Hate Website Stormfront Sees Rapid Growth of Neo-Nazi Community
Stormfront grows a thriving neo-Nazi community
By T.K. Kim
Like a morning roll call, the posts pour in each day. Below the Stormfront motto, "White Pride World Wide," links to news stories with a racial angle light up the page, complete with headlines home-crafted by the members.
"Mestizo Rapes White Woman in Elevator," shouts one.
"Negro Man Stabs Elderly Woman, Shoots Detective, Negroes Screaming 'Police Brutality,'" another breathlessly reports.
And the list goes on.
But one thing you won't normally find on Stormfront are racial slurs. In fact, new members are explicitly warned not to use such language, and also not to post violent threats or anything describing illegal activity. Black clearly has modeled his site on some of the tactics used by Duke, who famously urged his Klan followers to "get out of the cow pasture and into hotel meeting rooms." As Black once told a reporter, "We don't use the 'nigger, nigger' type of approaches."
When New Jersey neo-Nazi Hal Turner began posting incendiary comments this March about a federal judge whose family was murdered, he was rapidly excommunicated. "[T]hey are so afraid of rocking the ZOG [Zionist Occupation Government] boat that they scurry around behind the scenes censoring posts of folks who are strong enough to speak the plain truth," Turner fumed later.
It's not that Stormfront is about moderation — hardly. The talk is all about the evils of African Americans, gay men and lesbians, non-white immigrants, and, above all, Jews, who are blamed for most of what's wrong in the world.
As pointed out by Cass Sunstein, the University of Chicago law professor who wrote the 2001 book republic.com, "Extremists and hate-filled sites tend to attract likeminded people who, if isolated, could come to their senses." Likeminded people talking to one another, Sunstein says, "tend to become more extremist."
But it's all done with a tone of simmering civility. "One of the things that Don Black does very well is he doesn't fit the stereotype of an angry man," Kelso proudly told the Intelligence Report in a lengthy interview recently. "Don is the most under-recognized giant in the whole white nationalist movement."
Kelso, who was featured in a 1960s Time article about teenagers in the Los Angeles suburbs, personifies the approach. Animated and cordial, he happily offers to set up a Stormfront account for an Intelligence Report writer. He exudes a kind of grandfatherly charm — the same charm that he exhibits in some of his postings, and in his tireless welcoming of new members to the Stormfront community.
It is, Kelso says, "a positive spiritual approach."
Stormfront — along with the many lesser radical forums on the Internet (see The Forums sidebar) — has always done better than the much more numerous hate Web pages.
Whereas typical hate sites function as one-way transfers of information — rather like a brochure posted in a grocery store that can be read but cannot be responded to — Stormfront has always been organized as a message board. Members can post opinions, listen to others respond, then post more feedback for all to read. The potential for dialogues to develop was built in — and, therefore, so was the potential to develop a genuine white supremacist cyber-community.
"The great power of the Internet is it allows people who don't know each other ... to connect with people with shared interests," says Howard Rheingold, an Internet theorist and author. "The shared interests might be that 'I have a kid with leukemia.' Or, 'I'm a Nazi.' It gives marginalized people more power."
Black and Kelso, both men who could put up a relatively clean-cut and civilized front, saw eye to eye on the possibilities.
So when Jamie Kelso joined Stormfront about three years ago, he successfully began pushing for leading movement writers — men like Sam Dickson, a leader of the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens, and Willis Carto, publisher of the Holocaust-denying journal The Barnes Review — to start posting.
That was just part of an effort to make the site more inclusive.
Although the forum has recently censored some posts critical of the National Alliance — a major neo-Nazi group undergoing an internal civil war — it generally has tried to maintain a relatively non-sectarian stance, making people from different sectors of the radical right feel welcome to join in. As Black once told a reporter for Newhouse News Service, "Anyone can work to promote our ideas without being a member of any organization. I used to be annoyed by people who didn't join my organization, but I see the advantage now."
Black and Kelso take care to avoid appearing dictatorial. One result is that the forum, within the bounds of the radical right, feels very democratic — a gathering of people with similar interests in what increasingly looks like a community.
Every member gets to choose a graphic to accompany their postings.
Little smiley faces and other signs abound. It's not unusual to spot two members using an animation where the faces toast with mugs of beer.
There is a list of birthdays of members on the main page. Birthday greetings are frequently exchanged, along with notes of consolation or encouragement.
There are essay contests and $2,000 scholarships for white kids.
And, to encourage the shy, Kelso frequently starts innocuous threads to get people to start joining in the conversation. "Where is Your Home?" Kelso asks at the head of one. Or, atop another, "What inspired your screen name?"
The results have been fairly spectacular. In January 2002, Stormfront had a mere 5,000 members. A year later, membership reached 11,000; and a year after that, in early 2004, it had 23,000. By January 2005, membership hit about 42,000, and it finally topped 52,000 this June. In the last year, a Kelso analysis showed, the site has been gaining an average of almost 500 new members every week.
That doesn't include the large numbers of those who simply read Stormfront postings without joining up (becoming a member allows one to post messages and also to view personal information posted by other members). All together, total traffic to the site gave it an Alexa Web monitor ranking this June of the 8,682nd most visited site on the Internet — a rank well above that of most civil rights sites.
Bob DeMarais, for one, sees Kelso as integral to Stormfront's success. "Jamie Kelso did much of the marketing and promotion responsible for Stormfront's recent growth spurt," DeMarais wrote recently. "Kelso has a knack for making new people feel welcome and getting them to start posting."