When I wrote the piece below The Guardian had recently reported that the far-right is a “historical blip.” Privately I knew that was not the case. I wrote the piece below because I saw the possibility of the internet for the far right and the shift in public opinion today highly suggests that the internet has become a critical component of this shift in public opinion. Today, almost 12 years after its first publication the far right and its xenophobia is firmly fixed in mainstream. What is coming remains to be seen. Perhaps statements by prime ministers in Europe in recent years that multiculturalism is a failure presages something ominous, the “clash of civilizations” which is such a commonplace in people’s mouths and minds these days.
The Word, 2002.
By Gerard Flynn
Hate groups have never been so close to home. Today in the emerging society of information technology they are just a computer terminal away and are thriving in cyberspace, according to hate-monitoring organizations
In seven years, the number of hate groups on line has ballooned from one in 1995 to over 1,200 within the United States today, reaching a potential audience of up to 100 million people, according to the Anti-Defamation League, which tracks hate groups both on-line and off.
White supremacist, Mathew Hale, director of the World Church of the Creator, explained the immense attraction of the Internet in a candid interview with this reporter.
“The Internet gives us the capability to reach people in their homes with minimal efforts. It presents our ideas in an uncensored and non-distilled way, whereas trying to get a spot on the nightly news is more problematic,” he said.
“We have every right to hate,” Hale added. “We are going to keep doing it and no one is going to stop us,” he said.
His “right to speech” is enshrined in the constitution for he is protected under the First Amendment.
Free-speech proponents, such as the American Civil Liberties Union, argue that hate groups should have a right to disseminate their opinions free from any form of censorship and for different reasons, David Goldman, director of Hate Watch, agrees.
“There is a downside to banning their speech; allowing them to speak up, allows us to find out what bigots are saying,” he said.
”It brings them out of the shadows; bigots have done a very good job of hanging themselves with their own words,” he added.
At a recent conference in Germany on the rise of hate groups on the Internet, the German Justice Minister Herta Daeubler-Gemlin criticized the United States government for not sending a delegation, although she said that “…a majority of these groups originate there.”
Despite the popular notion that these groups attract white males from the lower classes of America’s socio-economic strata, the target audience on-line is middle class and higher.
“A special effort is being made,” Goldman said, “ to attract college students and other intellectuals, people who are not stereotypically thought of as hate-group members.”
Hale said he doesn’t know the demographics of his group’s membership, but added that he does know “…we have a lot of young people in the church.”
The rapid rise of hate groups on the Internet does not surprise David Strassler, National Chairman of the ADL.
“The opportunity to reach so many young people, so easily, so inexpensively, is attracting neo-Nazis and other bigots, in addition to ordinary people,” he wrote in the group’s June bulletin.
The ADL considers the racist import Storm Front to be the first hate group to take advantage of the Internet in dispersing its ideology of intolerance.
Beginning as a group of skinheads in England, it began recruiting in the United States in the early eighties and started its on-line website in 1995.
Directed by ex-con Don Black, who learned web design in prison, its American operation has over 8,000 members throughout the United States, the ADL estimates.
The essential beliefs and goals of the hate movement can be viewed on the website of William B. Pierce’ National Alliance.
It expounds a “…thorough rooting out of all non-Aryan values, a new educational system and an economic system based on racial principles and a white living space,” concluding with the ominous, “We will do whatever it takes to achieve this living space.”
Pierce’s lebensraum reflects the traditional white supremacist’s vision of an America of “…white schools, white residential neighborhoods and white work places,” while his educational system is one in which “…the heritage to be passed on is European, serving to instill what is means to be European – a race consciousness.”
As an inveterate racist and conspiracy theorist, Pierce is well known to hate monitors, on-line and off. He is also well known for his work of fiction the Turner Diaries, which has according to American sociologist William Gibson become “…an incredibly influential book.”
Just how influential became clear in Oklahoma City when Timothy McVeigh copied a central scene in the Diaries – detonating a truck bomb outside the headquarters of the F.B.I. – on April 19, 1995.
When McVeigh was pulled over the next day for having no license plates on his pickup, a copy of the book was discovered by the arresting officer in the glove compartment of his vehicle.
Since its publication in 1979 by Vanguard Books – Pierce’s publication house – the Turner Diaries has sold an estimated quarter-of-a-million copies.
According to Jordan Kessler, senior researcher at the ADL, the Sword, another supremacist group, affiliated with Pierce, have planned to poison water supplies in the past, while a member of the Aryan Nations had acquired a vial of bubonic plaque. It was discovered during an F.B.I. raid of their compound in Idaho.
Despite their evolving presence on the Internet and the constitutional difficulty in censoring their message, many hate group have fallen into the pitfall of bankruptcy as a result of a legal strategy pursued by lawyer Morris Dees and others at the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Due to successful court actions, which found hate groups responsible for the actions of their members, the SPLC has won over $40 million in recent years, bankrupting the White Aryan Resistance in 1990, the Christian Knights of the K.K.K. in 1998 and most recently the Aryan Nations in 2000.
However, even with such successes the continued expansion of the Internet into more homes means, Kassler muses, that the future looks probably bright for hate.
“It’s hard to say how successful these groups will be; one never knows what will happen in the future, but by using the Internet, these groups have the potential to reach many more people than ever before, so there is a better chance that they will grow,” he said.