Caught in the Web of Hate

    Issue Number 25, September 1999          
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Opinion & Society

Internet is Recruiting Playground for Hate Groups

ByJulie Lissner

"Sister" Corinne Schell sits in front of her computer at her home in central Illinois. She should be designing web pages promoting her "church", but instead the annoying chiming of AOL instant messages constantly interrupts her.

Why? What makes her so interesting that everyone wants to talk to her, that everyone wants to speak his or her mind to her? She lists the occupation of 'member of World Church of the Creator' in her online profile and in her marital status she says she is married to the church. The WCOTC is a white supremacist organization that promotes, especially through the use of the Internet, its racial messages. This is the also the church of Benjamin Smith, who allegedly went on the July 4th killing spree throughout Illinois area belonged to.

Schell continues her online conversation. "We need more members like you," she says, "who want to do more for the white race."

More members like whom? Does Schell really know whom she is talking to on the other end of the modem?

Schell doesn't know that the girl on the other end is a 17 year old girl; she doesn't know the girl is pretending to have an interest in the hate group, and she especially doesn't know that the girl is Jewish. Schell continues to talk on and on about how the Jews are the parasite of society and have too much control of the nation.

Schell sends the girl a link to her website, which she is neglecting to work on at the moment. The first thing that appears on the screen is "Jewoo: The Jewish Celebrity Search Engine."

"It's a joke," Schell says.

Other things she notes on the web page includes the white power dancing baby, which Schell makes certain to mention was featured recently on CNN. Such items, like the dancing baby, are what make websites appealing, even if they have an underlying racist message. Groups like the World Church of the Creator have begun recruiting children at younger and younger ages and the Internet has grown to become the most popular and effective tool for recruitment. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, anyone with online access, regardless of age, can get information pertaining to these groups. Experts estimate that there are approximately 250-400 self-proclaimed hate groups posted on the Internet. These organizations package websites in ways that are attractive to the eye. They maintain web pages for children that have coloring books, crossword puzzles, and fairytales all against a crayon motif. There is a teen page that has music information and teen bulletin boards for recruiting new members. But behind these "ordinary" designs, lie racial messages.

The website the Women's Frontier demonstrates this idea that looks can be deceiving. Behind the feminist exterior, the site offers racial education for white women, like Corrine Schell, wishing to learn more about "the white race" and issues of the World Church of the Creator.

"[The site] serves as a motivational tool to get women interested in becoming more active in their communities by handing out literature, setting up their own websites, and networking among other white women either on or off the Internet to spread the racial message," Lisa Turner, Women's Information Coordinator of the WCOTC said.

The message often seems practical and appealing to the uninformed person. It appeals to many people because they combine a warm support system, with a strong opinionated message.

"Once in the close-knit group of believers, converts encounter a darker side filled with paranoid delusions about enemies and divine demands for vengeance," Jess Maghan, associate professor of criminal justice and director of the Center for Research in Law and Justice at University of Illinois at Chicago, wrote.

But more and more frequently, this close-knit group of are teenagers. At any socio-economic level, there are groups of kids who feel a little detached and disconnected from the group. "They usually don't have much acceptance by other students, peers or parents.

So when someone comes along offering friendship, they all of a sudden feel important to somebody," said Wesley Baumann, principal of New Trier High School. Students susceptible to recruitment by hate groups often have trouble relating to others, psychologist Lisa Kollmorgan of Glencoe Family Services said, who explained that this usually starts at the home and carries over to their teen years. Former neo-nazi/skin head, TJ Leyden, knows what it feels like first hand. "I had so much anger and frustration [from my parent's divorce], that [joining a skinhead group] was where I wanted to vent it," he said in a lecture to a group of teenagers at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, an organization that deals with hate groups on the Internet, "So I vented it that way and then it was just one easier step to get into the white power movement. We always tell people, 'Anger is one step away from hatred.'" Hate is like a cancer. It feeds on itself and the longer one harbors it, the more demonstrative the haters become.

"The reason [they are susceptible is that] they don't value others is that they don't value themselves," said Andrew Shoenthal of the Anti-Defamation League, an organization that investigates hate crimes, primarily anti-Semitism, on a national level.

In the case of the Columbine High School shooting, "the shooters were outcasts from the beginning," high school senior Steve Seigel said, who attends a nearby private school, "They were hated by everyone, so they hated everyone." The teenagers involved in that shooting had been avid Internet users. Authorities say that the boys also learned bomb-making techniques from the web.

However, hate groups do not always involve violence, as in the Littleton incident. The World Church of the Creator notes that, "They neither encourage nor condone violence." They believe that when violence does occur, it occurs because of the ideas on the part of the individual, not the group.

The first amendment grants both protection of freedom of speech and freedom of association. The moment that violence occurs, then and only then can authorities intervene. As one Peoria police officer said, "You can't blame the Roman Catholic Church when a Roman Catholic steals something from a store, just like you can't blame a white supremacist group when one of their members shoots someone."

Rather than offering an outlet to committing violent acts, these groups often offer a support system. They try to portray their views in a way that is both visually and emotionally appealing through this new medium of the Internet. Though the Internet makes the recruitment process even more successful, music and concerts continue to serve as a popular recruitment technique. News-magazine television shows have shown that the heavy metal/ punk rock format is a favorite venue for racist recruiters. The band concerts are regular mainstays in the recruitment drives.

One white supremacist record label, Resistance Records, sells over 300 different CDs. Late night radio programming often contains white supremacist music.

In the District of Columbia, two Bay Path High School students were convicted of burning a cross in a family's front yard. Mike Toomey of the SCT Group, a software corporation, tuned into Bay Path High school's student run radio station and heard that they were playing racist programming. He called the superintendent who was not aware of the station's musical selections. Similar events occur at colleges around the country, as radio stations are playing classical music and jazz by day, and in the off hours they are playing racist music. Toomey had registered a complaint with Harvard's WHRB radio station for continually playing racist programming. Ironically, this station won Time Magazine's 1999 station of the year award. Toomey reported similar programming on WHCC, at Holy Cross College.

However, the most common recruitment method is still to pass out leaflets containing the group's mission statement that advocates the supremacy of the white race.

"You can start by getting our literature out there to the public and getting us more members," said Corrine Schell to a teenage girl professing an interest in the WCOTC organization.

But this method of recruitment probably won't be around for much longer. With the increase in web technology, homepages are serving a very productive role in the recruitment process.

"Hell, I even had people offer me money to help support my website," Schell said. She is currently in the process of adding more WCOTC pages to her site and adding a printable application for prospective church members. She is even adding a moshing skeleton dancing to a newer tune of a white supremacist band.

Maybe when the Instant Messages finally stop appearing on the computer screen, and maybe when she no longer hears the constant message of "you've got mail," Schell will finally have time to finish updating and expanding the web page as she continues her online recruitment drive, so not only 17 year old nosey Jewish girls, but people actually interested in the church, can understand her racist message.

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