Hate.com expands on the net

BBC Breakfast News, January 12, 2000
By Julie Etchingham

More than 140 million people across the globe now use the internet. Half of them are in the United States where the internet is the new mass medium.

Access to the web in America is cheap and easy.

And the constitutional commitment to the right of free speech means even those on the extreme fringes of society can publish and broadcast their views.


Don Black is an ex-Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan and webmaster of Stormfront - a site that advocates white supremacy.

He lives tucked away in the suburbs of West Palm Beach, Florida.

"We believe that our people, white people in this country and throughout the world, are being discriminated against," he says.

"They're being treated as second class citizens. We're tired of seeing other racial and ethnic groups impose their agenda on us."

Mr Black has worked for the white supremacist movement since his youth. He joined the KKK, as it is known, when he graduated from university. He left the Klan during the early 1980s when he was arrested for helping to plot the overthrow of a Caribbean island.

He had hopes of setting up an all white state. It was in his prison cell that he developed an expertise in computers.

He created Stormfront in 1995. Mr Black denies it incites hatred and violence. He describes it as a legitimate forum for white nationalists. Circle of hate The website provides links to more extreme organisations than his own, but Mr Black's detractors say his is the hub of a circle of hate. After years of struggling to spread his message, the internet gave him the power he was looking for.

In the same computer room, his son Derek runs Stormfront for kids. It encourages other children to engage in debates on racial awareness. Such sites, which deliberately target young people, are causing the greatest concern.

At the click of a mouse, a full spectrum of hate is available. Homophobic websites

The murder of gay teenager Mathew Shepard from Wyoming in 1998 sent shockwaves through America.

Despite pleas from his parents, the anti-homosexual lobby seized his funeral as an opportunity to push its propaganda. Ever since, the homophobic website, God Hates Fags, has displayed a vision of Matthew Shepard burning in hell.

Alongside the image, there are quotes that the group regard as biblical back-up for their views.

On the internet, there are few limits on what is acceptable.

'Potential audience is huge'

The headquarters of America's oldest Jewish civil-rights organisation lies behind the Holocaust Memorial at the United Nations Plaza in New York. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) monitors not only anti-Semitic material on the internet - but the full range of hate sites.

It is thought there are currently around 500 of them - just a tiny proportion of the material available on the web.

The ADL says the potential audience for these sites is huge. "They are reaching out to people. There is an electronic community of hate being created out there day by day on the internet."

The mountains of West Virginia, barely touched by advances in modern technology, are a retreat for many from the pressures of metropolitan life. Mail-order hate They are also home to a far right organisation linked to its members via the internet. The National Alliance is regarded by many as the most dangerous in America.

It is headed by former American Nazi Party officer Dr William Pierce. He believes that multiculturalism has ruined America and says the voices of free-thinking individuals are stifled by the state.

This quiet backwater has become the hub of Dr Pierce's thriving internet mail-order business selling books and tapes espousing his view. The nearby post office has had to be upgraded to cope with the increase in demand. Dr Pierce's own novel, The Turner Diaries, is one of the bestsellers on his list.

It was written in 1975 under his pseudonym, Andrew Macdonald. The story is a violent fantasy about a global Aryan uprising.

Oklahoma bombing

The book has been notoriously connected with the man who bombed the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City 20 years later.

Timothy McVeigh reportedly had a fascination with the book. At his trial, some of his friends said that he had sent them copies of The Turner Diaries, urging them to read it.

Dr Pierce denies that the novel incites violence. He publishes extracts from it in several languages on his website. Because of the interest in the book and similar material, most of the organisation's communication is now via the internet. A growth industry

Dr Pierce says that the full potential of the technology is yet to be realised.

"Sixty per cent of our communication is by internet - five years from now, up to 80%. Probably within the next year, full screen video - hope to take full advantage of that."

By publishing their views on the internet, groups like the National Alliance are opening themselves to greater public scrutiny than before. It has led to calls for greater regulation of material on the net. But it is becoming clear that any attempt to curb the right to free speech here will be met with fierce resistance.

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