Revisionism on the Web
The Thought Heard 'Round the World
Even though seven years have elapsed since the Internet burst into prominence in 1994 due to the addition of the "World Wide Web" (often abbreviated "WWW") to electronic mail ("e-mail"), file transfer, and other existing features, it is difficult to know whether this is the wave of the future, a passing fad, or a stepping-stone to something yet to come. One thing certain is that revisionist materials on the Internet drive anti-revisionists crazy.
The Journal has covered efforts by governments to silence revisionists. If these attempts to regulate freedom of speech are successful, then the Internet cannot survive, and freedom of speech everywhere is threatened. However, the premise, that the laws of one country should be used to determine Internet content in other countries, is ludicrous, and almost certainly will lead to the downfall of efforts to control Internet content; imagine Muslim countries attempting to control the Internet because pornography is available, or the Communist Chinese because some Web sites publicize human rights abuses.
Discussions and Debates
Before the World Wide Web made the Internet so popular, electronic presentations of revisionist viewpoints were confined to computer systems of which one had to be a member. Non-members had no way of following discussions, and material presented on one computer system would not appear on any other computer system without someone laboriously copying it.
Now, virtually anyone who can connect to the Internet can view revisionist materials, and participate in discussions and debates with others interested in revisionism. The longest-running and most active of these forums is alt.revisionism, an Internet discussion area (technically, a "newsgroup") that allows visitors to read existing messages, respond to topics of interest, and post new messages. Discussions are free-wheeling, to say the least, and are often larded with the type of personal attacks that tend to surface when one is not face-to-face with one's target.
There are also moderated discussion areas. Although typically moderators do not allow participants to express revisionist viewpoints, even so, it can be worthwhile to monitor discussion areas such as this to keep up with the current trends in establishment historiography.
It is difficult to overstate the extent to which e-mail (electronic mail, most often sent over the Internet) facilitates communication. It does not matter whether your message is going to the next-door neighbor or to a far continent, delivery is free, and in many cases, almost instantaneous. In addition, one message can be sent to dozens or even hundreds of recipients simultaneously with a few keystrokes, eliminating printing costs, envelope stuffing, and postage expenses.
These characteristics have been a boon to revisionists. Revisionists major and minor around the world use mass e-mail to keep other revisionists up-to-date on breaking news and developments. Recipients can easily (and often do) "forward" copies of received messages to others, so that in a matter of hours revisionist news can move around the globe at a speed that makes fax machines look antiquated.
Registration for the recent (since cancelled) revisionist conference in Beirut was greatly facilitated by e-mail, as messages from speakers, participants, and journalists flooded into the IHR, where they were answered and sent back within twenty-four hours. Without e-mail, pulling together such a diverse group of persons from dozens of countries around the world would have been next to impossible.
If receiving streams of revisionist material every day is a problem because you live in a country where such material is forbidden, it is trivially easy to obtain a free e-mail account under an alias. These accounts have the additional advantage that they allow retrieval of messages from just about any computer anywhere in the world. Even if you are on the move, you don't have to be out of touch with the revisionist community.
The utilitarian nature of other Internet features notwithstanding, the multi-media capabilities of the Web are what is driving the explosion in interest in the Internet. In 1994,when IHR material first appeared on the Web, there were relatively little few Web sites in existence, and not much other interesting material. The growth in the intervening years has been dramatic, to the point that now, newcomers to the Web take for granted that whatever they are seeking is available somewhere, and usually for free. Library card catalogs (including that of the Library of Congress), historical documents, and out-of-print books are all available on the Web. Today, the average Internet user has more news and information at his fingertips than editors at major metropolitan daily newspapers had ten years ago.
The integration of Web materials and e-mail capabilities make it possible for any Internet user to act as a "clipping service," e-mailing others magazine and newspaper articles, and other Web materials, without having to retype them. To use the Beirut Conference as an example once again, articles in the Arab-language press were picked up by Arabic-speaking IHR associates from Web sites in the Middle East, translated into English, and e-mailed to the IHR, where they were available the next day on our Web site in translation.
With dozens of supporters around the world sending electronic "clippings" every day, not every clipping is going to be germane. Even so, those materials that cannot be used by the IHR are often forwarded electronically to others for use elsewhere.
Simple and Effective
Without the Internet, the control of the mass media by groups and individuals hostile to historical truth would doom a small publisher such as the IHR to eking out an existence on the fringe. With a well-designed and highly visible Web site (www.ihr.org), the IHR can be on nearly equal footing with huge organizations such as the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Simon Wiesenthal Center in making material available to the average computer user.
This has led to an increasing number of citations of revisionist Web sites in articles dealing with historical topics such as the Holocaust. Not only does the IHR Web site allow journalists from around the world to quickly and easily contact the IHR, it allows their readers to quickly find and peruse revisionist materials, so they can make up their own minds about historical events.
From The Journal of Historical Review, January/February 2001 (Vol. 20, No. 1), page 5.