Hate groups have “rekindled [their] zeal and magnified [their] power” using the technology of Internet communication, according to a recent article.
“With the help of Internet technology and cyberspace marketing, once-decrepit organizations like the Ku Klux Klan are regaining their youthful energy and competing for the attention of increasingly educated audiences,” wrote Stacia Brown, in the September-October issue of Sojourners.
There are two “strands” of hate groups. Most racial hate groups adhere to “Identity thought,” using the Bible to support their racism, wrote Brown.
Another strand is Christian fundamentalist hate groups.
“Like Identity adherents, Christian fundamentalist hate groups utilize the Bible to justify their beliefs,” wrote Brown. “Unlike Identity members, however, fundamentalists focus much of their vitriol on gay and lesbian people and other sexual ‘abominations.'”
Hate groups use several strategies to justify their behavior and to market their philosophies to others, according to the article.
One strategy is to make their hate noble, wrote Brown.
“Experiences of alienation, disapproval, or persecution are thus eased by the inner assurance that one is battling for a greater cause than oneself,” she wrote.
Another strategy is to make their hate anonymous.
“An anonymous bigot is more threatening than an identifiable one,” wrote Brown. “On the Internet, haters can reclaim the anonymity once granted by white robes.”
Hate groups also disguise their hate as Christian, she wrote.
“Christian fundamentalist hate groups utilize the Bible to justify their beliefs. Web master Ben Phelps [Westboro Baptist Church’s God Hates Fags Web site] could proof-text most seminary students into stunned silence,” wrote Brown.
Some haters see themselves in the biblical story of Phineas being blessed by God for courage in striking down those who dealt with the Midianites, said Brian Marcus, research director for HateWatch, an organization tracking online hate groups, in the article.
“Virtual haters twist scripture into a white-power pretzel,” wrote Brown.
And a newer strategy for hate groups is making their hate technological, according to the article.
“In previous years, a hate group’s success depended on the charisma of its leader,” wrote Brown. “Today it depends on the technical savvy of its Webmaster.”
The Internet provides a way for hate groups to “promote their message sucessfully.” All of those interviewed learned Internet technology expressly for spreading and promoting their hate message, wrote Brown.
A final strategy used by hate groups is to make their hate “marketable.”
Hate groups sell computer games like White Power Doom, “that have been altered to include African Americans, Jews, and other minority groups as shooting targets,” wrote Brown.
E-shops sell anything from skinhead music to racist t-shirts. Many Web sites even have a “kid’s page,” according to the article.
Groups like the Anti-Defamation League can offer “hate blockers” that block access to hate group Web sites.
But “hate sites in the United States remain protected by the First Amendment unless they can be clearly linked to concrete threats or acts.”
The most effective tool, wrote Brown, is education. Knowing and understanding how bigots think and the scripture they use is a key to countering their hate messages.
“We believe that those who are working to fight intolerance and bigotry should know what they are up against,” said Marcus in the article. “Then they will be better prepared to confront and shed light on these groups.”
Sarah Griffith is BCE’s communications coordinator.