New Report: More Than 100 Hate Crime Murders Linked to a Single Far-Right Website
People charged with the murders of almost 100 people can be linked to a single far-right website, according to a new report from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).
The White Nationalist web forum Stormfront.org says it promotes values of “the embattled white minority,” and its users include Anders Behring Breivik, who killed 77 people in a 2011 massacre in Norway, and Wade Michael Page, who shot and killed six people at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin in 2012.
After a two-year investigation, the SPLC said (pdf) that since Stormfront became one of the first hate sites on the internet in 1995, its registered users have been disproportionately responsible for major killings. The report was released a month early after white supremacist Frazier Glenn Miller, also known as Frazier Glenn Cross, was accused of killing three people at a Jewish center in Kansas City on Sunday.
“We know that the people who are going to commit the kinds of crimes, like the kinds of crimes Miller committed last weekend, this is where they live,” said Heidi Beirich, report author and a director at the SPLC’s Intelligence Project. The report, released on Thursday, calls Stormfront the “largest hate site in the world” and “a magnet and breeding ground for the deadly and deranged.”
Of the site’s more than 286,000 users, only a small sliver are highly active, the report found, with fewer than 1,800 people logging in each day. While the SPLC only identified 10 murderers out of this large user base, researchers think the murderers’ connection to the site is important because it shows how the website offers a community for people who commit these crimes.
“It’s pretty clear that websites like Stormfront are breeding grounds for people who are just enraged at their situation, it’s there that people find the reasons their lives aren’t as they had hoped and Stormfront helps them find the enemy that is standing in their way – whether it be Jews, African Americans, immigrants and so on,” said Beirich. “Unfortunately it’s not very surprising that people who live in this kind of stew of violent racism eventually pick up a gun and do something about it at some point.”
Stormfront proudly declares that “every month is white history month” at the top of its site and forum discussions concern things such as the latest news stories, ideology, poetry and creative writing.
“The fact of the matter is that more people have been killed domestically by radical right extremists than Islamic extremists since 9/11 and where you find a lot of these people is on these sites,” said Beirich.
SPLC also identified 10 characteristics shared by killers who were active online including unemployment, posting on more than one hate website, and sustained activity on these sites.
Stormfront founder Don Black, a former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, criticized Miller for giving users of his site a bad reputation. “We have enough of a problem with how we are portrayed without some homicidal whack job coming along and reinforcing that,” Black told the Daily Beast. After he was banned from Stormfront, the SLPC said Miller posted more than 12,000 times on a similar forum, Vanguard News Network, whose slogan is “No Jews, Just Right.”
The SPLC’s report said hate killings skyrocketed after Barack Obama was inaugurated in 2009.
“We have seen and documented at the SPLC an enormous growth of groups on the radical right, particularly in the last five years,” said Mark Potok, the report’s editor and a senior fellow on the Intelligence Project. “That growth quite clearly seems to be driven by the appearance of Barack Obama on the political scene in the fall of 2008 and of course his subsequent election.”
Potok noted that these hate sites are protected by first amendment rights because they don’t contain concrete plots to commit crimes. He said that law enforcement official unquestionably pay attention to these sites, but criticized how much analysis is done on users by federal authorities.
“We feel pretty strongly that the Department of Homeland Security, which is the lead agency in this country for developing intelligence about these groups and individuals, has more or less taken its eye of the ball in the sense that since 2009 the department seems more focused on Jihadists terrorism,” Potok said.