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Richmond IMC pushes VMI photos to national attention, internal investigation

Costumes from a 2004 Halloween party at Virginia Military Institute depicting cadets as Nazis, in blackface, and as “fairies? appeared at Richmond Indymedia on January 25 and sparked a debate over the meaning behind the costumes and disciplinary action against the cadets.

The pictures had been on display on a personal photo-share site, but after contact information for VMI administration was posted at Richmond Indymedia alongside the photos the story mushroomed into a campus controversy and a national media feature. The Associated Press ran the story, prompting local Virginia outlets to carry it and then the Washington Post.

The cause of the sudden interest in the offensive pictures is a direct result of a post on Thursday, January 27 by “CBC? on Richmond Indymedia. This article stimulated an intense debate and a vibrant dialogue on the site; there have been nearly 200 replies to the article. The volume of visitors caused IMC editors and tech support to scramble in an attempt to maintain the availability of Richmond Indymedia. The site also served as a tool to convey the public call for accountability, and emails from RVA IMC users convinced the administration at VMI to call for an investigation into the context and meaning behind such offensive and obscene costumes.

Over the past few days, Richmond Indymedia has been flooded by the high volume of people accessing the article, making the site almost completely inaccessible. While a large number of VMI cadets responded to the article to defend their peers, some students at the school agreed with public criticism, acknowledged the offensive nature of the costumes and told of dissent within the student body against the costumes. Another soldier, with 22 years of service, related the offensive costumes to the Abu Ghraib prison scandal. He stated that "Actions like this, viewed by the world, from an institution that supposedly puts leaders on the battlefield, only fuels their mistrust and pushes them to the insurgency against our efforts... You have to learn about this human sensitivity and to quit labelling it political correctness"....


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