Monday, July 6, 2015

White Supremacists Extend Their Reach Through Websites - NYT

White Supremacists Extend Their Reach Through Websites

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In late June, as much of the nation mourned the killing of nine parishioners in a Charleston, S.C., church, The Daily Stormer, a white supremacist website, was busy posting articles on a different issue: black crime against white people. “Adolescent Ape Jailed for Murdering White Man Out of Boredom,” one headline blared.
And after Dylann Roof, a white 21-year-old high school dropout and the apparent author of a vitriolic anti-black diatribe, was arrested and charged with the killings, commenters on another white supremacist site, <a href="http://Stormfront.org" rel="nofollow">Stormfront.org</a>, lamented something else: the possibility of the massacre’s leading to gun control. “Jews want the white man’s guns. End of story,” one person wrote from Utah.
In the wake of the church massacre, many white supremacist groups have rushed to disavow any link to Mr. Roof and any role in the murders. And while Mr. Roof appears to have been in contact with some white supremacists online, investigators say it does not appear that those people encouraged or assisted in the deadly shootings.
Still, the authorities say, Mr. Roof had clearly embraced their worldview. As investigators comb through the data streams of Mr. Roof’s electronic equipment, a four-page manifesto apparently written by him before the killings offers a virtual road map to modern-day white supremacy. It contains bitter complaints about black crime and immigration, espousing the virtues of segregation and debating the viability of an all-white enclave in the Pacific Northwest.
Magnets on Mr. Black's refrigerator in West Palm Beach, Fla. Many adherents of the modern white supremacy movement have as a goal the restoration of white authority in America, or, if that proves impossible, the creation of a white enclave protected by its own army.
Ryan Stone for The New York Times
That manifesto has refocused attention on a shadowy movement that, for all its ideological connections to the white racists of the past, is more regionally diverse and sophisticated than its predecessors, experts say.
They say it is capable, through its robust online presence, of reaching an audience far wider than the small number of actual members attributed to it.
“There’s really not a lot out there as far as membership organizations,” said Don Black, who runsStormfront.org. “But there is a huge number, I think more than ever, as far as people actively working in some way to promote our cause. Because they don’t have to join an organization now that we have this newfangled Internet.”
Experts dispute the number of movement supporters but agree about its efforts to modernize. While the virulent racism of old can still be found online, the movement today also includes more button-down websites run by white nationalism think tanks with vanity publishing units. Most of the best-known organizations also claim to have disavowed the violence of groups like the Ku Klux Klan.
Mr. Black's website is an example of how the white nationalist movement has been rendered more anonymous by the Internet.
Ryan Stone for The New York Times
Richard B. Spencer, the 37-year-old president of the white nationalist National Policy Institute in Whitefish, Mont., embodies this new generation.
He holds a master’s degree from the University of Chicago and studied for a doctorate in history at Duke University. Now he runs an organization that produces papers on issues like racial differences in intelligence and the crime rate among Hispanic immigrants.
“America as it is currently constituted — and I don’t just mean the government; I mean America as constituted spiritually and ideologically — is the fundamental problem,” he said in an interview. “I don’t support and agree with much of anything America is doing in the world.”
But precisely because the movement is more atomized and has been rendered more anonymous by the Internet, law enforcement officials say it has become harder to track potentially violent lone-wolf terrorists who might draw inspiration from white supremacist sites without being actively involved in the organizations.
“White supremacist lone wolves pose the most significant domestic terrorist threat because of their low profile and autonomy — separate from any formalized group — which hampers warning efforts,” said a Department of Homeland Security report issued in 2009. The report came under fierce criticism from conservatives, who said it unfairly painted them as terrorists.
If the movement has a leading edge, it is <a href="http://Stormfront.org" rel="nofollow">Stormfront.org</a>, an online discussion forum. With about 40,000 visitors a day, it is perhaps the most popular supremacist site in the world based on page views, with more than a million a month (a figure that includes repeat visitors).
Mr. Black, its 61-year-old proprietor, straddles the movement’s generational divide: a grand dragon of the Ku Klux Klan in Alabama decades ago, he later ushered in the movement’s Internet era with <a href="http://Stormfront.org" rel="nofollow">Stormfront.org</a> in 1995, and followed up with a two-hour weekday Internet radio show.
Stormfront’s website, operated by Mr. Black out of his home in West Palm Beach, Fla., features the slogan “White Pride World Wide.” It is primarily a chat room, with discussion threads that range from innocuous cooking tips to diatribes against gays, immigrants, Jews and blacks.
Mr. Black said he had broken from the Klan because it had a history of “random and senseless violence.” But he also said he could not rule out violent conflict as white people tried to promote what he called “our heritage, our values,” and attempted to realize the dream of a separate all-white enclave.
“I personally would like to see it play out peacefully,” he said. “Unfortunately I took too many history classes, and history is not filled with a lot of peace. America is becoming balkanized just like the Balkans; we are breaking apart because of Hispanics — particularly in the Southwest — and other races.”
Mr. Black was visited last week by F.B.I. agents seeking information about Mr. Roof’s online associates, though he said there was no evidence that anybody had encouraged Mr. Roof to commit murder.
“This could obviously become overly broad and become a First Amendment issue,” Mr. Black said, adding that such inquiries could have a chilling effect on free expression in online posts. He would not comment when asked if he had been served with a subpoena but said lawyers were involved.
A young challenger to Stormfront.org’s influence is The Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi mixture of message boards and sarcastic commentary begun by 30-year-old Andrew Anglin in 2013. He started it amid a national uproar over the killing in Florida of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed 17-year-old black youth, by a neighborhood watch monitor, George Zimmerman. Mr. Anglin was born in 1984. Like Mr. Black, he has a podcast
The Daily Stormer offers frequently updated content, much of it provocatively raw and written by Mr. Anglin, who declined to be interviewed for this article but is believed to run the site out of suburban Columbus, Ohio. In a post on Friday headlined “Spineless Jewpublicans Respond to the Donald,” Mr. Anglin took to task virtually the entire Republican presidential field for criticizing Donald Trump’s statements on Mexican immigrants.
Several organizations — the National Policy Institute, American Renaissance, the Charles Martel Society and its website The Occidental Observer — try to take a more highbrow approach, couching white nationalist arguments as academic commentary on black inferiority, the immigration threat to whites and other racial issues.
There are also two prominent groups with deep ties to the South: the Council of Conservative Citizens, which evolved from the pro-segregationist White Citizens Councils, and the League of the South, a sparsely trafficked site for hard-core secessionists. The manifesto attributed to Mr. Roof cited the council’s website as a source of information about black-on-white crime.
Many groups are said to be financially challenged. For instance, <a href="http://Stormfront.org" rel="nofollow">Stormfront.org</a> struggles to raise $7,500 a month from about 800 “sustaining members” to cover expenses, Mr. Black said.
The exceptions are found among the highbrow organizations: The National Policy Institute and the Martel Society were founded and have been aided by William H. Regnery II, heir to a far-right publishing empire who also oversees a brace of anti-immigration lobbying groups. The Pioneer Fund, a 78-year-old nonprofit foundation that has stoked controversy with its interest in eugenics, also has aided the policy institute and American Renaissance.
In 2004, leaders of the movement met in New Orleans, ostensibly to celebrate the release of David Duke, the former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, who had been imprisoned for fraudulent fund-raising. There, eight major organizations signed an agreement intended to define the modern supremacist movement according to three unifying principles: honorable behavior among all signatories, a high tone in public presentations and zero tolerance for violence.
The degree to which followers of those groups have maintained the nonviolence pledge remains in dispute.
But the manifesto attributed to Mr. Roof included a chilling complaint about the movement’s disavowal of violence. “We have no skinheads, no real KKK, no one doing anything but talking on the Internet,” the paper read. “Well, someone has to have the bravery to take it to the real world, and I guess that has to be me.”
Supremacist groups remain divided by rivalries and philosophical disputes. Those differences sometimes obscure a common goal: to re-establish exclusive white control of the United States or, should that prove impossible as many groups now concede, to build an all-white enclave with its own government and an army to defend it.
The League of the South seeks a second Southern secession. The Daily Stormer’s Mr. Anglin last month proposed building a white city, possibly in a foreign venue.
Mr. Spencer, who runs the National Policy Institute, said in an interview that he fantasized about an Aryan revival in the style of the Roman Empire. Others have proposed a white enclave in the Pacific Northwest, or “little Europe” towns across America.
Stormfront’s Mr. Black does not just talk about such aspirations: He spent two years in federal prison for an ill-fated attempt in 1981 to seize the Caribbean island of Dominica for conversion into an all-white paradise, financed by brothels and casinos. The authorities stopped him and his group as they were boarding a yacht with plans to stage a Dominica coup.
Where the masses will be found to establish such audacious and widely condemned ventures is not clear, even to their proponents. But Mr. Spencer noted that Karl Marx had founded communism with no adherents and a simple manifesto. Mr. Black said he believed the online supremacist movement was not merely large but growing.
The Anti-Defamation League has identified some 10,000 white supremacists on websites and on social media like Facebook. But many more are said to be more like Mr. Roof, invisible and surfacing online only to make anonymous comments. Stormfront claims 300,000 registered members, although Mr. Black said only a small fraction were active on the site. Some 95 percent of the site’s visitors, he said, are anonymous outsiders.
Among the dozen or so main white supremacist websites, daily page views range from fewer than 1,000 to as many as 40,000, although that figure includes repeat page views.
An analysis of traffic to several major supremacist websites shows that many attracted spikes in interest late last year, around the time that anger over the shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, by a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo., was touching off protests in cities and towns across the nation. But it remains far from clear whether it translated into a larger following for any of the groups.
Estimating the size of the white supremacy movement is “a murky guessing game,” said Donald P. Green, a Columbia University professor and expert on hate crimes, because many racists are unwilling to declare a belief that mainstream Americans find abhorrent.
Gauging its impact on the Charleston murders, he said, is even harder.
“The idea that you could reaffirm someone’s ideology and maybe even sharpen or focus it on a particular target is something these sites are capable of doing,” Mr. Green said.
As for the church shooting suspect, Mr. Roof, “We don’t know whether that was a marker for his violent predispositions or might be the cause of them,” Mr. Green said. “It might be both.”
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Why White Supremacists Want a Race War

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A sign is pictured at a makeshift memorial for victims of a mass shooting, outside the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, June 22, 2015. Dylann Roof, was arrested on Thursday and charged with nine counts of murder for gunning down members of a Bible study group at the church, nicknamed "Mother Emanuel", after sitting with them for an hour on Wednesday night.Carlo Allegri/Reuters
Two visions of Christianity are in conflict in South Carolina, although one party may not be aware of the war. Charleston’s African-American community has long been part of what Martin Luther King Jr. called “A Mighty Army of Love.” And in their forbearance and grace in the face of the recent massacre at the Emmanuel AME Church, they represent the finest legacy of that tradition. But another form of Christianity, with a dark and largely unrecognized history, has been marshalling its forces for quite some time.
Dylann Roof is believed to have murdered the church congregants for the purpose of starting a race war. In doing so, he embodied this ideology, one so insidious and pervasive among white supremacists that Roof may not have recognized its fingerprints on the websites that seem to have radicalized him. Known today as Christian Identity, its lineage stretches back to Victorian England, as a form of pseudo-anthropology that taught that white Europeans, not Jews, were the true chosen people. In America, this theology became decidedly racist and anti-Semitic through the 1920s and ’30s, and ultimately more militant toward the end of World War II.
Its most vocal proponent was radio minister Wesley Swift, whose Christian Identity sermons reached thousands of listeners and were taped and distributed to white supremacists across the United States in the 1960s. On a weekly basis, Swift taught Biblical lessons that would shock any conventional Christian: Eve engaged in not one conjugal relation in the Garden of Eden (with Adam), but two (the second with the Serpent); those who call themselves Jews are not really the chosen people but offspring of that second relationship—literally children of the Devil; these demonic offspring have engaged in a multi-century, cosmic conspiracy against white Europeans; they do so by manipulating sub-human minority groups (especially blacks) against whites, and all of this will culminate in Armageddon—a holy race war. Roof may have accepted the basic humanity of Jews, but his manifesto did speak about “Jewish agitation of the black race” and the need to exterminate the Jewish identity.
Scholars have missed the implications of this ideology, and the role it played in countless acts of terrorism within the United States going back five decades. Samuel Holloway Bowers, leader of the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan of Mississippi from 1964 to 1969, was a Swift acolyte. His organization, which executed the Mississippi Burning murders, engaged in more acts of racial violence than any other hate group in America. Close behind was the National States Rights Party, with Christian Identity zealots staffing almost every senior position. Co-founder Jesse Benjamin (“J.B.”) Stoner, who orchestrated bombings of black churches and Jewish institutions from 1958 through 1963, would tour the Jim Crow south with his friend, Christian Identity minister Charles “Connie” Lynch, inflaming white audiences into vigilante mobs who attacked blacks.
Dylann Roof1Police lead suspected shooter Dylann Roof into the courthouse in Shelby, North Carolina, June 18, 2015. Roof, a 21-year-old with a criminal record, is accused of killing nine people at a Bible-study meeting in a historic African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina, in an attack U.S. officials are investigating as a hate crime. Jason Miczek/Reuters
Stoner’s brand of violence, and his militant anti-Semitism, alienated even some members of the Ku Klux Klan. Soon Bowers and Stoner realized that by aligning their agenda with the secular, anti-integrationist goals of rank-and-file southern nationalists, they could pursue their holy race war—provided that they hid their true motivations. “The typical Mississippi redneck doesn’t have sense enough to know what he is doing,” Bowers once told FBI informant Delmar Dennis. “I have to use him for my own cause and direct his every action to fit my plan.” In private, he outlined that plan to Dennis: to create a “race war ... by engendering hatred among whites in the same manner as it was being fomented by leftist radicals among blacks.”
If the racist foot-soldiers who terrorized blacks on behalf of Sam Bowers may not have known they were serving a dark religious agenda, then that ideology may be even more opaque to the modern white supremacists. After Swift died in 1970, his ideology persisted, as a toxic adhesive, molding itself to anti-government and ethno-chauvinist causes. Several former Swift acolytes became leaders of anti-tax and nativist movements. Like Bowers, these believers hijacked their groups to maximize their reach and numbers, while obscuring their true purpose. Former Christian Identity leaders even inspired new and rival religious movements. But they all shared one thing in common: a dogged faith, and a determination to help foment a race war.
By the 1990s, according to Scott Shepherd, a former and repentant KKK Grand Dragon, the race war ideology permeated the white supremacist movement on an almost-subconscious level. Thousands of skinheads began tattooing themselves with the term “RAHOWA”—short for “racial holy war” even when they did not share any deep religious convictions. Even loners and isolated cells of supremacists are now indoctrinated with this idea, thanks to the power of social media and white power music.
But if this phenomenon raises the specter of lone wolf terrorism, that more Dylann Roofs will pursue provocative acts of violence to polarize the races, one can take heart in the response of the black community in South Carolina. In upholding their tradition of Christianity, in showing restraint and forgiveness, they have already defeated their rivals.
Stuart Wexler is the author of America’s Secret Jihad: The Hidden History of Religious Terrorism in the United States, which goes on sale in August 2015 from Counterpoint Press.
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Dylann Roof Was In Contact With White Supremacists Online, Report Says

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The white man charged in the shooting deaths of nine people at a historical black church in Charleston, South Carolina, last month had been in contact with white supremacists online, the New York Times reported late Friday, citing federal and local authorities. Dylann Roof opened fire at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church on June 17.
Authorities reportedly said that investigators found about Roof’s contact with white supremacists as they tried to piece together details about the gunman. However, it did not appear that the supremacists encouraged Roof to carry out the attack, which is being investigated as a hate crime.
“To understand what happened, you have to understand who he talked to and who may have known what,” one law enforcement official said, according to the Times.
Earlier, reports surfaced that people around Roof were aware of his racist beliefs. Friends of the 21-year-old said that they feel guilty about not doing enough to prevent the racially motivated violence. Roof had reportedly spoken to his friends about wanting to start a race war in the weeks before the attack.
Joseph Meek, one of Roof’s childhood friends, told multiple news outlets last month that Roof had changed over the years, and shared racist ideas and plans to “hurt a whole bunch of [black] people.”
A website, purportedly created by Roof, surfaced online and contained a manifesto detailing its author's racist beliefs, according to reports in June. The site also featured photographs of Roof holding weapons and posing with a Confederate flag.
The State newspaper in Columbia, South Carolina, reported that the probe now encompasses associates of Roof who may have had knowledge of his alleged plans. His associates could be charged, if authorities find that they were aware of his plans of conducting the attack. So far, investigators have been able to piece together the communications of Roof in part because his electronic devices, including cellphone and computer, are in their custody. The devices were reportedly scrutinized and examined by special FBI agents and analysts.
Roof faces nine counts of murder and a weapons charge in South Carolina's General Sessions Court, and he could also face a federal jury on hate crime charges. He is being held in the Charleston County jail after a June 19 hearing set a $1 million bond on the weapons charge and no bail on the nine counts of murder.

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