space holder space holder
Next profile | Previous profile | March Contents | Gazette home
Alumni Profile overline
Challenging Cyber-hate
Hate groups are turning to the accessible Internet in increasing numbers to spread their propaganda, but the Anti-Defamation League -- now under the leadership of Howard P. Berkowitz, W'62 -- has been using the same medium to fight back. "[These extremist groups] are aiming their messages to the most vulnerable sector of our society -- our youth -- and they do so with graphics, with rock music," and slick packaging, explains Berkowitz, a businessman who was elected national chairman of the 85-year-old civil-rights organization last October.
   In response, the ADL has been using its own Web site (www.adl.org) to counteract the "mistruths and lies being spread," and it has been working with a software company to develop a filter that can block out hate Web sites. "Obviously we are being very careful here, because we are great believers in the First Amendment," Berkowitz says. "We're not using words to filter out these sites, because if you use Nazi or KKK, you might filter out some educational materials as well. We're identifying [only] sites run by these hate groups. We'll be offering it to parents, librarians, and teachers -- and it's totally voluntary." The ADL also features on its Web site a special section exposing the leaders behind the Holocaust denial movement and providing historians' responses to their claims.
   Another concern of the ADL is when hateful propaganda escalates to violence. Most states have already passed laws enhancing penalties for hate crimes; the ADL has been encouraging all 50 states to do so, Berkowitz says. The ADL is also asking states to improve their record-keeping of hate crimes and to require sensitivity training for those who are convicted. "No one is born a bigot and no one is born a racist," he says. "There isn't any infant now who is an anti-Semite. Those character traits are somehow taught -- and can be untaught." One of the cornerstones of ADL's education efforts, which Berkowitz hopes to expand, is its A World of Difference Institute, which has provided diversity-education training to more than 300,000 elementary and junior high school teachers since 1985. The institute has also brought its programs to numerous workplaces, college campuses, and police departments.
   Berkowitz, founder and managing partner of the Manhattan investment-management firm, HPB Associates, L.P., has been active in the ADL for 22 years. He is also a member of the undergraduate board of the Wharton School; his wife, Judith Roth Berkowitz, CW'64, is a University trustee. As the ADL's new chairman, Berkowitz has spent much of his time in transit, meeting with leaders worldwide to promote his organization's human-rights agenda. "In almost every one of these trips, I see little gleams of hope and of change," he says. "There are good people both here and abroad saying that bigotry and racism in this country will not be allowed. There are enough good people around to say we can win this war."

Next profile | Previous profile | March Contents | Gazette home


Copyright 1998 The Pennsylvania Gazette Last modified 3/11/98