The fast- ex­pand­ing web of hate

White su­prem­a­cists stir up their an­gry au­di­ence on online sites, which at­tract mil­lions of read­ers.

Los Angeles Times - - THE NATION - By Tina Sus­man and Matt Pearce tina.sus­ Twit­ter: @ti­nasus­man Twit­ter: @Mat­tDPearce Sus­man re­ported from New York and Pearce from Los An­ge­les. Times staff writ­ers Richard A. Ser­rano in Washington and Scott Wil­son in L

NEW YORK — On July 14, 2013, a white su­prem­a­cist named An­drew Anglin, be­wil­dered by black Amer­i­cans’ out­rage over the shoot­ing death of Trayvon Martin, be­gan typ­ing out thoughts on what he saw as a dis­torted world.

“The whole Ge­orge Zim­mer­man media psy­chodrama has been com­pletely in­sane from the be­gin­ning,” Anglin wrote on the Daily Stormer, the neo- Nazi web­site he had started, af­ter a jury ac­quit­ted Zim­mer­man in the shoot­ing death of Martin the year be­fore. Anglin called Martin, an un­armed, black 17- year- old, a “crazed, sav­age at­tacker” and warned of a con­spir­acy by “blacks and the Jewish media” to cast the jus­tice sys­tem as bi­ased against blacks.

Born amid a back­lash against the post- Trayvon Martin move­ment draw­ing at­ten­tion to racial bias, the site has ex­ploded to promi­nence among white su­prem­a­cists as # Black­Lives­Mat­ter protests stretched coast to coast. Ac­cord­ing to the web­site traf­fic track­ing site Sim­i­larWeb, by the end of 2013 Daily Stormer had more visi­tors than the ri­val Vanguard News Net­work, which has been around since 2003.

The South­ern Poverty Law Cen­ter, which mon­i­tors hate groups, said in a March re­port that dur­ing the pre­vi­ous six months Daily Stormer’s Web traf­fic on some days even sur­passed that of Storm­front. org, the old­est and largest hate site.

Anglin, in an in­ter­view Tues­day with The Times, at­trib­uted his web­site’s pop­u­lar­ity to his ap­proach, which avoids long, online es­says in fa­vor of short, catchy posts.

“I wanted some­thing punchy and funny and en­joy­able to read,” Anglin said. “My ide­ol­ogy is very sim­ple. I be­lieve white peo­ple de­serve their own coun­try.... There’s not re­ally any­thing that can hap­pen that can af­fect my ide­ol­ogy be­cause it’s so sim­ple and straight­for­ward.”

The web­site also may have been one of the go- to places for Dy­lann Roof, the sus­pected shooter in last week’s church mas­sacre in Charleston, S. C. An anal­y­sis by the South­ern Poverty Law Cen­ter showed com­ments on the site ap­pear sim­i­lar to pas­sages from a man­i­festo on Roof ’s web­site. Asked about that anal­y­sis, Anglin said the Daily Stormer user ac­count cited by the cen­ter — “AryanBlood1488” — had com­mented maybe 21 or 22 times, not enough to be con­sid­ered much of a reg­u­lar.

If there is one thing Anglin, 30, and the law cen­ter can agree on, it is that web­sites such as his of­fer highly click­able des­ti­na­tions for hate group ad­vo­cates. On some days since the Charleston shoot­ing, hun- dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple have been drawn to these sites, which are crammed with ma­te­rial pack­aged be­neath head­lines geared to their an­gry au­di­ences.

“Obama shame­lessly uses atroc­ity to call for gun ban,” a head­line on the web­site read on June 18, the day Roof was ar­rested.

The Daily Stormer, named in homage to the Nazi tabloid Der Sturmer, ag­gre­gates ar­ti­cles from other su­prem­a­cist sites, or­ga­nizes lurid sto­ries into sec­tions ti­tled “Race War” and “Jewish Prob­lem,” and gives posts chatty head­lines that scream mil­len­nial au­thor­ship, like “LOL: Fer­gu­son Cop Shooter Says He was Shoot­ing at Some­one Else” and “Black Church Shot Up in Charleston by Bowl- Cut Sport­ing Weirdo.”

The South­ern Poverty Law Cen­ter does not count such web­sites but says the num­ber of hate groups across the coun­try has in­creased by 30% since 2000. In 2012, the cen­ter counted 186 Ku Klux Klan groups, with 52 sep­a­rate web­sites, in ad­di­tion to hun­dreds of other groups de­scribed as white na­tion­al­ist, neo- Nazi and skin­head groups, most with web­sites.

Storm­front. org was cre­ated in Jan­uary 1995. In the f irst quar­ter of this year, it had more than 1.9 mil­lion U. S. visi­tors, a drop from its peak of 3.5 mil­lion in the first quar­ter of last year, ac­cord­ing to Sim­i­larWeb. Daily Stormer has grown steadily, from 127,343 U. S. visi­tors in the third quar­ter of 2013, when it was launched, to 949,170 in the first quar­ter of 2015.

Roof, who has been charged with mur­der in the deaths of nine black wor­shipers at Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Epis­co­pal Church, is be­lieved to have posted a man­i­festo in­di­cat­ing he was inspired by ma­te­rial on the web­site of the Coun­cil of Con­ser­va­tive Cit­i­zens, a group formed in 1985 and whose web­site was cre­ated in 1996.

Jared Tay­lor, a spokesman, said the group could not be blamed for Roof ’s rampage. “The im­pact on Roof ob­vi­ously was ter­ri­ble and un­for­tu­nate, and we com­pletely, un­equiv­o­cally con­demn any kind of vi­o­lence and il­le­gal­ity,” Tay­lor said in a tele­phone in­ter­view. “But does that mean the coun­cil’s web­site has some sort of re­spon­si­bil­ity for its ac­tions? The an­swer is un­equiv­o­cally no. We put for­ward in­for­ma­tion. What he did with this in­for­ma­tion is his re­spon­si­bil­ity.”

Therein lies the dan­ger of such sites, said Heidi Beirich, who heads the South­ern Poverty Law Cen­ter’s In­tel­li­gence Pro­ject. Most make a point of con­demn­ing overt acts of vi­o­lence, even as they post reams of ma­te­rial aimed at fu­el­ing white rage and para­noia, she said.

“They’re smart enough not to make open calls for vi­o­lence,” she said. “It’s all 1st Amend­ment- pro­tected speech.”

But, Beirich added, “peo­ple are read­ing this stuff, they’re suck­ing it in, and they’re get­ting en­raged, and we’re hav­ing lone- wolf vi­o­lence.”

On Tues­day, Anglin too dis­avowed re­spon­si­bil­ity for the Charleston shoot­ing and con­demned vi­o­lence in gen­eral. “This is a news site. We re­port the news,” Anglin wrote on the Daily Stormer. “We have an an­gle, just as ev­ery­one has an an­gle, but we are no more re­spon­si­ble for the ac­tions of our read­ers than the Daily Beast is re­spon­si­ble for the ac­tions of their read­ers.”

The FBI says it rou­tinely mon­i­tors the web­sites to de­ter­mine whether any are call­ing for a par­tic­u­lar act of vi­o­lence, which could lead to a crim­i­nal charge.

The ar­rest and con­vic­tion of self- pro­claimed white su­prem­a­cist Wil­liam A. White, they said, is a case in point. He was sen­tenced in fed­eral court in Chicago to 42 months in prison in Fe­bru­ary 2013 for “so­lic­it­ing vi­o­lence” against the jury fore­man in a case in­volv­ing another white su­prem­a­cist, Matthew Hale, who was con­victed of so­lic­it­ing the mur­der of a fed­eral judge.

White had used his site, Over­throw. com, to so­licit “any­one” to kill the fore­man, and he posted the fore­man’s home ad­dress and tele­phone num­ber. The motto of Over­throw. com, which was af­fil­i­ated with the Na­tional So­cial­ist Work­ers Party, was to “f ight for white work­ing peo­ple.”

Since then, FBI of­fi­cials said, most hate web­sites have been care­ful not to di­rectly sug­gest vi­o­lence.

On Fri­day, the day Roof was ar­raigned, Anglin had this to say:

“I don’t sup­port what Roof did, in any way, but there is now no go­ing back from it,” he wrote on his site. “We are in the mid­dle of a race war. The ran­dom mur­ders of Whites are go­ing to be­gin any minute now, across the coun­try. The media will try to cover it up, but there will be too many mur­ders to hide.”

Grace Beahm Pool Photo

DY­LANN ROOF, the sus­pect in the Charleston, S. C., church mas­sacre, may have been inspired by hate group web­sites such as the Daily Stormer. Such sites are usu­ally care­ful to avoid overt calls to vi­o­lence, ex­perts say.

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