The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Shofar FTP Archive File: people/m/mcvay.ken/zundel/zundel-and-interactivity


Archive/File: people/m/mcvay.ken/zundel/zundel-and-interactivity
Last-Modified: 1997/04/20

Public Statement regarding Ernst Zundel and InterNet Interactivity
By Kenneth McVay, OBC.

The following statement will be posted to the world-wide web on Friday, 
April 19, 1997, as URL 
http://www.nizkor.org/hweb/people/m/mcvay-ken/zundel/zundel-and-interactivity.html:

1. I am the Founder and Director of The Nizkor Project, an electronic Holocaust 
educational resource dedicated to the refutation of Holocaust denial, and 
to providing Holocaust educational resources on the Internet ("the Net").

2. Barbara Kulaszka, a lawyer acting for Ernst Zundel,  requested my assistance 
through electronic mail ("Email"):

Date sent:      Sun, 02 Feb 1997 15:04:38 -0500
From:           Barbara Kulaszka 
To:             kmcvay@nizkor.org
Subject:        Zundel
 
Dear Mr. McVay,
 
My name is Barbara Kulaszka. I am one of Ernst Zundel's lawyers.
 
As you probably know, two complaints have been laid against Mr. Zundel
under the Canadian Human Rights Act alleging that he is sending out hate
messages on the Internet.
 
We have commenced an application for judicial review of the decision of
the Commission to send the matter to a Human Rights Tribunal. One of the
grounds of this application is a constitutional challenge to section 13
of the Act ("hate messages") on the basis that the Internet is a medium
which is interactive and participatory and allows for falsehood to be
rebutted easily and effectively.
 
Could you provide us with an affidavit in support of this application?
Your affidavit would set out who you are, what work you have undertaken
with Nizkor, your relations with the Zundelsite, and your experience in
using the Internet to refute what you believe are falsehoods, etc.
 
The purpose of the affidavit? To show the court that the best way to
fight ideas is with other ideas, not with censorship or jail.
 
Would you be willing to give such an affidavit?
 
Do you believe that section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act is
unconstitutional as a violation of freedom of speech on the Internet?
You must truly believe this first or you cannot really give us an
affidavit. Secondly, you must be able to give us an affidavit that
provides the court with the information it needs to make this
determination and the reasons why the section should be found
unconstitutional.
 
Could you let me know if you are willing to do so? You can contact me be
e-mail or by telephone at 613-475-3150. If I/m not in just leave a
message and a number where I can reach you.
 
Yours truly,
 
Barbara Kulaszka

3. I agreed to respond, but found I could not support the premise that 
"...the Internet is a medium which is interactive and participatory and 
allows for falsehood to be rebutted easily and effectively..." It is 
misleading and, in the context of  Mr. Zundel's work on the net, false.

4. In my capacity as the Director of the Nizkor Project, I have repeatedly 
tried to engage Ernst Zundel in interactive discourse, either directly, or 
through the "Zundelsite." I am an active technical participant on the 
Internet, and have participated in other computer networks since 1983. My 
experience demonstrates how "interactive" and "participatory" the net has 
proven to be for the Zundel site over the past two years, and how "easily 
and effectively" rebuttals have taken place. 

A. THE INTERNET AS A PUBLIC "MEDIUM"

5. The Internet is a global network of networks, connecting tens of 
millions of computers and people.  Like any computer network, the net 
has a variety of means of allowing its computers and users to communicate.

6. The three most common means for people to communicate on the net are 
through Email, Usenet, and the world-wide Web.

7. Email is generally considered a private communications medium where 
messages are normally sent between individuals with specific electronic 
addresses. "Mailing Lists," akin to uni- or bidirectional distribution 
lists, are a popular exception to this general rule, but uni-directional 
distribution is not interactive, and cannot be readily addressed, even 
by those within the distribution channel. To my knowledge, Mr. Zundel 
does not participate in any bidirectional Mailing Lists, which do offer 
interactivity, albeit limited to a narrow distribution set. As Email 
is not generally available for public scrutiny, we will not consider 
it with respect to claims of interactivity.

8. Usenet is a means by which people around the world can communicate publicly. 
On Usenet, forums called "newsgroups" categorize discussion into different 
topics;  for example, because Holocaust-denial is commonly known as 
"revisionism," the newsgroup for that topic is called alt.revisionism.  
There are thousands of newsgroups.  Reading Usenet news, commonly known as 
"reading news," is done by purchasing access to a specialized computer 
known as a news server.  News access is almost always bundled without cost, 
as part of net access.  Millions of people around the world, on all 
seven continents, read news on thousands of different news servers.

9. Messages posted to a newsgroup travel from news server to news server, 
spreading throughout the world.  Typically, within a few hours of posting 
a news "article," as they are called, that article will be available on 
the majority of news servers around the world;  within a few days, it will 
be on all of them. Anyone reading that newsgroup will see all new articles 
each time he or she accesses the group.

10. Publishing information to Usenet is very easy, primarily because it 
is done with the same software which one uses to read news.  If one is 
reading news and wishes to reply to an article, it typically takes about 
ten seconds (plus the time actually required to type the reply) before 
that article can be sent to the news server.  One can speak of the "barriers 
to entry" of the marketplace of ideas as being minor.

11. The ease of answering to Usenet leads to discussion which is very open.  
Tens of thousands of discussions, from erudite to insipid, are taking place 
on Usenet at this, and every, moment, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.  
Anyone with a connection to the net can participate.  The topics may last 
hours or months.  It is the closest thing that the world has ever seen to a 
"town meeting" on a global scale.

12. Furthermore, Usenet is archived.  Two major services (Deja News and Alta 
Vista) provide free public access to "back issues" of Usenet news.  Every 
word posted is, unless the author specifies otherwise, a matter of public 
record.  This allows participants to avoid wondering what, exactly, was 
said; it can be read back from the archival transcripts at any time.

13. The world-wide web, commonly known as the "Web," is another means 
by which communication may take place publicly. The web is technically 
different from Usenet in that published material is not spread 
automatically from server to server.  The material resides on one server, 
a web server, and is delivered from that machine to whoever requests it, 
when it is requested.

14. One major practical difference of the web is that publishing information 
is not nearly as rapid a process, it is far more difficult. Instead of being 
typed on-the-spot, web pages must all be composed in a format called HyperText 
Markup Language (HTML). This is a fairly complex process, since HTML is 
barely human-readable. Also, they must be uploaded to one's website, using 
different software from that used to view the web. The exact process of 
uploading and downloading differs from computer to computer, but is always 
more complex than posting to Usenet.

15. One must also link the newly-created webpage to the other pages on one's 
site, which means downloading, editing, and re-uploading a number, possibly 
a large number, of other pages.  Finally, because an HTML file is barely 
human-readable, and because it often looks different when it is moved 
from one computer to another, the upload must be checked and proofread once 
all these steps are complete and the file is in its final location.  If any 
errors are found, those files must be re-edited, re-uploaded, and re-checked.

16. From my experience, which includes the creation of nearly 3,000 HTML-
coded documents, and that of my webmaster, Jamie McCarthy, (disregarding 
the time required to compose and type a file in the first place) the 
overhead to publish each file on the web is two orders of magnitude greater 
than Usenet.  That is, approximately fifteen minutes, as opposed to a few 
seconds.  This may vary somewhat from user to user, but experience 
suggests it is reasonably accurate.

17. This lengthy process is well-known as a factor which distinguishes 
the web from other forms of public communication on the net.  Just 
recently, on March 19, 1997, the Communications Decency Act came before the 
United States Supreme Court;  the Government argued that it would be acceptable 
to impose limitations on free speech on the net, allowing highest speech 
protection only for the web.  The attorney for the ACLU et al. argued 
eloquently that the web was not "functionally equivalent" to Usenet and 
similar forums, because interactive dialogue was not to be found there. The 
ACLU argument can be found at URL http://www.aclu.org/issues/cyber/trial/sctran.html.

18. The distinction between the two forums was expressed more simply by David 
Thomas, the webmaster of the "Committee for Open Debate On the Holocaust" site - 
a "revisionist" site friendly with the Zundel site, who said: "A standard 
Web site is next to impossible to use for continuing dialogue, far too many 
delays and cumbersome procedures." A copy of Mr. Thomas' article will be 
found at URL 
http://www.nizkor.org/ftp.cgi?people/nyms/dthomas/1996/dthomas-on-web-discussion.


19. Another fundamental difference is that articles on the Web are not 
archived.  Because a webpage says one thing one day, that does not mean 
it will say the same thing the next day. There is no authority to which 
one can turn that will provide a record of what was said when by whom.

20. Unless agreement is reached to not re-edit pages once uploaded, 
this makes discussion of complex subjects nearly impossible. Ernst Zundel 
has often mentioned "debate" on the web.  What sort of "debate" allows 
people to revise what they have said, after the fact, perhaps without 
their opponent even being aware of the change? This is one certain method 
for avoiding public accountability, as interactivity is denied.

21. These differences are those of  a discussion medium (Usenet) and a 
publishing medium (the Web).

22. It is important, too, to note another design limitation of the web.  
The concept of "hypertext" was developed in the 1960s by Ted 
Nelson. Nelson's vision was a worldwide information network called 
"Xanadu," which would link written material of all forms.  An author 
would write about a given topic and add links to other materials which 
he found interesting.  This vision had great influence on later hypertext 
systems, including the most successful, the world-wide web.

23. But the design for Xanadu called for these links to be bidirectional.  
Readers of an author's work could call up not only a list of links which that 
author recommended, but also a list of other works which linked to his work. 
Nelson's vision included a computerized network in which books or scientific 
articles would be published on-line, and readers could, with the push of a 
button, call up a list of criticisms of those works.

24. This was an important innovation.  Because of this feature, the reader 
could rarely be "lost in the ideasphere"-- there would be few dead-ends in 
the network.  Any work which was significant enough to be seen by more 
than a few readers would surely be reviewed or at least commented-upon by 
some of them, and those reviews would always be readily accessible.

25. For technical reasons, this feature was not built into the web. There 
is no automatic way, when reading a web page, to know what critiques of 
that page have been written elsewhere on the web.  To learn of such 
critiques, the reader must rely on the Web-page's author to provide an 
accurate and periodically-updated list of such critiques. Mr. Zundel does 
not provide a reader with any of the available critiques.

26. Manually listing critiques in such a way works well when an author 
and his critics are interested in working together for a common cause, 
or at least respect each other.  This ad-hoc replacement for Nelson's 
vision of bidirectional linking is an acceptable and working solution in, 
for example, an academic environment where a researcher will create 
links from his papers to his colleagues' rebuttals.  In such an atmosphere, 
where there is a tradition of peer review, a strong commitment to open 
examination of and discourse regarding theories and facts, and a 
knowledgeable reader, one can generally trust that the author is not 
deliberately obscuring electronic rebuttals which would be inconvenient.

27. Doing so would be the equivalent of writing a paper which ignores 
the strongest arguments against its thesis, with the hope that the reader 
will not be aware of them.  This is not done in scholarly circles, as the 
reader is likely to be knowledgeable enough to detect such omission, and 
because such academic dishonesty is frowned upon.

28. The failure to employ the Web's ad-hoc replacement for bidirectional 
linking in the case of Mr. Zundel and his colleagues has denied the 
very interactivity claimed. The quality of cooperation between author and 
critic - the joint effort towards the common cause of historical accuracy 
and understanding - is not present with regard to Mr. Zundel's Web site, or 
others espousing Holocaust denial.

B. EXPERIENCES WITH THE ZUNDEL SITE

29. To my knowledge, Mr. Zundel himself has never appeared to use the net 
directly.  Though he appears to have at least two email addresses 
(ezundel@cts.com, zundel@globalserve.net), he is not known to post articles, 
upload web-pages, or write email on the net itself. Rather, he collaborates 
with a person in California by the name of Ingrid Rimland, apparently 
chiefly by fax and by telephone.

30. Ms. Rimland is webmaster of the "Zundel site."  I assume that she has 
authority to speak for Mr. Zundel, since she literally does so every day 
in her publication of "Zundelgrams."  These are email messages which are 
sent out to her mailing list, and from there to other mailing lists and 
Usenet, for a total readership of thousands, possibly tens of thousands.

31. The Zundel site's first appearance on the net, through Ms. Rimland, 
was in 1995.  After a few preliminary postings, the Zundel site chose to 
"spam" the net with propaganda, first in August 1995, then again in October.  
This technique consists of sending a large number of copies of the same 
material to different newsgroups.  Usenet is self-policing regarding 
technical transgressions such as this (wasting bandwidth) and all the 
copies of this propaganda were "canceled" and thus removed from the net. 
With the exception of this incident, the Zundel site has never had a 
presence on Usenet.

32. This absence is noteworthy. Why would one who asserts an abiding 
interest in debate and open discourse on these topics reject Usenet, 
which is, as we have seen, much better-suited to debate? Mr. Zundel 
refuses to participate in the chief forum on the net which actually 
justifies such labels.

33. I cannot meet Ms. Kulaszka's request for support regarding the 

claim that the Internet "allows for falsehood to be rebutted easily and 
effectively."  While this claim is true in some cases, it is absolutely 
false with regard to  her client's use of the net.  The Zundel site has 
published many falsehoods, including outright and deliberate lies. The 
tactics used to spread these falsehoods, which conspicuously avoid any 
form of interactivity, have made rebuttal difficult in the extreme.

34. Falsehoods are published Ms. Kulaszka's client every day, in 
"Zundelgrams."  The "Zgrams," as they are called, are an exercise in 
propagandizing; opponents do not have an opportunity to rebut or refute 
anything which may be said.

35.  Examples of  typical "Zundelgrams, " dated March 21, 1997, regarding 
Zyklon B, and March 4, 1997 
regarding electronic terrorism and the Nizkor Project, may be found at the 
following URL's:
http://www.webcom.com/ezundel/english/zgrams/zg1997/zg9703/970321.html, and
http://www.webcom.com/ezundel/english/zgrams/zg1997/zg9703/970304.html.  
Each is false and misleading.

36. None of the readers on the Zgram mailing list would be made aware that 
Mr. Zundel's assertions are contradicted by the historical record.  The 
Zundel site keeps the addresses on that list secret, so a response cannot 
be sent directly to his subscribers or readers.  Attempts in the past 
to convince the Zundel site to include rebuttals in the Zgrams have been 
uniformly rejected; no such interactivity has been permitted.

37. On September 2, 1995 (http://www.nizkor.org/other-sites/correspondence/
zuendelsite/cor-1.html), Ernst Zundel wrote, in an public letter to me, 
and those associated with the Nizkor Project. In that,  and the next two,  
open letters (September 13 (http://www.nizkor.org/other-sites/correspondence/
zuendelsite/cor-3.html) and 17 (http://www.nizkor.org/other-sites/
correspondence/zuendelsite/cor-1.html), 1995), he then proceeded to emit a 
litany of falsehoods, lies, and mudslinging, about my organization, and the net 
in general.  Among them:

       that I and my webmaster must consult "superiors" who will decide 
       what we can and cannot do

       that the all-volunteer Nizkor Project was "far more lavishly 
       financed" than the Zundel site, resulting in a "David and Goliath 
       situation"

       that the Nizkor Project was a "Jewish connection" which made use of 
       "tax-supported funds"

       that "there are ethnic-specific limits to enjoying the freedom 
       of the Internet"

And so on.

38. Refuting the falsehoods published by Zundel would be quite easy on Usenet.  
But since Mr. Zundel posted on the Web, it was not possible to make his 
readers directly aware of challenges to his version of reality.  The Zundel 
site refused to cross-link from their copies of Mr. Zundel's open letters 
to our replies;  we had to wait for them to transcribe our replies and put 
them on-line, a process over which we naturally had no control.  In at least 
one case, on September 16, 1995, my correspondence with Mr. Zundel was simply 
ignored, even though it had been both delivered by private email and 
posted to public UseNet newsgroups. A copy of this correspondence with Mr. 
Zundel may be found as URL 
http://www.nizkor.org/hweb/people/z/zundel-ernst/cor-4-article-txt.html.

A resubmission of the same correspondence a few weeks later, which may 
be read as 
http://www.nizkor.org/hweb/people/z/zundel-ernst/open-letter-1095.html, 
was similarly ignored. This refusal to respond became more evident as 
further correspondence from Nizkor through the end of 1995, and in January 
1996, was not made available on their website, nor were cross-links 
provided;  interactivity was terminated.  This is a practical example of 
how unidirectional linking breaks down, and provides another indication of 
the refusal to provide true interactivity.

38. In January, 1996, we prepared an Open Letter regarding the numerous 
errors and falsehoods of the past few months, and published it on our 
website. We regarded this as our definitive and final word on the 
falsehoods which the Zundel group had been spreading over the previous 
months. A copy of this letter can be found as URL 
http://www.nizkor.org/features/z-open-letter/.

39. Neither that response, nor the Uniform Resource Locator (The "URL" is 
the electronic address for a specific Web page.) with which people could 
locate it, has ever been mentioned in a Zgram or on the Zundel site.  It 
has, to our knowledge, been totally and completely ignored, though they 
have been contacted many times in email.  They continue to repeat the 
falsehoods which the response addresses. The URLs where Zundel's original 
open letters were located have been changed, so that our effort to engage 
manually in bidirectional linking - interactivity - was foiled.  Finally, the 
Zundel site's webmaster, Ingrid Rimland, removed my webmaster from her 
mailing list explicitly to prevent him even from knowing whether she had 
responded.

40. It has been well-established that the Zundel site refuses to 
participate in the interactive forums of the Internet.  The question is, 
why?  Mr. Zundel has stated that he will "not debate in a sewer." The 
reality on the Net is that Mr. Zundel will not debate at all. After having 
worked to confront and refute Holocaust-denial for over five years, and 
having paid close attention to Mr. Zundel's work for much of that time, I 
believe that the reason for this refusal is twofold.

41. First, Mr. Zundel knows that much of what he claims is false.  This 
seems obvious;  even excepting the lies he has continued to publish on 
the net after being made aware of the truth,  Mr. Zundel was twice convicted, 
by two separate juries, for publishing material he knew at the time to be 
false (the pamphlet "Did Six Million Really Die?"). Second, Mr. Zundel and 
the Zundel site in general exhibit a mind set which can only be described 
as propagandistic.  From this perspective, the net, and all other forms 
of communication, exist not to engage in discourse and arrive at understanding, 
but to spread ideologies and recruit supporters.

C. CONCLUSIONS

42. While the Net has enormous potential for interactivity, participation, 
and rebuttal of falsehoods _ in short, potential for free exchange in the 
marketplace of ideas _ the operators of the Zundel site have refused to take 
advantage of these aspects. They avoid any form of interaction with those 
who disagree with their views. As a result, it is impossible to effectively 
rebut their falsehoods. There is no sign that this pattern will change in 
future, either with the Zundel site or with the other major Holocaust-denial 
organizations and individuals on the Internet.

43. The Internet, with regard to discussion of Holocaust-denial between 
its proponents and opponents, has been no more interactive and 
participatory a medium than print publishing, and I have seen no 
indication that change will be forthcoming.

== Ends ==

For further information, contact:
Canadian Human Rights Commission: Donna Balkan, 613-943-9120


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