By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
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By Melanie Asmar
The messages have escalated over the last few months to the point where Salzman's address, her neighbors' addresses, and details about her family have been posted along with death threats and encouragement to kill her.
Although Salzman was trusting at first, even naive, about how her views on the Holocaust would be received, she's decided not to back down against whomever is posting the messages; she remains a frequent contributor to alt.revisionism. But her attempts to find out who is harassing her and her requests for police help have been unsuccessful, and she now faces the same kind of hatred and fear that her great-grandparents did.
Inside Salzman's suburban home, her thirteen-year-old son memorizes Torah passages in preparation for his upcoming bar mitzvah. Her nine-year-old daughter wanders around the kitchen, looking at the clock every fifteen minutes in anxious anticipation of 6 p.m., when she'll go to her first slumber party. The family's three birds squawk loudly and often, and their two dogs race around, but the noise is so much a part of the background buzz that Salzman and her husband hardly notice. They light one cigarette after another and continue talking about the dark cloud that has been hanging over this home for the past six months.
Upstairs in Salzman's home office, she has saved printouts of the hundreds of messages that have been posted about her: "Sara Salzman is a dyke"; "Dog fucker Sara Salzman"; "Is dog fucking a Jewish thing?" and on and on. Messages like those were posted not only to alt.revisionism, but to dog news groups and white-power news groups.
Even her autistic son wasn't spared: "[Salzman] believes her retarded child is special because he attends 'special ed,'" reads one message.
Salzman also has a copy of a fake news report about her that was posted to alt.revisionism. The posting, which claimed to be an "Aurora News Staff Report," begins, "A [sic] Aurora woman accused of attacking her estranged husband with a clothing iron was in custody Tuesday facing felony charges of assault with a deadly weapon, police said. Sara Schwartz [the name from her first marriage] allegedly began arguing with her husband Monday night after he came home to the [address deleted] home where she lives with their two children..."
"I work on the Web, so essentially, these people were going into my workplace and saying terrible things about me," says Salzman, who has since taken a break from online copywriting.
Although Salzman couldn't trace, with certainty, the source of the messages, some of them, such as the return e-mail address email@example.com, provided clues. At the time, thundernet.org was the address for a Web site called The American Guardian; it was run by Don Ellis, a man from Star City, Arkansas, who is notorious among Internet hate-group watchdogs.
Ellis's site, which is now defunct, reportedly contained photos of men eating each other's feces and engaging in explicit sexual acts, in order to demonstrate how "diseased" homosexuals are. The author of a June 5, 1998, Wired News article described Ellis as "one of the most vociferous opponents of abortion and homosexual rights on IRC [Internet Relay Chat] and the Web." Ellis was quoted in the article as saying that the Internet has been a "huge success" for homosexuals because before they had access to the Web, with its wealth of gay sites, "they didn't know whose leg they could rub on."
Ellis also used to run a Web site called HateWatch of America, which could be found at hatewatch.com or hatewatch.net. But contrary to what the name suggests, Ellis's site was not a legitimate place for people hoping to find information on Web-based hate groups; instead, it was a decoy for Boston-based hatewatch.org, a reputable site founded in 1995 by David Goldman. Hatewatch.org, which monitors approximately 400 Internet hate sites, once featured The American Guardian on its list of anti-gay Web sites; in early 1998, about six weeks after The American Guardian appeared on hatewatch.org, Ellis came out with hatewatch.com and hatewatch.net.
The Web sites looked almost identical, but the contents were vastly different. Instead of finding sites like godhatesfags.com, jewwatch.com and kkk.com, which are featured on Goldman's list of hate groups operating on the Internet, unwitting visitors of Ellis's site found the ACLU and the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Teachers Network in the same category as a chat room for pedophiles; in addition, HateWatch of America posted Disney on its list of "anti-children" Web sites because a subsidiary of Disney had published a book called Growing up Gay. Ellis also listed the NAACP and the Anti-Defamation League as hate groups.
Because of the confusion Ellis's site caused, Goldman considered filing a trademark lawsuit. But in March, after he was finally granted a federal trademark for "HateWatch," Goldman settled with Ellis out of court, and Ellis transferred the domain names to Goldman's nonprofit organization.
Salzman forwarded the juvenile postings from thundernet.org to Ellis's Internet service provider, seark.net, which is based in Monticello, Arkansas, with a note explaining that she would continue to forward the "spam" -- Internet lingo for a barrage of unwanted e-mail or, in this case, unwanted Usenet postings -- until it stopped. Internet etiquette calls for people to report such behavior to the ISP of the person abusing the system.