Hate and Freedom on the Internet

June 13, 1996
By Richard Petersen

This is encouraging comming from the three judge Federal panel in Philadelphia considering challenges to the new Communications Decency Act (CDA). The letter from Terry R. Lord - Acting Chief, Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section of the United States Department of "Justice" is less so. In response to the American Family Association he writes:

How do people with such little reasoning ability get into positions of power in the government? Why does he assume without any evidence that "distribution of these materials has a deleterious effect on minors."? What materials? Perhaps introducing sexuality to teenage boys through Playboy centerfolds has a more deleterious effect.

Why is it that the First Amendment has to be fought for with each new advance in technology? The battle was lost with Radio and Television. In 1938 the FCC even decreed that radio stations would have to get it's permission to broadcast radio programs produced in foreign countries. Radio and Television have to this day barely recovered from the effects of government censorship. I hope the Internet fairs better.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angles seems concerned about hate groups on the Internet and feels that something should be done to stop them. They advocate that access providers should be the censors. "Hate-group specialist" Rabbi Abraham Cooper says that the Internet is providing a powerful tool for the groups. ''The bigots have shifted assets to cyberspace,'' he said. ''The real concern that we have is in the area of recruitment. To a young person, it looks normal. It looks structured. It may even look appealing.'' So much for the free flow of ideas. The core of the argument is that some people need to protect others from seeing and reading some things. This is the idea at the core of Fascism. They even hold up the example of America Online as responsible censors. One wonders whether they would want the accusations by Mark Weber in Simon Wiesenthal: Fraudulent 'Nazi hunter' removed. Hate on the Net from the Bnai Brith Hillel Society may be a better reaction to hate than what is advocated by the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

Some of the pages at the Jewish Defense League (A State Crime: The Assassination of Rabin by Uri Dan and Dennis Eisenberg and They Must Go NOW!) might be considered hateful. David Cole: Monstrous Traitor even borders on inciting violence. If David Cole was murdered by someone after reading this, would the Jewish Defense League somehow be responsible? Yet would one wish to have someone tell them what they could put online? The views of Milton Kleim, Don Black and Dr. William L. Pierce may be on the fringe, but they do provide an insightful glimpse into the world of "White Supremacy". The Black Panther Coloring Book might be chilling but does provide insight into the frustrations felt by many Black people.

The common denominator between the Jewish Defense League, Aryan Nations and the Nation of Islam seems to be an unabashed position pro their own group. The sad part is that they have to be against others to do so. The reality is that there is anger and hatred in this country. Pushing it off the Internet does not make it go away. The Internet in fact, provides a refreshingly thoughtful way of understanding what people and groups stand for as opposed to the "dumb down, sound bite" approach characteristic of television. If we are ever as a country to face the reality that anger and hate do exist in this country we have to first be willing to see it. The Internet provides this opportunity and even allows for the possibility of 2 way dialogue by email.

Creating the mechanisms for censoring the Internet poses an even greater danger. In the name of "protecting children", the government and large corporation could usurp the Internet to continue to control the view people have of the world. Currently TV, Radio and large media outlets now present a world view largely dictated by what advertisers and those in power want to see. To the extent that the Internet frees people from addiction to television and opens up a divergence of views, it threatens corporate advertising interests and the ability of companies to continue to convince people that happiness can be had through more and more consumption. People might wake up, learn to think for themselves and vote for political leaders with integrity. They may not want a world where a few people make 9 million dollars per year and the rest try to get by on $4.25 an hour. People might realize that they don't need a $140 pair of Nikes to feel good about themselves. Scary thoughts.

The Terry R. Lords and the Abraham Coopers of the world are the real dangers to Freedom for they advocate a form of Fascism in which some privileged people control what others are allowed to read. They are the modern day book burners with little confidence in people's ability to reason for themselves. This is totally at odds with the principles under which the United States was founded as contained in the Bill of Rights and provide a new example of truly Un-American behavior. Those who claim to be Christians might remember that the message of Jesus was about Loving Thy Neighbor and not about the need to control the thoughts and ideas of one's neighbor.


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