© Copyright The Dominion [New Zealand],
Monday, 5 February 1996
I had hoped to spend this week offering a few quirky internet jewels that I have recently come across.
But the debate on Internet censorship rages on unabashed.
It took a new turn a few days ago with the call from the European Union’s Consultative Commission on Racism and Xenophobia for a crackdown on racist messages on the Internet.
In a statement issued from Paris, it is also reported as hoping that the “European Union will take all needed measures to prevent the Internet from becoming a vehicle for the incitement of racist hatred”.
Finally, it called on member states to follow the example set by Germany which restricted access to material it judged pornographic on the Internet.
Though having little direct power on these matters, statements like this from the European Union and its consultative commissions have a great deal of authority, and once again, you have to ask where is this debate going to end, especially when pornography and copyright concerns are rapidly being replaced with the far more traumatic issue of racism, and anti-semitism.
The core of this debate, especially in Germany, revolves round the deeply contentious issue of “revisionism” – or attempting to deny the established truths about the Holocaust.
It is, of course, illegal in Germany to actually deny that the Holocaust took place, and the edges of what is allowed to be debated is so contentious that many groups have relocated to avoid imprisonment and fines. Hence, the astonishing efficacy of the Internet.
One of the most active members of the revisionist camp is one Ernst Zundel.
Now based in Canada, where he mistakenly thought he would have a freer reign (he was jailed for eight months over one publishing incident), he spends most of his time building and promoting his Web presence. Presumbly, this site would be a prime target in any censorshp campaign.
Some would strongly argue for the inclusion of two other candidates: the Institute for Historical Review, and the related venture, the Committee for Open Debate on the Holocaust.
None of these sites are especially hard to find, and many of their supporters are active paticipants in the newsgroup alt.revisionism. I spent a good while in all four last week.
It was a deeply depressing experience, made a little more bearable by occasionally checking into two other newsgroups – news.alt.internet.media coverage, and news.admin.censorship.net-abuse.misc.
But then my faith in the Net was restored. I found the antidote. It’s the Web site of the Nizkor project, at
Nizkor is a Hebrew word meaning “we will remember”, and it’s my urgent sugestion that before we have one more line of debate on censorship on the Internet, we should all take a moment to visit this site.
It’s a very well researched and focused affair, where, though they give links to many of their cyber colleagues, they also give links to the Zundelsite, and the Institute for Historical Review.
This is not some kind of liberal knee-jerk reaction. Quite the opposite. It’s a planned line-by-line rebuttal of the charges and alleged research findings of Zundel et al, and the related links build on this rigorous research focus.
But a good deal of their own research material is still stored in an accessible FTP (file transfer protocol) archive. This, of course, means that though you can download it, some of it isn’t available in the easily read hyper-text format of the World Wide Web.
But they assure us that they are as busy as badgers remedying that, and indeed ask the worldwide Internet community with some basic HTML skills if they would be interested in offering a little of their time to help.
How would that work – a moment’s thought makes it clear enough: they send you the file, you convert it, send it back as attached e-mail, and hey presto, you have made your contribution.
Those lacking HTML skills might well want to leave a message of support.
In any event I’m hoping as many readers as possible visit Nizkor to see how the Internet produces its own antidotes to what many construe as a virulent germ.