Number Hate Sites Increase Online

Hate groups find a home on the Net

In less than three years, hate on the Internet has exploded. Thirty-four months after the March 1995 day when former Klansman Don Black put up the first neo-Nazi site on the World Wide Web, there were 163 active sites spewing racial hatred.

The sites include 29 espousing Klan beliefs; 39 by neo-Nazis; 27 by racist Skinheads; 25 by proponents of Christian Identity, an anti-Semitic and racist religion; and 43 others pushing a hodgepodge of ideologies based on hate.

Almost half those Web sites represent actual groups — organized associations that can be contacted or joined, or from whom racist materials can be ordered. These are not merely lone malcontents serving up hate from a bedroom computer.

This count by the Intelligence Project is conservative. It includes only sites that were active in January 1998, and only those that contain explicitly racist or anti-Semitic material.

The count does not include Holocaust denial sites — pages that are implicitly anti-Semitic, as they assume a Jewish conspiracy to cover up the true facts of the Holocaust, but pass themselves off as scholarly revisionism. And it is limited to sites based in America, although many others worldwide are available here.

The count also excludes sites put up by Patriot groups — militias, common-law courts and others — even though some of these groups endorse racist beliefs. A list of Patriot sites will be published in the spring issue of the Intelligence Report.

Frighteningly, many of the new sites are aimed directly at children.

For example, the World Church of the Creator, a virulently neo-Nazi group with 33 chapters, recently put up a page specifically aimed at kids. Its title page ("Creativity for children!") looks for all the world like some kind of Sesame Street for haters. Its aim: "To help the younger members of the White Race understand our fight."

"RAHOWA!" it ends. RAcial HOly WAr.

That is in line with a general trend on the hate pages. The racist movement has realized its future lies in the next generation (see A Skinhead's Story), children enamored of the Web and its colorful presentations. It has targeted these kids, and it is increasingly successful at drawing even those from well-to-do backgrounds.

Net hate sites run the gamut. They feature easy-to-reproduce Third Reich posters. They offer hundreds of violently racist and anti-Semitic jokes and cartoons. Many include "chat rooms" where racists trade news and views.

One offers a real-life video of the harassment of an apparently retarded black man. There are dozens of pages featuring pin-up Skinhead women with names like "Katrina." Other sites explain the Byzantine Biblical interpretations of Christian Identity (see Identity Crisis).

These sites may seem arcane curiosities. But the fact is, they are slickly packaged propaganda that have given racists an audience of millions.

Five years ago, a racist group had to struggle financially, find a sympathetic printer and work long hours writing and editing to produce a pamphlet that might reach 100 people. Today, a lone racist can quickly pull down copy from other sites, package it using high-quality photos and graphics that are already available on the Net, and create a page that's accessible worldwide — often for no money at all.

The Net has given racists other advantages as well:

· Encrypted messages, chat room talk, e-mail communications and the propaganda put up on Web sites all give racists an empowering sense of community. Even lone racists, with no co-religionists nearby, feel they are part of a movement.

· Free encryption technology makes intergroup communication easy. Where such codes were once easily breakable, new technology is far more secure.

· E-mail messages are increasingly being used to send hate-mail to unsuspecting victims. While only one case has gone to court so far, incidents are rising fast.

· Net sites give groups the ability to market their wares — anything from Klan robes and Hitler mugs to paramilitary manuals and other publications — and raise revenue as never before.

Racist white power bands, formerly limited to insiders and subscribers to certain magazines, use Net audio tracks to attract new customers.

· For those inclined to violence, the Net offers a wealth of information — from instructions on building an ammonium nitrate bomb to methods for converting semi-automatics to fully automatic weapons — that can be accessed in minutes.

The interest of the far right in computers is not new. In the late 1980s, former Texas Klansman Louis Beam was already building computer bulletin boards that racist groups used to communicate with one another. But the Net added another dimension, a virtual world in which hate groups easily could appeal to the uninitiated.

Don Black, a former Klan leader who served three years in prison for plotting to overthrow a Caribbean island government, was the first hate propagandist to recognize the potential of the Internet. After learning to operate and program computers in prison, he emerged to set up a Web site that is still active. Now, most major hate groups have Net sites, many of them containing pages and pages of propaganda.

This upsurge would come as no surprise to Don Black.

"There's a potential here to reach millions," he said years ago. "I think it's a major breakthrough. I don't know if it's the ultimate solution to developing a white rights movement in this country, but it is certainly a significant advance."