TIM MILLER last wrote for The Magazine on Rep. Stan Parris' use of the congressional franking privilege.
ONE DAY SOME MONTHS AGO, a 10- year-old Pittsburgh boy sat down in his bedroom, connected his home computer to a telephone line and dialed another computer 150 miles away in West Virginia. Soon his terminal screen was filled with messages such as "The Case Against the Holocaust," which asserted that the Holocaust of Jews in World War II was a hoax and that Bergen- Belsen concentration camp was merely a "sick prisoners' camp."
Other features that were available included "The Jew in Review," and "How the Scum of the Earth Rule Us." Another message attacked "Negro Michael Jackson" and claimed that he had had "extensive plastic surgery to make him appear more effeminate . . . "
"Only the Jews," the message ended, "could have thought up such a creature as Mi Jackson for the youthful 'goyim' to admire."
The 10-year-old had reached the world of electronic Nazis and white supremacists.
EACH DAY, an estimated 150 to 400 people pick up their telephones and dial up bigotry on a half-dozen electronic "bulletin boards" similar to the one in West Virginia. The boards are located in five states and are operated by groups of ex-Klansmen, neo-Nazis and other white supremacists.
" . . . It is our Aryan technology just as is the printing press, radio, airplane, auto, etc., etc." Richard Gint Butler, leader of the Aryan Nations movement, wrote to disciples in a fund- raising appeal for his group's bulletin board in Hayden Lake, Idaho. "We must use our own God-given technology in calling our race back to our Father's Organic Law."
"We feel the white nationalist movement is 20 years behind in technology and we're going to catch up whether they like it or not," said Tom Metzger recently. Metzger, a former California Ku Klux Klan leader, now directs the White American Political Association and operates a nine-month-old bulletin board system in Fallbrook, Calif., north of San Diego.
Just last month, new bulletin boards opened in Chicago and Houston. "By the end of the summer," said Metzger, "there will be dozens."
WEST VIRGINIA'S haven of high-tech bigotry can be found in the hilly farm country in the west of the state. The dusty mountain road winds through a leafy tunnel formed by overhanging trees, past goats chewing on meadow grass. There, tucked in a cranny of the bucolic valley, is a quiet farm where the message once preached by Adolf Hitler is now propagated by an Apple IIe.
George Dietz, the computer's owner, was chopping weeds in front of his white farmhouse one recent Friday, his blue work shirt wet with perspiration and his thinning hair plastered to his forehead. Dietz, 57, a native of Germany, was a proud member of Hitler Youth when World War II ended in 1945. In 1957 he and his wife Betty emigrated to the United States, where they worked in various jobs before settling down in the farm brokerage business in Reedy, W.Va., population 338. Now, according to the Anti- Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, Dietz distributes more neo-Nazi printed literature in the United States than anyone else.
His printed matter, pictures (of Adolf Hitler, for one) and records (Nazi war songs) are dis- tributed and shipped from a shabby three-story building in the nearby town of Reedy. But the computer that powers Dietz's electronic bulletin board hums in his farmhouse outside town. There Dietz ushered me to a seat among the potted flowers on his porch and companionably explained that his campaign to disprove the Holocaust will weaken the power of Jews, who he says are the source of America's problems.
"If and when that Holocaust lie collapses," said Dietz, pausing to nibble his upper lip thoughtfully, " -- the postwar policies of America, Germany and Israel are based on that -- once that house of cards collapses, the feathers will hit the fan, I'm afraid."
Jews, homosexuals, blacks and degenerates should be "put in concentration camps like Hitler did and made to work for a change," Dietz says. In his view, Nazi concentration camps were work camps, where those who died perished of famine and disease, not extermination.
The Apple computer sits on the floor in a small room adjoining Dietz's bedroom. It is connected to a 10-megabyte hard disk drive and a Hayes Micromodem IIe. Anyone with a computer and a similar modem can call Dietz's computer, read its messages and leave messages, hence the term "bulletin board."
Computer bulletin boards have only been around for seven years and already they are being compared t early American broadsheets as a lowcost way for ordinary people to publish their views. An estimated 2,000 computer boards now operate in the United States doing everything from selling insurance to exchanging erotic fantasies.
An electronic bulletin board is cheap for what it does. California's Metzger has set up his system for less than $400 and Dietz says his could be bought today for about $2,000.
Currently 2.1 million home computers are equipped with modems, but the potential audience for electronic bulletin boards is expected to grow rapidly. One market research firm, Link Resources Corp. of New York, predicts 22 million home modems by 1989.
BY LATE AFTERNOON on the day of my visit, 13 callers had logged into George Dietz's Liberty Bell Network, including a man from Arlington, Va., a Ku Klux Klan neo-Nazi associated with a bulletin board in Fayetteville, N.C., and others who clearly had left fake names. Dietz doesn't care what name is left. His only concern is that people call.
"I'm doing nothing more," he said, "than taking advantage of my constitutional freedom."
The birds were getting in a last burst of song as the sun slunk off behind the wooded hills.
"Time to clean up for dinner," called Dietz's wife from the kitchen, "You're filthy!"
"Ja, like those Russian Jews," he responded, then laughed glee
Later, Dietz paced in the living room as he brooded about the nation's troubles. Inflation, crime, the deficit, homeless people, all the problems, insisted Dietz, are the fault of Jews. His face tautened. The solution, he said, is to rouse the masses until they "get rid of the Jews." On that day, he said, "There won't be enough lamp streets . . . "
"LOOKING DOWN the road, the Aryan movement is going to make the Third Reich look like a third-grade school party," Aryan Nations leader Butler told United Press International in May. "We are just on the very outer edge of tremendous violence."
Several boards sympathetic to Aryan Nations ideas carry a "Know Your Enemy" section that lists national and regional offices of the Anti- Defamation League of B'nai B'rith (ADL) and Communist Party headquarters as well as "Names and Addresses of Race Traitors" and "ZOG Informers." (ZOG stands for "Zionist Occupational Government," a term several boards use to refer to the U.S. government.)
"We regard it as an invitation to attack," said David Lowe, an Anti-Defamation League staffer in New York. Lowe said league employes in North Carolina reported that Glenn Miller, the North Carolina KKK neo-Nazi leader, told followers his bulletin board would have "an up-to-date list of many of the Jew headquarters around the country so that you can pay them a friendly visit."
Some boards have carried a threatening bulletin concerning Morris Dees, an anti-Klan leader who is chief trial counsel to the Southern Poverty Lw Center in Montgomery, Ala. "According to the word of our God, Morris Dees has earned two (2) death sentences," the message read.
Lyn Wells, coordinator of the Center for Democratic Renewal in Atlanta, a monitoring agency affiliated with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, also suspects computers may be accessories to violence. "We believe the computer network is being used not only for giving out chunks of neo-Nazi information but also for communication in a more pragmatic, immediate action sense for the white supremacist movement," Wells said.
The enemies lists, she said, provide "subtle action lists" for militant extremists. "That is perfectly legal, to title something an 'enemies list' and put names on it. That's a way of giving orders."
The computer also serves as a potent propaganda device, Wells says. "It is making their troops become more ideologically homogeneous," she said. "That creates a more consolidated cadre."
FOR DIETZ, the computer system is a sort of electronic flypaper to lure youthful computer "hackers" to his message. Computer enthusiasts can find Liberty Net's number published on other bulletin boards. They may call up the board; they may also glance at "The Jew in Review" or another racist message.
"All I want to do is get the thinking processes going," Dietz said. "I'm not interested in reaching old people whose minds are already set in concrete, who know people who were killed or maimed in World War II. It's the young people I'm interested in." Dietz estimated that 90 percent of those using his bulletin board are children or young adults.
California's Metzger said youths make up the majority of the 25 to 30 daily callers to his system. "The major reason for computer bulletin boards is that you're reaching youth -- high school, college and even grade school youths," he said.
Metzger, whose 17-year-old son is an officer of the White Student Union, a high school white supremacist group, makes a particularly ambitious pitch to youth on his computer. An item on Metzger's bulletin board praises youths for their racist efforts and encourages them to use computers.
Some observers shrug off fears that the computer will be any more potent to the young than pamphlets that groups supporting racism have been trying to spread in high schools for decades. "If I were a kid who called in (to a bulletin board), I think I'd probably think it was bizarre and move on," said Randall Williams, a spokesman for the Klan Watch Project, an affiliate of the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Most of the boards allow callers to type messages back and forth with the system operator -- no eye contact, no need for social skills, no censure of intolerant views. It's an ideal sounding board. "In a way the computer links all those people who are socially retarded," said Shaun Higgins, director of electronic publishing for the Spokane, Wash., Spokesman-Review and the Chronicle and a critic of white supremacist groups. "Views are reinforced and as they are being reinforced, they are focused. There's nothology. There's something new in the technology."
But it will take more than a computer to get Americans to accept a message of bigotry they have rejected for decades, said Mira Boland of ADL's Washington office. "These extremist groups have been in decline and they have essentially failed as political movements. They're un- American. It's just not nice. And that's why they've failed to win a following."
GEORGE DIETZ, however, remains undaunted. He will probably stay up until past midnight tonight as he does most nights, working toward his goal of Aryan rule. He will type letters on his word processor, electronically set type for his magazine or watch his computer screen as someone somewhere far away from the hills of West Vir=ginia uses space-age technology to tap into Dietz's message. Maybe a 10-year- old will call again tonight.