Hate groups seek to recruit through Internet

Reuters, July 5, 1999
By Nigel Hunt

CHICAGO- Hate groups are using the Internet to recruit young disciples, providing children as young as 9 or 10 years old with a sense of purpose and belonging, civil rights campaigners said on Monday.

"Every extremist group has rushed to the World Wide Web to seek an infusion of young people,'' said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, a leading Jewish rights organisation based in Los Angeles.

Cooper said there are more than 2,000 hate sites on the World Wide Web, compared with just one at the time of the Oklahoma bombing in April 1995.

"You have specialised hate sites for children as young as 9 or 10 years old,'' he said.

Cooper said prominent among the list of hate sites was one provided by white supremacist movement, the World Church of the Creator, whose former member Benjamin Nathaniel Smith, 21, allegedly killed two men during a weekend shooting rampage.

"If parents, the community and school don't give kids a sense of belonging there are others out there more than ready to move in,'' he said.

"The Internet provides a much more profound opportunity for validation and action for those loners who fall through the cracks,'' Cooper added.

Harlan Loeb, Midwest Civil Rights Counsel for the Anti-Defamation League, said the mass broadcast distribution of hate through the Internet had reached children who would not previously have been exposed to such ideas.

Young white males appear the main target.

"There is something about hatred that appeals to young, adolescent males,'' he said, noting statistics suggest the overwhelming majority of acts of hatred and bigotry are committed by white males between 15 and 24 years old.

"Hate has an appeal for some in the same manner that drugs do for others. It is a feeling of purpose and a feeling of excitement and exhilaration that in many cases is provided by drugs,'' Loeb said.

Smith allegedly killed a former Northwestern basketball coach who was black, and a Korean student while wounding many others including six Orthodox jews returning from services.

He had previously also distributed leaflets calling for all homosexual activity to be outlawed.

"It does seem that people acting under hatred tend to take a pretty broad sweep at society,'' said Peg Byron, public education director for lesbian and gay rights civil rights group LAMBDA.

Byron said, however, she did not believe there had been a dramatic rise in hate crimes, at least against gay people, but rather a few horrific cases had drawn the public's attention to the issue.

Headline-grabbing hate crimes in 1998 included the June murder of James Byrd, who was black, by a racist gang that dragged the chained victim behind a pickup truck along a paved country road until he was decapitated. In October 1998 openly homosexual college student Matthew Shepard was slain.

This year on April 20 two teenagers killed 12 students and a teacher in a bloodbath carried out on Hitler's 110th birthday before apparently committing suicide.

Cooper said it was difficult to tell if such crimes are on the increase but said recent instances had coincided with a sustained period of economic growth, casting doubt on traditional theories linking them to people who had been thrown out of work looking for someone to blame.

Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.

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