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Archive for Sunday, October 18, 1998

S NOT DIFFICULT TO UNDERSTAND THE FRUSTRATION OF COACHES SUCH AS ROY WILLIAMS ABOUT THE TRASH THAT GETS CIRCULATED VIA THE INFAMOUS INTERNET.

October 18, 1998

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It's a mecca of misinformation. Any target for derision who tries to deal with so many untruths will feel like a janitor trying a corral a roomful of feathers with the paddle-fan going full blast from above. You can never stomp down all the lumps in this rug.

Sports talk shows are bad, with anonymous callers allowed to rant and rave in unbridled, irresponsible fashion with no accountability whatever. But their junk fades quickly from the airwaves. I once thought unsigned letters to the editor were lousy. At least those folks could write and were given access to something sharper than a Prang crayola.

Internet garbage is 10 times worse, whether it involves some recruit, coach, school or the Monica-Bill daisy-chain.

It's written down and has an unsettling degree of permanence which lets it continue harmful and hurtful. Some hate-mongers circulate countless copies of their diatribes and even get copyrights.

Columnist Leonard Pitts, concerned about the smut kids can so easily find on the Net, recently offered a penetrating observation, to wit:

``The thing we keep failing to take into account is that we're dealing with a construct unlike any that's ever come before, one which theoretically allows virtually anyone on Earth to reach, or be reached by, virtually anyone else on Earth, under cover of mutual anonymity. The Net may be a godsend for research and communication, but it's also, by its very nature, tailor-made for the dispensation of dirt.''

One thing you conclude after spending some time with talk show nuts and Internet assassins is that there are an awful lot of hateful people with miserable motives in our midst.

With a little computer expertise, you can hunch over furtively in a closet somewhere, eschew even a single contact with a real human being, circulate unlimited hate, fraud, deceit and vitriol -- and never have to stand up and take the blame for a single bit of the damage. Anonymity is growing and it is made to order for misfits who love to gossip and visit their frustrations on others.

Back to Roy Williams and his displeasure over what can happen. The guy is in the business of recruiting basketball players for Kansas and he has all manner of unseen and jealous opponents, be they for Missouri, Kansas State, UCLA, Duke or any other school. They can get on the Net and jettison all sorts of flotsam and jetsam, knowing full well it might find its way to the kids they would like to have at their schools rather than at KU.

One doozy said Roy was seen coming from an Iowa bank carrying a suitcase, then going to the home of a star Hawkeye State recruit who had committed to KU. You had to assume Roy wasn't carrying Gideon Bibles rather than long green rasbuckniks. That's one of the mild things you can encounter in the various ``information'' venues so many cowardly people use to stir poison the stew.

I'm a minimal computer user with few skills and no expertise -- the counterpart of Ferdinand Magellan trying to drive Miss Budweiser as a rookie in one of those supercharged hydroplane races.

Thanks to a little help from ``literate'' Journal-World friends like Rob Sinclair, Andrew Hartsock, Chuck Woodling and Gary Bedore, I can make contact on the Net. But even as superficial as my penetration may be, I'm appalled at the damaging things regarding issues such as KU sports, particularly basketball recruiting which seems to have some ultra-magic appeal to people.

Even some of the KU-friendlies are bigger rumor-mongers than Sen. Joe McCarthy ever was. Much of the verbal fecality on the Net comes not only from badly informed alumni of various schools but borderline demented ones.

Trouble is, the computer medium is always going to be several steps ahead of the laws; they can't be written and enforced fast enough. There are other problems, too, in coping with the evil, hateful and pornographic souls fingering the keyboards.

Some years ago I attended the wedding of a young man who was an FBI agent in the area who had been assigned to deal with computer crime -- at the time a fairly new field. He confided that not only was the law lagging the trend but that convicts in computer classes at Leavenworth penitentiary already had better equipment than the FBI was being assigned.

Our electronic Pandoras will have a helluva time ever getting things back into the box.

On the basis of my experience with the seamier sides of the Net, the score so far looks like Demons 100, Pandora O.

It's not a pretty picture; it is likely to get a lot uglier as more and more appeal is made to the lowest common denominators of social conscience.

-- Bill Mayer's phone number is 832-7185. His e-mail address is bmayer@ljworld.com.

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