Jeanne's World
   The Shoebox

The Shoebox

Serdar Argic in Toronto's eye WEEKLY

This article is reprinted from the Computer Underground Digest, which in turn reprinted it from EYE WEEKLY. It's old enough that I am not at all sure the contact information is still valid. If anyone knows where the Eye's own archive of this story can be found on the net so I can point to it instead, please let me know.

Toronto's arts newspaper
July 28 1994 every Thursday

Howling in the Wires-- A net.poltergeist horror story by

Huddle round the fire, little netters ... lend yer ear to hear The Scariest Net.Story Ever Told. 'Tis a tale of a creature so hideous, so awe-inspiring, so inhuman, so incomprehensible, that none that behold it dare sleep without altering their .newsrc again.

We speak of none other than "Serdar Argic."

The Serdar-thing manifested outta nowhere, terrorized Usenet News for two blood-curdling years ... then, just as mysteriously, disappeared without trace.

So wide was the spectre's swath that nary a Usenetter hasn't stumbled into a newsgroup only to be confronted by this wild-eyed banshee gnawing at the cables. The Argic.poltergeist posted endlessly, reams and reams of repeat-info to irrelevant newsgroups, so insatiable was its bloodlust.

The entity's purpose? Whitewash Turk genocide against Armenians in WWI. The entity's tactics? Snark School of Demagoguery: Whatever I say three times is true -- so if I say it 37 million times, it must really really be true.

And the Argic-entity did just that -- April 29 last, Usenet stats indicated "Serdar Argic" had, over two weeks, posted 935 articles (66 a day) comprising over 7,100 kbytes of Armenian-hatred. A full .5 per cent of Planet Earth's Usenet posts.

Smells Like Serdar Spirit

So, who or what is "Serdar Argic"? No one is completely sure. But the net.poltergeist has many avid hunters. You think swapping "banned" Homolka info is fun, kids? You ain't seen nothing yet. Argicology is a Usenet passion without compare.

Veteran Argicologist Warren Burstein is certain "Serdar Argic" was, originally, Hasan B. Mutlu, an AT&T employee. Burstein brought forth several rare specimens of Mutlu's early-'90s Usenet posts. Indeed, they're stylistically identical to Argic.chain.rattling -- schoolyard taunts like "Hey gum brain"; the famous phrase "Armenian terrorist from the ASALA/SDPA/ARF Terrorism Triangle"; and the clever segue, "In any event, let me get back to the real issue at hand," namely, denying the Turk slaughter of Armenians.

Mutlu disappeared from Usenet after someone scanned a picture of him from an AT&T technical digest, and uploaded it to the net. Its caption reads: "Hasan B. Mutlu, a member of the technical staff in the Computing Technology Department at AT&T Bell Laboratories in Napervile, Ill."

After this, the Serdar spectre arose through a Minnesota-based Internet site run by an Ahmet Cosar. (Type "whois" at shell prompt for info.) Some suggest Cosar is Serdar Argic. To back the Cosar-is-Argic theory, Argicologists point to a March 22, 1994, post where Cosar (probably by mistake) uses the Argic account to post a personal reply. He signs it "Ahmet Cosar."

Others think the Argic-entity is a "bot" -- an "artificial intelligence" that greps (searches) select newsgroups for buzzwords (like "Turkey" or "Greece") and responds. (Many contend the U.S. National Security Agency has done this for years with phone lines, listening for its own obsessive buzzwords.)

The latter would explain some truly bizarre Argic-entity replies. For instance: Ken Arromdee ( signed all his posts with the line: "On the first day after Christmas my truelove served to me ... Leftover Turkey!" Deliberate bot-bait. Sure enough, the Argic-entity once responded to this with data on evil Armenians, drawn by the word "turkey" but unable to understand the difference between country and bird.

Now You See Him ...

And, just as suddenly, it was gone. Usenet is still stunned. There are several rumors: the spook was recalled by secret Turkish government handlers, propaganda campaign terminated (Turkey still officially denies the Armenian holocaust). Or it was finally exorcised by UUNet for extreme breach of user agreement. Or Cosar left the University of Minnesota (voluntarily or otherwise), thus losing access to the paper's computer.

" was a student machine for a student newspaper -- Cosar lost access because he was so busy being Argic he didn't have time to be a computer science student," contends battle-hardened Argicologist Joel Furr ( Furr is creator of the newsgroup (with a little help from Canada's prodigal son, Bruce Becker).

"Is the baton just being passed?" Furr asks in a phone interview. "Is it an organization, where they decide who is going to be the robo-poster for the year? Mutlu started it and recruited, by my theory."

So what will be the next manifestation of the net.wraith? Burstein, currently in Israel (, told eye he thinks the current low-volume Armenian-haters now in soc.culture.turkish are just Argic-groupies. "Joel thinks these folks are aliases for whoever was behind Mutlu and Argic. I'm not sure, as they aren't at all abusive, unlike the real thing -- and they do answer email."

That Certain Serdar Style

Furr has created a popular net.collectible: Serdar Argic T-shirts! We kid you not. He's sold 136, from Osaka, Japan, to Lund, Sweden. It's a break-even project, not for profit. Write Furr for info: the shirts are about $15 in U.S. funds. Furr says his next T-shirt subject will honor two-bit, suck-my-left-nut lawyers Canter and Siegel -- net.spammers (they posted an ad in 5,000-plus newsgroups) extraordinaire.

Serdar shirt art, designed by Furr, Paul Vail and Peter Vorobieff, can be downloaded from eye's gopher site "" in the /misc/Argicology directory. You can also find the Argic FAQ (frequently asked questions) file, written by Burstein, in the same directory, along with the scanned picture of Mutlu.

Retransmit freely in cyberspace - Author holds standard copyright - "Break the Gutenberg Lock..."- 416-971-8421

Jeanne A. E. DeVoto