nazis, Cyber Genius Claude Shannon Can’t Be Your Hero
Claude Shannon humbly styled himself an engineer, but the man who invented the bit has a strong claim to rank as a founder of the Information Age. One thing he was not was a Nazi.
“I have to wonder if the renewed interest in the mathematician and engineer Claude Shannon says something about a turn towards a more white-friendly society,” writes “Albionic American” at The Daily Stormer, the web’s home for Neo-Nazis.
To which we, Claude Shannon’s Jewish-American and Indian-American biographers, respond: Ew. Gross. No.
We spent the past five years researching and writing the first biography of Shannon, and we’ve spent much of this summer talking and writing about Shannon’s contributions to our world. They’re considerable: Shannon laid the intellectual architecture for digital computers and modern communications technology, invented the bit, and has a strong claim to rank as a founder of the Information Age.
We never suspected that white supremacists would have any sort of affinity for a man who was curious, humble, and deeply funny—in other words, their total opposite in everything but the color of his skin. But now that they have, we want to very briefly point out how remarkably stupid it is that some internet Nazis want to claim Claude Shannon as one of their own. Not because we want to drag Shannon into this moment of political crisis, but because the way in which “Albionic American” has clowned himself here is actually a great object lesson in how white supremacy operates.
So let’s hear him out. The rest of “Albionic American’s” argument goes like this: “Our science nerds have tried to set up the faggot Alan Turing in the role of the computer age’s big hero, but ordinary whites couldn’t relate to him. Shannon, by contrast, was married and had a family. And he clearly had roots in America’s Old Stock white population, which in other contexts would make him uncool according to the Jewish degenerates who subvert and program our culture.”
First, a big reason there is renewed interest in Claude Shannon is not because of some mystical upwelling from deep in the souls of America’s white people, but because we—a “Jewish degenerate” and a brown-skinned person—have worked very hard to create renewed interest in Claude Shannon.
We’ve done this because we have a book to promote, and that’s what authors do. We’ve also done it because we think Shannon was awesome and brilliant, and we want more people to know his story. But we’ve also done it because, “Albionic American,” we want to subvert your culture—if by your culture, you mean a worldview in which you can bring yourself to admire someone only if you share enough genes with them.
Second, Claude Shannon experienced anti-Semitism, on at least one occasion. “Old Stock” American Shannon might have been, but his first wife, Norma Levor, was Jewish—and the two of them both looked Jewish enough that on their honeymoon, an anti-Semitic hotel owner in New Hampshire refused to rent them a room. Nazis, that hotel owner is your real hero. Maybe you should write a book about him.
Third, there were few people Claude Shannon admired more in the world than “the faggot Alan Turing.” They worked together in World War II, helping to kill Nazis (which we’re going to get to). They visited one another at their homes to talk computer science, artificial intelligence, and lots of other topics that did not have to do with how great it was to be white. When Turing visited Bell Labs in New York on the orders of the British government, he and Shannon had tea together almost daily. Shannon said, “I think Turing had a great mind, a very great mind.” Whether or not Shannon knew that Turing was gay, nothing in his letters, papers, or interviews suggests that he did give or would have given a damn. One of the reasons is that they were partners in an enterprise of far greater importance—killing Nazis. Which brings us to our last point.
Fourth, Claude Shannon HELPED KILL NAZIS. During World War II, Shannon helped design the anti-aircraft gun directors that enabled the American military to shoot down Nazi airplanes. He also tested the cryptographic systems that allowed the American and British high commands to communicate more effectively for the purpose of killing Nazis. We cannot stress this enough: Nazis, your hero should not be a man who helped kill Nazis.
Again, this isn’t really about Claude Shannon. His reputation can withstand all the tiki torches in the world. But it is about white supremacy—and the pathetic desperation that requires it to search for heroes even among its sworn enemies.
We’ve pored over 20 boxes of Claude Shannon’s correspondence at the Library of Congress, we’ve spoken to his family and friends and colleagues, we’ve read the papers that made him famous—and one thing we did not find was Claude Shannon expressing any particular pride about being white. He didn’t have to. He had actual accomplishments to take pride in—the master’s thesis he wrote at 21 that laid the basis for digital computing, or the great paper that revolutionized how the world thinks about information. He competed and collaborated with scientists and mathematicians of all backgrounds—gay men like Alan Turing, Jews like Norbert Wiener, women like his second wife Betty Shannon, who was a considerable math talent in her own right—and he more than held his own. He was an individualist, not a tribalist.
White supremacy is, among other things, an ideology for people who have nothing else to take pride in. As Kevin Williamson writes, “They seek identity in the tribe because they are failed individuals. They are a chain composed exclusively of weak links.” White supremacy can produce any number of ersatz heroes—just look at all the Civil War participation trophies scattered across the American South. But its attempts to claim actual heroes will continue to prove as laughable as its attempt to claim Claude Shannon.
In other words, lay off Claude Shannon, Nazis. Real heroes are not interested in being part of your tribe.