Hate Website Stormfront Sees Rapid Growth of Neo-Nazi Community
Stormfront grows a thriving neo-Nazi community
By T.K. Kim
On most days, the man once labeled a "near genius" in a Time magazine article spends the bulk of his time in an office of the Mandeville, La., home of infamous white supremacist David Duke.
There, Jamie Kelso whips across Duke's hardwood floors on a wheeled office chair as he attends to his work: monitoring the burgeoning community of the racist Stormfront Web site on one of six different computers.
To the thousands of white supremacists who regularly visit Stormfront and its forum, Kelso is best known by his e-moniker, "Charles A Lindbergh." He signs off all his posts with a quote from Lindbergh, a well-known racist and anti-Semite: "We can have peace and security only as long as we band together to preserve that most priceless possession, our inheritance of European blood."
"I admire the aviator so much, " Kelso says.
The aviator, were he still alive, might well admire Kelso. As Stormfront celebrates its 10th birthday — the first major hate site on the Internet, it was created by former Alabama Klan leader Don Black in 1995 — Kelso has much to be proud of. In the three years he's been a senior moderator of the site, it has grown from fewer than 10,000 registered users to, as of mid-June, an astounding 52,566. And while many thousands of that ever-growing total probably haven't visited in years, independent Web monitors recently ranked Stormfront the 338th largest electronic forum on the Internet, putting it easily into the top 1% of all sites on the World Wide Web.
Black and Kelso have created something more than just another hate site that draws people for a few months, then fades for lack of interest. Using everything from good manners to "white scholarships" to such catchy gimmicks as highlighting its members' birthdays, these two men have built something that very few people on the entire Internet have — a genuine and very large cyber-community. That they did it at a time when major neo-Nazi groups are on the decline is merely icing.
"Without a doubt," Bob DeMarais, a former staff member of the neo-Nazi National Alliance (see related story), wrote recently, "Stormfront is the most powerful active influence in the White Nationalist movement."
Want to find the latest headlines on black-on-white crime? Go to Stormfront. New developments in the National Alliance's leadership woes? Go to Stormfront. Details of yet another nefarious Jewish conspiracy? Go to Stormfront.
Stormfront's recent growth spurt is only the beginning, Kelso says. He and Black share a larger goal, one that their friend Duke also tried with a fair measure of success — establishing real legitimacy in the realm of public opinion.
Fade to Black
It began with Don Black.
Going back to high school, Black had always been one of the more enthusiastic proponents of white power. One of his first forays into the organized movement was in the 1970s, when he volunteered for the late white supremacist J.B. Stoner's unsuccessful run for governor of Georgia.
That was until Stoner's campaign manager, Jerry Ray, the brother of Martin Luther King Jr. assassin James Earl Ray, shot him in the chest. The shooting apparently stemmed from accusations that Black had broken into Stoner's office to steal a mailing list for the National Socialist White People's Party.
After recovering, Black went on to join the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, the group headed by Duke in the 1970s. Working on Duke's unsuccessful campaign for Louisiana state senate, Black won Duke's trust, moving up to become his mentor's right-hand man. When Duke left the group amid allegations that he'd tried to sell its membership list to another Klan group for $35,000, Black took over.
But Black quickly got into trouble himself. In 1981, he and nine other white supremacists were arrested as they prepared to board a yacht with which they intended to invade the tiny Caribbean island of Dominica, oust its black-run government, and transform it into a "white state."
Black's resulting three-year prison sentence was time well spent. He took classes in computer programming that would provide the basis for his future.
Not long after his release, Black launched an abysmally unsuccessful campaign for a U.S. Senate seat from Alabama. He wound up marrying Duke's ex-wife, Chloe, and moving to West Palm Beach, Fla. Once there, he began dabbling with his computer, eventually setting up a dial-up bulletin board service for the radical right. By March 1995, that service evolved into Stormfront, the Net's best-known hate site.
Black saw clearly that with this new technology, white supremacists might finally bypass the mainstream media and political apparatus, getting their message out to people who otherwise would never hear it — people who now could listen in the privacy of their own homes without fear of embarrassment or reproach. "The potential of the Net for organizations and movements such as ours is enormous," Black told the Philadelphia Inquirer in 1996. "We're reaching tens of thousands of people who never before had access to our point of view."
Being the first of its kind helped Stormfront win enormous publicity. Black and his site were written up in newspapers around the country and the world, and he frequently appeared on major network news shows like abc's "Nightline," where, clad in suit and tie, he talked politely about allowing people access to information not filtered by the "media monopoly." Though he undoubtedly turned off many viewers, each major TV appearance led to a spike in visitors to Stormfront.