Monday, April 2, 2007

The dark side of the INTERNET

The internet is often wrongly called the virtual world. It is, in fact, the real world inhabited not merely by usernames but by real human beings. In many ways, it is more real than the tangible world because the cloak of anonymity lets people be themselves. And what millions of people become when they are allowed to be themselves is disturbing. The sheer extent of human deviancy is fast becoming clear on the world wide web. Here, we present some of the most shocking events and communities of the internet

Suicide chatrooms

Afew days ago, Kevin Whitrick, a 42-year-old Englishman hanged himself in front of his webcam, in full view of members of a chatroom, some of whom egged him on. Whitrick had logged on to an internet chatroom and announced that he was going to commit suicide. He then switched on his webcam, stood on a chair, tied a rope around his neck and hanged himself. Friends of the electrical engineer say that he had become lonely and depressed since splitting from his wife and had started drinking heavily. Whitrick’s chatroom was a not suicide club. However, there are other places on the net that overtly claim that they are suicide chatrooms.

Vulnerable youngsters come here for advice and encouragement on ending their own lives. In the last few years, pro-suicide websites and chat rooms have been implicated in the deaths of at least 16 youths in the UK. The largest site, called alt.suicide.holiday, combines a public newsgroup, chat rooms and information guides instructing visitors how to kill themselves using everything from aspirin to rat poison. In Japan, 91 people died in online suicide pacts in 2005. An online community even posted 22 ways to kill a man with bare hands. One method called the Russian Omelet instructs people to cross the enemy’s legs and “fold enemy by pinning his shoulders to the ground upside-down and placing his legs above him. Sit on his legs, folding the bass of the spine.” Some websites are known to rate suicides in terms of ease and success rate.

One such site that calls itself Church of Euthanasia, tells people to “do a good job” when they commit suicide. It says, “Suicide is hard work. It’s easy to do it badly, or make rookie mistakes. As with many things, the best results are achieved by thorough research and careful preparation.” The site goes on to discuss the pros and cons of death by shooting, hanging, crashing a car, jumping, slitting the wrists, drowning, freezing, overdosing or gassing oneself with nitrous oxide, exhaust fumes and oven gas.

Recently, two schoolboys were at the centre of one Britain’s most bizarre plot that can be variously called a suicide plot or a murder plot. They were acquitted and banned from ever seeing each other again. They escaped punishment, despite one of them admitting stabbing the other and his victim pleading guilty to attempting to engineer his own murder. The two were embroiled in a complicated “matrix of deceit” on the internet, which baffled police and computer experts for months. The court heard that the 14-year-old John met 16-year-old Mark (both false names) on the net and struck up a friendship. John was depressed and confused. He was suffering from a psychological disorder, and had retreated deep into the net and lived a fantasy existence.
He created a number of fictitious characters and situations which he manipulated to brainwash his new friend. The court was told that John had felt an “emotional intimacy” for Mark that he had never felt before and this, it was said, was the key to the whole extraordinary affair. John had persuaded his friend to stab him in an alleyway at Goose Green, Altrincham. Mark had been fooled into thinking that John was suffering from an incurable brain tumour and had only a week to live. A British Secret Service spy - one of many fictitious characters dreamed up by John, persuaded Mark to carry out a mercy killing and described precisely what he had to do. He was told that if he followed orders, which he did to the letter, he would be inducted into the Secret Service, with the added inducement of a sexual encounter with the mysterious female agent. Mark tried to carry out the instructions by stabbing his friend, using a six-inch kitchen knife. But against all the odds, John survived.

Child pornography and paedophilia

Minors, often under the online tutelage of adults, are opening paid pornography sites featuring their own images taken by affordable webcams. They perform from the privacy of their home — undressing, showering, masturbating and even having sex for the online audience — while their parents are somewhere around, just beyond the shut door. There are sites where children are forced to perform sexual acts in front of web cams. In such sites, children appear to announce schedules of their next masturbation for customers who pay fees for the performance or monthly subscription charges. Payments are usually made online.
Paedophiles today have an extensive online network. They go online to seek tips for getting near children — at camps, community gatherings and at other events. They exchange stories about day-to-day encounters with minors and even share online, printable booklets that talk about the benefits of sex with adults, to be distributed to children. While carrying out research on the paedophiles’ online world, the New York Times found that there are internet radio stations run by and for paedophiles.

Execution videos

Footage of abductees being executed by terrorists in Iraq and elsewhere is a rage on the net. These images are not shown by the mainstream media because they are extremely disturbing and it is presumed that there is an element of indecency in making a spectacle of a human’s death. The ‘Baghdad Sniper’ or ‘Juba’ is an infamous online terrorist who stalks and kills US soldiers in Baghdad and then posts videos of the killings on the web. These videos are said to be sold in Baghdad markets along with pornography.

It is estimated that more than 10 million have watched people jumping off the World Trade Center after the September 11 attack and the beheading of American captive Nicholas Berg. There is a website that specialises in posting punitive amputations and public beheadings in the Middle East. A picture on the site shows a boy holding a bouquet of chopped off hands and images of a public beating of burqa-clad women.

It’s not just terrorists who are the source of the most graphic videos on the net. There are sites dedicated to cults where members like to selfmutilate and inflict pain on themselves. People burn parts of their bodies, cut themselves, pull their hair out or punch, hit or bite themselves. Here, members talk about their feelings and share poems and masochistic techniques. Posted on the site is information on how to inflict pain on oneself by using finger nails, pins, needles, tacks, staples, plastic forks, pens, knives, chemicals, cigarettes and candles. The site warns that the severity of burns can range from minor to those that may need surgery.

Rape, incest and extreme voyeurism

Orkut hosts some communities that claim to be dedicated to people who like incest. There are groups like ‘incest threesome with momsis’ that list members who enjoy a two to three generational incest relationship. ‘Incest chat in Telugu only’ was created exclusively for those who speak Telugu and may be interested in incest. Some members post pictures of those they claim as their own relatives. Not all such pictures are hoaxes. It is reported that a boy took pictures of the backside of his mother and posted it. Members of a community do such things to gain the respect of the others in the chatroom.

The internet is also a nook where total strangers make dark pacts. Recently, three men, who had never met until their arrest, were nabbed in London for hatching a plot in a chatroom to rape two sisters. The plans came to light after one of the men apparently got cold feet and walked into the Bournemouth police station to confess what had been going on. Forty-two-year-old David Beaven tried to convince police he was merely a vigilante gathering evidence
against paedophiles but he was eventually sentenced to prison on two counts of conspiracy to rape.

Recently, an American enacting a rape fantasy game with a “victim” he met in an internet chatroom broke into the wrong apartment and assaulted an innocent woman. Thirty-five-year-old Michael Todd Howard had met his intended target on a rape fantasy chat site. In September last year, he forced his way into what he believed to be her apartment and attacked the female occupant. Howard had, however, got his wires crossed. He hit the terrified woman who fought back. He may have presumed that it was all part of the rape fantasy act but then she attacked his testicles. At some point in her violent struggle, he asked for her chatroom handle. Confused and terrified, she told him that she was not a part of any chatroom. Eventually he admitted to burglary in a San Diego court after plea bargaining his way out of an intent to commit rape, false imprisonment and possession of illegal drugs. He now faces one year in jail and probation.

In one of the chatrooms on AOL.com called rape fantasy, men get together and write about brutally violating a woman. Although AOL no longer allows words like “rape” or “sex” to be used in naming public spaces, internet users skirt the ban by coming up with inventive names. The result is that anyone seeking a “gang bang”, or a host of other sexually graphic and often violent scenarios, including “incest”, can either find it easily online, or create their own room. There are incest rooms in which participants, often teenage boys, describe horrific acts of sexual violence against female siblings.

A more disturbing trend is the rise of members-only sites in which spycam footage is uploaded. This is catching on fast in India. Regular women are unwittingly becoming sex items on the net. Videos showing girls in mall changing rooms, couples making out in elevators, cinema halls or other public places can be found on various Indian sites. Obscene shots of a girl in a skirt, captured by a mobile phone camera placed strategically on the ground, housewives bending down to pick vegetables in the open market, a girl in a low-neck top at a cyber cafe, a woman crouching to serve guests at a wedding, a chawl girl using the common toilet, are among the images posted on Indian voyeur sites. Even the picture of a fat, sari-clad woman who is travelling on the side bar of a packed autorickshaw, her torso revealed in an salacious way, has been posted.

There is an increasing number of clips of small India’s sexual escapades. These are videos taken by men of the intimates moments with their unsuspecting girlfriends. A majority of such clips are from small towns where the girls are unaware of how easily a mobile phone can ruin their lives. Small town cyber cafes where couples routinely make out in the cubicles, are a regular feature on voyeur sites. Men willingly post images of their own girlfriends to get what are called rep (reputation) points, compliments from other users of their message boards. The sleazier and more “homemade” a posted picture or video is, the higher the Rep and the source moves up in ranking.

The ultimate rave

The internet is misused rampantly for advertising, selling and promotion of drugs as well as for supplying information on illicit manufacture of drugs. In February this year, the Narcotics Control Bureau arrested IIT alumnus Sanjay Kedia, the CEO and president of an ISO 9001:2000 company in Kolkata, on the charge of trading in illicit drugs online. After taking orders from customers across the globe, the company would send the drug consignments through post with misleading names as labels. To export psychotropic substances legally, one requires an export authorisation from the narcotics commissioner. Sending the drugs through post enabled Kedia’s company to evade taxes. On Google, US-based professors Forman and Ovgu Kaynack, found that 53 of the first 100 web-page links generated by typing the phrase “no prescription codeine” were sites that offered to sell opiate medication directly or indirectly without a prescription. Thirty-five of these sites also sold barbituates, benzodiazepines, hallucinogens and other prescription stimulants.

In many instances, Forman said, the only information necessary for purchasing drugs through the sites were a shipping address and a payment method. They also found that about half the websites were registered outside the United States. Some of those sites pledged secure delivery of drugs by mail. One site promised to “reship your order for free in the event of confiscation.” Another claimed, “There is less than a one percent chance of your package being seized” because of the “high volume” of mail-order narcotics entering the United States. Even in Japan where the use of narcotics is far less, more than 406 kilograms of drugs were confiscated last year alone. The sale of drugs on the Internet seems to have proven irresistible to many Japanese in their 20s.

Ordering medicines online has its dangers. In Washington, recently, a prescription drug called Haloperidol which is used to treat schizophrenia, was mailed to some consumers who had ordered other medications through the internet. The buyers had to seek emergency treatment because they could not breathe. Those were spurious drugs. The packages were postmarked from Greece but it was not known where the pills were manufactured. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) used the occasion to remind consumers of the possible dangers of buying prescription drugs on the web. Sales of drugs from foreign countries over the internet is illegal in the United States, and the FDA has repeatedly warned consumers not to buy them that way.

Terrorist tutorials

Al Qaida — and the global movement of terror groups it has inspired — have transferred most of their activities to the internet. In full view, as it were, terrorist groups now recruit, raise funds, do research, coordinate, spread propaganda, and wage psychological warfare. An Al Qaida website which is updated online twice a month, advises viewers how to kidnap and even points out the number of cells essential to target and hide victims. There is advice on how to handle hostages, how to negotiate (“gradually kill the hostages if the enemy stalls”) and how to release the captives.

Jihadi message boards frequently post messages with links to training manuals and do-it-yourself kits that provide step-by-step instructions on how to manufacture weapons. A website called anarchist-cookbook.com sells the anarchy cookbook that comprises a series of 26 separate books containing information on psychological operations in guerilla warfare, an Al Qaida training manual, the CIA secret manual on corrective questioning, how to make explosives like RDX and how to manufacture acetone peroxide in a kitchen, among other things. Terrorist sites also have extensive information on hacking tools.

Terrorists have established their own online universities that serve as jihad academies and even sell merchandise like T-shirts, badges, flags, videotapes and cassettes. Online terrorist fundraising has become so commonplace that some organisations are able to accept donations via the popular online payment service, PayPal. According to Haifa University’s Gabriel Weimann, whose research on the subject is widely cited, over the last ten years the number of terrorist sites has jumped from less than 100 to more than 4,800. TNN
[With inputs by Sharmila Ganesan, Sabrina Buckwalter, Ketan Tanna, Mohammed Wajihuddin and Bella Jaisinghani]

Source from: The Times of India
Posted by: Joni Poetra

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Thursday, March 22, 2007

Reading Minds and Judging People

People think that by knowing other people, or reading their minds, we can be effective in the world. This is not true. If you know yourself, you can become very effective. If you do not make any attempt to read, perceive or judge something, but simply learn to look at everything the way it is, you will see things the way they are. But if you make an effort to read people's minds-maybe sometimes you will, because after all you do have a mind-you can read certain things, you have perception, you can judge, but these judgments, what will you do with them?

So, this is not a judgment, this is not a reading. This is a deeper understanding of life, that first when you meet a person, you bow down to the source of life within her, with that you have no conflict or have no judgment. First address that dimension. Once you have adressed the source of life, body, mind, all these things are minor aspects. You have no great struggle with all those things. If you go about trying to read people, invariably it is a judgment, isn't it?

No human being is constant. Today she may be something that you don't like. Tomorrow morning she may be in a wonderful mood. But if you think you have read and made an impression of that person in the past, then you will miss that person the way she is right now, isn't it?

Once you get into that, it's a trap. Even if your mind makes judgments about other people, don't attach any importance to it. Because once you start making judgments, invariably, there are only two basic judgments; this is good, this is bad. Everything that you consider as good, naturally you are drawn to it and get attached to it. Everything that you consider as bad, you get repelled from it, and negative emotions will flow. So there is no need to judge. You just have to judge situations. You don't have to judge people.

Posted by: JRP

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Aloneness is the First Lesson of Love

Excerpted from The Discipline of Transcendence, courtesy Osho International Foundation. www.osho.com

Without the other we don't know who we are, we lose our identity. The other becomes a mirror and we can see our faces in it. Without the other we are suddenly thrown to ourselves. We are greatly inconvenienced because we don't know who we are when we are alone.

With the other, things are clear, defined. We know the name, we know the form, we know the person. There are some ways to define the other. How to define yourself?

Deep down there is an abyss... undefinable emptiness. You start merging into that. It creates fear. You become frightened. You want to rush towards the other. The other helps you to remain out. When there is nobody you are simply left with your emptiness.

Nobody wants to be alone. The greatest fear in the world is to be left alone. People do a thousand and one things just not to be left alone. You imitate your neighbours so you are just like them. You lose your individuality, you lose your uniqueness, you just become imitators, because otherwise, you will be left alone.

You become part of a crowd, a church, an organisation. Somehow you want to merge with a crowd where you can feel at ease, so that you are not alone.

To be alone is really the greatest miracle. That means now you don't belong to any church or organisation, you don't belong to any theology or ideology, you don't belong, you simply are. And you have learnt how to love your indefinable, ineffable reality. You have come to know how to be with yourself.

Loneliness is absence of the other. Aloneness is the presence of oneself. Aloneness is very positive. It is an overflowing presence. You are so full of presence that you can fill the whole universe with your presence and there is no need for anybody.

If the whole world dissapears this zen master will not miss anything; he will be as happy as ever. He will love that tremendous emptiness, this pure infinity. He will not miss anything because he has arrived home. He knows that he himself is enough unto himself.

This does not mean that a man who has become enlightened and has come home does not live with others. In fact, only he is capable of being with others. Because he is capable of being with himself he becomes capable of being with others. If you are not capable of being with yourself, how can you be capable of being with others?

A man who loves his aloneness is capable of love, and man who fells loneliness is incapable of love. A man who is happy with himself is full of love, flowing. He does not need anybody's love, hence he can give. When you are in need how can you give? You are a beggar. And when you can give, much love comes towards you. It is a natural response. The first lesson of love is to learn how to be alone.

Try it, to have the feel. Just sit alone sometimes. That's what meditation is all about--just sitting alone, doing nothing. If you start feeling lonely then there is something missing in your being, then you have not been able yet to understand who you are.

Then go deeper into this loneliness until you come to a layer when suddenly loneliness transforms itself into alonenesss. Loneliness is the negative aspect of aloneness. If you go deeper into it one moment is bound to come when suddenly you will start feeling the positive aspect of it. Because both aspects are always together.

Posted by: JRP

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