Racism has entered the digital era. This means that old forms of racism have joined with new online forms of communication to create a social phenomenon that’s different from what we’ve seen before. I refer to this phenomenon in general as cyber racism, and it manifests in a variety of different ways. One of the manifestations is in what I call “cloaked” sites, that is, websites published by individuals or groups who conceal authorship in order to deliberately disguise a hidden political agenda. Thanks to my friend Kellie Parker, I now have another example of cyber racism. A couple of days ago, The Michelle Obama Watch (quickly becoming one of my favorite sites), noted the Fake “Black Power” site, using the cleverly deceptive domain name, Power2Obama.
But the real credit for some pretty savvy sleuthing goes to Undercover Black Man whose investigation into who was publishing the site turned up the guy’s real name and his other website (which he has registered under his own name). UBM also turned up guitar solos of the author-in-question via YouTube, UBM writes:
Mike Cornelison is a bass player and author of the book “Classical Masterpieces for Electric Bass.” He needs to stick to music and leave the right-wing political sabotage to the pros
What’s most amazing to me about the whole turn of events in this case is that Mike (the author of the cloaked site) actually showed up (de-cloaked himself?) at UBM’‘s site and posted a bunch of comments and got a lot of well-deserved abuse from other commenters. Finally, all this abuse in the comments section is what causes him to abandon the site and post a semi-contrite apology.
This is remarkable on a couple of levels. First, the whole use of cloaked sites seems really different than other kinds of racism we’ve seen in the past. In many ways, it’s analogous to the use of different kinds of propaganda in the print-only era (especially so-called “black propaganda” where the source is disguised). Yet, in the digital era, determining that a source of information is disguised is much more difficult than in the print era.
The other thing that’s remarkable about this case is the particularly Internet-based ways that UBM took action and forced Mike to take down the cloaked site. UBM used a combination of digital methods to find out the author of the cloaked site, including the WhoIs Registry, email, another website maintained by the same author (that more explicitly revealed his political views), and his book (about guitar playing), as well as a digital video of him loaded to YouTube. Those are all tools in fighting racism in the digital era, not weapons anyone would have used in the civil rights era of fifty years ago, but absolutely crucial for combatting cyber racism.