Posted Thursday, December 21, 2000

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Website Illustration above: Logo of the Wiesenthal Center. He is paid $250,000 per annum for the rights to use his name, otherwise has no connection with the center. Center chief Rabbi Marvin Hier draws with his wife an annual salary of $750,000. They are notorious for publishing forged Holocaust photographs on the Internet.

Thursday, December 21, 2000


Does patriotism equal 'hate site'? Wiesenthal Center names 3,000 offenders including some of your favorite Americans

By Julie Foster

What do patriotic singer Steve Vaus, political think tank Free Congress Foundation and various Second Amendment-rights organizations have in common with white supremacists, neo-Nazis, promoters of violence and religiously motivated killers of homosexuals and abortionists?

They have all been listed on the Simon Wiesenthal Center's "Digital Hate 2001," a compilation of some 3,000 "hate sites across the Internet." A flurry of complaints prompted removal of the list from the group's website until a revised version is posted after the first of the year.

WiesenthalFounded in 1977 by Simon Wiesenthal, a survivor of the World War II Nazi death camps and famed Nazi hunter, the Wiesenthal Center has spent decades fighting anti-Semitism and other racial bigotry. Yet the respected group may have irreparably damaged its reputation with "Digital Hate 2001," the center's third compilation of supposed hate websites. The list may also have damaged others' reputations as well, prompting talk of legal actions.

Among the blacklisted is singer and songwriter Steve Vaus, who makes a living selling his patriotic albums, which he offers through his website. Vaus is known for his spirited and passionate lyrics, including those of his 1996 song, "We must take America back:"

"The American dream has become a nightmare. Signs of the times are on cardboard on corners in town. There's a cancer called crime in our cities, and an unspoken fear ... we're on our way down.
"We must take America back. Put an end to the gangs and the drugs in the streets. And the fact that the bad guys most always go free, that is wrong. We need leaders who lead us, not stick us and bleed us, then take all our money and send it abroad. We must take America back. We need prayer in the schools and more things 'Made In U.S.A.' It's the least we can do for the red, white and blue. We must take America back.
"There's a hell here on earth in some city schoolyards. When bullets and birth control outnumber books something's wrong. There's a hunger for good news and heroes, but good news is no news so all of the heroes are gone."
In his song "I'd rather die on my feet," Vaus expresses his love for liberty and calls all Americans to remember the price paid for freedom. At no time does he advocate violence or an overthrow of the government.
"Our colonial fathers showed us the way, led the battle for freedom that guides us today. Their spirit lives on in true Americans who answer the call, protect and defend.
"I'd rather die on my feet than live on my knees. There's no point to life without liberty.
"So I'll stand for what's right as long as I breathe. I'd rather die on my feet, than live on my knees.
"Every time I hear children say the pledge of allegiance it makes me think of the price we pay for (our) freedom. To keep America first, last and forever, we must stand our ground fighting together."

Vaus said he has no idea why he was listed among the Wiesenthal Center's hate websites. Upon learning of his inclusion in Digital Hate 2001, Vaus called the center asking for an explanation, but did not get one. On Oct. 31, the artist consulted his lawyer, David Branfman, and sent a letter to the organization.

"To suggest that my site or my music qualifies as 'hate' under any circumstance is not only totally false, but I believe it may rise to the level of slander or defamation," he wrote.

After demanding a formal apology and retraction to be posted on Weisenthal's website, Vaus did not hear back from the center.

"I had a very difficult time getting straight answers," Vaus added.

So did WorldNetDaily. Asked what criteria were used to determine what constitutes a "hate website," Wiesenthal Center spokesman Rick Eaton responded, "That's not a question I can give you an answer to."

Eaton admitted "there were some sites that should not have been listed on there," and said there was the possibility some sites were listed by accident. He added that many sites not appearing to be problematic now "may have had material that qualified them" as hate sites at the time the list was created, though he further admits he does not have any proof to back up his claim. Eaton said the revised list will be "substantially different" from the one removed this fall.

"We are confident when the new list comes out, nobody will be offended," Eaton told WND.


Eaton's tone was very different from the one used by Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Los Angeles-based center. Cooper told WND that in all cases, the center "followed the cheese of these extremist groups" and was led to believe the websites are hate-motivated. Cooper also said he was "not in a position to answer" questions related to criteria used to identify cyberhate. Additionally, the rabbi quickly interjected it would be more accurate to label the listed websites as "problematic" rather than hateful, despite the fact that the center's list is called "Digital Hate."

As a result of the center's lack of explanation, questions remain as to how the Free Congress Foundation ended up on the list. Founded by veteran Republican activist Paul Weyrich, FCF describes itself as a politically and culturally conservative think tank. Weyrich said through a spokesman that he did not wish to comment on the matter.

Vaus believes the Wiesenthal Center's refusal to explain its actions is a danger sign.

"I think it shows how incredibly irresponsible some of these organizations are," he remarked. "It shows the danger zone we all get into when, as citizens, we allow someone else to do our thinking or our decision-making. It underscores the importance of each of us determining for ourselves what's right, what's wrong, what's good, what's bad, rather than relying on someone else to make that judgment for us.

"The Wiesenthal Center has certainly made some mistakes in judgment," Vaus continued. "How often does that happen in the mainstream media, for example? Too many people are like sheep that allow themselves to be led by someone else's judgment."

Like Vaus, Janalee Tobias is unnerved by the Wiesenthal Center's actions. The president of Women Against Gun Control, Tobias is a stay-at-home mom in Utah whose organization was listed by the center as a hate site.

Nazi lists"They're not prepared to give an answer? I don't understand how that could be. Women Against Gun Control was apparently on that list for a whole year," said Tobias. "They were prepared to put our names on the list. Everyone knows, especially Jews who survived the holocaust in World War II, they know that lists do not compile themselves. This is a very frightening thing, and we just want to know what the criteria is for those lists, and who compiles the list. Who compiled it, and why weren't we contacted? To generalize like that is so very damaging to groups."

Cartoon from Australian newspaper, 1998

Tobias has been politically active in her community for many years and says she has experienced harassment as a result, which she says goes with the territory. "But when you get put on a list of hate groups with the KKK and groups that truly are admittedly violent," a group deserves to know why, she said.

Every member of Women Against Gun Control must take a pledge to exercise safety and responsibility when handling firearms, Tobias explained. The pledge includes a promise not to cause bodily harm to anyone unless one is acting in self-defense.

"Now what is so hateful about that?" she asked. "We never encourage violence of any sort as an outlet (of expression).

"I'm prepared to discuss with them why we would be on a list," the activist continued. "We just want to know why, as soon as media started calling us, they took us off the list. Who knows how many groups have been damaged by that very serious allegation of that person or that organization being a hate group?"

Tobias acknowledged that the origin of the Wiesenthal Center was "very honorable -- to bring justice to Nazi war criminals. We're just afraid that they've become a political tool for the gun-hating left."

Bill Palmer, another Second Amendment-rights proponent, runs a website listed on Digital Hate 2001. Palmer is a magician and actor who performs at children's parties, including bar mitzvahs. But he has not had a single offer to perform for the Jewish ceremony since his site appeared on the hate list. He normally performs at about a half-dozen bar mitzvahs per year.

Palmer said he would join a class-action lawsuit if one is filed against the center. He also noted his conversation with Eaton in which the spokesman said very few people in the Jewish community have purchased the Digital Hate compact disk, casting his lack of bar mitzvah offers as merely a coincidence.

"I just thought it was an awfully strange coincidence," Palmer remarked, adding that officials at the Wiesenthal Center surely "don't want to have this happen again."

Eaton told WND he did not know how many CDs the group has sold, but said the 2000 version of the disk was distributed to 20,000-30,000 people.

The Wiesenthal Center is selling the Digital Hate 2001 CD -- a report and analysis of cyberhate -- for $20 through its website. On the cover is a picture of a blonde-haired boy looking at a computer screen displaying a Nazi insignia. The program contains a sampling of the thousands of supposed hate sites identified by the group. The rest of the list is accessible through an Internet link contained in the program. However, when the link is activated, a message appears saying the website is being revised.

WND was told by the center an updated list would be posted on Dec. 1. Eaton now says, however, he expects the list to be completed by Jan. 2.

© 2000, Inc.

Julie Foster is a staff reporter for WorldNetDaily.

Related items on this website:

 The ADL "Blacklist"
 Schindler, the Leiblers, and the Keeping of Lists
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