is a dark side of hacking,
crashing networks and viruses that we absolutely must address,"
she said – forgetting that the hackers’ biggest successes
have been government sites, such as the White
House, the FBI,
If the feds can’t protect their own sites from a continuing
assault, how are they supposed to protect the rest
of us from "the dark side of hacking"? Just asking.
DARK SIDE OF JANET RENO – IS THERE ANY OTHER?
mind ‘the dark side of the Internet" I’m worried about
the dark side of Janet Reno. This is a woman at the head of
an agency that we are now learning machine-gunned
the inhabitants of the Waco "compound" for the "crime"
of having nonconformist religious beliefs. And now she wants
to set up "LawNet," a brand-new federal agency charged with
hunting down "cyber-criminals." "I envision a network that
extends from local detectives to the FBI to investigators
abroad," she told the National Association of Attorneys General.
would be useful in getting around all those messy jurisdictional
obstacles to total federal power, and give her cyber-cops
the kind of reach that a real national police force needs
to keep tabs on the Bad Guyz. Who be they? According to Reno,
the FBI took a survey of the Fortune 500 and discovered that
a whopping 62 percent claimed that the security of their computer
systems had been breached this year. This statistic, however,
is widely derided in computer circles. As Thomas C. Greene
put it in The Register (UK), this figure "strikes us
as somewhat inflated, and most likely the result of considerable
statistical massaging intended to alarm the public." Yes,
indeed, and the key word here is intended . . .
all saw how the
government generated and manipulated the Millennium/terrorist/Y2K
hysteria to launch a nationwide witch hunt, crack down
dissidents, and fund a massive federal "upgrade" program
In this context, is anyone surprised that the New England
Journal of Medicine reports "outbreaks
of mass hysteria, including fears of poison gases in the air,
may be on the rise"? Researchers say fear of "bioterrorism"
and "environmental toxins" is increasing – and with it "outbreaks
of short-term, widespread psychogenic
illness." Doctors called in to investigate reports of
mass illness often diagnose it as yet another case of mass
hysteria, but are afraid to say so for fear of offending their
patients and exacerbating their anxiety. And the contagion
is airborne, says the study, spread over the airwaves: "Dramatic
and prolonged media coverage frequently enhances such outbreaks."
USES OF HYSTERIA
authors of the study, according to Reuters, "recommended that
officials make a return to normality in the affected community
their main goal." But normality is precisely what our power-mad
government officials do not want to return to, for
they thrive on crises, on threats – real or imagined – to
the commonweal, and the bigger the better. Their power, prominence,
and purses all swell with the tide of mass hysteria, and they
have been going all-out lately to stoke the public’s anxiety
to a fever pitch. Everything new is a crisis requiring
some kind of regulatory campaign or law enforcement crackdown:
the coming of the new millennium, the coming of the computer
age, the phenomenal growth of the Internet – the Janet Renos
of this world miss no opportunity to extend their reach
– in this case, right into your computer.
you’re in a state constant hysteria, however, you may not
notice that you’re sinking into serfdom. This is the key role
played by mass hysteria – over terrorism, global warming,
or the "threat" posed by Slobodan Milosevic to the peace of
Europe – and it therefore should hardly come as a shock that
governments, and especially the US government, are the main
source and spreaders of what is in effect a collective mental
proposal is essentially a revamped version of the "FIDNET"
scheme that had civil libertarians and the cyber-community
up in arms last year. The Clinton administration’s proposal
is a truly Orwellian
vision of virtually every computer system in the country embedded
with "intrusion detection monitors" at all "key nodal points."
As the Center for Democracy and Technology commented: "FIDNET
is an ill-defined monitoring system of potentially broad sweep.
It seems to place monitoring and surveillance at the center
of the government's response to a problem that is not well
suited to such measures."
CONTROLLING CENTRAL AUTHORITY
the government is not interested in developing a rational
strategy to protect the security of computer systems: since
this is a technological problem, and not political or even
a matter of law enforcement, government agencies can do little
to guard against cyber-sabotage. Their only interest is to
get a monitoring system in place now, before the system
– like society itself – gets too big and complex to be controlled.
the fully-monitored society of the new millennium, the surveillance
starts early and once again computers are tools in
the hands of the super-snoops. Dozens of schools in the Los
Angeles area, and elsewhere, are testing a computer program
2000" designed to sniff out potential troublemakers and
"violence-prone" youths. Janet Reno is naturally at the center
of this particular web, which gives schools and local law
enforcement the same kind of authority and legal tools now
used to protect celebrities and government officials. Acting
to pre-empt and prevent criminal acts that authorities think
they have reason to believe may occur, the FBI will soon issue
a list of "risk factors" including, reports
the Conservative News Service, "those who write essays reflecting
‘anger, frustration, and the dark side of life,’ and those
who show a preference for TV shows, movies, or music expressing
violent themes and acts."
OF THE WRITER AS A YOUNG SUBVERSIVE
am I glad I grew up before the wondrous computer age, when
everyone read books. I can’t even begin to imagine what would
have happened if the FBI had gotten hold of my essay Junior
High School English class essay extolling the virtues of Ayn
Fountainhead. Here is a
novel about a young architect, Howard Roark, an individualist
who will not compromise his artistic integrity and is outraged
when his yuppie rival steals his design and then changes it.
Roark responds by blowing up the building – the Cortlandt
Tower, a government housing project for the poor. In my subversive
essay, I remember quoting with approval from Roark’s speech
at his trial: "I designed Cortlandt. I gave it to you. I destroyed
am I glad the Janet Renos of yesteryear never got their palsied
hands on that! Today, of course, the young admirer
of Rand’s wonderful novel would be "profiled" as a budding
Tim McVeigh and locked up tight before he even got to read
Shrugged – Rand’s 1000-page-plus magnum
opus which features, among other characters, a philosopher
turned "pirate," Ragnar Danneskold, who attacks government
ships on the high seas and returns stolen tax money to the
productive entrepreneurs who earned it. Any students caught
with that, nowadays, is bound to find themselves in
some very deep trouble – and now they’ll be able to track
‘em down, with the help of compliant teachers and Mosaic 2000.
Isn’t progress wonderful?
PRIVATIZED THOUGHT POLICE
Thought Police are everywhere, and not only in government
but also in the private sector: witness the rise to prominence
of the self-appointed "watchdog"
groups. that keep tabs on so-called "extremists," as a
vital and growing part of the law enforcement apparatus.
They extend the government’s reach and its ability to monitor
and even infiltrate dissidents it has deemed dangerous. And
they act as instant "experts," who can be quoted as authorities
by government officials and journalists to buttress the case
for increased surveillance of "subversives."
the cold war, the target was the Left: and it wasn’t just
the FBI that was monitoring "subversive" activities, but also
many private groups that kept comprehensive files on domestic
"Reds." In the post-cold war era, the focus is on the Right,
and a whole industry has grown up around the alleged threat
of right-wing "extremism." The "extremist"-baiting business
has roots that go all the way back to the 1930s, when such
groups as the "Friends of Democracy" and the Anti-Defamation
League launched a campaign to smear
and discredit the antiwar movement, led by the American
First Committee. In cooperation with the British intelligence
operation in the US, these early "watchdog" groups infiltrated
and planted agent provocateurs America First local units in
order to tar the AFC with the brush of anti-Semitism and pro-Nazi
ANTI-DEFAMATION LEAGUE VERSUS WILLIAM BUCKLEY
the war, the anti-rightist jihad died down somewhat, but soon
sprang back into action with a series of Anti-Defamation League
books and public campaigns smearing prominent Old Rightists
as bigots and dangerous radicals. Even William
Buckley was looked at with some fair amount of suspicion.
Then there was the indefatigable Harry
Overstreet, who wrote a seemingly endless series of books,
Strange Tactics of Extremism, targeting the hapless
cadre of the John Birch Society. The Society was essentially
the last gasp of the Old Right in Cold War America: anti-interventionist,
anti-internationalist; their leader, Robert
Welch, strategically oriented its members to believe that
the main danger to liberty is not abroad but at home. For
this extreme heresy – a no-no during the cold war years –
Welch was smeared from one end of the country to the other,
his every utterance examined under a microscope and subjected
to the then-current standards of political correctness. Like
Welch believed that a great part of the American foreign policy
establishment had been infiltrated not only by wooly-minded
liberals but also by Communists, i.e. conscious agents of
the Soviet Union.
know now from digging in old Kremlin archives, much of
what McCarthy and his followers sensed about their political
opponents turned out to be entirely correct: Communist agents
had penetrated deeply into the New Deal bureaucracy
during Stalin’s wartime alliance with FDR. Liberal and left-wing
extremist-baiters had to be careful, during the cold war years,
to always couple their attacks on the "ultra-conservative"
Right with denunciations of Communism. But the great bulk
of their written works were concentrated on the great problem
of rooting out "extremism" of the Right.
anything could get you identified as an "extremist" and earn
you a dossier in the Anti-Defamation League’s extensive library
of reports on subversive right-wing activities. A series of
books churned by the prolific tag-team of Arnold
Forster and Benjamin R. Epstein consists, in large part,
of verbatim reports by ADL field agents who regularly kept
tabs on such dangerous elements as the "isolationist" Congress
of Freedom, headed by early libertarian philosopher Robert
Lefevre. The ADL had a vision of a gigantic conspiracy that
had resisted the war effort and opposed Roosevelt, two political
positions they invariably identified with anti-Semitism. Overstreet
and other, lesser figures in the anti-rightist movement faded
with the onset of the sixties, when it became clear that the
Birchers – unlike the Weathermen
– were not the real revolutionaries. But with the end of the
cold war, and the rise of right-wing populism and "antigovernment"
sentiment, the "extremist"-baiters are back, and in a big
Wilcox’s booklet, The Watchdogs: A Close look at Anti-Racist
"Watchdog" Groups, is an excellent introduction to this
milieu. Tracing the history of the "watchdogs," left and right,
from the prewar era to the present day, Wilcox draws a frightening
picture of a "privatized" surveillance system in league with
government authorities, state-privileged vigilantes with their
own ideological axes to grind. I
have written extensively about the Southern Poverty Law Center
and its founder, Morris
Dees, but just to recapitulate:
DEES SMEARS THE ANTIWAR MOVEMENT
was only natural that Dees, whose SPLC has become a virtual
arm of Janet Reno’s Justice Department, would attempt to smear
the antiwar movement during the Kosovo war. In a ridiculous
article that transcribed the racist rantings of one Louis
Beams, the alleged Svengali of a nationwide "leaderless resistance"
movement as if he were the virtual leader of right-wing
opposition to the war! This is the favorite technique of "watchdog"
groups like the SPLC: quote some completely unknown and marginal
crackpot as representative of the position one is trying to
discredit: isolationism during World War II, opposition to
US intervention in the Kosovo conflict, or whatever.
favored tactic is what Laird Wilcox calls the "links and ties"
technique, really introduced in the 1930s by the veteran anti-Communist
(and anti-Semite) Elizabeth
Dilling, the moving force behind the Patriotic Research
Bureau. Her book, The
Red Network, consisted simply of alphabetically-arranged
entries, which listed prominent politicians and intellectuals,
along with a detailed analysis their "Communist front" and
other connections. As Wilcox puts it:
to Dilling’s reasoning, if ‘A’ was a liberal who was on the
board of some organization with 'B,’ a socialist, and ‘B’
had written for the same journal as ‘C,’ a communist, then
‘A’ was ‘linked and tied’ to Communists."
NEW WITCH HUNTERS: CHIP BERLET
technique of "links and ties," says Wilcox, has been inherited
and even improved upon by the contemporary witch-hunters,
such as Chip
Berlet, of Political
Research Associates. In researching my column on "Fulani,
Buchanan, and the Smear Machine," I kept coming upon Berlet’s
name as an "authority" on the subjects of both Fulani
and Buchanan. As I pointed out in that column, Berlet’s animus
toward Fulani was born of his orthodox leftism: here was someone
allying herself with the right-wing enemy, and for that, in
Berlet’s view, she needed to be exposed as a dangerous "cultist."
In his voluminous writings on the subject of Fulani, and her
Newman, these two are depicted as virtual devils, sinister
totalitarian cultists with no redeeming features. And so I
was somewhat surprised to discover, in Wilcox’s useful booklet,
that Berlet, once associated with the New York Guardian,
a Marxist-Leninist weekly, had himself been in an alliance
with Fred Newman and his followers, in the mid-eighties.
law enforcement moved against the remnants of the New Left
radicals who imagined they could conduct "armed struggle"
against the US government, a support group formed to protest
this great "injustice." Then known as the International Workers
Party, Newman and his small group of New Left radicals were
involved in the defense: they signed a statement, along with
William Kunstler, Berlet, his associate Jean Hardisty, and
a host of other prominent figures in "the Movement," protesting
the government’s investigation into the activities of armed
leftist revolutionaries. The statement was published in the
January 13, 1984 issue of the now-defunct Guardian.
Berlet, in his propaganda today, makes much of how Newman
and his group were involved in a sinister alliance with Lyndon
LaRouche, and involved in arming themselves for some kind
of armed confrontation with the authorities. But if Berlet
himself was in a political alliance with the Newmanites, then
is he tarred with the same brush? According to Berlet, Pat
Buchanan’s association with Fulani is yet more proof that
Pat’s the center of a conspiracy to impose "producerist" fascism
on the US. But what does Berlet’s own connection to the Newmanites
say about his own politics, not to even mention his motivations?
"LINKS AND TIES"
"links and ties" technique, when turned on its practitioners,
yields interesting results. Now, it is one thing to be a leftist:
these days, at least on college campuses, it is the norm.
Red-baiting, in the absence of the Soviet Union, has gone
out of fashion, and seems largely incomprehensible to the
younger generation, which can barely remember Gorbachev and
the fall of the Berlin Wall. But in Berlet’s case, it turns
out, we have a true case of extremism par excellence.
For, in this instance, we aren’t talking, really, about the
New Left or some hippie commune: we are talking hardcore totalitarianism
of the very sort that Berlet depicts as characteristic of
Newman and Fulani. It is one thing to belong to the National
Lawyers Guild, the longstanding Communist Party front
organization that is a kind of living museum of American Stalinism:
it is quite another, however, to have been a paid-up member
of the Chicago Area Friends of Albania (CAFA), an organization
founded in 1983 and dedicated to those who "are friendly and
supportive of the People’s Socialist Republic of Albania."
informs us that, in 1985, when Enver
Hoxha, the paradigmatic Albanian Stalin, passed away,
CAFA sent out a letter to its members and fellow travelers
asking for "condolences" to be sent to Hoxha’s elderly widow,
Nexhmije Hoxha,. Fess up, Chip – you sent her a Hallmark.
was the most ferociously Stalinist of all the former Communist
regimes. Hoxha denounced all varieties of Communism other
than the Albanian version as deviations from the straight-and-narrow
Marxist-Leninist path. Russia, China, and Yugoslavia were
all examples of "revisionism" – Albania was declared to be
the only "bastion of socialist revolution," as the American
supporters of Tirana declared in their propaganda. Completely
shut off from the rest of the world, with brutal repression
against all dissent, all religion, all expression of individualist
or "bourgeois" tendencies, Albania was more repressive than
even North Korea. This was the ideal society, in the
view of Berlet and his pro-Albanian Commie friends in CAFA:
a regime that sent thousands to their deaths, many by torture
in prison, and mercilessly stamped out the slightest expression
of political dissent.
THICK AND THIN"
the eyes of the American enthusiasts of Albania, however,
perhaps the most admirable institution in this "bastion of
socialism" was undoubtedly the secret police, the notorious
Sigurimi, which ruthlessly hunted down all dissidents. Political
Research Associates, originally based in Chicago, was given
a big going-away party by the Chicago Area Friends of Albania
when they decided to move. Wilcox reproduces the text of a
CAFA flyer, which declares "Chip and his family are moving
to the Boston area to continue his anti-fascist work. Chip
was one of our founding members, and a steadfast friend of
Albanian through thick and thin."
ON THE TRADITION
it sure has been a little thin for the champions of authoritarian
regimes and ideologies. Alas, Albania, that "bastion of socialist
revolution," is fallen, and the dream of socialism deferred.
But hardcore activists like Berlet are not about to give up.
He may have let his membership in CAFA lapse, now that Hoxha-ism
in Albania is defunct, but Berlet and his crew carry on in
the tradition of the Sigurimi with Political Research Associates
dedicated to hunting down and demonizing the "enemies
of the people," spying and smearing and fingering dissidents,
whose only "crime" is opposition to the government and the
political status quo. As the Commies used to say during the
sixties and seventies: A lotta continua. "The struggle
is certainly not surprising that Berlet, the SPLC, and other
professional character assassins have homed-in on the growing
opposition to global interventionism, and wide-spread protests
against attacks on US sovereignty, as manifestations of the
dreaded "right-wing extremism." Their continuing attacks on
the Buchanan campaign, and their attempt to link antiwar organizing
to racism, should be watched, and carefully. These guys are
killers: they will do anything to destroy those they
perceive as enemies. They are especially desperate to head
off any left-right alliance over the twin issues of foreign
wars and globalization. What these anti-"extremist" "experts"
desperately need is full exposure, and Laird Wilcox certainly
does an admirable job. He is the founder of the Wilcox Collection
on Contemporary Political Movements, housed in the Kenneth
Spencer Library at the University of Kansas, and is the author
of Nazis, Communists, Klansmen, and Others on the Fringe:
Political Extremism in America (Prometheus Books, 1999).
His email is LWilcoxIII@cs.com.
The booklet is available, from him, for $19.95.