Spinning a Web of Hate: Parents Beware: White Supremacists and Neo-Nazis Are Discovering That the Internet Is the Perfect Tool for Recruiting Today's Affluent and Educated Youth
These days the World Wide Web, awash in primary colors and dotted with jolly exclamation points, offers lots of kid-friendly fun. Youngsters can print out coloring-book pages, pore over a crossword puzzle online or flip through an interactive comic strip. Which seems innocuous--until you look closer and see the sites run by white supremacists and neo-Nazis eager to teach children to hate Jews and blacks. The lure may be camouflaged, but the message is clear. The crossword puzzle at the World Church of the Creator's site, a white-supremacist trove, is riddled with racist clues: white children are (fill in the blank). Correct answer: "beautiful." Blacks, referred to by the age-old slur, are... "animals."
Last week a former member of the World Church of the Creator, Benjamin Nathaniel Smith, committed suicide after allegedly killing two and wounding eight Asians, blacks and Jews over a three-day shooting spree. Smith was likely introduced to white supremacy the old-fashioned way--through leaflets and face-to-face meetings. But he's just the type of recruit hate groups are looking for: youthful and well educated. Organizations like the Ku Klux Klan want to expand their ranks beyond aging, less affluent whites, and the Web gives them a powerful tool to attract savvy and privileged Netsters. "The Net has changed everything," says Don Black, a former Klan member who hosts one of the pioneering white-supremacist Web sites--and hopes one day to start his own TV network online. "We suddenly have a mass audience rather than a small clique of subscribers."
Hate groups have always used high-tech means to pass what many say is their nonviolent message. But no other medium has the global reach or the audience (more than 100 million) of the Internet. It's also cheap, allowing users to set up sites from scratch. And fringe groups say they can spread their message unedited and uncensored by the media. "Bright, alienated kids may be particularly susceptible to these efforts," says Jordan Kessler, one of scores of online researchers at the Anti-Defamation League. "The extremists creating these Web sites are not your fathers' Nazis."
Their methods are deceptive. Hate hawkers hold out virtual candy to kids, enticing them with online games, comic strips and music or simply a friendly pitch from another kid. Don Black's Stormfront Web site, brimming with white-supremacy manifestoes, devotes a section to youth. Black says his 10-year-old son runs it, and the site is dressed up with animated banners that read WHITE PRIDE WORLD WIDE. "I have decided to make this a kids' page to reach other kids of the globe," says the son. "I will be adding fun games, contests, polls, etc."
Any kid with a modem can click on carnivals of hate. At the Posse Comitatus site, scroll past the cartoon of a lynched black man (caption: "It's time for old-fashioned American Justice") and you come upon a section dubbed "Jeff's Advice." Jeff is said to be a teenage student, recruited off the Internet, who rails against "government-sponsored lies" (sample: "Hitler slew 10 million Jewish people"). Click over to the Web site of the National Socialist Hitler Youth Legion and you can download "Mein Kampf" or tunes titled "Violent Solution" and "Go Back to Africa." Another section of the same site doles out anti-Semitic software, including a lengthy interactive comic strip depicting Jews as conspiring rodents grubbing for money and power.
Some sites exploit rebellious teens. The Ku Klux Klan site tells teens that they were brainwashed as children ("shows like Sesame Street telling you how great it was to go to an integrated school"), and discriminated against ("there is no White College Fund"). …