The Lost Soul Armies: The Internet’s Darkside

By Raymond Nolan

The truth is, I didn’t want to write this. I didn’t want to research what I knew I’d have to research and I didn’t want to write what I knew I’d have to write. The reason for my, well, chagrin, was a simple matter of self-preservation, of certain basic instincts formed in the innocence of childhood and carried through my own paradise lost to arrive here–at 30 years old happily married and expecting my first child–wholly changed but not at all, not even close. Put another way, none of the fringe benefits of the writer’s path are significant to this story, none of the comforts of knowing that I’m not at all alone in the story’s endeavor, that in fact the story itself has been told countless times already in some form or another by writers risking public vitriol and persecution. I risked nothing but still cringed at its actual doing.

After all, the Internet is not the mechanism it was even five years ago, when it still bore, at least to those old school purists not so easily smitten by the intricate technologies of the Digital Age, a distinct naiveté despite its own codes and mantras and culture of dos and donts that separated the real Webheads from the rest of us. But these days the Internet is a force both visceral and cerebral that hovers always within our reach, a labyrinth as powerful and complex in its own right as America’s political system.

And like the most basic supply and demand economics, the industries the Internet envelops–from the Western world’s wealthiest financial institutions to the poorest third-world street vendors and everything both dignified and salacious inbetween–are far, far too many to name.

But ultimately this labyrinth would save me in my endeavor to write about the white supremacist campaign on the Internet–its origin perhaps, its evolution perhaps, but at the very least its campaign as propagated in the same medium that brings us real-time stock quotes and weather patterns half a world away. So it saved me, yes, though for weeks I avoided the tenuous task of actually sorting through site after site of such gross hysteria and self-righteousness.

This would not, you can see, be exactly fun: the tenets of hatred shared by all the various white supremacist groups is obviously horrific, the logic proffered obviously flawed. But what I quickly learned was how little of this propaganda actually shocked me, at least insofar as it presented something horrific and flawed in some new and glaring light. In this way, the Internet had done its job. Powerful and complex, it had created and maintained an uncanny order to a campaign that for all intensive purposes could now, for the first time ever, call itself an industry.

Indeed, The Campaign has been systemized, and by virtue of the system’s remarkable democracy even legitimized. Consider, for instance, that ten years ago the most consistently visible emblem of white supremacy was David Duke, the former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan who in 1992 garnered a whopping 55 percent of the white vote in Louisiana’s gubernatorial election.

For many of us this was the extent of The Campaign’s exposure, this and the standard media fallout of one or another heinous crime committed by whites against people of color. But how quickly these stories were gone, replaceable certainly but gone, leaving in their wake only a bloodied image, a defaming remark, a person whose name would be repeated for several weeks before it became a part of some noble senator’s lexicon to be retrieved for mass consumption come election time.

For better or worse, without the exposure, without the access, The Campaign simply couldn’t gain significant ground.

In hindsight, of course, this seems a much less cynical view to take toward the advertisement–albeit convoluted advertisement–of white supremacy. Because the Internet does not discriminate, because it cannot tell someone to close shop for the sake of majority good, it’s done for The Campaign what the Guttenberg Press did for mankind: it enabled it to prosper.

Not only can anyone with an Internet connection easily choose from a veritable smorgasbord of white supremacist literature, as a result of The Campaign’s systemization the Internet has made hate crime and hate group statistics more difficult to categorize in any easy way. In fact, what I quickly learned was that in cyberspace the term white supremacy is grossly outdated, a sophomoric approach to any attempt by at least the larger and more influential white hate groups to recruit their army of lost souls.

As Joe Roy, director of the anti-hate group Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, says, “These groups are getting better with the public. They’re no longer racist, but racialist, not segregationists, but separatists. They are using a lot more attractive buzz words to lead people into their organizations.”

And buzz words they are. Take, for example, the statement in 1997 by William Pierce, author of the 1978 violently anti-government novel The Turner Diaries and considered by many radical right militia and patriotic groups the raison d’etre of their oft-eulogized crusader Timothy McVeigh: “Ultimately we must separate ourselves from the blacks and other non-whites and keep ourselves separate. We must do this not because we hate blacks but because we cannot survive if we remain mixed with them.” For the lost white soul, Pierce’s words strike a surprisingly avuncular chord and carry a message that may easily be construed as comforting, though in truth his façade is wafer-thin, a setup for more wicked ambitions. “And we cannot survive,” Pierce says next, “if we permit the Jews and the traitors among us to remain among us and repeat their treachery. Eventually we must hunt them down and get rid of them.”

Certainly this kind of setup is not new to The Campaign. Well before the advent of the Internet, Christian Identity, the oldest and most established worldwide white supremacist movement, had already laid strict claim to a biblical interpretation of Anglo-Saxons as the direct descendants of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel, a claim that afforded them the argument that only whites were God’s true disciples.

First recognized by the Ku Klux Klan in 1915, the movement spawned blatantly violent hate crimes during the Civil Rights era of the 1960’s even though their rhetoric remained conveniently embedded in the great Word of God; they were not prejudice but faithful disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.

In recent years the movement has given birth to a myriad of other white hate groups, all of which share one common end goal: an all-white United States of America. Generally speaking, these groups can be separated into two camps, those whose ideologies are dictated by religion and those dictated by politics.

Groups like the National Alliance and the National Socialist White Peoples Party espouse a predominantly political doctrine purporting that all Aryan men and women have, according to the National Alliance, “a responsibility to strive for the advancement of [their] race in the service of Life, and to be the fittest instruments for that purpose that [they] can be.” With these groups their Web propaganda is less overtly sinister, relying instead on a kind of frigid Aristotelian deduction enumerating all the logical reasons why the white race is superior to every other.

This includes an argument that white Europeans, having been forced to endure colder and more life-threatening temperatures in the early years of their evolution, were consequently forced to evolve at a much faster rate than, say, blacks in Africa’s warmer climate. And yet still more impressive propaganda, however, are the attempted erudite references these groups make to Frederick Nietzsche, who, like the groups themselves, opposed an egalitarian view of the world.

The message here is simple: look at us, we agree with this wise, world-renowned philosopher! By extension the groups are, if not world-renowned, wise, and as such the concept of a racial hierarchy becomes as natural and essential an ingredient to establishing order within any given society as the food chain.

In contrast to this milder rhetoric are The Campaign’s religious-based groups. Practiced by over 50,000 people in the United States, the Christian Identity movement has infiltrated small and large white supremacist groups alike. One of the biggest and most visible of these groups, the World Church of the Creator (WCOTC), shares the belief common to all Christian Identity fundamentalists that a Jewish conspiracy controls the federal government, international banking and the media.

As a result, the WCOTC has long predicted a Racial Holy War (RAHOWA) pitting whites against Jews and other “mongrel races” as part of a cleansing process to establish Christ’s true, unadulterated Kingdom on earth. Though this sharp focus on the Armageddon is more central to the Christian Identity movement in general than the WCOTC in particular, the WCOTC vigorously and openly promotes RAHOWA and their fellow church brethren martyred in the course of The Campaign: Eric Rudolph, the 32 year-old North Carolina native responsible for the 1996 Atlanta Olympics bombing and the January 20, 2000 bombing of the New Women All Women Health Care clinic in Birmingham; and brothers William and Tyler Mathews, double murderers of a gay couple in Redding, California in July, 1999.

And yet despite the many articles available on the WCOTC Web site viciously attacking all non-white, homosexual populations and the claim by WCOTC leader Reverend Matt Hale that the “Jew remains at his core a parasite to humanity,” the WCOTC’s more direct promotional efforts in the “What Is Creativity?” section of the site reek of that calculated lost-soul rhetoric disseminated by the more politically-motivated white supremacy groups: “History has shown us that the White Race is responsible for all that which we call progress on this earth; and that it is therefore logical and sensible to place supreme importance upon Race and to reject all ideas which fail to do so.” Supreme importance? Logical and sensible?

Buzz words indeed considering that one of Mr. Hale’s many other incendiary articles bears the remarkably deliberate title, “The Value of Hatred.”
There are more groups, of course, many of which are neither political nor religious per se but just racial. There are, too, militias and extremists, Freedom Fighters, the Ted Kaczynski’s of the world with do-or-die manifestos.

Like the white supremacist groups, the Internet gives these “patriots” a certain measure of their reach and influence, a way to unite separate but similar enough movements under one principle belief of fear and conspiracy. So the gist, not surprisingly, comes down to this: wherein lies the Web lies the proliferation of any subversive activity whatsoever.

And yet in the end most members of the radical right agree that the ultimate success of their various missions depends not on the visible but the invisible, those underground “lone wolves” and “small cells” whose job, as The Turner Diaries prophesies, is to spread more secretly the various groups’ sacred words and deeds.

Tactically this makes perfect sense; instead of centralizing their groups to any one safe locale and establishing, like the now-defunct Aryan Nation compound in Hayden Lake, Idaho, such a huge public presence, those in charge are focusing their efforts on laying a quieter though hardly more gentle claim to regions previously considered too leftist to seduce in any significant way.

In this light the groups are indeed becoming smarter. They understand that a mass movement to the far right is unrealistic, and as such their missions must, both separately and together, take on a subtler look and feel. As for The Campaign itself on the Internet, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center the number of white supremacist Web sites increased 60% from 163 in 1998 to 254 in 1999–a fact that, taken alone, speaks volumes about how far The Campaign has come since 1995, when it boasted only one–that’s right, one–Web site at all.

Whatever the case, what the average person learns on the Web about The Campaign will, I suspect, at once disturb and sedate them with its systemization, so that when it’s all said and done their endeavor to write about it or just inform themselves becomes not so dreaded but merely tiring, some weird voyeuristic fantasy gone awry. The bloodied images, the defaming remarks. They’re all there, granted in a different medium than they were ten years ago, but still they’re there. The only question is, how close do you have to look to find them?