Net Hate in Neverland

To locals, he's a roadside institution. But to the Usenet, he's a monster.

Though it's officially after business hours, a trickle of customers keeps coming in to wander through the rows of baby sharks floating in bottles of electric-blue liquid, tubs of $1 starfish husks, and shells of every variety. Seredin buys the shells in bulk, shipped over from Indonesia and Malaysia, and resells them to beachcombers looking for souvenirs. He purchased the store from its original owner in 1996, when Seredin and his wife followed the snowbirds from Ottawa to Florida and decided to roost.

When the last curious shell-seeker has wandered out, Seredin bustles to the back of the shop, a cozy alcove that houses a computer, a refrigerator, a desk, and several colorful portraits of Muslim religious figures. He pours two cups of green tea out of a thermos, then settles down to explain why he hates the Jews.

Seredin, who is Muslim, was born in Nemenikuce, a village in the former Yugoslavia, and grew up hop-scotching among various European countries. He talks of working as a Partisan boy-spy for Yugoslavia's president-for-life Tito and of fleeing to Italy, then Australia, with his father. He produces discharge papers for his eight-year term of service with the Royal Australian Air Force, which he spent as a mechanic in Cambodia from 1957 to 1963. He reminisces about teaching school in Egypt and running a real estate business in Canada.

Mickey Ben-Tovim (displaying a message to Internet friends) is Seredin's most vigilant Usenet enemy.
Mickey Ben-Tovim (displaying a message to Internet friends) is Seredin's most vigilant Usenet enemy.

He is a riveting storyteller, sprinkling his recital with literary references and charming anecdotes. He barks like a sea lion when he describes how he once kept one as a pet ("he had verybad breath") and does an impression of Tito hiding in a cave, doling out cups of hot soup to his ragged supporters.

But Seredin's narrative always circles back to a central story, the one that motivates every one of his thousands and thousands of hate-filled posts.

"My grandfather, in Ukraine, was a very wealthy man," Seredin says. "My father was the youngest of 17 kids. One day, they came. The Jewish communists. They came and shot all the children in the back of the head. My father, who was away from the house hiding, saw it with his own eyes."

It is impossible, Seredin admits, to prove that his family was massacred by Jewish members of the Cheka, the Soviet secret police, in Ukraine in 1923. He shows letters from his grandfather, written in a neat and impenetrable Cyrillic, that he says describes the horror firsthand, and says the Ukrainian government recognizes that a slaughter took place in Ukraine at that time and place but only in vague terms. Still, Seredin insists that it happened to his family.

Seredin is fully aware that a Ukrainian holocaust perpetrated by Jewish death squads is dismissed as an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory by most historians. That official denial is the source of his anger, he says, and it's why he insists on shouting out his story despite the costs.

"I told them the story of my family killed by Jews," Seredin says, "and they called me a liar, and they called me a Nazi.

"All I am doing is telling them the truth about myself. Nowadays, telling the truth is the biggest crime you can have. All this crap that you see out there is coming from prejudice because people don't have an open enough mind to possibly consider that I might be right."

In the Usenet world, Seredin is having a hard time making his case for a Jew-perpetrated Ukrainian holocaust.

"It's the same story — Jews killed 19 members of my family in rural Russia, Jews killed 25 members of my family, blah blah blah," Ben-Tovim says. "He's claimed to have fought in WWII, the Korean War, Cambodia, flown for the Royal Australian Air Force. The lies just keep coming."

Ben-Tovim is intimately familiar with Seredin's many stories because he has compiled a long list of all of Seredin's postings that contain factual contradictions that he calls "The 'wit and wisdom' of Serwad aka Alex Seredin." A sampling:

"I'm a direct descendant of Tamerlame."

"I'm a direct descendant of Kublai Khan."

"I like Jews."

"ANY KILLING IS NOT A JOKE EXCEPT FOR A JEW!"

"On April 20th we celebrate the birth of the greatest man of all time: Adolf Hitler."

"Human? Jews are not humans!"

"I am NOT an anti-Semite!!!!!"

Ben-Tovim says he's posted the list of Seredinisms thousands of times in various newsgroups. "He has never replied to it," he says.

Seredin explains that any contradictions posted under his name are the fault of others posting under his e-mail address and that everything he says is true. "So far as I am concerned," he says, "I do not make the stories up."

"[That's] an outright lie, as I have traced every post directly back to his BellSouth account," Ben-Tovim retorts. "I have an IP trace on him at all times."

Discrediting Seredin has become a Usenet pastime. Susan, the Jewish-issue message-board regular, says that while Ben-Tovim has led the charge against Seredin, the rest of the Usenet world has looked on with amused disgust. "People either ignore Alex or other people will poke the bear with the stick," she says. "He sounds to me like he is an old guy whose brain just doesn't quite work anymore."

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