404: Information Missing From Your Daily News
Summaries of under-reported news, short updates on previous Monitor stories
At first glance, the two men couldn't seem more different. Furrow embodies the stereotype of the American rightwing wacko; when not dressing up in his pseudo-Nazi uniform he usually wore camouflage outfits, and toted a card identifying him as a member in good standing of Aryan Nations. The middle-aged man lived for a time at the group's Idaho compound, where he trained for combat against racial enemies. By contrast, Smith appeared to be an average twenty- something, blending in with other youth at two midwestern universities. Even while his actions were being hotly debated in these college towns, his neighbors were unaware that this quiet kid who wore black t-shirts was the same guy that was the center of controversy (see Monitor feature, Poised to Kill).
But Furrow and Smith represent the old guard vs. the new generation of the same white supremacist / proto- Nazi movement. The groups to which they belonged share mostly the same hate literature and promote the same dream of a racial civil war. Both groups seek to appeal to skinheads and other alienated youth. These links are even more important when seen in the context of recent explosive growth of similar groups worldwide. Here are just a few recent examples of activity:
And if you don't yet have a case of the willies, consider this: except for Furrow and Smith, we haven't yet mentioned activity in the U.S. -- which has been the hotbed for the recent spurt of growth in fanatic violence.
Last week we published Expect More Rightwing Violence as Y2000 Nears, which explains that some groups see the millennium as a magic date that will trigger a racial war -- even if they have to help their prophecy to come true. (This is also discussed in a March feature about Christian Identity and the Y2K "Conspiracy.") Not scared yet? Dip into the archives and read our 1997 report, "Skinhead" Hate Crimes on Increase, or our landmark 1996 series on the Christian Patriot movement, or a 1995 feature on White Supremacy in the 1990s. Almost everything in these older articles still holds true today. (August 23, 1999)
The War for Adona Why did America lead NATO into the Kosovo War? Answers range from the jingoistic ("We were preventing another Holocaust") to the cynical ("Both the GOP and Demos wanted the public to forget the impeachment imbroglio"). But many Americans probably had a ready answer: "We did it for Adona." "Adona" was the nom de CRT of Kujtesa Bejtullahu, a 16 year-old ethnic Albanian girl living in Kosovo. In January, she became an e-mail penpal of an American teenager. Two months later she was compared to Anne Frank and being quoted by the President of the United States.
It was happenstance that Bejtullahu connected with penpal Finnegan Hamill, and also coincidence that he had connections to the unique "Youth Radio" program, syndicated on NPR and Pacifica radio networks. Thus it was by the wildest chance that soon millions of Americans were listening to an actor read the Adona letters on NPR's Morning Edition, and later CNN.
"...About the NATO thing," listeners heard in one of the early installments, "you know I feel they should come here and protect us. I wish somebody could. I don't even know how many people get killed anymore. You just see them in the memoriam pages of newspapers. I really don't want to end up raped, with no parts of body like the massacred ones. I wish nobody in the world, in the whole universe would have to go through what we are..."
Then on March 27, Clinton announced the beginning of the NATO attack, leaning heavily on the emotional message from "Adona:"
Three days ago I decided the United States should join our NATO allies in military air strikes to bring peace to Kosovo... we should remember the courage of the Kosovar people today, still exposed to violence and brutality. Many Americans, now, have heard the story of a young Kosovar girl trying to stay in touch with a friend in America by e-mail, as a Serb attack began in her own village. Just a few days ago she wrote, "at the moment, just from my balcony, I can see people running with suitcases, and I can hear some gunshots. A village just a few hundred meters from my house is all surrounded. As long as I have electricity, I will continue writing to you. I'm trying to keep myself as calm as possible. My younger brother, who is nine, is sleeping now. I wish I will not have to stop his dreams."With that presidential nod, the mythologizing of Adona was complete. But like any legend, there's a crust of fiction around the story.
To be clear: The story of Adona was not a phony, like the 1990 testimony of a Kuwaiti girl who falsely claimed that Iraqi soldiers were dumping newborns from incubators onto the hospital floor. There really is a 16 year-old Adona / Kujtesa Bejtullahu, and no one accuses her of deception. But is she a member of an oppressed minority, or an (understandably) anxious civilian in the middle of a civil war? If there's deceit, it lies with the president's speechwriter, Youth Radio, and the broadcasters who aired the story unchallenged.
Read the scripts (they can be found on the Youth Radio site above, and also on CNN) and you'll discover that if you ignore the pathos, Bejtullahu is a middle-class kid who lives an Americanized lifestyle. She uses Yahoo to surf the web, looking for high schools or colleges she might attend, and regrets that she can't send pictures until her scanner is repaired. She loves hanging out with friends until 11PM "having fun and doing crazy things." Her favorite rock group is REM. From a CNN report it was also learned that she isn't a villager, as the president claimed; her family has an apartment in Pristina, the capital city.
Nor did the Bejtullahu family appear worried about the Serbs -- or at least, until the NATO bombing begins. "[If] I am stopped by the police or somebody similar to them, I just start talking in Serbian and avoid troubles. It always works out." In fact, she doesn't even mention seeing signs of Serb oppression, except for the incident of people running with suitcases. All of her other news about her country comes from TV and newspapers or secondhand reports -- for the most part, she could just as well be writing from Kansas instead of Kosovo.
Adona's modest and chatty teenage messages were hastily exploited. It was embarrassing that her 16 year-old penpal insensitively called her "Anne Frank with a laptop," but shameful that CNN, AP, and other media also made the comparison. It was likewise ugly that Youth Radio -- created to foster student journalism -- prepared a classroom guide that urged students to listen uncritically to the broadcasts. "Encourage [students] to get comfortable in their seats and simply listen to the first three pieces in the 'E-Mail from Kosovo' series. Sometimes the best introduction is no introduction at all. A simple 'I have something I think you might be interested in.' You might even turn off the lights so students are more likely to concentrate on listening and less likely to look around at peers..." Followup questions were loaded with emotion or designed to indoctrinate them with Washington's view of the situation: "What images were most powerful? Or phrases?" "What happens when you put a face on tragedy?" "What is meant by 'ethnic cleansing?'" "What is NATO's role?"
For Kujtesa Bejtullahu, things ended happily, and just a few days ago she flew to the United States to attend school. (See this CNN report for a picture and account of her first meeting with her penpal). But things didn't go so well for the Serbian residents of Kosovo, almost all now driven away by "ethnic cleansing" at the hands of the KLA and Albanian nationals. The day after Bejtullahu arrived to her happy new future in the West, the New York Times reported on life back home. In the typical city, usually a Serb is murdered every day, businesses and autos are confiscated, pistol- packing thugs demand extortion, and homes are burned. Nor are ethnic Albanians safe: the Times described a furniture store owner who was a refugee just a few weeks ago, but now has his store looted and car stolen by KLA terrorists. If he didn't give them the keys, his doom was certain: "They told me if I did not comply immediately they knew a cellar I might like to visit," he said.
Kosovo slips towards an anarchy first created, and now maintained, by NATO. To their shame, the broadcasters that spurred war fever with the "E-Mail from Kosovo" series have demonstrated little interest in the problems they helped cause. On Youth Radio there is no "E-Mail from Kosovo, Part II" showing the aftermath of the Adona letters. There is no study guide to ask pithy questions like, "What is mob rule?" or, "Why doesn't NATO intervene?" or, "What is meant by 'ethnic cleansing?'" (August 28, 1999)
Internet free speech Visitors to the "Hillary 2000 -- for all New York" web site can find an itinerary for the First Lady's "Listening Tour" of the state. The August 11th entry reads: "Hillary's schedule includes an deprogramming discussion at Unification Church headquarters in Barrytown, a child gun safety event, where children are encouraged to bring their parents weapons in for confiscation, and a health care dialogue with a 1000-head herd of dairy cows. Checks, cash and money orders welcome." Great god, has Mrs. Clinton lost her mind? Of course not; it's a hoax web page that's displayed if the official hillary2000.org address is mistyped.
This bogus web site, hillary200.org (note the missing zero), is just one of the many political satire web pages that have sprouted up this year. Like many of them, the fake Hillary site looks almost identical to the original -- only when you read the text does anything appear out of the ordinary.
Some of the spoofs are hilarious. When Rudy Giuliani's registered rudyyes.com, pranksters created yesrudy.com, which paints the NYC mayor as a big fan of Haitian ex-dictator Baby Doc Duvalier: "I will turn New York State into the Haiti of 1983, with the Duvaliers' help." One of the most famous parody sites, gwbush.com, stays up- to- date on Bush controversies: Just days after Bush told the press that he hadn't used drugs for 25 years, the web page banner changed to include the boast, "Drug- Free Since 1974." The authors also have a phony history for Dubya Bush, where in June he turned himself in for past drug crimes to "usher in the responsibility era," and is now campaigning from his cell in federal prison.
Although any high school civics student probably knows that this kind of satire is protected by the First Amendment, Dubya Bush snorted in outrage at a now- infamous May press conference, where he said "There ought to be limits to freedom." His campaign office also rushed to bully: Attorney Benjamin Ginsberg fired off a cease- and- desist letter, and registered a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission demanding that the author register as a political action committee. The FEC is expected to soon rule on this.
Another annoyed politico is Senator Orrin Hatch, who learned that "senatorhatch.com," "senatororrinhatch.com," "presidenthatch.com" and other combos had been registered by a Miami private detective who wants $45,000 to release the names. This kind of speculation has been dubbed "cybersquatting," and there currently is a bill in Congress aimed at restricting it. As it stands today, fines of up to $100 thousand can be meted out for registering a name in "bad faith" that is identical to, or confusingly similar to, trademarks or service names. Earlier versions of the bill went farther and also outlawed protest or parody sites of those corporate names.
There are three reasons you should be concerned:
Perhaps most troubling is how often the cliche linking the Internet with the "wild west" now appears in the media. In just this month, dozens of stories can be found in the U.S. press, suggesting that some sort of cleanup is urgently needed. Just a few examples: "Today's cyber world is the new Wild Wild West where an 'anything goes' philosophy prevails" editorialized Jeff Modisett, Indiana's attorney general in the San Francisco Chronicle. "It's the wild, wild West with just a couple of marshals," said Mitchell Kamarck, who represents a TV star whose name is being used on a porn site." And Benjamin Ginsberg, lawyer for Dubya Bush, chimed in with, "It's the wild west out there."
The so-called "cybersquatting" debate might just end up becoming the first serious threat to First Amendment rights on the Internet. Anyone concerned about free speech should watch developments carefully. (August 26, 1999)
Albion Monitor Issue 65 (http://www.monitor.net/monitor)
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