---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Wed, 21 Nov 2001 14:54:18 -0800
From: radtimes <email@example.com>
Subject: Protesters Find the Web to Be a Powerful Tool
Protesters Find the Web to Be a Powerful Tool
By AMY HARMON
November 21, 2001
t was just before Jodie Hemerda set off a family feud by announcing her
opposition to the United States bombing in Afghanistan that she began
scouring the Internet for others who shared her views.
She was not having much success in her hometown, Parker, Colo., where only
the rare minivan does not fly an American flag. Rather than risk alienating
the other mothers in the neighborhood, Ms. Hemerda, 30, has refrained from
voicing her antiwar sentiments as they shuttle the children to and from school.
Even her husband, who threatened to boycott Thanksgiving dinner with his
parents if they could not respect
Ms. Hemerda's right to her opinions, stops short of endorsing her viewpoint.
Like many of the small and scattered group of Americans who disapprove of
the Bush administration's
response to the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, Ms. Hemerda is finding the
Internet to be a powerful tool for
reaching other dissenters. After joining thousands of others in signing an
antiwar petition on the Web site
www.9-11peace.org, she was emboldened to speak out at a local gathering
about the death of Afghan
"Knowing that there were other people out there with my opinions made it a
lot easier," Ms. Hemerda said.
"It's just really nice to know that you're not alone."
With opinion polls showing overwhelming support for President Bush, war
protesters are relying heavily on the Internet to weave their fragmented
constituents into a movement. Though they number far fewer than the
opponents of the war in Vietnam or even the Persian Gulf war, the first
generation of Internet activists may well be spreading their message
farther and faster than their predecessors in political protest.
Protesters making use of the Internet range from former hippies in rural
Vermont who download ready- made leaflets to hand out at their weekly
demonstrations to David H. Pickering, 22, of Brooklyn, who started an
online peace petition that was presented to Prime Minister Tony Blair by
members of the British Parliament last month with 500,000 signatures from
around the world.
And then there are those like Cleo Meek, of Los Angeles, who simply typed
"protest" into the Internet search engine Yahoo (news/quote) a few days
after the bombing began in Afghanistan and discovered the International
Action Center, which has organized several protests since the airstrikes
began. Ms. Meek has since joined the center's volunteer staff.
"The character of political action organizing has completely shifted since
the gulf war," said Brian Becker, co-director of the International Action
Center, which was founded in 1992 by Ramsey Clark, a former United States
attorney general. "Instead of a physical location like our office, the Web
site has become our mobilization headquarters."
The relative anonymity of the technology also allows Internet users to
absorb and express alternative views without fear of reprisal or to do so
anonymously at a time when some protesters say the nation's patriotic
fervor makes it more difficult to voice dissent.
People opposed to the war are "certainly one of the most vocal groups on
the Net," said Andrew Carvin,
who runs an online discussion forum about Sept. 11 and its aftermath. Mr.
Carvin said many participants use free, disposable e- mail addresses and do
not identify themselves.
America's first war of the Internet age is spawning a new cohort of
protesters who take for granted the ability to consult a vast array of
international news sources with a few mouse-clicks and is teaching old
activists new tactics.
Jack Smith, a veteran of the movement against the Vietnam War started using
e-mail only a year ago. But
when he saw the names of student antiwar protesters at Vassar College in a
local newspaper article, he
looked up their e-mail addresses on the college Web site and persuaded them
to join in the activities of a
community group in New Paltz, N.Y., committed to social justice causes.
"Everyone has their own e-mail list," said Mr. Smith, 67, of New Paltz,
adding that those networks are one
reason that "at this stage an antiwar movement, and quite a vital one, has
formed faster than any I can
When students at Occidental College in Los Angeles decided to begin a
56-hour fast on Nov. 9 as a show of solidarity with Afghan civilians
injured in the bombardments, they sent e-mail messages to their friends at
other colleges, who forwarded them to their friends, and so on. One message
found its way to an e-mail list called ActionLA and caught the attention of
activists on several other Los Angeles-area campuses. Soon students at
Princeton, Boston College and Oxford University in England had signed on.
"I don't understand how Vietnam got organized in the way it did," said
Robert James Wallace, 18, a freshman at Occidental who helped organize the
hunger strike. "Without the Internet there's no way we would have gotten 17
colleges on board in two weeks."
Of course, those 1960's peaceniks somehow did manage to make themselves
heard without the Internet, and some latter-day advocates argue that the
tool can be overused.
"We need to talk to people face-to- face about why we think the war is
bad," said Kirstin Roberts, 30, a
student at Harold Washington College in Chicago. "I spend way too much time
in front of my computer."
Still, Ms. Roberts said the Internet was vital to pulling together three
regional student antiwar conferences in recent weeks. Alyssa Erickson, 21,
a senior at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, saw an announcement for the
Nov. 10 Chicago conference on the Protest.net Web site.
After returning from Chicago, Ms. Erickson, who had previously been
hesitant to express her views,
organized a teach-in to discuss nonviolent options for bringing to justice
the terrorists responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks.
To those who pointed out that the Taliban has almost been defeated, she
replied by handing out information from the Revolutionary Association of
the Women of Afghanistan criticizing the Northern Alliance.
"When people say 'Why are you opposed to the war, the Northern Alliance is
winning,' I say 'Look at what the women of Afghanistan are saying about the
Northern Alliance,' " Ms. Erickson said. "More people are refugees and more
people are starving and they still don't have a government of their choosing."
She said she had downloaded the information from www.rawa.org.
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