School newspaper advisers, beware: A free music-downloading web site that has placed advertisements with at least two high school newspapers is actually a vehicle for violent hate speech and “white resistance” information.
Last month, two high school newspapers unknowingly ran an advertisement from an organization called Victory Forever, which states its purpose is to “disseminate white resistance music as widely as possible around the world.” The incidents have angered some community members and have left educators wondering what they can do if they are victimized by false or misleading ads.
The group ran an ad in HiLite, the student newspaper at Indiana’s Carmel High School, promoting free music downloads, but when readers visited the web site, they found anti-Semitic and racially charged information claiming that whites are in danger.
Victory Forever also successfully placed an ad in the newspaper at San Francisco’s Lowell High School earlier in November.
In an interview with the Associated Press, a spokesman for Victory Forever who identified himself as Mike Shields said the group is leading a campaign to recruit young white Americans to “fight for the survival of the white race.”
Victory Forever picked Carmel High because it is one of the largest high schools in Indiana, and its newspaper—with a monthly circulation of about 5,000—is both highly respected and widely read, Shields said. Those factors, he said, provided the organization “with a great opportunity to spread our message.”
Carmel Principal John Williams released a statement on the school’s web site calling the situation “an inadvertent mistake” that “in no way represents the views” of the student newspaper or the school. He said the offending ad had been removed from the newspaper’s online version, and the school is considering legal action.
But in an eMail message to eSchool News, HiLite advisor and communications teacher Jim Streisel said the legal issues were out of their hands after having been reported to Indiana police and federal authorities.
“At this time, we know that the group operates its web site anonymously through a router somewhere in the western United States. [Law-enforcement officials] told me they’d need to get a search warrant … for the routing hub to release the names of its clients. I haven’t heard anything since then,” he said.
Streisel said before the advertisement ran, HiLite checked the web address provided by the organization’s contact person only to find a blank site.
“We didn’t question that blank site, because the contact person indicated in his eMail correspondence that they were still working on it and it would be up by the time the ad ran,” he said.
It wasn’t until the new site replaced the blank one that HiLite members realized they had been misled, something Jonathan Ezor, attorney and law professor at the Touro Law Center in New York, said could make a case for the school.
“If the intent [of Victory Forever was] to mislead the school, and as a result the school is damaged—financially, reputationally—there might be a case, depending on the [state’s law],” he said.
Even so, Ezor said any remedy to the school’s problem most likely wouldn’t be handled legally. If anything, he said, it creates an opportunity for the school to create new procedures to verify advertising before it’s placed in the school paper, which is what Carmel has done.