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abusive newsgroup message

Rec.music.white-power newsgroup vote

The rec.music.white-power newsgroup vote took place in February of 1996. The newsgroup was proposed by Milton Kleim, a person known as one of the most vocal online proponents of the white supremacist movement, and a person who had started a number of vicious flame wars on various newsgroups. His original proposal for the newsgroup stated that it would be a forum for "discussion of White Power music."

Because Kleim was proposing a newsgroup in the "Big seven" hierarchy (which has since become the "Big Eight"), the proposal had to undergo the standard approval vote. Anyone with an email address could vote for any newsgroup, and the approval vote for rec.music.white-power was announced far and wide by many people, both in favor of, and opposed to, the newsgroup.

A number of newsgroup posters stated their reasons for opposition to the newsgroup:

  • The newsgroup had been proposed solely in newsgroups dedicated with political discussions, not in any music-oriented newsgroups.
  • The topic of the newsgroup, "white power music," was largely unknown and barely discussed anywhere at all on the Internet, including the existing "white power" newsgroups. The lack of discussion of the topic suggested the newsgroup was not needed. When this fact was posed to the persons promoting the newsgroup, they did not offer any direct replies, and it went unanswered.

The mandatory discussion and voting were dominated, however, not by these issues but by users' reactions to the topic of racist music itself. After the voting had been tallied, the person responsible for handling the voting wrote a message describing the experience:

"I was deluged with requests for information, real name corrections that were formatted improperly and had to be handled manually, and improperly formatted vote statements sent to the wrong address. I was flamed and accused of being a white supremacist and a racist by people who didn't understand that I was just the votetaker.

"I was mailbombed, both deliberately and accidentally. One person sent me 15,000 blank email messages as a result of an error in his mail software (or so he claimed). I was mailbombed by several people because they thought I was responsible for the bot campaigning for this vote on IRC.

"Someone set up an IRC robot that roved up and down the channels in EFnet in alphabetical order, spamming each channel with a multiline exhortation to vote against the proposal. This was actively going on up until the last minute. Many IRC operators attempted to kill or ban the robot, but it kept on coming back through different accounts and servers."

The newsgroup proposal was defeated with a total of 592 yes votes, versus 33,033 no votes. Because of the extraordinary heavy vote turnout, the announcement of the final vote was delayed for eight weeks while the votes were processed.

After the final vote had been announced, Milton Kleim posted a message admitting the entire campaign for the newsgroup had been a deliberate troll to bring attention to his cause. On a newsgroup message dated June 6, 1996, Kleim wrote: "...we succeeded beyond all expectations. No informed North American is not now unaware of our existence on the Internet. National Public Radio, USA Today, the St. Paul Pioneer Press, and Minnesota Public Radio, to name a few media organs, gave us priceless free publicity for our ideas and our Holy Cause."

During the voting period, an unmoderated newsgroup entitled alt.music.white-power was created, but it failed to generate any discussions other than flame wars.

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