The Path To Revolution

Arm The Spirit (
Thu, 9 Jan 1997 14:42:32 -0500 (EST)

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- The alternative newsservice -

The Path To Revolution

You Don't Have To Be There To Experience It

By Linton Weeks Washington Post Staff Writer Thursday, January 9 1997; Page C5 The Washington Post

The computer is a revolutionary tool.

It really is. Revolutionaries, counterrevolutionaries, extremist groups, radical wings, separatist movements, cults, and their critics and sympathizers are aswarm on the Net. Never before have so many people had direct access to information from every angle. It's like a teeming hive of Gutenbergs.

For instance, the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement, the Peruvian guerrillas who took hostages in the Japanese embassy in Lima just before Christmas, has a Web presence. Its "Solidarity Page," with a link to the official Spanish-language Tupac Amaru site in Europe, is nursed by a Toronto-based group called Arm the Spirit.

The solidarity page is touted on a more elaborate site sponsored by the U.S. Committee to Support the Revolution in Peru. Based in Berkeley, this committee sings the song of the Communist Party of Peru, also known as Shining Path.

"Welcome to a real revolution in cyberspace!" reads the Shining Path page. "We expose the lies about the revolution put forward by the U.S.-backed Fujimori regime and its apologists, while opposing U.S. and other foreign intervention. We organize against the repression and terror directed at the revolution and the Peruvian people."

Sinn Fein, the radical political wing of the Irish Republican Army, the armed and rebellious Sri Lankan Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and a multitude of U.S.-based "Aryan" revolutionaries also have carefully designed Web sites. (Such sites are so devoid of humor that it seems likely these people really are who they say they are.)

These are prime spots for unfiltered propaganda. Here in the home of the free and the frenetic, the Net is protected by the First Amendment and the wholesale distribution of political information -- the good, the bad, the ugly -- is as old as Thanksgiving. Thomas Paine would have had an amazing home page.

The Shining Path pages are elaborate. Various links highlight "the crimes of the U.S.-backed Fujimori regime," list the political prisoners in Peru, reprint the press releases of Shining Path and Tupac Amaru and offer a gallery of incendiary souvenirs you can buy -- leaflets, buttons, T-shirts and cassettes of revolutionary music.

The site also gives users a way to "hook up with, support and/or join us." But it warns those interested not to use e-mail, because U.S. government officials might be monitoring it. "We encourage you to contact us by postal mail, phone or fax."

"Terrorist fund-raising is illegal in this country," said one U.S. State Department staffer who was reluctant to talk about the government's monitoring of any Web pages. Speaking only on background, the staffer said that extremist Web sites are mostly posted by U.S. citizens and are viewed as domestic material, which is under the jurisdiction of the FBI and the Justice Department, both of which have Web sites.

"There is genuine international concern that this information is freely available -- and that it's legal," the staffer said.

John Russell of the Justice Department said, "There are First Amendment considerations and there are legitimate law enforcement concerns." The Justice Department, he said, would like "to find a legal and acceptable procedure" to discover who is posting the information. He said several law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, ATF and DEA, are planning a joint meeting soon to discuss the proliferation of such rabble-rousing pages.

The Internet brings the far-flung complexities and dangers of the world a little closer to home. The bright side is that most people savvy enough to use the Internet may also be sophisticated enough to sort out the truth in the information supplied by various groups such as Tupac Amaru, Sinn Fein and the Department of Justice.

GETTING THERE: Tupac Amaru at Shining Path at Sinn Fein at Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam at State Department at FBI at Department of Justice at

(Source: The Washington Post,

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