Public vs. private: decision time for the fringe

· The Power of Many

The Anti-Defamation League has an article online titled “The Quiet Retooling of the Militia Movement”. It includes a section about how the far right is learning to fine-tune the protection of their own privacy and publicity—basically, learning the lessons of public speech through the classroom of Internet:

The more recent resurgence of activity has attracted little attention, in part because militia activists generally keep a much lower profile then they did in the 1990s, when militia-related Web sites and public meetings were more common. Militia activists still use the Internet, but tend to prefer the lower-profile arenas of online discussion forums and mailing lists over Web sites. […]

This lack of trust – because of fear of federal informants as well as fear of nongovernmental “watchdog” groups – governs many modern-day militia interactions.

After the Champaign County Unorganized Militia in Ohio was publicly identified in early 2004 as an active “patriot” group, one member of the group who frequented a Maine militia discussion board posted that “I would understand if you rather me not come to the board. Just ask. I don’t know if I’m being watched or not. It’s up to you guys.” […]

(Among the groups mentioned in the article is “The CREST”, which has 922 members in a members-only Yahoo! group.) The question, “How public any of us should be?” has never been more important, regardless of our politics, religion, or habits. It’s not just a matter of keeping your credit card number to yourself, or even of “never writing anything in e-mail that you wouldn’t want on the front page of the New York Times” (as the now-old saw has it). Your very fundamental perception of life and culture can be both discovered and used against you, via the digital world.

(Link via David Neiwert’s Orcinus)