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the KKK took my baby away (in year 2000)
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- Subject: the KKK took my baby away (in year 2000)
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- Date: Thu, 17 Dec 1998 20:35:05 +0900 (JST)
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Fear of Computer Bug
Fueling Far Right
Prepare for war. Its coming!" With those words, hard-line racist
preacher James Wickstrom warned an August gathering of extremists in
Pennsylvania of the end-times battle he expects in the year 2000 -- a
battle he believes will be set off by the so-called "y2k" computer
Across the extreme-right spectrum, such fears of a societal breakdown
sparked by computer date-change problems have set activists afire.
While Wickstroms prophecies may be the most explosive, similar
millennial fears are dominating the headlines of the radical press.
The airwaves are reverberating with warnings to head for the hills and
hunker down for possible riots and race war. The Internet is replete
with similarly dire scenarios.
When the crash comes, Wickstrom enjoined some 30 followers, "get out
of the way for a while and then go hunting, O Israel!" Like the
biblical figure of David, godly whites must "fill our shoes with the
blood of our enemies and walk in them." Wickstrom lives, he said, "for
the day I can walk down the road and see heads on the fence posts."
If the race war scenario such men envision is a fantasy, the computer
problem they believe will set it off is not. Authorities ranging from
President Clinton to leaders of industry around the world believe that
y2k -- which is short for "Year 2000" -- could lead to major social
and economic snarls, even a worldwide depression.
The problem originated with early computer programmers who abbreviated
date references to two digits -- as in "98" for 1998 -- in order to
save then-precious bytes of computer memory. At the turn of the
century, experts say, many computers could crash or spew nonsensical
data as they confuse "00" for 1900. While predictions vary hugely,
many officials and experts believe there could be serious problems in
banking, food supplies, air traffic control, nuclear and electrical
power, defense and any number of other sectors.
Many fear a recession. And there are those who forecast even worse.
Something will happen
Regardless of the actual result -- and many experts see the
headline-making y2k story as a tempest in a teacup -- there is no
question that a large number of extremists have pegged the year 2000
as a critical date. For many, it will be the time when Christian
patriots, the "children of light," must do battle with the satanic
"forces of darkness." Others believe "one-world" conspirators will
attack American patriots on that date.
This has not been lost on those who battle right-wing terror. Early
next year, the FBI will launch a nationwide assessment of the threat
of domestic terrorism on and around Jan. 1, 2000. "I worry that every
day something could happen somewhere," Robert Blitzer, head of the
FBIs domestic terrorism unit, told the Los Angeles Times recently (see
interview also in this issue).
"The odds are that something will happen."
Hard-line revolutionaries like Wickstrom are not the only ones to tie
apocalyptic visions to the y2k problem. Pat Robertsons relatively
mainstream Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), for instance, offers
news stories describing the computer bug and its possible
ramifications such as "The Year 2000: A Date With Disaster" and
"Countdown to Chaos: Prophecy for 2000." Robertson markets a CBN
video, "Preparing for the Millennium: A CBN News Special Report," that
includes a synopsis of "the y2k computer crisis" with his futuristic
novel, The End of an Age, which describes a "possible scenario of a
future biblical Armageddon" triggered by a meteors crash.
The audience for such ideas is not even limited to evangelical
Christians. A large number of new religious books have crossed over
strongly into the secular market.
, a recent series of four apocalyptic novels co-authored by an
evangelical Christian minister and a former journalist, has sold
almost 3 million copies. The series made "publishing history in
September when all four of the books ascended to the top four slots on
Publishers Weekly magazines lists of bestsellers," according to a
report in The New York Times. The books authors say every major
prophecy of the biblical Book of Revelations has been fulfilled, and
they expect the y2k bug could set off the crisis.
Y2K and the antichrist
"It could very well trigger a financial meltdown," co-author Tim
LaHaye writes on his publishers Web site, which attracts 80,000
electronic visits a day, "leading to an international depression,
which would make it possible for the antichrist or his emissaries to
establish a one-world currency or a one-world economic system, which
will dominate the world commercially until it is destroyed."
The series has spun off a companion childrens book series, a music CD,
T-shirts and caps. More books and a movie also are in the works, the
Times reported. And now, Tennessee trade magazine publisher Tim Wilson
has launched a new periodical, Y2K News Magazine, that includes tips
on defending property from would-be attackers.
Reaction to the y2k problem on the extreme fringes of the right has
varied widely, usually depending on the religious or ideological bent
of each group. Probably the most consistent theme has been a
survivalist one, with ideologues warning that people must prepare for
the worst. And entrepreneurs around the country have leaped to take
advantage of these fears, offering for sale everything from dried
foods to underground bunkers.
At the Preparedness Expo 98 held in Atlanta last June, for instance,
at least a dozen speakers offered bleak assessments of the coming
crisis. For those who took the bait, there was a plethora of products
available: water purifiers, hundreds of types of storable foods from
"enzyme-rich vegetable juice extracts" to "gourmet" dehydrated fruits,
seeds, herbal medicines, "Cozy Cruiser" trailers and all manner of
books on survival skills.
Such merchants arent the only ones pandering to millennial fear.
Land, gold and medical school
In Idaho, so-called "Patriot" James "Bo" Gritz hawks remote lots of
land that he describes as "an ark in the time of Noah," along with a
huge range of survivalist products and training. In Montana, Militia
of Montana leader John Trochmann has a catalog of holocaust-survival
items. In states around the country, far-right "investment counselors"
sell strategies to protect ones money as civilization collapses. And
on the Internet, two self-described "Christian Patriots" signing
themselves Michael Johnson and Paul Byus offer "foolproof" gold
certificates to a mining claim in Oregon.
"We [also] have set up schools to cover kindergarten, 1st thru 12th
grades, adult school, community college, 4 yr college, university, and
even the medical school I told you about 6 months ago," one of the
Internet salesmen claims. "Bring your kids and entire family to
participate in our secure decentralized Patriot community... ."
Other reactions on the extreme right run the gamut, from seeing the
crisis as an opportunity for global conspirators to seize dictatorial
powers, to viewing it as an opening for revolution or a fulfillment of
biblical prophecy. Recent examples:
The New American, an organ of the ultraconservative John Birch
Society, speculates that the y2k bug could be Americas Reichstag fire,
a reference to the 1933 arson attack on Germanys Parliament building
that was used by Hitler as an excuse to enact police state laws.
"[C]ould the Millennium Bug provide an ambitious President with an
opportunity to seize dictatorial powers?" the magazine asks. "Such a
notion seems plausible... ."
Norm Olson, a Michigan militia leader, is busy doing "wolfpack"
training for the apocalypse, reports Media Bypass, a magazine popular
among Patriots. "Survival is the key. As with most other people, we
will rely on our self-supporting covenant community, " said Olson, who
believes constitutional rights probably will be suspended before the
real crisis hits. "It will be the worst time for humanity since the
In his AntiShyster magazine, Patriot editor Alfred Adask speaks of
entire cities running out of food and of the possibility of "millions
of American fatalities." "If the y2k information Ive seen is accurate,
we are facing a problem of Biblical proportions," he says.
"Potentially, y2k ... [is] a dagger pointed at the heart of Western
Bo Gritzs Center for Action newsletter, describing y2k as "a pandemic
electronic virus more deadly than AIDS," predicts "worldwide chaos"
and then goes on to offer lots for sale at Gritzs "Almost Heaven"
community. "If Y-2-K has the predicted effect ... we can expect to
see, out of the ashes of decimated fiat systems and economic chaos,
the rise of a MONEY MESSIAH, who will offer a miraculous fix to a
bleeding, begging world," Gritz adds. He also predicts imposition of a
worldwide "electronic currency."
Writing in The Jubilee, the leading periodical of the racist and
anti-Semitic Christian Identity religion, correspondent Chris Temple
says that "the net result of the Year 2000 problem as I have described
it will be POSITIVE! Internationalism and capitalism will be dealt
severe blows; efforts to recapture local control ... will spread."
In his Patriot Report, Identity proselytizer George Eaton concludes:
"We need to act as if our lives depend upon our decisions, because
they do. What can we do? Continue to work and save up money for
survival items. ... A person can never be over-prepared."
In a July Internet posting on a Klan news page, a contributor
described as a computer programmer demands that the federal government
"surrender" in return for programmers assistance in fixing the y2k
bug. The posting speaks of "the thousands (probably millions) joining
us in our rural retreats. Weve got the bibles, the beans, the
bandages, the bullets -- and the brains. ... You will reap what you
have sewn [sic]. ... Some cities will indeed end in flames -- flames
that will light a path to our posteritys freedom."
From fallout shelters to y2k
Interestingly, one of the most salient commentators on the y2k problem
-- a man often quoted in the mainstream press -- has been Gary North.
North is a hard-line opponent of abortion and a theocratic thinker who
advocates imposing biblical law on the United States. In his books, he
has written of the possibility of a "political and military"
confrontation "in the philosophical war against political pluralism."
Although he is widely described as a y2k "expert," he is also
something of a professional doomsayer.
In 1986, long before the y2k problem came to public attention, North
co-authored a book on how to survive nuclear Armageddon. Called
Fighting Chance: Ten Feet to Survival, it features a shovel -- for
digging fallout shelters -- on its cover.
Norths huge y2k Web site has made him into a guru to many extremists.
The neo-Nazi Aryan Nations is one of many groups that link their Web
sites to that of North.
"These are people who are super-sensitive to anything that suggests
the collapse of social institutions," Michael Barkun, a Syracuse
University expert on millennialism, said of y2k fearmongers. "Since
nuclear war really is no longer out there as a terribly likely way for
civilization to end, theyve got to find something else. y2k is
Many experts, including Barkun and the FBIs Blitzer, agree that
extremists fears and hopes surrounding y2k have increased the danger
of domestic terrorism. "It adds to apocalyptic fears," says Chip
Berlet, who studies the far right for Cambridge-based Political
Research Associates. "Therefore, it adds to the potential for
James Wickstrom may best illustrate that potential.
At the meeting he co-hosted with Identity leader August Kreis in
Ulysses, Pa., he warned his audience -- several clad in Aryan Nations
uniforms -- that auth
The enemy, said Wickstrom, must be "exterminated." He must be "shot."
He must be "hanged." "The battle is upon us," Wickstrom bellowed.