School newspaper advisers, beware: A free music-downloading web site that has placed advertisements with at least two high school newspapers is actually a vehicle for violent hate speech and “white resistance” information.
Last month, two high school newspapers unknowingly ran an advertisement from an organization called Victory Forever, which states its purpose is to “disseminate white resistance music as widely as possible around the world.” The incidents have angered some community members and have left educators wondering what they can do if they are victimized by false or misleading ads.
The group ran an ad in HiLite, the student newspaper at Indiana’s Carmel High School, promoting free music downloads, but when readers visited the web site, they found anti-Semitic and racially charged information claiming that whites are in danger.
Victory Forever also successfully placed an ad in the newspaper at San Francisco’s Lowell High School earlier in November.
In an interview with the Associated Press, a spokesman for Victory Forever who identified himself as Mike Shields said the group is leading a campaign to recruit young white Americans to “fight for the survival of the white race.”
Victory Forever picked Carmel High because it is one of the largest high schools in Indiana, and its newspaper—with a monthly circulation of about 5,000—is both highly respected and widely read, Shields said. Those factors, he said, provided the organization “with a great opportunity to spread our message.”
Carmel Principal John Williams released a statement on the school’s web site calling the situation “an inadvertent mistake” that “in no way represents the views” of the student newspaper or the school. He said the offending ad had been removed from the newspaper’s online version, and the school is considering legal action.
But in an eMail message to eSchool News, HiLite advisor and communications teacher Jim Streisel said the legal issues were out of their hands after having been reported to Indiana police and federal authorities.
“At this time, we know that the group operates its web site anonymously through a router somewhere in the western United States. [Law-enforcement officials] told me they’d need to get a search warrant … for the routing hub to release the names of its clients. I haven’t heard anything since then,” he said.
Streisel said before the advertisement ran, HiLite checked the web address provided by the organization’s contact person only to find a blank site.
“We didn’t question that blank site, because the contact person indicated in his eMail correspondence that they were still working on it and it would be up by the time the ad ran,” he said.
It wasn’t until the new site replaced the blank one that HiLite members realized they had been misled, something Jonathan Ezor, attorney and law professor at the Touro Law Center in New York, said could make a case for the school.
“If the intent [of Victory Forever was] to mislead the school, and as a result the school is damaged—financially, reputationally—there might be a case, depending on the [state’s law],” he said.
Even so, Ezor said any remedy to the school’s problem most likely wouldn’t be handled legally. If anything, he said, it creates an opportunity for the school to create new procedures to verify advertising before it’s placed in the school paper, which is what Carmel has done.
“We have since changed our procedure to not run any ads whose web sites we can’t access,” Streisel said. “That wouldn’t necessarily prevent what happened at Lowell High School in California … but it would at least add another layer of protection.”
According to published reports, Lowell High’s student newspaper team saw a fake web site when they checked the advertised web site address. Representatives from the school were unavailable for comment as of press time.
High school students are in the primary age group Victory Forever is trying to “reach, educate, and radicalize,” said an unidentified spokesperson for the organization in an eMail message to eSchool News.
“More so than any other group, young people still have the ability and natural rebelliousness to think independently of the prevailing social order. Additionally, young people are not burdened by the many responsibilities faced by most adults–maintaining high-paid careers, making the mortgage payment every month, providing for a wife and children, et cetera, so they have a much larger degree of freedom to engage in politically incorrect ideas and actions,” the spokesperson said.
Today’s troubled economy, the election of the nation’s first black president, and the perception that other countries are rising in influence are fueling a rise in activity among white supremacist and militia groups, according to an intelligence assessment by the federal Department of Homeland Security in April. “Right-wing extremists,” the report says, “are harnessing this historical election as a recruitment tool.”
There is a violent edge to this movement. Lone wolves and small groups who are “embracing violent right-wing extremist ideology are the most dangerous domestic terrorism threat,” according to the report. It cited an April shooting in Pittsburgh that left three police officers dead at the hands of a gunman reportedly influenced by racist ideology and fears that a gun ban was imminent with President Barack Obama in charge.
Victory Forever urges visitors to its site to “arm yourself and become proficient in the use of firearms,” and its web site links to an AK-47 discussion forum.
In the first five months of Obama’s presidency, Chip Berlet, senior analyst with Political Research Associates, a Somerville, Mass., think tank, said racist, right-wing extremists killed at least nine people.
Such attacks are a vent for racial anxiety and outrage at the perceived liberal government by people who feel powerless to reach the political elites, according to Berlet. Instead, they target those within reach.
“It’s a perfect storm for violence,” Berlet said. “You ignore it at our peril.”
The Victory Forever spokesperson said the group has several more advertisements currently scheduled to run. Because these have been successful, the spokesperson said, Victory Forever will continue to seek additional advertising opportunities in high school newspapers.
“More than 25,000 white resistance MP3s have been downloaded since the beginning of the advertising campaign. We have also seen a huge increase in the sale of our white resistance music distribution CDs, which are now appearing on high school campuses all across America,” the spokesperson said.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.