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San Diego County GOP head explains old video showing him with Nazi images

San Diego County Republican Party Chairman Tony Krvaric.
(San Diego Union-Tribune)

San Diego Republican Party Chairman Tony Krvaric said Monday that a 30-year-old video that contains images of him along with pictures of Adolf Hitler and swastikas was part of a smear campaign and does not represent who he is.

“Criticize me all you want, but not for this,” he said, his voice cracking in a Monday telephone interview. “This is vile.”

In a story that aired Friday, KPBS reported on a YouTube video from the early 1990s that features an image of Hitler giving a Nazi salute while bopping across the top of the screen. Scrolling below it are black and white photos of young men, including a few of Krvaric. One solo image identifies him by his computer handle with the caption, “Kill a commie coz here’s Strider!”

Local Republican officials quoted in the story condemned the imagery. Supervisor Dianne Jacob called the video disturbing, congressional candidate Darrell Issa said it was inappropriate, and San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer said the images were wrong and should never be tolerated.

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The video’s title is “Amiga Demo: Space Age (Fairlight),” and it doesn’t appear to have a clear message.

Krvaric has been chair of the San Diego GOP since 2007. He recently announced he is not seeking reelection and will step down from the position in January. Following the announcement, he said he would not speak to the media until after the November election, and he did not respond to requests for a comment from KPBS.

He did respond via Twitter on Friday, when he criticized KPBS for reporting on something that was done when he was a “teenage computer nerd.” He followed up with another Tweet on Monday, calling the Nazi images disgusting and saying he had nothing to do with the production of the short video.

He broke his silence Monday afternoon with an explanation of the origins of the video, which he said had been online since 2009. Krvaric said he had been the subject of an internal GOP smear campaign, and a story on the video had been “shopped around” to local media for years.

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The two-minute, 32-second video, he said, was made when he was a member of a group of computer game hackers called Fairlight in his native Sweden.

Fairlight would remove copyright protection to copy games, which he said was legal in Sweden at the time. They and other computer piracy groups would make boastful videos showing their skills at using sound effects, graphics and music.

“Usually it would be some bravado about girls or ‘Our hacker group is better than your hacker group,’” Krvaric said. “It’s basically like graffiti gangs.”

The demos were saved onto floppy discs and later uploaded using modems, then passed around to other enthusiasts.

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“Fairlight probably cracked hundreds of games and made over 200 demos over two primary computers,” he said.

The demos followed similar formats, with music and an image bouncing on the top half of the screen. Among the hundreds made, Krvaric said one of the hackers used an image of Hitler. One of the young men pictured in the video, not Krvaric, appears to be making a Nazi salute.

The person who made the video recognized that this one was more edgy than others, and he ended a scrolling message with the disclaimer, “Now don’t think that we are mega Nazis just because of the Hitlersprite.” Krvaric explained that “sprite” is a graphic element.

While he didn’t think much of it as a 20-year-old, Krvaric said he sees the images as offensive today.

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“Of course it’s in bad taste and it’s offensive,” he said. “All those things go without saying.”

Krvaric said the video appeared online because people who have them on decaying floppy discs or deteriorating Commodore 64 and Amiga computers are trying to preserve them for posterity.

He said that as an outspoken defender of Israel, he is particularly hurt by the association with Nazi imagery.

Warth writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.


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