Voices of Minnesota: Harry Davis and Clifford Stoll

Grants | Legacy Digitization | Topics | Arts & Culture | Programs | Voices of Minnesota |
Listen: 16826973_1995_5_1_midmorningvoices_64

Hour 2 of Midmorning featuring Voices of Minnesota with Harry Davis, Minneapolis School Board member, internet activists, computer link to government, and Clifford Stoll, author of Silicon Snake Oil on the internet.


text | pdf |

KAREN BARTA: From the FM News Station, I'm Karen Barta. The defense team representing Qubilah Shabazz gathered outside the federal courthouse in Minneapolis this morning just after federal Judge James Rosenbaum approved an out-of-court settlement. Lawyers representing 34-year-old Shabazz say the settlement proves the government's case against the daughter of the late Malcolm X has failed.

Judge Rosenbaum approved a settlement that postpones the case for two years. The move delays prosecution of charges that Shabazz conspired to kill Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan and requires that Shabazz seek treatment. Betty Shabazz, Qubilah's mother, told reporters she is grateful the agreement was reached and especially for overtures from Louis Farrakhan.

BETTY SHABAZZ: I'm pleased with Minister Louis Farrakhan for his outreach and his sensitivity and kindness in wanting to help my daughter and not believing one word of it. I have a lot today to be grateful for, although I was very hesitant. But after today in court, I'm just very grateful.

KAREN BARTA: Qubilah Shabazz did not say much, except that she wants to get on with her life and live privately, not in the public spotlight. Wisconsin Energy Corporation and Northern States Power Company plan to join forces. The companies announced today they have signed an agreement to merge. The companies say the merger will create the 10th largest investor-owned utility company in the US.

The state forecast today, partly to mostly cloudy in the west, isolated sprinkles and partly sunny in the East. For the Twin cities, partly sunny with a high around 60. Around the region, in Rochester, it's cloudy and 46. It's mostly sunny in St. Cloud and 49. And in the Twin cities, cloudy and 45. That's news. I'm Karen Barta on the FM News Station.

PAULA SCHROEDER: Midmorning continues on the FM News Station, 10:06. Good morning, I'm Paula Schroeder. An architect of the Minneapolis School's original desegregation plan says city officials must be careful as they return to a system that allows children to attend school in their neighborhood.

Today, on Midmorning, we'll hear from longtime Minneapolis School board member Harry Davis. He not only helped write the city's desegregation plan, but was also the first person of color to run as a major party candidate for mayor of Minneapolis. Today, we'll hear his position on neighborhood schools and some recollections of growing up in a segregated city.

Harry Davis's stance on schools challenges the position of his friend and political ally, Minneapolis mayor, Sharon Sayles Belton, who favors neighborhood schools. Davis and the other school board members serving with him in the late 1960s carried out a federal judge's order to design a plan to desegregate the city's schools. In the early '70s, Harry Davis was the first man of color to be a major party candidate for mayor.

Davis, a DFLer, ran for mayor against Charles Stenvig at a time when the city was polarized by desegregation and the Vietnam War. Davis opposed the war. The 72-year-old Davis traces his roots to African-American, American Indian, and European-American forebears. His father, a Winnebago Sioux, was a star baseball player in the old Negro league with the Kansas City Monarchs. Davis had polio as a child. In his teens, he took up boxing at the Phyllis Wheatley Settlement House. Later, Davis became a Golden Gloves trainer and mentor to dozens of young Black men.

The FM News Station's Kate Smith visited Davis at his home in Minneapolis near the airport. In a conversation punctuated with aircraft landings and departures, Davis said the city's school desegregation was achieved not by ordering parents to put their children on buses, but by creating school programs with different educational philosophies, which allowed parents to send their children to the school of their choice.

HARRY DAVIS: We allowed children from areas that were totally segregated to be integrated with children, who were from other areas, from different cultures. And I think that that benefited the white students as well as the students of color in the Minneapolis Public Schools. We allowed the parents not to be forced to bust their children from one end of the city to the other to making a choice by talking about teaching styles, different-- like Montessori, and continuous progress.

They made those choices, and they put their children on the bus to go to those schools. They were not forced to do that. So I think that that made a great opportunity. And by doing that, I think that they made parents aware of children of color and how their children could get along with them in the school, even though they didn't live in the neighborhood.

So I think that had a lot to do in talking to the real estate people to say that my children got along well. And as the children grew up together, there were more opportunities to move into those neighborhoods without a great deal of disturbance.

KATE SMITH: And we come to 1971 when you're running for mayor. And part of the-- some of the issues that you chose to use, perhaps not as platform but that were important you, had to do with desegregation and busing and issues that were not very popular.

HARRY DAVIS: That's what I talked about in the election, to make sure that every child got a quality education.

KATE SMITH: And is that why you needed a bodyguard? And is that why you got death threats?

HARRY DAVIS: Well, you see, as the chairman of the school board, the talk of the time was busing. Nobody understood what busing was because busing has went on from the beginning of time. There's more busing in Edina than there is in Minneapolis. There's more busing in Fergus Falls. Because children live in the country, they have to be bused into the school. They have to be transported.

But busing was-- it took place instead of transportation. Sure, we bused children. We always have. But now it was being for-- to put a white child in the same room with a Black child. That was wrong. It was right because the court ordered us to do that. But it was wrong because people didn't want it. That's why I had to have a bodyguard because I was doing what I thought was right, what I thought the court, which I respected, ordered me to do, what I thought that I would want my children to respect.

Not only did I have to have a bodyguard, my middle son, Ricky, who was an outstanding athlete at Central, was the state high school 100-yard and 200-yard dash champion, was an all-state football player. Every time he played or every time he ran, he had to have a bodyguard there with him. He had to be followed to school. Our house was observed by uniformed police officers 24 hours a day.

Our phones were tapped by the FBI because of phone calls. Our mail was gone through because of hate mail. My wife endured calls that threatened her life and my life and our children's life just because I wanted to be mayor. It doesn't make sense.

KATE SMITH: I find myself wondering if we've accomplished the task of desegregation, and if we can move away from that now, comfortably feeling as though we have encouraged people to accept a diverse community. And now, as a result of that, maybe are we at a point where we won't consider it segregation if it is specific ethnic minorities asking/demanding for our own neighborhood school. Is that-- do you think that's where we've come to?

HARRY DAVIS: Well, I think-- my only disappointment in the 22 years that I served on the school board and the whole process of desegregation and integration that we never accomplished true integrated curriculum. And the only thing that's missing in the truly integrated curriculum is American history. American history does not include all the contributions of all Americans.

And therefore, we were forced to, as children, and we continue to force our children to take a history that's not complete and true. And when we accomplish that, I think that we've accomplished true integration. Now, there's nothing that says a segregated school cannot provide the proper education for a child.

KATE SMITH: Except history. History tells us what had happened.

HARRY DAVIS: Well, history is one. Yes, that-- but it doesn't say that they cannot provide good education, as long as the basic fundamentals of education are taught. And there is not any influence on the dislike, the hatred, or the lack of equality of the students that go to that school.

Can a neighborhood school ask this question? Can a neighborhood school provide all of those educational opportunities that were implemented to desegregate the schools? It is impossible.

KATE SMITH: So is it a good idea?

HARRY DAVIS: Well, depending on--

KATE SMITH: Sharon Sayles Belton says--

HARRY DAVIS: Yeah, I understand.

KATE SMITH: We can have separate but equal schools.

HARRY DAVIS: Well, that may be a possibility.

KATE SMITH: It sounds like Harry Davis needs to be convinced on that point.

HARRY DAVIS: Well, I'm willing to look.

KATE SMITH: Harry, I want to read you something. This is from an article from the Star Tribune. I want you to let it take you back in time. "Minneapolis wasn't prepared for a revolution in 1971 when Harry Davis got plowed under by Charlie Stenvig's anti-busing backlash. It was the time of desegregation and of the Lyndon Johnson-Hubert Humphrey visions of a Great Society that would lower racial barriers.

The Great Society launched wars in the streets for a few years. Harry picked that time maybe because nobody else volunteered to run for mayor against a law and order cop. He ran as a DFLer and as the Black chairman of the Minneapolis School board. He needed a bodyguard. He got threats. He was spit on. But he never got much of an audience. You see, Harry was a man of calm and civility and one of the most respected Blacks in town on all sides. But all of that barely got him a blip in the town's historical footnotes."

HARRY DAVIS: [CHUCKLES] Well, it's-- I think from that, Sharon Sayles Belton is the mayor.

KATE SMITH: From your loss?

HARRY DAVIS: Sure. And I'll tell you why. I had the greatest opportunity any person of color had in 1971. I had the opportunity to carry a campaign of truth and have personal knowledge and residential investment to the electorate of a city that was polarized by hatred.

During that period of time, I was able to go to many places and speak primarily to students into all of our schools, all of the local colleges. In fact, one of the colleges that supported my campaign the most was Macalester. Many of the students there from Macalester came and worked in my campaign. And one young lady came and worked in my campaign.

And I remember when I made the concession speech at the Nicollet Hotel to Charlie Stenvig. That student was there, and she was in tears. And I said to her, I said, somebody has to open the door. I said, who knows? Someday you may be mayor. Today she is.


HARRY DAVIS: Yes, that's Sharon.

KATE SMITH: That's Sharon.

HARRY DAVIS: Sharon Sayles Belton.


HARRY DAVIS: So, that's the way the doors were opened. The politicians tell you when to go to bed, when to get up, how much money you're going to pay in taxes, and you have no recourse against it. Giving them the direction is the people that have the money, the investors, [SCOFFS] the banks, and so forth, and the big businesses. They're the ones that finance their campaigns. So they have an obligation to those people.

But the people in the finance control this society. This is not a democracy. This is not a democracy because all people are not created equal. And all people and the status of their life are not equal. So you have to be involved in that. If you're not in one of those, in both of those, you're not getting equal access to knowledge. So you have to go into that.

But the doors of opportunity have to be open for people to go into those two areas. You have to teach your children and educate them to go in those two areas. And the third part, the educational institutions, have to be able to teach you through a curriculum where you would understand in a capitalistic society what these two mean. And then after you earn that, if you're not there to vote, you're not equal.

PAULA SCHROEDER: Harry Davis talking with the FM News Station's Kate Smith. It's Midmorning on the FM News Station, 10:18. I'm Paula Schroeder. We'll continue our conversation with Harry Davis. He served on the Minneapolis School board for 22 years. He grew up in an era when Jim Crow laws meant people of color were not served at Minneapolis lunch counters or allowed to stay in hotel rooms.

KATE SMITH: You were a young Black man at a time when there weren't-- when some doors were closed--


KATE SMITH: --to you. What advice were you given? What support, what guidance, what nurturing were you given that made you feel like those closed doors were still possibilities?

HARRY DAVIS: Well, I had a family. I had a mother and a father, both in the house at the same time. I had brothers and sisters and a family that were strong physically and mentally and rigid and spiritually. And we were a family that were strong enough through-- because our father was an athlete. He was an outstanding athlete.

KATE SMITH: In what--

HARRY DAVIS: He was a baseball player and played with the Kansas City Monarchs. If you know what the Kansas City Monarchs, that's where Jackie Robinson and all of them came from. So he was playing professional baseball before they could move into the big leagues. And he, by playing exhibition games against those teams that were supposed to be superior, was proven at that time that that was not true. So he never let us give up. Our mother that came from an integrated family.


HARRY DAVIS: Well, my great-grandfather was a captain in the Union Army.


HARRY DAVIS: So if you know what my mother was, she was called a queen. That was interracial marriage, not interracial marriage, but interracial mixing. And there's a lot of African-Americans that are that, in fact, large, large numbers. And we're not the only ones, but-- and so with that, there was always that potential to say that through education, through being morally strong and spiritually wise and having confidence in yourself and trust in people and trust in God, that you can get up anytime you're down and continue to go on.

That was pounded into us, not only from the home, but when we went to school. And I never had a Black school teacher. I never had a Black school teacher or a janitor or I never saw a person of color in the Minneapolis Public Schools. That was other than being white, all the 12 years that I went to school. There were people out there that tried to organize us as teenagers into gangs, sure, to hate-- to hate all white people.

KATE SMITH: The Bombers?

HARRY DAVIS: Well, the Bombers was a gang that a fellow named Ray Hatcher turned into a club.

KATE SMITH: Tell me about that.

HARRY DAVIS: Well, at Phillis Wheatley, there was a lady named Gertrude Brown. And we talked about women's liberation. Gertrude Brown was the head resident of Phillis Wheatley in 1924. From 1924 all the way to 1939, she ran Phillis Wheatley. She never married, but she taught the children, the boys and the girls, how to cook, how to sew. She provided clothes, closets, food, shelves. She started a nursery school in 1929.


HARRY DAVIS: She had legal services by Black lawyers. She had medical service by Black doctors. She had all of the services that are provided today at Phillis Wheatley in '29 and '30. So she was way ahead of her time. She was the organizer of the NAACP, the Urban League, the Ministerial Alliance. And Phillis Wheatley House was started by Christian white women. It was called the WCA. Not the YWCA, the WCA that still exists, the Women's Christian Association.

Most of them were the wives of the executives of the milling companies. And they started the library system, as you know, in Minneapolis. They started the settlement house system. That's why there's the Pillsbury House and so forth.


HARRY DAVIS: See? Those families were very instrumental in the development of even education in Minneapolis years and years ago. Never given the credit for it. They hired Gertrude Brown to be at Phillis Wheatley. They hired-- she hired a fellow named Ray Hatcher in the early '40s when I was a teenager, and my wife was a teenager.

And he taught us some things that were very, very appropriate for teenagers. Teenagers is that kind of unfitting portion of our lives where we can't fit in to being adult. We're no longer a child. So it's all confusing. He taught us three things. And this is what-- this is actually what turned me from being bitter because of what I was learning as a teenager to being more confident in looking at my own self.

He said, your body was your temple. Don't misuse it or abuse it because if you do when you need it, it won't be there. Your brain is to be full of knowledge. Whatever you see and hear, you should put it into your brain so that when you need it to pass a test, when you need it to make a decision, you will have enough in your mind to make the right decision.

The third part-- and we talk a lot about that, but a lot of people talk about it, but they don't think much about it, your relationship with God. Where do your moral values come from?

KATE SMITH: And how did that turn--

HARRY DAVIS: Changed me?

KATE SMITH: --teenage Harry Davis around?

HARRY DAVIS: Well, see, I got into-- I got into boxing. And in boxing, I was what they called heavy-handed.

KATE SMITH: This is the part of Harry Davis's life I don't think a lot of people know about.

HARRY DAVIS: Yeah. But that's the way I got started in public service, through boxing. I was a teacher. I taught kids boxing. And Ray Hatcher made sure that all the kids from 10 to teenagers to high school came through my boxing class, not to learn how to fight, to be physically and harm somebody, but the discipline that comes from boxing.

A young fellow that lived in the Summerfield housing project never knew his father, never saw his father, had a brother and a sister, the meanest, toughest little 10-year-old that I ever had. His mother gave me permission to be his big brother. And that's what I was. And big brothers weren't always nice to you. Neither were big sisters.

KATE SMITH: Yeah, right.

HARRY DAVIS: But that young fellow, I taught him the three principles. He didn't start to understand it until he was a teenager. But he went on and he graduated from high school and college, was a teacher in the Minneapolis Schools, went on and got his master's. Later, he got his PhD, later became superintendent of schools.

KATE SMITH: And that was--

HARRY DAVIS: Richard Green.

KATE SMITH: Richard Green.

HARRY DAVIS: Good example. Another example, the young fellow was born in Fergus Falls of nine in his family, eight boys and one girl. Father was a drunk. Fergus Falls, huh? I'd say Minneapolis. I didn't say North Minneapolis. It's Fergus Falls. See, a lot of people don't realize that Fergus Falls and Baudette and Warroad and International Falls, the Thief River Falls, there were Black families that lived up there, lived up there all along. Williston, Devils Lake, that's where they build the railroads.

He went to school with Richard Green. And they were on the same junior-- club football team that I had. He didn't go into teaching. He went to the seminary, and he's a bishop today.

KATE SMITH: Now, was it just your father, or did you and your brothers also do a little baseball on the side?

HARRY DAVIS: My father played with the Kansas City Monarchs and the Chicago American Giants. That was part of what they called at that time, the Negro Major League. That was well before Jackie Robinson and Willie Mays and so forth. And then my father, when he quit playing baseball, he and a pitcher named John Donaldson from the Chicago American Giants teamed up and both moved here and got married.

And they used to hire out on Saturdays and Sundays to Shakopee and New Prague, Prior Lake, Lakeville and some of those towns down there. They even go out as far as Lake Lillian or down to New Elm or Sleepy Eye in that area. And they would hire out as a battery. My father was a catcher and John Donaldson was a pitcher.

And they would hire out, and they would go to these towns and play on Saturday and Sunday or Saturday or Sunday, one of the two. Because if you went, you could only play one day because you couldn't stay overnight. They had no place for you to sleep.

KATE SMITH: Tell me about the Jim Crow laws. Tell me about-- I mean, you mentioned that your dad would travel and couldn't stay overnight. What was the reality of that situation?

HARRY DAVIS: Well, the superstitious-- superstition about raping white women and so forth. And the whole thing came out and was told. And actually, people believed it, that we weren't human beings. And so therefore, you could entertain, but you couldn't be a part of.

I will give you an example. My mother-- my mother is very fair. But my mother used to take us downtown when I was a little boy on the streetcar. The streetcar, we caught on Sixth Avenue. We'd go down 7th Street. We would go to Dayton's and Donaldson's, and Power's and Kresge's, and Woolworth's and all of that and shop.

But when it comes time to eat, you couldn't eat. My mother would take a bag lunch, and we would sit out on the streetcar bench and eat. And later on, I remember when I was a teenager, we went down, in the '40s, and sat in on Kresge's and Woolworth's, '40s. And I didn't say anything about Martin Luther King in '60s.

KATE SMITH: I was going to say, you're not talking '60s.

HARRY DAVIS: That's right, 20 years before and boycotted them. And it wasn't until 1945 that the doors of the hotel were open. You couldn't stay in the hotels. You couldn't eat in the restaurants. You couldn't stay on the university campus, even if you were an athlete or Augsburg or Macalester or Hamlin. You could go to school, but you couldn't stay on the campus because all those athletes and students that came from out state, they stayed at Phillis Wheatley. Because remember, I told you they had room for homeless people?


HARRY DAVIS: That's where they stayed. But when 1945, when the war was going on and Hubert Humphrey was the mayor, they broke that down. Hubert Humphrey was the one that says that you had to serve. Public service, public accommodation had to be enforced. And he, as the mayor, enforced it.

KATE SMITH: Harry Davis, thank you.

PAULA SCHROEDER: The FM News Station's Kate Smith talking with Harry Davis, long-time school board member for Minneapolis Public Schools and first candidate of color for mayor of Minneapolis.


Coming up on Midmorning, the good and bad sides of the internet. First, we're going to get an update on the news from Karen Barta.

KAREN BARTA: Good morning. Attorneys for Qubilah Shabazz are pleased with an out-of-court settlement in her murder-for-hire case. The daughter of Malcolm X was scheduled to go on trial today in Minneapolis on charges she tried to arrange the murder of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. But Shabazz's trial was deferred for two years on the condition she participate in a two-year treatment program.

Workers at the Oklahoma City bomb blast site are still searching the rubble by hand. That's until heavy machinery is brought in. Oklahoma governor Frank Keating says there's no point endangering rescuers since the odds of finding survivors is almost null.

Americans are making more money, but they're not spending it on construction. The Commerce Department says personal income rose 6/10 of a percent in March. Construction spending fell 4/10 of a percent to its lowest level in four months.

The components of a new Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness management plan adopted last fall come into play today for the first time. Today marks the beginning of the 1995 BWCA permit season. Barb Soderberg, a wilderness specialist at the US Forest Service in Duluth, says the plan is designed to better protect the wilderness.

BARB SODERBERG: This year, there's a difference in group size. Last year, there could be 10 people in a party. And this year, groups will be limited to nine people in a party. There's also a limit on the number of watercraft per group, and that's a limit of four, either four canoes, four boats or a combination of the two.

KAREN BARTA: Soderberg says the new BWCA rules were adopted as part of a resolution with the coalition of groups that appealed an overall plan for a superior national forest. The state forecast today, partly to mostly cloudy in the west, isolated morning sprinkles, partly sunny in the east. Highs in the 50s to lower 60s, but cooler near Lake Superior. And for the Twin Cities, partly sunny, high around 60.

Around the region in Rochester is cloudy and 46. It's cloudy and 43 in Duluth. In St. Cloud, mostly sunny and 49. And in the Twin Cities, cloudy and 46. Paula, that's a news update from the FM News Station.

PAULA SCHROEDER: Thanks, Karen. It's 27 minutes before 10 o'clock. I'm Paula Schroeder on Midmorning. Today, of course, is May Day, May 1st. And beginning today, people from across the country are attending a virtual conference on the internet. The so-called national electronic open meeting is telling citizens how to interact with all levels of government in this information age.

It's part of an ongoing effort by the Office of Management and Budget in Washington, D.C. to broaden public participation in creating an electronic government that not only works better, but costs less, as the FM News Station's Karen Louise Boothe reports, there are already a host of internet activists who have found their political voice to be more far-reaching and powerful via technology.

KAREN LOUISE BOOTHE: Walking around the Minnesota State Capitol rotunda on any given day is like spiraling backwards through history when recalling events that have taken place here. Countless political rallies and protests have drawn people by the hundreds and thousands to this spot and the sweeping steps outside.

Peaceable assembly has been one of America's inalienable rights. But the nature of our gathering together is changing. Voices that at one time might have filled the rotunda are now flooding into the capitol electronically as individuals in the solitude of their own homes and offices rally with others on the internet. Nolan Venkatratnam is active in Twin Cities' Freenet, a local online service.

NOLAN VENKATRATNAM: It doesn't create that exclusionary thing when you see a busload of people going someplace. You feel as though-- well, I felt this way that those are the true activists because they are out there doing something. And here I am sitting in my classroom looking at these folks. That's all I can do. I don't feel a part of that movement. But if you sit at a computer terminal, you're one person, but you're still participating in that bus going someplace.

KAREN LOUISE BOOTHE: When this technology was first developed, many feared it would be used to enhance the power of business and government. But today, as more people learn how to use the technology, they find they can tap into various databases and bulletin boards in order to investigate, monitor, and debate policy. In this way, Venkatratnam sees the internet as a tool for citizens.

NOLAN VENKATRATNAM: And if he can show people the value in this piece of equipment or this resource, I think people will become more willing to participate and learn in them.

KAREN LOUISE BOOTHE: And the internet activists are claiming success. Mike O'Connor is president of Minnesota Citizens Online. This legislative session, he garnered enough support to stall a fast-moving bill, giving US West more leeway in deciding where to provide ISDN lines. These are high-speed phone lines that enhance online service.

What O'Connor discovered was a map of the proposed service area, which left out sections of intercity, Minneapolis and St. Paul. In effect, he discovered redlining. Reaction had to be swift. And thanks to the internet, O'Connor was able to rouse a rallying cry of hundreds over the course of a weekend. He reads part of his online message that set opposition to the bill in motion.

MIKE O'CONNOR: What I say is if you live in one of the neighborhoods that have been red-lined, having looked at the map, I urge you to contact your city council person and alert them to this issue. This is something that they need to be aware of because it determines whether citizens in their areas will have access to the current practical state of the art in networks.

And a lot of people did that, just on their own and many times didn't include me in their message. They just called or wrote or emailed their own representatives and that. Especially in St. Paul, had a big impact on the city council. They were much taken with the kind of citizen input that they got on this thing.

KAREN LOUISE BOOTHE: Also taken by the sheer volume of response was state IR representative Jerry Dempsey, one of the authors of the bill. He says the citizen lobbying resulting from O'Connor's plea became an important part of the political process.

JERRY DEMPSEY: So I think that people stay involved, keep abreast of what the situation, let the legislators know what their feelings are in regard to it. And we will need the input from the corporations, from the citizenry and all people involved so that we are making the right decisions.

KAREN LOUISE BOOTHE: Meanwhile, O'Connor doesn't see himself as an internet activist per se, but as an engineer of the net that he likens to a fast-moving train in need of more riders.

MIKE O'CONNOR: What people who can see this need to do is figure out ways to bring people in, to bring people over that transition. Because if we leave them behind, if we just say, sorry, the train's left the station. Too bad you didn't get on it. I think there's a big social cost there that there will be a lot of people who will, A, will be angry standing on the station platform, and B, whose voices are important that we need to hear. We need them on the train.

KAREN LOUISE BOOTHE: But not everyone is ready to board the moving train. Polly Mann has no trouble seeing herself as an activist. She's among the founders of Women Against Military Madness, a Minneapolis-based organization formed in 1982. Mann recalls the days when weekends weren't spent sending email messages, but rather, calling names on phone lists, stapling posters together and leafleting.

Technology, she says, can certainly foster citizen involvement, but it cannot replace the energy gained from face-to-face contact.

POLLY MANN: I think that is the most effective way of getting to people. I don't think there's anything like it.

KAREN LOUISE BOOTHE: Mann raises other concerns. Issues of access are important, especially when it relates to the poor, elderly, and minorities. It takes expensive computer hardware to get online. And while personal computer ownership is exploding in the US, there are still many who have neither the equipment nor the training to make use of the internet.

And there's the issue of rural datafication, the speed or lack of it, with which affordable online services reach outlying areas. Some liken the situation to the rural electrification movement in the 1930s, when cities were wired, but rural regions remained in the dark. And just as electricity eventually spread beyond city limits into the countryside, so too will technology spread.

But some say change will come through the efforts of not only activists on the internet, but also the Luddites who hang on to the tradition of public protest. For the FM News Station, this is Karen Louise Boothe reporting.

PAULA SCHROEDER: It's 20 minutes before 11 o'clock. You're listening to the FM News Station. Well, Clifford Stoll has been on the internet since before it was the internet, initially building his own computer at home just to prove it could be done. The Berkeley astronomer shot to international fame, at least among internet users, after uncovering a ring of spies stealing secrets, a story he recounted in his book, the Cuckoo's Egg.

His latest book, Silicon Snake Oil, is attracting interest for very different reasons. In it, he carefully dissects and disproves most of the claims made about the wonders of the internet. While admitting to still being an extensive user of the system, he shows how it actually gets in the way of creative thought and communication rather than fostering it.

He argues people would be better off spending time doing something other than logging into newsgroups where there is little reason to debate just people shooting messages into cyberspace in a forum that almost encourages people to be extreme. Well, this concern about that darker side of the internet gained attention last week after the Oklahoma City bombing. We've since learned of chat groups that focus on making bombs and others that espouse violence against the government and minorities, along with the more benign groups that attract the majority of users.

Clifford Stoll is in Cleveland promoting his book, Silicon Snake Oil, and we managed to catch up with him. He joins us on the phone this morning. Good morning, Cliff.

CLIFFORD STOLL: Glad to be here.

PAULA SCHROEDER: Good. In the report that we just heard from Karen Louise Boothe, the internet comes across really as a powerful organizing tool. And certainly, the government is viewing it that way, encouraging this virtual conference that's going on this week.

CLIFFORD STOLL: This wonderful breathiness and especially, if you're a traditional protester, you're considered a Luddite. That boy, the techies will get power. And those who get involved in ordinary rallies, man, they're backwards that we need to get everybody on this fast-moving train. And if you're left-- if you don't have a computer, if you're not online, you're obviously left behind.

PAULA SCHROEDER: What I always think of when I hear those kinds of things, particularly in protest movements, there's a real energy that you get by being in the same room or in the same--


PAULA SCHROEDER: --street with people.

CLIFFORD STOLL: Of course, you're not a Luddite if you're a traditional protester. You're not a Luddite if you don't use a computer. Quite the opposite. There is far more power by meeting people, much more commitment. The involvement that the internet brings is a shallow involvement. As soon as you leave the computer screen, hey, it's not important to you, get involved with your neighborhood, get involved with people around you.

And involvement means meeting them, working with them, getting to know them. The very thing that a computer can't inspire is a commitment. And boy, I-- I'm listening to this hot news before of hey, you can tap into bulletin boards and investigate things. Hey, people are able to stall a bill about ISDN lines. Is that an important community issue?

Mostly what I find, coming across the internet, especially internet politics, has to do with technology-- technologists speaking about technological problems. Where should ISDN phone lines be brought into? More important, serious problems like, oh, dare I say, how schools and cities should interact with one another. Hey, that stuff is not fruitful for internet protesters to get involved with. But, boy, you'll get lots and lots of email if you propose anything having to do with computers.

PAULA SCHROEDER: Well, we have heard-- excuse me. We have heard, though, about these groups. And I guess of particular concern are the hate groups that have found each other over the internet, people in far flung corners of the country getting together, exchanging ideas, ways of making bombs and things like that.

CLIFFORD STOLL: People who are-- people who are by their very nature are quite isolated. They like to sit alone in a room. I mean, sure, a computer network is ideal for them. And a few of them, not a whole lot, but a few of them will be members of hate groups like that. It's very easy to post anonymously without having your name and your face attached to a posting. And when you do so, hey, it's convenient to take out all of your aggressions and your nastiness.

PAULA SCHROEDER: Well, that's actually kind of encouraging, in a way, because what you're saying is that if people are so isolated, then they're not likely to get together and form a cohesive group and make plans to go out and bomb things or--


PAULA SCHROEDER: --commit hate crimes.

CLIFFORD STOLL: I'm sure people talk about it all the time. Well, I shouldn't say I'm sure. I'm sure it's mentioned in email to people. And just as hate groups get together by way of the telephone, they probably occasionally get together by way of electronic mail. There are certainly chat rooms where people with serious problems, both sociopathic and mental problems, get together.

But by the by, I don't think the internet touches these groups very well mostly because they're more interested in-- the serious hate groups are more interested in other types of rallying groups and rallying, like getting together and creating bombs. There's plenty of recipes for bombs posted to the internet to use groups, like rec.pyrotechnics. And they're damn dangerous. People lose their arms because of this.

PAULA SCHROEDER: Yeah. Well, when you say that some of these things are dangerous, in fact. And one of the concerns, I guess, about the internet that a lot of people think is one of its great qualities is that it is unmonitored. It's almost anarchy. Do you think that it needs some kind of surveillance?

CLIFFORD STOLL: It's almost impossible to surveil. You can listen to it and read it, but it would be very difficult to have an organized governmental Big Brother watching it. And if so, people would object so immediately and extensively to such surveillance that there'd be a-- there'd be a tidal wave against such things. I don't think it's possible, politically practical or even particularly interesting to do.

PAULA SCHROEDER: And yet at the same time, there's nothing to prevent an FBI agent in the counterterrorism division to log in and monitor some of those conversations.

CLIFFORD STOLL: We can't prevent this. I don't think it's very profitable, mostly because lots of people spout talk. And the noise coming across the internet and the Usenet, the number of simply unimportant, vapid postings outnumber those that have any content by a factor of 100 to 1 or 1,000 to 1. There's-- it's not a place to go for good high-quality information.

PAULA SCHROEDER: Are there any laws at all that apply to the internet, any penalties for using it as a way to incite violence or whatever?

CLIFFORD STOLL: I suspect that those laws that work against inciting public violence and conspiracy could probably be applied to the internet as well, although it's unlikely that they will be extensively applied, partly because the internet truly is international. And it's possible. It's quite easy, in fact, to post your messages by way of a third country or a site, say, in Finland, which removes your name and address and then posts your message to the internet widely.

Good luck trying to find who posted this message when your message has gone by way of a device that removes your name from it. It's quite difficult to track people down this way. And the result is, hey, it's a place for people to post both useful information and vicious, nasty messages. And they exist side by side.

As a result, I suspect that the internet-- the value of the internet for communications, in general, isn't very high. I don't think it will ever replace face-to-face meetings and real rallies, things that get commitment and involvement from people, rather induces a very shallow, ethereal and ephemeral involvement. And as such, oh, I think it's grossly overpromoted. And there's a great deal of hyperbole surrounding it.

PAULA SCHROEDER: So you think like, well, like Newsweek magazine now has a page called the virtual page or something. And many newspapers as well have a separate section devoted to technology and exchanging of information on the internet. You think that it's really not that important?

CLIFFORD STOLL: I'd say it's not that important. I think it's grossly oversold. And within two or three years, people will shrug and say, yep, it was the fad of the early '90s, and now, yeah, it still exists. But hey, I've got a life to lead. I've got work to do. I don't have time to waste online, or I'll collect my email. I'll read it, but why should I bother logging in and prowling around the World Wide Web or reading the Usenet simply because there's so little of value there.

PAULA SCHROEDER: Well, Clifford Stoll, there's got to be something of value. I know that we use it quite a bit for research here in our newsroom.

CLIFFORD STOLL: Really? I'm sorry to hear that. Mostly, what I find-- well, did you find--

PAULA SCHROEDER: Well, not the chat groups and things like that, but just being able to gain access to several university libraries, say, that you might not be able to find the information in your local library.

CLIFFORD STOLL: But from the university libraries over the internet, you can't download a book.


CLIFFORD STOLL: Can you get a book over the internet?


CLIFFORD STOLL: But what do you find in the university libraries?

PAULA SCHROEDER: Well, actually, I'll tell you, I don't actually do the research myself. We have some researchers. But a lot of times, there are articles from magazines or from newspapers.

CLIFFORD STOLL: Boy, I think that those magazines and newspapers would copyright their stuff, and it wouldn't be available on the internet.

PAULA SCHROEDER: Well, that's one of the questions. And actually, you have to pay for some of those services.

CLIFFORD STOLL: Huh, curious.


CLIFFORD STOLL: The copyright laws, for example, I know of maybe 200 or 300 books that are available over the internet. And most libraries have thousands of books. Many libraries have millions of books. But the internet gives me access to several hundred books. It seems to me to be an impoverished area of quality information.

But a lot of random messages coming across and files that might be out of date and might not be of much utility, the internet is a great source of data. But data, unlike information, lacks organization, timeliness, a sense of pedigree, accuracy, quality. Most of all, what is missing from the internet is utility.

The information-- there's lots and lots of data there. But how much of it is accurate, quality information? Surprisingly, a little of it. More than that, for many people-- though probably not for your job in journalism, for many people, their job is not too little information, but rather too much information.

They don't need many people say, hey, I'm flooded with information. I got lots of it. What I need is less low-quality information and more high-quality information. I need to filter out most of it. Why do I need the internet for that?

PAULA SCHROEDER: I'm with you there, Clifford. Thanks a lot for joining us today.

CLIFFORD STOLL: Thanks for your time.

PAULA SCHROEDER: Clifford Stoll is the author of Silicon Snake Oil, which takes a hard look at the usability and usefulness of the internet.


It's 8 minutes before 11 o'clock. This is Midmorning on the FM News Station. I'm Paula Schroeder. Today is May 1st, and it's Law Day. And Minnesotans will be able to call a toll-free number today through Friday to get information on legal issues ranging from divorce to bankruptcy to hiring a lawyer, 75 subjects available in all.

Here's the phone number. Get a pencil and paper if you have some question about a legal issue that you might be curious about. That phone number is 1-800-560-0662. It's being offered through the Minnesota State Bar Association and the Hennepin County Bar Association. And you can call between the hours of 9:00 AM and 9:00 PM, again, 1-800-562-0662.

Well, checking the weather, it looks like we're going to have partly to mostly cloudy skies in Western Minnesota today, partly sunny in the east with highs from the 50s to lower 60s, a little bit cooler near Lake Superior. Tomorrow, it should be a little bit sunnier with highs from the mid-50s to mid-60s.

Look for high around 60 degrees in the Twin Cities today under partly sunny skies. Mostly sunny tomorrow with a high in the low to mid-60s. Right now, it is 47 degrees in the Twin cities, 49 in St. Cloud, and in Fargo-Moorhead, 46, in Rochester, 6.5 minutes before 11:00.

GARY EICHTEN: Business is booming in Asia. A great opportunity for US business, a great opportunity fraught with risk. Hi, this is Gary Eichten inviting you to join us for Midday today on the FM News Station. We'll be featuring a speech by Robert Broadfoot, a Hong Kong-based business consultant who represents nearly all of the Fortune 500 companies doing business in Asia.

Robert Broadfoot at the Minnesota meeting. I hope you can join us. Midday begins at 11:00 this morning with a rebroadcast at 9:00 this evening on the FM News Station, KNOW FM 91.1 in the Twin Cities.

PAULA SCHROEDER: And during the 11 o'clock hour of Midday, Dan Olson will have more on the Qubilah Shabazz murder for hire story. A settlement reached in that trial today. More on the NSP merger and the latest economic news. All that coming up after the Writer's Almanac with Garrison Keillor.


GARRISON KEILLOR: And here is the Writer's Almanac for Monday. It's the 1st of May, 1995. It's May Day, the fertility festival, the festival of spring observed by the ancient Greeks and Romans. The Romans observed it in honor of Flora, the goddess of flowers and of springtime.

It was observed by the Elizabethans up to the time of Cromwell and the Puritans with outdoor dancing and revelry, the construction of a maypole on the village green with long streamers attached to the top of it. The ends of which were taken by dancers who, as they danced around the pole, wove intricate patterns with the streamers and with garlands, and then changed direction. And the ribbons came un-entwined.

It is not so much observed in this country any more, though it is observed at Brynn Mawr College, the women's college in Pennsylvania, where there are maypoles and outdoor dancing on this day and where the seniors are awakened in the morning by the underclass and serenaded with songs and given May Day baskets.

It's also the day in Denmark, in Copenhagen, when the Tivoli Gardens opens for the season. It's the birthday today of Mary Jones, Mother Jones, born in Cork, Ireland, in 1830 on this day, emigrated to this country. She lost her husband and four children in a Yellow Fever epidemic, lost all of her possessions in the Chicago Fire of 1871, upon which she became involved in the labor movement, organizing and rallying strikers, coal miners and railroad workers, and others.

It's the birthday of Catherine Elizabeth Smith in Greenville, Virginia, in 1909 on this date, who went on the radio on her birthday, 1931, with a show that began with a theme song, When The Moon Comes Over The Mountain, which became her theme song, Kate Smith.

It's the birthday of Joseph Heller in Brooklyn, New York, in 1923, the novelist, author of Catch-22, great novel of World War II. Catch-22 referred to a rule among bomber pilots. If a bomber pilot said he was crazy and wanted to be grounded, all he had to do was ask for it. But by asking for it, he showed a concern for his own safety that meant he was sane, and so he'd have to go back up and fly more missions.

Here's a poem by Ronald Wallace entitled The Facts of Life.

She wonders how people get babies.

Suddenly vague and distracted,

We talk about "making love."

She's six and unsatisfied, finds

Our limp answers unpersuasive.

Embarrassed, we stiffen and try again

This time exposing the stark naked words:

Penis, vagina, sperm, womb and egg.

She thinks we're pulling her leg.

We decide that it's time

To get passionate and insist.

But she's angry, disgusted.

Why do we always make fun of her?

Why do we lie?

We sigh, try cabbages, storks.

She smiles. That's more like it.

We talk on into the night, trying

Magic seeds, good fairies, God.

A poem by Ronald Wallace, The Facts of Life from Tunes for Bears to Dance To, published by the University of Pittsburgh Press and used here by permission. That's the Writer's Almanac for Monday, the 1st of May, made possible by Cowles magazines, publishers of figurines and collectibles and other magazines. Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.

PAULA SCHROEDER: And that's Midmorning for this Monday-- or Monday, May 1st. I almost said April 31st, but there isn't such a date, is there? I'm Paula Schroeder. Thanks a lot for joining us today. Tune in tomorrow. We're going to hear about a White House conference on aging, the first one in 13 years, where hundreds of delegates from all over the country, including 29 people from Minnesota, are gathering to talk about some of the issues that are important to seniors around the country.

That and much, much more coming up on Midmorning. Stay tuned. Midday is next with all the latest details on the Qubilah Shabazz settlement that was announced this morning.

JOHN RABE: I'm John Rabe. And on the next All Things Considered, Japan's brain drain. Women leaving the country because they're not allowed to rise professionally. That's All Things Considered, every day at 4:00 on the FM News Station, KNOW FM 91.1.

KAREN BARTA: You're listening to Minnesota Public Radio. 47 degrees under cloudy skies at the FM News Station, KNOW FM 91.1 Minneapolis-St. Paul. Look for a high of 60 today.

DAN OLSON: Good morning. This is Midday from Minnesota Public Radio. I'm Dan Olson in St. Paul in today for Gary Eichten. In the news, charges against Qubilah Shabazz have apparently been dropped if she fulfills a set of conditions in a settlement between her attorneys and the federal government.

Northern States Power has approved a merger with Wisconsin Electric of Milwaukee that would form the country's 10th largest utility. But company officials aren't commenting on details, such as where the company will be headquartered. We'll be having the details of those items in just a moment as part of Midday in the first half hour.

And later on, members of Congress are back in Washington this week to face the details of plans to balance the federal budget by 2002 and reintroducing the prison chain gang. Today, during the noon hour portion of Midday, business consultant Roger Broadfoot talks about the economies of China and other nations in Asia. We'll have that at noon. First, the news headlines.


Digitization made possible by the State of Minnesota Legacy Amendment’s Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund, approved by voters in 2008.

This Story Appears in the Following Collections

Views and opinions expressed in the content do not represent the opinions of APMG. APMG is not responsible for objectionable content and language represented on the site. Please use the "Contact Us" button if you'd like to report a piece of content. Thank you.

Transcriptions provided are machine generated, and while APMG makes the best effort for accuracy, mistakes will happen. Please excuse these errors and use the "Contact Us" button if you'd like to report an error. Thank you.

< path d="M23.5-64c0 0.1 0 0.1 0 0.2 -0.1 0.1-0.1 0.1-0.2 0.1 -0.1 0.1-0.1 0.3-0.1 0.4 -0.2 0.1 0 0.2 0 0.3 0 0 0 0.1 0 0.2 0 0.1 0 0.3 0.1 0.4 0.1 0.2 0.3 0.4 0.4 0.5 0.2 0.1 0.4 0.6 0.6 0.6 0.2 0 0.4-0.1 0.5-0.1 0.2 0 0.4 0 0.6-0.1 0.2-0.1 0.1-0.3 0.3-0.5 0.1-0.1 0.3 0 0.4-0.1 0.2-0.1 0.3-0.3 0.4-0.5 0-0.1 0-0.1 0-0.2 0-0.1 0.1-0.2 0.1-0.3 0-0.1-0.1-0.1-0.1-0.2 0-0.1 0-0.2 0-0.3 0-0.2 0-0.4-0.1-0.5 -0.4-0.7-1.2-0.9-2-0.8 -0.2 0-0.3 0.1-0.4 0.2 -0.2 0.1-0.1 0.2-0.3 0.2 -0.1 0-0.2 0.1-0.2 0.2C23.5-64 23.5-64.1 23.5-64 23.5-64 23.5-64 23.5-64"/>