The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Shofar FTP Archive File: people/m/mcvay.ken/1996/press/sacramento-bee.121694

Archive/File: miscellany/press sb.121694
Last-Modified: 1995/07/01

The Sacramento Bee (A1)
Sacramento, California
December 16, 1994

   Internet warrior takes on Holocaust revisionists
   by Carlos Alcala
   Bee Staff Writer

   It does not take long to hunt down defenders of Nazis in that
   electronic wilderness known as the Internet, but for Ken McVay, it
   does take considerable time to fight them.

   McVay spends 40 to 50 hours a week - outside his convenience-store
   job - locating his adversaries where they congregate electronically
   and debating them on their own favorite topic: denying the

   "Some of them just call me a Jewish pig, which is funny, because
   I'm not Jewish," McVay said. "Others are quite polite. I think it's
   fair to say none of them like me."

   Working from his home in British Columbia with the help of a small
   - but global - network, McVay has amassed megabytes of material
   documenting German Nazi atrocities and debunking the claims of
   those who he believes seek to rehabilitate Hitler.

   His opponents, known as revisionists, dispute accepted historical
   accounts of mass killings of millions of Jews during World War II.
   Revisionists claim there is no evidence of Nazi genocide.

   McVay fears they are turning the Internet into a disinformation

   Please see INTERNET, page A20

   Internet: Foe opposes censoring revisionists
   Continued from page A1

   superhighway, using the news group alt.revisionism. "Follow
   alt.revisionism for a week," he said. "It will turn your stomach."

   A look at several days worth of messages on alt.revisionism was
   less revolting than tiring: dozens of snide messages and
   countermessages - an insult fest among debaters.

   "Mr. McVay, come to think of it, you are so stupid, that I am now
   in fact delighted that the powers-that-be in Canada have nominated
   you to be the point man against the revisionists on the Internet,"
   wrote frequent contributor "Hoffman2nd," a Holocaust denier who
   referred to Jews as "Khazars" - a variant spelling of a Yiddish
   word for pig.

   A posting from another revisionist asked" "What is wrong with
   making racist statements? ... What is wrong with admiring Adolf

   Internet's supporters say such exchanges are not typical, although
   there are some forums, especially in religion and politics, where
   emotions run hot.

   "I wouldn't take the tone of a list like that as representative of
   the entire net, by any means," said Phil Agre, a University of
   California, San Diego assistant professor studying on-line

   Even in alt.revisionism, few messages are overtly bigoted. Many
   consist of minute dissections of statements in other messages
   posted on the news group.

   For example, a Holocaust revisionist will copy a section of a
   message by McVay or one of his allies and add remarks to counter or
   belittle them. Often, they will append an advertisement for a
   revisionist magazine, book or video.

   That message will be subject to new annotations by those who
   disagree with it. And on and on.

   The topics range from debates on how many Jews were killed to
   questions on the physiological effects of a cyanide-based gas.

   To counter the revisionists, McVay makes huge archives of
   documentation accessible to Internet users.

   He is part of a network of debunkers in Michigan, Rhode Island,
   Israel and elsewhere. By virtue of the Internet's amorphous
   qualities, the network is unstructured, but McVay is recognized as
   the most avid among the group.

   "The Internet is quite an anarchy. In this anarchy, he's the
   leader," said Danny Keren, another amateur debunker and an
   engineering research associate at Brown University.

   McVay's material includes not only files on Auschwitz death camp
   and other Holocaust topics, but information on the roots and
   branches of the groups that deny the Holocaust. These files show
   ties to openly racist organizations, McVay said.

   But Ross Vicksell, of the Committee for Open Debate on the
   Holocaust, said revisionists are not hate-mongers. Instead, they
   just want "to debate the facts of the so-called Holocaust," he
   said. "Our real concern is that the debate is being smothered."

   The Internet is one of the only forums that revisionists have for
   such debate, he said.

   "They're not just crackpots," said Rick Eaton, a researcher for the
   Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, which monitors 250
   extremist groups nationally. Revisionists often appear to be very
   professional, he said. "They make it sound like they really know
   what they're doing."

   Electronic Holocaust denial is just a new face for old
   organizations, Eaton said. "The tactics are basically the same as
   we have been dealing with extremist groups for a long time," he

   The Wiesenthal Center has generally avoided public debates with
   deniers, but McVay thinks they should be challenged.

   "Ignoring them now is just as dangerous as it was in Germany in the
   '20s," he said.

   McVay's aim is not to convert revisionists, but to reach those who
   might buy the revisionist line if they stumble on it while surfing
   the Internet.

   Without the debunkers, "people are likely to believe things that
   are patently false," he said.

   McVay said he does not want to silence the revisionists, either. He
   said he believes that is not only impossible, but dangerous.

   That is a view shared by Internet experts such as Howard Rheingold,
   author of "The Virtual Community."

   "More frightening than the prospect of all kinds of virulent hate
   words is the prospect of censorship," Rheingold said. "Freedom of
   speech protects even the most abhorrent speech. Democracy is messy
   and raucous."

   "Nobody wants to be speech police," agreed Rabbi Abraham Cooper,
   associate dean of the Wiesenthal Center. Nor does Cooper want to go
   back to the mythical good old days when bigots didn't have access
   to electronic methods.

   Instead, he said, he dreams of the development of safeguards to
   protect against hate while protecting freedom of speech on the new
   technological medium.

   Technologically, this already can be done on computer pay services
   such as Compuserv and America Online, he said.

   In fact, the Wiesenthal Center recently asked one service, Prodigy,
   to step up its oversight of hate messages.

   But because the Internet is so large and amorphous, Cooper said,
   those safeguards must include free-lancers such as McVay who
   monitor the network.

   "McVay is a perfect example of the person who is going to be the
   eyes and ears," he said. "I think he's a kind of high-tech hero.
   He's my hero."


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