Number of Hate Groups Tops 500

Hate group count tops 500, internet sites soar

More than 500 hate groups and group chapters operated in the United States in 1998, a year that saw a number of particularly horrendous hate crimes. At the same time, white supremacist propaganda rose dramatically, with an almost 60 percent increase in Internet hate sites.

The Intelligence Project counted 537 hate groups and group chapters engaged in racist behavior in 1998), up from 474 in 1997. The increase was largely driven by the addition of 33 chapters of the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC), a group that has portrayed itself as relatively mainstream but was revealed in 1998 to have starkly racist views.

The CCC (see Sharks In The Mainstream) is a reminder that organized racists are not always identifiable by their Klan hoods or swastikas. In fact, they come from all walks of life and often wear business suits rather than brown shirts.

The CCC, for example, has become so respectable that key politicians such as Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott have felt comfortable in addressing its national conference and holding private meetings with its leaders.

A similar effort was seen earlier this decade, when white supremacists moved into antigovernment "Patriot" organizations. Once in these groups, these racist activists downplayed their hatred of blacks and Jews and instead concentrated on relatively mainstream issues like opposition to gun control and federal regulation of the land and environment. The result was a movement that spread for a time like wildfire.

"In the early '90s, the radical right was immensely successful in recruiting by exploiting resentment of the federal government," says Joe Roy, director of the Intelligence Project. "Now, we're seeing many of the same activists using fears about non-white immigration and issues like opposition to abortion to build up an extremist movement that has racist underpinnings."

At the same time, academia has played an important part in giving hate groups the legitimacy they seek. Race scientists, contending that blacks are inherently less intelligent than whites and more prone to crime, have fueled extremist groups that use the scientists' work to justify their hatred and demeaning of non-whites (see Race and 'Reason'). Like the CCC, these scientists have created a "safe haven" for views that are repugnant to most.

Hate Thrives on the Internet
More explicit forms of hate have thrived as well.

On the Internet, hate sites rose from 163 in 1997 to 254 last year, reflecting an alarming increase in racist propaganda. Also using radio broadcasts, periodicals (see The Annals Of Hate) and telephone hotlines, hate groups clearly enjoyed increasing success in getting their message out to a broad audience.

Both Klan and neo-Nazi groups saw a significant resurgence in 1998, with some reaching out successfully to other kinds of organizations. The neo-Nazi National Alliance, for example, even managed to attract members of ethnic societies (see The Alliance And Its Allies).

Of the 537 groups active in 1998, 163 were Klan organizations and their chapters, up from 127 the year before; 151 were neo-Nazi, up from 100; 48 were racist Skinhead, six more than a year earlier; 29 were black separatist, compared to 12 in 1997; and 84 followed a hodge-podge of hate-based doctrines.

The number of congregations of Christian Identity theology, a virulently racist and anti-Semitic doctrine, dropped from 81 to 62. But the Identity groups are difficult to detect and are almost certainly undercounted.

Several other key points emerged last year:

  • The American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, the largest and most aggressive Klan group in the country, added nine chapters for a total of 27.

    Notable for its crude racism and the criminal histories of its members, the American Knights have grown explosively since the group was founded by Jeff Berry in 1995. The group has used its rallies and attendant publicity to help recruit from coast to coast.

  • The National Alliance gained 13 chapters, for a total of 35, and its leader, William Pierce, extended his contacts to many other organizations in the United States and Europe. The group also became more active at the local level, reflecting Pierce's cultivation of chapter leaders and their work with other, unaffiliated organizations in their states.

  • The World Church of the Creator (WCOTC), another neo-Nazi group, added 13 chapters for a total of 46. Under the energetic leadership of recent law school graduate Matt Hale, WCOTC has enjoyed remarkable growth for several years now.

  • A third neo-Nazi group, the National Socialist White People's Party, doubled in size, from 11 chapters in 1997 to 22 last year. Its leader, Harold Covington (aka Winston Smith), apparently moved from Chapel Hill, N.C., to San Antonio, Texas, last year.

  • Another key neo-Nazi group, the Aryan Nations, lost four chapters as followers continued to drift away from leader Richard Butler, who is 81 years old. Although this was the second consecutive annual drop in the Idaho-based group, Butler has managed to bring his organization back from the brink of collapse several times in the past.

  • The National Association for the Advancement of White People, a group led by former Klansman David Duke in the 1980s, was decimated by a rancorous split. The split has its origins in a 1997 report by ABC's "Prime Time Live," showing Klan members consorting with NAAWP followers at the Florida ranch of NAAWP official Dan Daniels. It also featured an interview with Paul Allen — the Duke crony who headed the NAAWP through the mid-1990s — in which Allen appeared awkward and defensive. In the aftermath of the report, Daniels, the former sheriff of Polk County, Fla., resigned "to spend more time with his family." Allen then sent all NAAWP local leaders a contract in which they were to promise "to never publicly express themselves in an extremist, racist manner" or to be connected to anyone who did. Allen also complained that NAAWP members were "brainwashed" into leaving the group by the ABC report.

    By early 1998, Allen was apparently ousted as national president. The group was renamed the National NAAWP and was now headed by Reno Wolfe. "Following last year's scandal and the resulting loss of members, the trend was halted," Wolfe wrote in the National NAAWP News. In late 1998, the tabloid said that NAAWP headquarters had moved from New Orleans to Callahan, Fla., where Wolfe lives.

    The split cost the NAAWP. Where it had boasted 79 chapters in 1997, by the end of last year the National NAAWP was down to 13 — less than one-sixth of its former size. Many former members cited disgust with Allen's disavowal of open racism, seeing him as having buckled under to political pressure. Now that the tattooed former biker Wolfe is the group's leader, it remains to be seen whether or not the it can rebuild its strength.

Despite such troubles, the hate movement is growing.

Patriot organizations (to be covered in depth in the Spring 1999 issue of the Intelligence Report) are increasingly adopting racist views, although this trend is far from uniform. More and more, single-issue activists like extremist opponents of abortion and immigration have been adopting white supremacist ideology.

"Scientific" organizations like the publisher of American Renaissance magazine, which focuses on racial differences, are thriving and making contact with more explicit racists. And, using various tactics including the Web sites, Klan and neo-Nazi groups have grown in the last year.