cr> re: the Wiesenthal statement


Richard Moore

Date: Thu, 11 Jan 1996
Sender: Joel Rosenberg <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Re: Hate and the Net (fwd)  [was: IP: Stokey Il yet again]

At  Craig A. Johnson wrote:

>Jewish Group Seeks Internet Restraints

~--<snip of quoted material>--~

Well, actually it probably ought to be entitled "Jewish Group Seeks to
Encourage Internet Service Provider Self-Restraint".  But that would
probably be too long.

>The letter from the
>Simon Wiesenthal Center, a 425,000-member organization based in Los
>Angeles, is the latest in a growing effort by legislators and private
>interest groups to censor offensive material on the global data
>network, which now connects millions of computer users worldwide.

The term censor, it seems to me, isn't appropriate.  ISPs, like anybody
else, do have the right to discriminate, except against protected classes.
Nazis and Klanners aren't protected classes.  If ISPs discriminated against
the hate groups to the extent that getting net access became either
impossible or nearly so, that would be censorship; if it merely becomes a
bit more difficult for the hate groups to gain access, it isn't.

The end result, at most, would be that hate groups would have to go to some
additional trouble in order to have net access.  That's hardly censorship,
and wouldn't exactly be the end of the world as we know it.

>"Internet providers have a First Amendment right and a moral
>obligation not to provide these groups with a platform for their
>destructive propa-ganda, '' Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the center's
>associate dean, wrote in the letter that was sent to Internet service

~--<snip of quoted material>--~

Again, it's important to note what Rabbi Cooper is and isn't saying.  He's
urging individuals to express their own First Amendment right to not be
involved in giving hate groups a platform; he isn't saying that the
government should censor them.

Sounds fair to me.

(Frankly, I think it's a waste of Rabbi Cooper's time, but that's certainly
his call, and not yours or mine.)



        I'd call this a classic split-the-liberals scenario.  It reminds me
of the time the neo-nazis wanted to march through a town with a large
Jewish-American population.  That caused a genuine crisis of conscience for
liberals and especially for Jewish liberals -- whether to give first-place
to human decency (and the memory of Holocaust victims), or to give
first-place to the Bill of Rights.  I felt at the time that situation was
too-good-to-be-true for those forces desiring to undermine the Right to

        Later we learned the extent to which the FBI had infiltrated
neo-nazi groups.  Perhaps the evidence is only circumstantial, but the FBI
had both the opportunity and the motivation to encourage or initiate that
particular style of activism to further their own repressive objectives.

        A recent article in Covert Action Quarterly revealed the extent to
which the FBI/Army Intelligence supports other right-wing groups, including
providing unused Army bases for use in Militia training.  (Ha Ha to those
who say the Militia isn't heavily infiltrated, and the Oklahoma bombing was
a surprise.)

        Maybe it's just coincidence, or maybe it's "only" sincere nazis
spreading their hate, but in responding to the Wiesenthal statement, we
should be aware we're being faced with a soul-splitting dilemma that
couldn't have been better designed to undermine our freedoms -- one way we
facilitate hate-mongering, the other way we give support to censorship
(with all respect to Joel's distinction between government and private

        For myself, I wouldn't endorse the Wiesenthal statement, nor would
I speak against it, as stated -- there's sense to both sides and splitting
ourselves into warring camps over it wouldn't serve our interests.  How do
other people deal with these kind of dilemmas?



 Posted by Richard K. Moore (•••@••.•••) Wexford, Ireland
 Materials may be reposted in their entirety for non-commercial use.