Created by former Alabama Klan boss and long-time white supremacist Don Black in 1995, Stormfront was the first major hate site on the Internet. Claiming more than 300,000 registered members as of May 2015 (though far fewer remain active), the site has been a very popular online forum for white nationalists and other racial extremists.
But a series of reverses — the 2008 assertion by Black’s wife that she was not a racist, a similar declaration by his son in 2010, and the Southern Poverty Law Center’s exposure of the identity of many Stormfront funders and the fact its registered users have been behind almost 100 murders — have caused a series of problems for the Web forum. Today, Black struggles with a continuing decline in site visitors, chronic financial problems and his own health issues.
In Its Own Words
"Our mission is to provide information not available in the controlled news media and to build a community of White activists working for the survival of our people."
— From "Guidelines for Posting," Stormfont.org
"White Pride Worldwide"
— Stormfront.org motto
"Beating down a mud [a non-white person] when they try to poisen [sic] one of our own or when they try to seduce one of our girls may not be God inspired, but rather a righteous act of collective preservation."
— Preston Wiginton, Stormfront.org post, 2007
"The critically important concepts of pulling your own weight and not leeching off other parts of society are alien concepts to Blacks. They realize that on their own, they will never have very much so they happily take all the welfare and other hand outs they can get even if this makes them parasites. They don't have any qualms about stealing millions of jobs and promotions thanks to racial quotas — this is the last government-approved racial discrimination program, which has gone on for four decades."
— "Whiterights," 2008 post to Stormfront
"Pure n----- or mixed n-----, is that really matters [sic]?? N-----. Period."
— "war2war," 2008 post to Stormfront
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 fully appreciate the potential of the Internet. After learning to operate and program computers in prison, he emerged to set up Stormfront in March 1995, just a month before the Oklahoma City bombing. Being the first of its kind helped Stormfront win enormous publicity. Black and his site, run out of his Florida home, were written up in newspapers around the country and the world. He also 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.
Stormfront has since grown into what may be the Western world's most popular forum for so called "white nationalists" to post articles, engage in discussions, and share news of upcoming racist events. One of the secrets to Stormfront's success is its focus on community building. Whereas typical hate sites function as one-way transfers of information — rather like a brochure that can be read but not 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.
Below the Stormfront motto, "White Pride World Wide," are links to racially charged news stories like "Mestizo Rapes White Woman in Elevator" and "Negro Man Stabs Elderly Woman, Shoots Detective, Negroes Screaming ‘Police Brutality." Members of Stormfront's various forums can also post comments to discussion threads with titles like "What do you want done with the Jews?", "Aryan Storm Rising" and "To Hate or Not to Hate." But one thing you won't usually find of late on Stormfront are racial slurs, which, though they sometimes get through, are banned in recent guidelines: "No profanity. Avoid racial epithets." New members are explicitly warned not to use such language, and also not to post violent threats or anything describing illegal activity. It's not that Stormfront is about moderation or rational discussion. The talk is all about the evils of African Americans, LGBT people, non-white immigrants, and, above all, Jews, who are blamed for most of what's wrong in the world. But Black clearly has modeled his site on some of the tactics used by David 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 ‘n-----, n-----' type of approaches."
The ideal of creating an online community was expanded upon in 2002, when Jamie Kelso joined Stormfront. He successfully began to push leading radical-right 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 some posts are censored on the site (several posts critical of the National Alliance — a major neo-Nazi group — were deleted after the group's founder, William Pierce, died, and an internal war of succession broke out), it generally has tried to maintain a relatively nonsectarian 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 have taken care to avoid appearing dictatorial. One result is that the forum, within the bounds of the radical right, feels relatively democratic — a gathering of people with similar interests in what increasingly looks like a real community. Every member can choose a graphic to accompany their postings.
Little smiley faces and other signs abound (Nazi symbology was common until it was banned, along with slurs like "n-----," in the spring of 2008). 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.
In the fall of 2008, a private “sustaining members” section was added to the forum, specifically for those who have supported the site financially. The exclusive enclave of Stormfront’s most influential users eliminated much of the ‘noise’ found in the more popular and openly available sections such as “Newslinks & Articles.” It is also home to the majority of Don Black’s infrequent postings.
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 2008, membership had topped 133,000 registered users, although only about 20,000 were believed to be active posters. 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).
But Stormfront may have been weakened in the summer of 2008, when the Intelligence Report reported that Black's wife Chloe worked for Emilia Fanjul, wife of Florida sugar baron Jose "Pepe" Fanjul, as an executive assistant. Part of Chloe's duties involved serving as a publicist for Glades Academy, a charter school created by Emilia Fanjul to help poor minority children — an irony picked up on by many major media outlets. Despite having a long movement history of her own and having attended an event put on a month earlier by the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens, Chloe Black told The Palm Beach Post that she was "not involved with the Web site and do not agree with extremist or racially prejudiced views." White supremacists were not happy. In racist Web forums, they ripped both Don and Chloe as less than true-blue racists, denouncing them for caring more about money, through Chloe's job, than their beliefs.
In 2010, Black, his son Derek, who has since renounced white nationalism, and Duke took up residence on a South Florida news and talk radio station with a large Haitian audience. This bi-weekly program, hosted by the far right-wing Rense Radio Network, was the predecessor for Stormfront Radio, which now reaches North America, as well as over 100 million homes in Europe and the Middle East, daily via satellite.
Later that same year, Stormfront introduced its now annual “Smoky Mountain Summit” near Knoxville, Tenn. Past speakers have included David Duke, Sam Dickson, a CCC member and well known Klan lawyer, Paul Fromm, Matthew Parrott, of the Traditionalist Youth Network (TYN), Matthew Heimbach, also of TYN, Timothy Murchoch, also known as ‘Horace the Avenger’ of White Rabbit Radio, and Freeland Roy Dunscombe, also known as ‘Truck Roy,’ Don Black’s co-host on Stormfront radio. Plans have already been announced to continue the summit in 2015.
In April of 2014, the Southern Poverty Law Center published a white paper entitled “White Homicide Worldwide” documenting the nearly 100 murders committed by members of Stormfront.
Stormfront had accumulated nearly 300,000 members as of its 20th anniversary as of March 2015. Two months later, that benchmark was officially passed. This growth in membership seems poised to continue, despite declining Alexa Internet traffic ratings (which measure all visitors, not just registered members), as the majority of the radical right continues to use the Internet as its primary means of activism.