When They Really Are Out to Get You

By Jeff Schult

New Haven Advocate, Nov. 23, 1995

Dorky Head Shot Let’s face it, if the 1996 presidential election were to be settled by who has the most entertaining Internet site, Pat Paulsen would win hands down. The man’s got animation, he’s got sound bites, he’s got movies, he’s even got the GelCaps singing acappella. The comedian’s been running since his Smothers Brothers gig in 1968, and his shtick is more nonsensically appealing than ever when dressed up for cyberspace. For a good laugh, go visit Pat at http://amdest.com/pat/pat.html.

But for those who take their presidential politics a little more seriously, there’s more going on than Clinton, Dole, Powell, not Powell, etc. Thanks to the Net, political junkies can now follow the presidential efforts of folks they never would have heard of before.

Like Charles Collins, Republican from Georgia. Though Collins declared his candidacy in October of 1994, and has crisscrossed the country in search of support, he’s had a bit of trouble getting the word out. Except on the Net.

"I think honestly that they (Republican leaders) are afraid to have the American people hear his message," said campaign staffer Pat Harriman, answering Collins’ 800 number this week. "When people listen to him, they know he knows what he’s talking about. I think he’s the smartest man I ever met."

For the record, Collins may not be the most obscure fellow running for the GOP nomination – there is accountant Tom Shellenberg of Montana – but if he is as well-spoken as Harriman claims, there are reasons why fellow Republicans aren’t exactly eager to share a podium with him. His views are those of voters they count on but desperately seek to avoid courting publicly. The platform is pretty simple: Abolish the federal income tax in favor of a sales tax capped at 5 percent administered by the states, strip the Federal Reserve of most or all of its power, repeal gun control legislation, arm ourselves to the teeth but withdraw troops from overseas, jettison the North American Free Trade Agreement and withdraw from the United Nations.

For a start, anyway. In short, he makes Pat Buchanan look positively wimpish.

Supporters claim Collins has had offers of significant financial support for his campaign "if only he will stop talking about the Federal Reserve." Collins notes on the Net that he was "raised with the values that made America great 50 years ago," essentially implying that it’s been all downhill since we kicked Hitler’s and Tojo’s butts.

In other words, in years gone by, most voters might have noticed Collins only after a Republican primary, and then only by the asterisk next to his name at the bottom of a vote chart in a newspaper. But he and supporters have had some success getting heard on the Net, where armchair analysts generally have a field day with extremist views.

A search of Usenet newsgroups turned up more than 1,300 references containing "Charles" and "Collins" over the last six months or so. After filtering out discographies that included both Bootsy Collins and Ray Charles and other errata, there were still upwards of two hundred posts mentioning Collins: not a lot, but certainly more than he’s gotten from the mainstream media.

Writers detailed Collins’ efforts to speak at the United We Stand America forum in Texas in August, a series of slights from the Republican National Party (including misprinting the candidate’s telephone number in literature) and bombarded political newsgroups with the Collins agenda.

Harriman voiced the suspicion that Florida GOP heavy Jeb Bush was behind efforts to keep Collins from speaking at candidate forums in that state in November.

The Collins campaign is no stranger to conspiracy theory. Supporter Clayton Douglas, publisher of "The Free American" newsletter in Tijeras, New Mexico, cites his candidate as a man "totally aware" that presidents Lincoln and Kennedy "were targets for attempting to free America from the grip of the bankers and internationalists, those with the most to gain from a New World Order." And Collins’ "official" page on the Internet is linked to, among other sites, "Conspiracy Corner"("shares some good ideas"), "Paranoia" ("The name says it all … good site to visit") and the John Birch Society.

Clearly, the Republican powers-that-be have decreed that Collins, a successful builder, developer, farmer, Phi Beta Kappa and University of Georgia valedictorian, is not of presidential timbre. And it takes someone with an unhealthy fascination for the bizarre in American political life to take the trouble to look at the nearly invisible underside of a presidential campaign before the snow is on the ground to stay in New Hampshire.

Still, I look, I read the Net and I wonder, morbidly: How many Americans would march behind this man if they got a chance to know him?

Collins’ World Wide Web site:

computek.net/public/collins/collins.html (No longer exists.)

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