Recruitment efforts of white extremist groups on the Internet were examined using qualitative methods. There is no evidence of a concerted effort to target children at popular locations where children are active on the Internet. Most propaganda writings are not well written and persuasive. White extremists attempt to attract children with text, MP3 music, and games, but their efforts are not well organized and are more reactive than aggressive. Findings are reported for the uses of the Internet, methods employed, and how technology of the Internet contributes to these activities.
Results and Discussion Internet Characteristics of Sites
Hacking, Electronic Terrorism, and Terror Guidance
Summary and Conclusions
Growth of the World Wide Web raises concern about its "dark side" and the need to guard children from pornography, sexual predators, and hate groups. The Web can dispense hate and terror and aid in recruitment by extremist groups. Children and teenagers can be exposed to hate propaganda and online hate recruitment, but there is little knowledge about the actual practices of hate groups online in such efforts. While many monitoring organizations warn about hate groups online, the extent and nature of the recruitment activities of white extremists with children has not been studied in detail. This is a relatively new field of study, both because of the nature of the content and the context.
The purpose of this study was to investigate the methods used by white extremist organizations to recruit youths via the Internet. The following research questions guided the study:
- To what extent are white extremists using the Internet to target children?
- What methodologies are employed by these groups in an effort to appeal to children?
- In what way does the technology of the Internet contribute to these activities?
Gaining direct access to extremist groups is impossible with joining (Blee, 1991; Ezekiel, 1995). The approach used in this study was an adaptation of observational research. Observation of human behavior, or ethnography, is a traditional technique for field settings. Unable to directly observe the behavior of subjects, the analysis of their products and messages on Web sites is the only way to understand their behavior and intentions. Observation provides knowledge of the context in which events occur and enables the researcher to examine aspects that participants are not aware of or unwilling to discuss (Hoepfl, 1997). There is no knowledge of the observer's presence. Field notes included descriptions of settings, activities, sounds, text, and links, and all sites were saved for offline browsing to permit more extensive analysis.
There were 457 hardcore-white extremists groups in the United States in 1999 (SPLC, 1999). Extremist groups can also be classified as white supremacists, Neo-Nazis, Christian Identity, and Holocaust Deniers, but they all share a common message about white purity and superiority and include Jews, Blacks, and homosexuals as targets of their condemnatory attacks. Extremism is characterized by dogmatic intolerance, expressed mildly or violently, and inclines toward an inflexible obedience to an accepted authority, shaped by a common ideology or sense of group unity (Gardner, 1997). Among American white extremist groups, the most distinctive trait is faithfulness to racial purity. Much of their energy is invested in immunizing their members from the effects of the mass media and on recruitment (Billig, 1982).
The subjects for this study were those with prominent Web sites: the Hammerskin Nation, National Alliance, Stormfront, Aryan Nations, and the Word Church of The Creator (WCOTC), selected after a literature review (Ferber, 1998; HateWatch, 2000; Dees & Cocoran, 1996; Gardner, 1997; SPLC, 1999).
Hammerskin Nation. In addition to the United States, the Hammerskin Nation claims to have members in Canada, Australia, Germany, and Britain. The Hammerskins practice "leaderless resistance" and are organized into cells supposedly like the Nazi SS divisions. On the Internet, it functions as a clearinghouse of information and links for the Hammerskin movement as well as for skinheads and other white extremists. Links to white power music vendors and information on a variety of topics of concern to young white extremists are also available. Hammerskin Nation is a neo-Nazi skinhead organization.
National Alliance. The National Alliance is the largest and most active Neo-Nazi group in the United States. Its emphasis on violence makes its Web pages distinctive among those in this study. The National Alliance is a Neo-Nazi organization with a high level of influence and leadership within white extremism. While offering only a limited number of links from its site, the National Alliance is linked to by virtually every white extremist group or organization on the Internet.
Stormfont. Stormfront promotes a message of "White Pride World Wide." A major purpose is the creation of a virtual community for both white extremist families and singles. The site provides direct or indirect links to a variety of extremist sites on the Internet, such as neo-Nazis, skinheads, and various Christian-identity groups that espouse racism, anti-Semitism and Christian fundamentalism. Stormfront is an Internet-based, Neo-Nazi organization.
Aryan Nations. The Aryan Nations functions as a clearinghouse of information and links for the Aryan movement, skinheads, and other extremists. Numerous links provide propaganda and erroneous information about targeted minority groups, Christianity and the Bible, as well as other topics of concern to white extremists including information on acts of terrorism. Aryan Nations has been far less cautious about avoiding or disguising linkages to controversial materials such as bomb making, pirate radio, and computer viruses than any other site in this study. Aryan Nations is a Neo-Nazi, Christian-identity organization with strong ties to the skinhead movement. At the time of this study, the Aryan Nations was involved in a lawsuit, which it subsequently lost and paid substantial fines. Since then its Web site has been inactive.
World Church of The Creator. As a part of the White Identity religious movement, the World Church of the Creator (WCOTC) is both anti-Semitic and anti-Christian. While WCOTC is a loose knit group, it is one of the fastest growing white extremist groups (ADL, 1999). There is an effort to appeal to skinheads on its Web site. WCOTC has made inroads with many individuals and groups, which is demonstrated by its organization, Skinheads of the Racial Holy War, and its use of the slogan RAHOWA, which comprised of the first two letters in each of the words in the phrase.
Data Collection and Analysis
Data collection occurred during a two-week period in the summer of 2000. Much of the Internet operates within the public domain. Copyright-protected materials were examined within the context of educational fair use (U.S. Copyright Office, 2000). Primary documents published on each site's server were the central focus of this study. However, direct links to secondary documents were also included. No attempt was made to collect files, images, or other data from areas that are restricted by membership or fees.
Narrative notes were read, analyzed, and reanalyzed to categorize data based on emergent themes. Using a process of constant comparison, commonalties were found for data and new categories were formulated for data that did not fit into existing categories. Coding of the data followed a method of a categorization into coherent classes for emergent themes. The classes were mutually exclusive.
Evidence From Internet Search Engines
Children may accidentally enter a Web site when searching for school-related information or free, downloadable MP3 music. For example, when researching such topics as Martin Luther King, Jr. or the Holocaust, a child's search can turn up sites such as "Martin Luther King Jr.: A Historical Examination" or "What really happened with the Holoco$t [sic]?" These sites appear to be authoritative, especially to a juvenile, but each site offers historically inaccurate information and extremist versions of historic events and personages. For example, the alternative "King" site (http://www.martinlutherking.org) contains pictures of Dr. King with his family; the text on the links on the main page provide no clue about what will follow, which is anti-King propaganda. The site alleges that Dr. King was an agent of communism, a disruptive force in American history, and accuses him of numerous acts of plagiarism. Stormfront, however, does not link its main site directly to or from the "King" pages. Links to this site were provided by 48 different Web sites, the bulk of them monitoring groups and educational institutions using the site as an example of the need for effective Web evaluation (WebTrends, August 25, 2000).
In the other example, "What Really Happened With the Holoco$t?," there is a revisionist history and Holocaust denial, hosted by the National Socialist Hitler Youth Legion. It links to other revisionist and Holocaust denial sites, including revisionist materials on Stormfront, Hammerskin Nation, and National Alliance's Web sites. These and other Holocaust denial sites are rarely listed on child-oriented search engines such as Yahooligans and AskJeeves, the two most popular search engines for children (MediaMetrix, June 2000). These sites are accessible by using other search engines such as Yahoo, AltaVista, or Fast Search, however.
Evidence From Sites Designed Specifically for Children and Teens
Creativity for Kids. This is a Web site developed by the World Church of The Creator (WCOTC) that offers downloadable coloring book pages and crossword puzzles about "white pride" in a subtle "kid-friendly" format. Materials are written at an age-appropriate level. The site invites children to e-mail questions about the online crossword puzzles. While WCOTC packages hate messages within the context of a religion that is anti-Christian, anti-Jewish, and anti-everyone except whites, its children's section mainly promotes white pride. This site was linked to by only 13 different Web pages and the majority of links to this page were from extremist monitoring sites and other WCOTC pages (WebTrends, August 25, 2000).
Stormfront for Kids. The site is purported to be the Web page of a pre-teen boy, who shares his understanding of the world with his peers, but it is the official "kid's" page and is a highly organized and technologically savvy production. If offers a free download of "White Power Doom" as well as two white power MP3 music files. One page was dedicated to a discussion of the dangers of Pokemon for white children and white culture. Several innocuous links to materials on Celtic culture were also provided. The link to a special children's and teens' chat forum was inoperable. Children visiting the page have comprehensive access to all of Stormfront's online materials as well as to its extensive list of external links. Linkage to the site, however, is limited. A WebTrends search of the page's URL revealed 37 links to the site; its host site, Stormfront, is actually linked to by over one thousand different Web pages (25 August 2000).
Aryan Nations Youth Corps (ANYAC). This site functions as the "youth counterpart of Aryan Nations" (Aryan Nations, 6 August 2000, p. 5). It is designed for "young WHITE ARYAN PEOPLE dedicated to the preservation and building of a racially pure homeland" (p.5). Other than a basic outline of what it means to be an Aryan youth, the site is quite limited in information and appeal. There are no internal or external links associated with the page. However, children who manage to find the page can access plenty of information regarding bomb making and other violent acts by selecting the Aryan Underground link on Aryan Nation's main page. ANYAC is linked to by 61 different Web pages, according to an AltaVista search conducted using WebTrends' popularity-tracking software (25 August 2000).
Hammerskin Nation. This Web site is geared toward teens and young adults with links to all other extremist groups in this study. Links to a variety of other Hammerskin and skinhead groups are provided. The site offers free MP3 downloads and a banner link to Panzerfaust Records. Panzerfaust Records is a Minnesota based music label which specializes in the production and distribution of radical pro-White rock music. In German, Panzerfaust means armored fist.
Additional links to other white power music vendors make the site appealing to teens. Hammerskin Nation employs cutting-edge Internet technology and a user-friendly layout to appeal to its audience. Announcements of events such as concerts as well as up-to-date information on white power news and events enhance the site's appeal. A variety of chat forums serve as a place for youth to meet and share ideas and information. This site also has also engaged in targeting - by name, organization, and e-mail address - its enemies. Despite an obvious effort to appeal to a youthful audience, Hammerskin Nation's official policy is to not allow membership for those under the age of twenty-one. Only 45 links to the page were listed by AltaVista (WebTrends, 25 August 2000).
Evidence From the Discourse AnalysisName Calling
All the extremist groups studied employ various propaganda techniques, but especially name-calling. This technique arouses prejudices by labeling the object as something the target audience should fear or hate. The purpose is to sway the audience to reject a person or an idea because of a perceived negative association of the idea or person with the symbol. The front pages tend to promote "white pride" rather than messages of violence or of ethnic or racial hatred. WCOTC and Hammerskins use epithets more than older, more established groups, such as the National Alliance and Stormfront. Older, more educated white extremists, such as Don Black of Stormfront and Dr. William Pierce of the National Alliance, lead the latter organizations. The term "mud race" is a popular euphemism for non-whites, but just a few clicks into any of these Web sites reveals language that is much more direct, such as "nigger." WCOTC openly defends use of this pejorative term:"This is a deliberate choice of words. As we state on page 49 in NATURE'S ETERNAL RELIGION, if we are for White Racial supremacy then we must stop giving them credit and respect which they did not earn, do not deserve, and never did. Again, it is very strange that the same people who are so affronted by the niggers not getting their "proper respect" are totally unconcerned about the vicious, unwarranted attacks by the niggers and other mud races upon the White Race and will not lift a finger in the defense of their own kind. They seem to deem it quite proper that the niggers should be loyal to their race, the Jews should be loyal to their race, but when the White Man is asked to show a loyalty to his own race, he is immediately denounced, even by members of his own race, as being a racist, a bigot, a Nazi, and many other derogatory smear words that the Jews have concocted." (WCOTC, no date, p. 3)
References to Authority
References to authoritative sources serve a useful function for white extremists. For example, Aryan Nations offers the following information that it claims comes from the Sydney Morning Herald,an Australian newspaper:"Most victims of race crime - about 90 per cent - are White. Almost 1 million White Americans were murdered, robbed, assaulted or raped by black Americans in 1992, compared with about 132,000 blacks who were murdered, robbed, assaulted or raped by Whites. Blacks are committing more than 50 times the number of violent racial crimes of Whites." (Aryan Nations, 6 August 2000).
This is an obvious propaganda technique, presenting erroneous information, not providing alternative sources to show more than one side of an issue or variable estimation. The actual article is not formally cited on the page so checking the facts becomes a greater effort than many readers will be willing to undertake. Of course, children who have yet to develop critical thinking skills may not question authenticity anymore than do millions of adults who respond to hoax anonymous, unsigned, unsourced e-mail messages (e.g., http://www.snopes.com/).
Deference to Documented Authority
The Aryan Nations uses the American Declaration of Independence for justification and imitates it in its Aryan Declaration of Independence (http://www.nidlink.com/~aryanvic/declar.html). A list of grievances about the current federal government, akin to those about the British monarchy, is offered as justification for this call to action against the federal government. Another example of this technique is a reference to Samuel Adams' speech at the Philadelphia State House, made on 1 August 1776 (Stormfront, 14 August 2000, p. 1) on Stormfront's main page. The following excerpt is offered in an effort to legitimize Stormfront's agenda:"If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen." (Stormfront, 14 August 2000, p. 1).
This quotation is taken out of context and used in conjunction with other quotations from notable Americans including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. The quotation suggests a natural ally for a group professing to offer its resources to "those courageous men and women fighting to preserve their White Western culture, ideals, and freedom of speech and association... ." (Stormfront, 14 August 2000, p. 1).
Stormfront's Web site offers numerous quotations from famous Western politicians and philosophers. Each quotation is an anachronism.
Some white extremist groups, such as Aryan Nations, cloak themselves in religion, particularly Christianity, to bolster their claims. Others, such as the World Church of the Creator, bash Christianity, preferring instead their own version of a whites-only Godliness. It is interesting that many extremists call themselves reverend, such as the Reverend Matt Hale of the World Church of the Creator and Reverends Mike Teague and Richard Butler of the Aryan Nations. Religious arguments, which may appeal to some adolescents, often appeal to divine authority, as in this example:"WE BELIEVE [sic] that the Cananite Jew is the natural enemy of our Aryan (White) race. This is [sic] attested by scripture and all secular history. The Jew is like a destroying virus that attacks our racial body to destroyer [sic] Aryan culture and the purity of our Race. Those of our Race who resist these attacks are called "chosen and faithful" John 8:44; 1Thessalonians 2:15; Revelations 17:14." (Aryan Nation, no date, p. 3).
Aryan Nations also uses the Bible to sanction action: "Psalm 149:6 Let the high Praises of God be in their mouth, and a two-edged sword in their hand... ." (Aryan Nations, no date, p. 2). Stormfront uses biblical scriptures to justify its racial philosophy and to encourage action. At Stormfront, Christ is portrayed as anti-Semitic (Stormfront, 14 August 2000).
Scientific ideas, particularly Darwinian evolutionary theory, are used as a justification for many of the ideas promoted by the groups, in particular the National Alliance, Stormfront, and Aryan Nations. Like the Nazis before them, they rely upon a blend of science, ignorance, and mythology to prop up their arguments. For example, the National Alliance advises:"The culture of a race, free of alien influences, is telling evidence of that race's essential nature. The African Negro with a cow-dung hairdo, a bone through his nose, and teeth filed down to sharp points, in other words, presents to us a far more accurate image of the Negro essence than does the American Black in a business suit who has been trained to drive an automobile, operate a typewriter, and speak flawless English ... . Negro culture inferiority is the consequence of the physical inadequacy of the Negro brain in dealing with abstract concepts. On the other hand, the Negro shows an ability approaching that of the White at mental tasks requiring only memory. That is why the Negro can be trained relatively easily to adapt to many aspects of White culture ... . It has been well known since the large-scale intelligence testing of U.S. Army recruits in World War I that the average Negro IQ is approximately 15 per cent below that of the average White. Apologists for the Blacks have tried to explain away the earlier test scores as being due to the effects of segregated schools and Black poverty; i.e. they claimed the tests were "culturally" biased." (Pierce, no date, p. 1).
Individuals or organizations cited as information sources often have apparently impressive credentials that may not bear up under scrutiny. One example is the Institute for Historical Review (IHR), a Web site linked from Stormfront, WCOTC, and many other extremist Web sites. IHR (no date) offers revisionist perspectives about the Holocaust, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Pearl Harbor, Winston Churchill, WWII, Fred A Leuchter Jr., Stalinism and other topics. The site is a sophisticated propaganda effort. Information is neither balanced nor historically accurate. Anne Frank, Simon Wiesenthal, Elie Wiesel, and the U.S. Memorial Holocaust Museum are attacked in numerous articles published by the Institute's online journal. For example:"Influential organizations and much of the western media promote a quasi-religious Anne Frank cult. She has become a kind of secular saint. Along with many other Belsen camp inmates, Anne came down with typhus, from which she died in mid-March 1945. She was not killed or murdered. Anne Frank perished - like millions of others, both Jewish and non-Jewish, in Europe during that terrible time - an indirect victim of history's most devastating war ... . Few people realize that Anne, along with father and sister, and thousands of other Jews, "survived" Auschwitz-Birkenau. Her father, Otto Frank, came down with typhus and was transferred to the camp infirmary there to recover. He was one of thousands of sick and feeble Jews who were left behind when the Germans abandoned the camp in January 1945, shortly before it was overrun by the Soviets. He died in Switzerland in August 1980 ... . If the German policy had been to kill Anne Frank and her father, they would not have survived Auschwitz-Birkenau. Their fate, as tragic as it was, cannot be reconciled with the Holocaust extermination story." (Weber, M., no date, p. 1).
After earlier efforts to deny Anne Frank's existence failed, IHR and other Holocaust deniers now attempt to use her death from typhus to disprove the Holocaust, although they also deny that she wrote the diary. IHR has no association with any legitimate historical organizations or history departments. Links to Holocaust denial sites such as Zendelsite, Revisionism.com, the Blacks and Jews Newspage, as well as other Holocaust denial Web sites around the world reveal the true purpose of the site. The belief of white extremists about the Holocaust as a hoax created by Jews, is explained in this passage:"[The Holocaust] along with Christianity, ranks as one of the biggest lies and biggest hoaxes in history. Privately, among themselves, the Jews published the growth of their total world population between 1938 and 1948, as increasing from approximately 16,600,000 to 17,650,000, an increase of over a million. This would be an outrageous impossibility, if it had been decimated by 6,000,000 during this same period ... . It has reaped tremendous dividends for them. Having worldwide monopoly of the propaganda machinery, they were able to put that lie across with little or no opposition." (WCOTC, no date, p. 3)
Writings archived on the National Alliance and Stormfront Web sites, as well as content linked to by these and all of the other sties included in this study attempt to cast doubt on the reality of the Holocaust by denying historical facts and by attacking survivors and witnesses. By alleging that the Holocaust is part of a world-wide Jewish conspiracy to maintain power and generate money via a "Holohoax" industry, as the term "Holoco$t" suggests."For many years, scholars and researchers have been delving into the history of World War II, and their research has cast a lot of doubt on the commonly accepted 6 million figure for Jewish losses in that war. Now undoubtedly you've heard Jewish spokesmen decrying this movement among historians and researchers to bring our history books into closer accord with the facts. This movement is usually called "revisionism," because of the belief of its adherents that the history of wars is usually written by the victors, and the victors often have a lot of reasons for lying: covering up their own atrocities, and justifying extreme actions taken against those they wish to paint as "evil." But what these Jewish spokesmen haven't told you is that it isn't only Revisionists who have questioned the six million figure. Even establishment historians and even official Jewish "Holocaust" historians have been forced by new studies and documents to drastically revise that figure downward." (Strom, no date)
Testimonials as Authority
Similar to the use of quotes from historical figures, testimonials of "peers" are cited to support or reject a given policy, action, program, or personality. Testimonials give greater emphasis and personalize professions of beliefs as proof to support the veracity of a particular claim. On the Web sites studied, visitors who leave postings in guest books or chat forums often offer testimonials in support of racism. A typical example is the following testimonial purported to be written by a young visitor to National Alliance's Web site:"I just recently graduated high school in southern Oklahoma. I do not consider myself to be a racist, but I noticed that the black students at my school oppressed the white students. They hated the white kids that did not conform to their way. I remember an incident where a friend of mine and another student were playing in the halls, like all kids do, and accidentally bumped into a black kid. I was there, and he did not do it on purpose. He tried to apologize to the black, but by that time a group of other black students were approaching. All the blacks ganged up around my friend, so I stood in his defense. Then out of nowhere one of the black kids spit on me! Of course I then retaliated with a blow to the guy's face, then they all jumped in on me and I was out numbered 6 to 1! The teachers broke up the fight. We were all taken to the office. I tried to explain what had happened to the principal, but he would not listen to my account and sentenced me and the 6 black kids to detention. I thought it to be unfair and a weak stand on his part! And my friend was too scared of them to stand up for me because they had threatened him. That is just one of many instances that I recall. Such a shame the school never made a stand against this and many other occasions like this." (unidentified writer, National Alliance, no date).
Hammerskin Nation has a very active set of chat forums. A form of "pinpointing the enemy" can be found in these exchanges. The following series of postings demonstrate the how testimonials personalize and linking together those who profess to have proof to support the veracity of a particular claim:"Asians in [B]radford at the moment have launched a series of shootings over the last three weeks. none of this has been in national news papers or nationalitv. it does show that the [A]sian population of [B]radford are armed and ready . [A]fter recent riotings [sic] and past all with no arrests isn't [sic] it about time somthing [sic] was done. [A]reas of [B]radford are no go zones for whites [M]anningham just one example. coming from [B]radford [I] find this really bugging not to be able to walk the streets of my home town." (Gavm, Hammerskin Nation Bulletin Board, July 2000)
The reply:"That is a sad situation. Things like that are all too common. I am from Mesa Arizona and the white population seems scarce here. All the [M]exicans and blacks are controling [sic] our streets. They have an attitude that they are better than us and that we won't do anything about it. [W]e need to take back America and the streets. I feel that Whites should be the predominant force in [A]merica. Whites can hardly walk down the street anywhere without being threatened. We must unite." (Satan88, Hammerskin Nation Bulletin Board, August 2000)
The second response:"[T]he [N]iggers in [S]yracuse, [NY] are the same way. [W]e need to unite. the [N]iggers may be 100 or so years behind us when it comes to rational thought and brain power, but, that is what makes those monkeys dangerous." (Skar75, Hammerskin Nation Bulletin Board, August 2000)
At Stormfront, the following testimonial is offered by the young author of the childrens' page:"... my name is Derek. I am eleven years old and I am the webmaster of kids.stormfront.org. I used to be in public school, it is a shame how many white minds are wasted in that system. I am now in home school. I no longer get beat up by gangs of non-whites and Iinstead of tutoring the slowest kids in my class. In addition to my school work, I am also learning pride in myself, my family and my people ... ." (Stormfront for Kids, 2000, p. 1).
In addition to functioning as a testimonial in support of Stormfront's agenda, the post reflects the growing anti-federalism apparent on many white supremacist Web sites.
Evidence of Propaganda Techniques on Web SitesNazi Myth and Symbolism
Nazi mysticism and the cult of Hitler are sustained on the Stormfront and National Alliance's Web sites. In regards to Adolph Hitler, Pierce (1989, p. 1) wrote:"At the spiritual level, the inner differences between Hitler and his contemporaries are even more striking. Hitler was a man with a mission, from the beginning. The testimony of his closest associates, from his boyhood days to the end of his life, agrees with the observations of more distant and impartial observers: Hitler had a mystical sense of destiny, a sense of having been singled out and called by a higher power to devote his life to the service of his race."
The symbols of National Socialism are revered as well:"in the Swastika, [we see] the mission of the struggle for the victory of Aryan man, and at the same time, also the victory of the idea of creative work, which in itself is, and will always be, anti-Semitic ... . The Swastika is the most sacred symbol of our Folk (and as well, of all mankind who strive to live in harmony with Nature). Never flaunt it! Never render it with specious words or with thoughtless, childish racial slurs! Keep it sacred and singular by sheltering it from the eyes of mankind's enemies until the day comes when all will gaze on it with honor and reverence!" (Stormfront, 14 August 2000)
Aryan Nations, Stormfront, and WCOTC use Nazi symbolism on their Web sites to stir emotion. For white extremists, these symbols include but are not limited to the swatiskas, the Totenkopf (Nazi death skull), and the German Iron Cross. Nazi symbols are popular on Stormfront, Aryan Nations, and WCOTC pages.
Appeals to Fear
Great concern is expressed on several white extremist sites about violence against white women. For example, Aryan Nations offers a page called "More of the Wonders of Diversity" (Aryan Nations, 6 August 2000), which graphically details alleged attacks by African-Americans and other minority groups against white females. In each case Aryan Nations portrays the media and the police as defenders of and apologists for the attackers. Despite the fact that most rapes are committed by persons known to the victim (78% of rape victims know the attacker according to U.S. Department of Justice, 1997), the message is that white women are in dire need of white male protection and that real men protect their race and its purity by protecting their women from blacks and other men who seek to take them away from white men or destroy their purity through rape. Of course, the psychological principle of protecting women appeals to male adolescents who often fantasize about being admired and respected by females.
Jumping on the Bandwagon
Many of the sites appeal to a viewer's pride in his race and heritage. The appeal is aimed primarily to Christians, whites, and males to jump onto the bandwagon where they will find like-minded men willing to stand up for their race and protect their women. They are invited to contact the organization and to contribute to or join the group by using online forms.
The use of cartoon characters to act out aggression is popular, especially with Hammerskins and WCOTC-affiliated sites. The National Alliance and Stromfront shy away from blatant displays of violence, even cartoon violence. Cartoons showing characters using weapons such as swords and knives are more rare, but can be found at WCOTC- and Hammerskin Nation-associated sites. Camouflage clad figures give a military, or more specifically a combat, aura to many WCOTC-affiliated sites, such as the White Berets and Skinheads of the Racial Holy War.
Photographs Depicting Violence
Photographs, though rare on the Web sites studied, demonstrate a clear message of action. Violence against minorities and white pride are celebrated in these photographs. It should be noted, however, that although photographs depicting violence are common on skinhead and non-affiliated white extremist Web sites, they were found on only one Web site in the study, that of Hammerskin Nation.
None of the white extremist Web sites included in this case study was included in Media Metrix's list of the top 50 Web sites; nor did they rank in the top 500 Web sites (June 2000). In fact, no white extremist sites appeared on the list. These sites are not popular Internet destinations for the majority of Internet users, including children.
Links To Sites That Offer White Power Music
Important sources of information regarding the connection between cyberspace white extremists and Internet music vendors came from the following sources:
Panzerfaust Records. Panzerfaust is an online vendor of white power music CDs and MP3s. Panzerfaust Records provides links to other white power MP3 sites. While only linked to by 92 different Web pages (WebTrends, 25 August 2000), the site is listed on all major search engines.
Resistance Records. Resistance Records is the leader in the promotion of online "White-Rock." Resistance Records along with the other Internet-based white music vendors is believed to serves as a point of entry into the white extremist world for many teens. It is the only Internet music vendor linked to by the National Alliance. Recently purchased by the National Alliance, Resistance Records offers hate-filled MP3s for sale, links to free MP3s, and a magazine, Resistance Magazine. The site is linked to by 308 different Web pages (WebTrends, 25 August 2000) and is listed on the major search engines.
Vinland Records. In addition to selling CDs, Vinland offers sample titles in the MP3 format. Vinland also offers additional merchandize such as tee shirts for sale on its Web site. Vinland Records attempts to raise money for the Aryan Nations' legal defense fund. The site also offers regular Web broadcasts via its white power radio station. Like the other music vendors in this section, Vinland Records links to all five sites included in the cases for this study. The site is listed by most major search engines but is linked to by only 25 different Web pages (WebTrends, 25 August 2000).
Based upon their linkage numbers, none of these sites could be considered well linked, especially in comparison to MP3.com, which is linked to by over 100,000 different Web sites (see Table 1). While the Internet has led to a rise in popularity of white power music, the genre does not make up a significant portion of the $836 million online music industry (Jupiter Communications, 24 July 2000).
Table 1: Links to Selected Music Sites as a Measure of Popularity
Source: WebTrends, 2000
Online Music Source Links to Site MP3.com 101,945 Panzerfaust 92 Resistance 308 Vinland 25
Approximately 50,000 white power CDs are sold every year in the United States (Davidson, 1998). Many cuts from these CDs, however, are offered for free online by Hammerskin Nation and others. Lyrics are generally violent, often calling for the murder of Blacks or other minority groups. Other lyrics promote the idea of a holy race war between Whites and other racial groups (Davidson, 1998).
Linkages Between White Extremists and Mainstream Music Sources on the Internet
No links to mainstream sources for CDs and MP3, such as heavily visited MP3.com and Napster, were found on any of the examined Web sites. No links between the white power music vendors included in this study and mainstream Internet music vendors were discovered. Some white power music titles are available in Napster's extensive database, but this requires a specific search for particular artists and titles that are only revealed at the time a particular user may be online to share the files. The possibility of young people stumbling upon specific titles or connecting to any white power music vendor by a link from mainstream MP3 or CD music outlets is extremely remote. The number of links to white power music vendors is quite low, especially in comparison to popular download sites, such as MP3.com.
Links to Downloadable White Power Computer Games
A variety of hatemongering videogames are available to children for free over the Internet. These titles tend to focus on hatred of Jews ("The Jew-Rats, The Talmud: Jewish Teachings from the Synagogue of Satan," and "KZ Manager") or white dominance, as in the case of "White Power Doom." While not far removed from other violent video games, enemy objects are personalized by ethnic or minority stereotypes. The only direct link to a downloadable white power computer game was on the Stormfront's children's page, a link is to a zipped file containing "White Power Doom," a computer game that allows children an opportunity to hunt down and kill minority characters. WCOTC offers a patch for "White Power Doom" but the actual game was not located on the WCOTC site during this study. Hammerskin Nation offers information and a link to an online version of "Quake."
Stromfront, National Alliance, and Hammerskin Nation each demonstrate characteristics of an Internet portal site (see Table 2) yet none could be considered as a fully functioning Internet portal. Only Stormfront comes near to offering a majority of standard portal services such as Web hosting, categorized links, and an internal search engine. It lacks only an Internet search engine and free e-mail services.
Stormfront offers Web hosting as part of an effort to support itself financially and to promote its white power philosophy via the Internet. FTP access, Web boards, CGI, and limited e-mail service can be obtained for $30 a month. Subscribers cannot sign up for these services online, however. Stormfront requests that they contact them via regular mail.
Table 2: Characteristics of Internet Portal Web Sites Found on Case Study Web Sites
Source: Information gathered from the World Wide Web, 4 August 2000.
Hammerskin Nation National Alliance Stormfront Aryan Nations WCOTC Web searching no no no no no Site searching yes yes yes no no News no no no no no Free E-mail no no no no no Web Hosting yes yes no no yes Discussion Groups yes yes yes no yes Online Shopping yes yes yes yes yes Links to Other Sites yes yes yes yes yes
Web hosting allows users to use or register their own unique domain name making it harder, but not impossible, to document these groups' links to Stormfront. As of August 2000, sites on Stormfront's server include a white singles dating service, a white nationalist news agency, a white power Internet radio site, and several truth-at-last type sites. Additional sites hosted by Stormfront include "The Rudolf Hess Memorial Page" and "Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr: An Historical Examination." In addition to their obvious ties to Stormfront, all of these sites link to the National Alliance.
Chat Rooms and Discussion Forums
Four of the cases offer discussion forums, or chat rooms, for their visitors. Aryan Nations does not provide an online chat forum. Each case requires participants to register. Certain forums at Hammerskin Nation are restricted to Hammerskins only. Access to them was not possible. The following series of postings demonstrates the effectiveness of these forums in linking together cyberspace white extremists not only in the virtual world of the Internet, but also in reality:"I am an 18 year old male Who want's [sic] to join the HammerSkins in the fight to save our race. I have written two letters to my local chapter and have had no response. I have also written two e-mails Which were returned to me by the server. if you are or know an Arizona HammerSkin please contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org WPWW,[White Power World Wide] Richard R." (Satan88, Hammerskin Nation Bulletin Board, August 2000)
The first reply comes from a reader in Dallas, Texas:"HEY SATAN I AM ORIGIONALLY FROM AZ. BORN IN PHX. RAISED IN MESA.IVE BEEN A SKIN SINCE 89 WAS MADE HAMMERSKIN IN AZ BUT MOVED TO THE CHS REGION.THERE ARE NEW RULES INVOLVED WITH MEMBERSHIP NOW YOU MUST BE 21 TO BECOME A HAMMERSKIN THIS IS SET IN STONE NO EXCEPTIONS.SO YOU WILL HAVE TO WAIT A FEW MORE YEARS TO BE.....88" (Chspycho, Hammerskin Nation Bulletin Board, August 2000)
The second response came from a reader in New Orleans, Louisiana:"You need to get ahold [sic] of a buddy of mine from Arizona, he will let you know what's going on there. He has a web site which is great. You can find his email there, its [sic] as follows www.bta.tzo.com" (Stormtrooper, Hammerskin Nation Bulletin Board, August 2000)
These three posts from the same threaded discussion demonstrate the effectiveness of specific sites and the Internet in linking white extremists.
Video, audio, and text files are shared in a cost-effective manner via the sites examined in this study. Downloadable pamphlets, fliers, articles, and newsletters are all offered. The National Alliance recently began providing files in the popular PDF format. Stormfront offers a graphics page; most offer audio files for download as well.
Co-branding occurs when two or more partners work together to promote a product or idea, or to get a target audience to go from a popular site to a less popular Web site (O'Keefe, 1997). Several examples of co-branding occur on the sites studied. The National Alliance displays a large banner ad for Resistance Records. Clicking on the banner takes the visitor directly to Resistance Records (RR). RR is the only white power music vendor linked to by the National Alliance. Panzerfaust Records and the Hammerskin Nation promote the other displaying linked logo graphics to one another's Web sites. The relationship between these two sites is more informal that that between RR and the National Alliance, however. Aryan Nations was involved in a major lawsuit at the time of the study, so Vinland Records, along with several other white power music vendors, participated in an online fundraiser for Aryan Nations' legal defense fund. During August 2000, Vinland Records offered a free white power CD to each individual donating $15 to the legal defense fund (Vinland Records, no date). Vinland Records is the only music vendor linked to by Aryan Nations. The relationship between these two sites appears to be informal, however.
Several of the white extremist Web sites engage in online marketing of merchandise. Although Hammerskin Nation is not set up for e-commerce activities such as online purchasing, it offers logo tee-shirts, hats, and patches. Books, audio and video cassettes, and other items are sold by the National Alliance's National Vanguard Books. Titles include U.S. Army handbooks on survival, munitions, incendiaries, and guerrilla warfare, "The Turner Diaries," and titles by Jack London, regarded as a National Socialist. English and Germany language versions of Mein Kampf are also available.
The National Alliance also offers a children's book section intended to"... serve a racially constructive purpose by providing White role models, instilling White values, or building a sense of White identity through the teaching of White history and legend. Sometimes, as in the case of fiction intended more for enjoyment than for edification (an example is Wind in the Willows), the constructive purpose may be subliminal, but it is still there." (National Alliance, no date, p. 14).
As to why it is important to offer these books to white children, the National Alliance argues"... publishers have been under extreme pressure from Jewish and Judeo-Christian groups for more than a decade to issue children's books which encourage racial mixing. Thus, most newly published books of fairy stories now routinely include Black and Oriental myths alongside "Cinderella" and "Sleeping Beauty," and illustrated children's fiction often portrays racially mixed groups of children." (National Alliance, no date, p. 14).
Visitors can donate money electronically or pay their membership dues online using National Alliance's secure server. A banner ad for Resistance Records leads to more e-commerce activities that support the National Alliance. Visa and MasterCard are accepted at both sites. Stormfront engages in e-commerce by using a secure auto cart system. Visitors can purchase white power merchandise including shirts and make a donation to Stormfront by using Visa, MasterCard, or Discover cards. The White Heritage Emporium, linked to directly from a banner ad on Stormfront's main page, appears to be the host site for this store, however. Stormfront also offers a variety of books on its "Truth at Last" site, but all orders must be mailed to "Truth at Last" because this page is not equipped for online purchasing.
Aryan Nations sells audio and videotapes, flags, a newsletter, various pamphlets, leaflets, posters, and Aryan regalia including coffee mugs and tee shirts. Books such as Mein Kampf and The Aryan Youth Primer and some Nazi music titles are sold. Links to white power music provider Vinland Records appears on several pages. Aryan Nations is not set up for e-commerce.
WCOTC engages in a low-tech version of e-commerce; it provides a printable order form online. A link to an off-site secure server allows for more e-commerce activities for WCOTC, however. T-shirts, magnets, posters, and other paraphernalia are available by using this site's secure server. This off-site e-commerce site is the only page associated with WCOTC that has a privacy statement.
Aryan Nations visitors - via a link on the Aryan Underground site - may obtain information about e-mail bombing programs. The link is to Chaostic, an underground site that provides access to numerous zipped e-mail bombing programs and pornography, anarchy literature, and game "cheats" among other offerings. Each mail program comes with a brief description of its basic functions and strengths. These programs allow white extremists to potentially engage in denial of service (DOS) attacks, e-mail forgery (spoofing), and cyberslander.
E-Mail and Usenet
E-mail allows white extremists to collect the names and addresses of anyone whose demographics or ideology matches their own interests. Each Web site in this study invites visitors to sign a guest book, join a mailing list, or contact the Webmaster for more information about the organization. Many do all three. On-site discussion forums and electronic mailing are replacing Usenet. Also, the providers can better control access to these communication tools.
Infiltrating Chat Rooms
WCOTC urges its members to participate in an Internet Blitzkrieg. The aims of this Blitz are disruption and recruitment:"An Internet Blitzkrieg is planned for all White Racial Loyalists to participate in ... . The Internet has the potential to reach millions of White People with our message and we need to act on that immediately, before the jews [sic] pass laws prohibiting us from expressing our religious beliefs. We call on all Creators and White Racial Loyalists to go to chat rooms and debate with and recruit new people, and post our URL everywhere, as soon as possible." (Hale, 2000, p. 12).
The article goes on to suggest a variety of ways in which Creators can spread the word about the church and its Web site. It suggests Creators use a good search engine to locate chat rooms and then post WCOTC's URL in as many chat rooms as possible.
Information and Guidance for Terrorists
Aryan Nations and Hammerskin Nations both provide links to information on terrorism, including electronic terrorism. Aryan Nations' link to Aryan Underground, a clearinghouse of information for those wishing to take action, is a clear indication of its political agenda and its ties to various skinhead groups. Aryan Underground provides a diverse set of links on topics ranging from urban guerrilla warfare to directions for building a grenade launcher. The "Christian Guide to Small Arms" shares space with articles detailing how to build a better bomb, how to set up a pirate radio station, and how to go underground. Aryan Underground also provides e-mail contact information on skinhead cells operating in the United States and abroad.
Links are provided to numerous cyberspace white extremist organizations, including all of the cases in this study, except for WCOTC. Aryan Underground also links to Beam's "Leaderless Resistance" and to Panzerfaust and Resistance Records. A link to Chaostic provides additional information on explosives, mail bombs, and exploits. Numerous computer virus files and downloadable versions of various anarchy and terrorism manuals such as the "Anarchist Cookbook" and "The Terrorist Handbook" are available as well.
Like Aryan Nations, Hammerskin Nation provides links to terrorist information. Hammerskin Nation takes this activity a step further, however, hosting its own cyber-terrorist page. Hammerskin Nation's cyber-terrorist page offers a section on computer viruses and hacking software. The Webmaster introduces this section with the following disclaimer:"Below are files that can cause serious damage too [sic] your computer if they are opened. If you screw up your pc by opening these files, it is not my responsablity [sic]. This is for entertanment [sic] use only. Use them at your own risk!!!!!!" (Hammerskin Nation, 2000, p. 11).
All of these viruses are old and are of little danger to computers running updated anti-virus software programs (HateWatch, 17 August 2000), yet the potential exists for more dangerous viruses to be uploaded and shared with visitors. In addition to the 10 posted viruses, Hammerskin Nation's cyber-terrorist page also offers two password-stealing programs, and one program for hacking into password-protected Web sites. The page also offers a direct link to the online version of "The Terrorist's Handbook," which has information on explosives and propellants, ignition devices, timers, projectile weapons, rockets, tear gas recipes, and chemical suppliers. Online-referenced materials include "The Anarchist Cookbook," the Uncle Fester series of how-to manuals about pipe and firebomb design, and "School Stopper," a guide to disruptive high school behavior. In addition to providing directions for creating a variety of devices, the site links to a mix of organizations, including anti-racist, racist, Fascist, and Nazi organizations as well as anarchist, libertarian, communist, separatist, liberal, and conservative political groups.
Promotion of the Lone Wolf Mentality via the Internet
All of the sites in this study promote the "lone wolf" worldview. For example, Louis Beam's influential work, Leaderless Resistance, is linked to by Stormfront, Aryan Nations, and Hammerskin Nation. The majority of writings on the National Alliance Web site promote this mentality to varying degrees. This excerpt from the National Alliance's Resistance Records site reflects the organization's attitude toward the individual who takes action:"He is someone who loves his Race and his Land more than he is concerned for his own welfare. He is neither an intellectual snob nor a street brawler. He is intelligent and educated enough to know what he is fighting for and brave enough to stand up for his beliefs when push comes to shove. He is someone who practices what he preaches, and who backs up his words with his deeds. He is definitely not someone who is long on talk and short on action." (Walker, D., 1999, p. 1)
According to the National Alliance's Walker, a political solider is one who is smart enough not to waste his talents or his actions in "a premature military strike against our enemies [that] would be the height of foolishness ..." (Walker, D., 1999, p. 2). However, he will be ready for action when the time is right. Walker advises those who wish to act as soldiers for the cause to continue reading his postings because "... we will provide guidance and instruction for the Political Soldier. We will do our part and we trust that you will do yours: Your Race is depending on it!" (Walker, D., 1999, p.3).
Aryan Nations offers a direct link to Aryan Underground, a site that functions as an online cyber-terrorism how-to manual. In conjunction with the topics discussed earlier in this section that advocate Lone Wolf actions, advice is offered to the Lone Wolf:"Always start off small. Many small victories are better than one huge blunder (which may be the end of your career as a Lone Wolf). Every little bit counts in a resistance ... . The less any outsider knows, the safer and more successful you will be ... . Communication is a good thing, but keep your covert activities a secret. This will protect you as well as others like you ... . Never keep any records of your activities that can connect you to the activity ... . The more you change your tactics, the more effective you will become. Random chaos is never predictable... . Have a "rainy day" fund set aside in a safety deposit box (out of your local area and not in a high activity area), complete with new ID just in the event that something unexpected goes wrong." (Aryan Underground, no date, p. 8).
Additional advice pushes the limits of acceptable speech:"Never utter more than the 5 Words to any agent or representative of ZOG: "I Have Nothing To Say." There are no exceptions. Anyone who does talk must be shunned from the movement forever ... . Former associates of the talker may consider much harsher punishment ... . Exist and fight as lone wolves or in a small cell and you will last longer and be at peak performance." (Aryan Underground, no date, p. 8).
Despite decrying illegal behavior, specific and detailed information on dealing with a police encounter is offered on both Hammerskin Nation and the WCOTC's Web sites. Stormfront's "Truth at Last" page engages in an interesting mix of "decrying" (Fields, no date, p., 4) violence while explaining how violence is compelled by circumstances, as illustrated in this passage addressing the actions of Lone Wolf Benjamin Smith during his 1998 Midwest killing-spree:"Truth at Last decries the violence, terrorism and loss of life at the hands of Benjamin "August" Smith, formerly of the World Church of the Creator, and particularly wherein it has impacted on innocents. Truth at Last notes that August Smith was a law student and had aspirations of becoming an attorney. August Smith noted the denial of a law license to [WCOTC's] Matt Hale and no doubt concluded that his fate would be the same. August Smith would have concluded that it was Jewish ideologues who stood adverse and triumphant. August Smith would have chafed at this Jewish corruption of the licensing of attorneys. It is a matter of record that August Smith was impelled to action, how ever [sic] imprudent." (Fields, no date, p, 4).
In this context the word "impelled" is taken to mean compelled, bound, or obligated to take action. The concluding passage urges the federal government to learn the lessons of Smith's actions:"Oppressive laws can have unintended consequences. Let us ponder the question. Have we entered a cycle of ever more oppressive laws resulting in ever more paranoia with more rash acts and ever more oppressive laws and more paranoia and more rash acts?" (Fields, no date, p, 4).
WCOTC also sent out mixed messages regarding Smith's crime spree. WCOTC's Hale writes of Smith:"He was a selfless man who gave his life in the resistance to Jewish/mud tyranny - a man who for whatever reason ultimately decided that violence was the way to strike back against the enemies of our people - enemies who had used violence against our people for centuries. He was loyal to the core and who always put the interests of his Race before his own. He was a man who, while moody, you always knew was true to Creativity. While with me anyway, he did not talk a great deal, it was always obvious by his action where he stood ... the society in which he (as well as ourselves) was forced to live is so thoroughly disgusting that only the most denatured man or woman would not ever, however breifly [sic], comtemplate [sic] doing what he did. With mongrel monstrosities walking the streets, soaring "hate" crime against White people everywhere, a government in the hands of the most bestial gang in history - the Jews, and the White masses largely in stupor, it is actually surprising that more of our White Racial Comrades have not acted as August acted. That the Church does not condone his acts does not affect the reality that when a people is kicked around like a dog, someone might indeed be bitten ... . Our Brother August Smith will continue to live on in all of us. His actions resulted in Creativity being brought to the attention of the world. Now it is up to us to utilize the attention Creativity has received and ride the wave of publicity which his actions either intentionally or unitentionally [sic] created for us. This is what he would have wanted, and what we must indeed do. RAHOWA!" (Hale, no date, p. 1).
Stormfront provides a moderated forum where Internet privacy and encryption techniques are discussed, such as WebVault and MailVault. These programs allow users the option of destroying an e-mail after sending it or of setting an e-mail to self-destruct after a time lapse. It is an effective way of assuring that unauthorized individuals or organizations cannot easily read or scan e-mails for keywords. Links to online sources of this software are posted in the encryption forum.
At least one post to Hammerskin Nation's public access Web-based bulletin board service during the data collection period addressed the issue of computer hacking:"Anyone here into hacking? And if so, any of you has a *good* wu-ftpd 2.6.0 remote exploit? I found some versions on the web, but they were all broken. Thanks!"88 (Hammerskin Nation Bulletin Board, August 2000)
No responses were posted during the data collection period, however. Little awareness of the real hacking culture on the Internet was evident, including "black hat" hackers who prefer to be called "crackers" or "packet monkeys" depending on what sort of illegal hacking they engage in (Burrough, 2000, p. 214). None of the sites, even those linking to some hacking information, provided links to the Web sites at the heart of the Web "cracking" sub-culture. A genuine awareness of the methods, or even the jargon, of the "cracking" sub-culture was not apparent on any of the sites. Hammerskin Nation's effort to appear involved in the hacking culture is anemic, based on the evidence in its public area. What occurs in its membership restricted area is unknown.
White extremists are interested in recruiting children and others via the Internet, but recruitment of children is more reactive than proactive and far less aggressive than suggested by many in the literature. There is no evidence that the five groups in this study engage in a concerted effort to target children at popular locations where children are known to be active on the Internet. The assumption that a message is more appealing to children just because it is presented on a Web site must be proved. While the visual and interactive content on most of these sites may be more attractive and may make white extremist literature more accessible, that does not mean that children, in general, will find the message appealing.
Certainly, the greater the amount of material available, the greater the likelihood that some children looking for something to believe in or somewhere to belong will be pulled into this culture, as happens in gangs and other counter-culture youth groups (Ezekiel, 1995). Children who lack a sense of belonging or strong parental or adult role models are at risk of finding these groups appealing. The WCOTC, Aryan Nations, and Hammerskin Nation offer strong male authority figures who emit a sense strong leadership, nurturance, and caring, particularly for susceptible teenage males.
Applying an analysis of propagandist's techniques to these Web sites revealed various ways in which cyberspace white extremists use the Internet to present their message to a wider audience, including children. With the exception of Stormfront and WCOTC, both of which have authored and published special children sections, few materials are designed to appeal directly to young children. The bulk of the writings on the main Web sites, while demonstrating many of the traditional elements of propaganda, are not well-written, persuasive pieces likely to sway opinions and may be beyond the attention span of many children. The most sophisticated technical writing and prose is devoted to the Holocaust and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. These materials are meant to create doubt and confusion in young minds, even as they reinforce attitudes and opinions of mature readers, but how many children or teens would take the time to read the content is debatable.
More worrisome is the connection between white extremist Web sites and Internet music and video entertainment sources, which has been an issue of concern for monitoring groups. There is a clear link between and among the five sites in the study and popular Internet white power music vendors. Links to online music sources marketing the niche music abound; popular among young white extremists are white rock, white punk, white country, black metal, and so forth. Because of their linkage, these music vendors have the capacity to function as gateways to white extremists. However, white power music is an effective recruitment tool that appeals primarily to disaffected youth. While a few online white power computer games are available, so far the extremist groups do not use downloadable video games as an integral part of youth recruitment. In general, however, there is not much evidence that many children and teens are especially interested in either the video games or the music, preferring more popular mainstream MP3 music and video games instead. The co-branding of white power music vendors with cyberspace white extremists Web sites has the potential to reap both exposure and financial advantages for all involved. As the online music industry evolves and develops into a massive endeavor, white power music is likely to grow also, but this is only speculation.
The Internet plays a crucial communications role in the glorification of the philosophy of revolution. Promotion of the Lone Wolf perspective allows these groups to avoid legal responsibility for actions committed by visitors to their Web sites who may be inspired and incited to action. Direct marketing via the Internet supplements traditional sales. It allows white extremists to privately purchase items that may not be found in their local areas. Online sales assist in creating brand name awareness for each of the cyberspace white extremist organizations. Since the costs of selling merchandise online are minimal and several of the sites already accept credit cards, commercial activity will continue to grow, although the appeal to consumers depends on many factors.
Hammerskin Nation functions as a gateway to information on cyber-terrorism. In addition to providing links to an extensive collection of "how to" articles, Hammerskin Nation provides a direct link to the "Terrorist Handbook." From that page additional terrorist manuals such as the "Anarchist's Cookbook" are readily accessible. These sites offer detailed information on purchasing needed supplies and assembling a variety of destructive devices. To a lesser extent, Aryan Nations functions as a gateway to cyber-terrorism. A direct link to the Aryan Underground site allows access to a variety of terrorism "how-to" sites, including the underground Chaostic Web site.
Some groups, such as HateWatch, anticipate an alliance between white extremism and the online hacking community, but no real connections were found between the sites studied and well-known hacker groups or Web sites. It is interesting, however, that the Klan's Web site was hacked by "socially conscious" hackers who diverted its users to HateWatch's site (HateWatch, 2000). If the computer hacking information supplied by Hammerskin Nation is an indication of the current state of affairs, white extremists are largely ignorant of sophisticated techniques for hacking and their information will not impress serious hackers.
These observations and analyses lead to the following findings:
- Cyberspace extremist groups do not currently pose a significant threat to children because they are insular, they are not well-linked into the mainstream of Internet society, and their recruitment efforts are not well organized. Online recruitment efforts are opportunistic rather than aggressive in nature. Judging from the number of links to these Web sites by other organizations and groups, interest is minimal and the most interested are monitoring organizations.
- Cyberspace white extremists are sophisticated Holocaust deniers. Historical revisionism is commandeered and used to give Holocaust denial efforts an aura of legitimacy that may create doubt and confusion in young minds.
- While music and video games can serve as effective recruitment tools, the white power offerings over the Internet from cyberspace white extremists are not widely available to children or necessarily of any particular interest to them.
- The Internet is a catalyst for cohesiveness for groups of white extremists groups that are geographically dispersed. The linkage between and among these sites creates a virtual economic agglomeration that is mutually beneficial to them and it aids in the establishment of a virtual enclave of white extremism.
Internet users, including children, need to be made aware of basic security procedures available to them through their Web browsers or service providers when online. Society and its elected representatives must decide whether existing laws, particularly those regulating communications, are in need of revision. Individuals or organizations targeted electronically by these groups have a moral if not legal right to protection. All threats to individuals or organizations made via the Internet should be taken seriously by law enforcement. However, efforts to pass laws aimed at controlling the online behavior of groups such as cyberspace white extremists must be constitutionally acceptable. Finally, parents and educators should consider the merits of teaching children media literacy and critical thinking rather than relying upon filtering software.
About the Authors
Beverly Ray is Director of Technology Development at the Laboratory for Interactive Technology in Education (LITE) at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa.
George E. Marsh II is Professor in Instructional Leadership and Instructional Technology at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa.
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Paper received 8 January 2001; accepted 29 January 2001.
Copyright ©2001, First Monday
Recruitment by Extremist Groups on the Internet by Beverly Ray and George E. Marsh II
First Monday, volume 6, number 2 (February 2001),
A Great Cities Initiative of the University of Illinois at Chicago University Library.
© First Monday, 1995-2017. ISSN 1396-0466.