WASHINGTON - Extreme right-wing groups are increasingly relying on the Internet to spread their anti-government and racist messages and recruit members, according to a new study by the Anti-Defamation League.
An early draft of Danger: Extremism, the Major Vehicles and Voices on America's Far-Right Fringe, says that over the past 10 months hate organizations have seized on the relatively low cost of using the Internet and its accessibility to a large audience worldwide to create a vehicle for marketing their materials, exchanging information and attracting sympathizers.
The league's book, which was scheduled for release stoday, states that extremist groups have been bolstered by the "rhetorical support" they have received from segments of mainstream society.
The league ADL cited as an example the National Rifle Association's statements last year likening federal law enforcement agents to the Nazi Gestapo.The study contends that the entrance into Louisiana politics of former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke, who was nominated for president in 1988 by the Populist Party, has encouraged hate group leaders to repackage their views to appear more mainstream.
"When pernicious hate seeps into the mainstream dressed as political rhetoric, it threatens to legitimize intolerance and exclusion as an acceptable means of social change," said the league's ADL national director, Abraham H. Foxman.
Extreme right-wing groups have been the subject of much attention since last year's bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City that killed 168 people and injured more than 500. The two suspects, Timothy James McVeigh and Terry Lynn Nichols, had ties to anti-government militias and other far-right groups.
The league ADL estimates that paramilitary-style militias are active in 40 states and have about 15,000 participants. These armed groups - an angry stew of constitutionalists, tax protesters, isolationists and white supremacists - typically rage against such issues as the deadly confrontations between federal agents and Randy Weaver in Ruby Ridge, Idaho, and the Branch Davidians near Waco, Texas.
They claim that a new world government is being formed through the United Nations and that its agents include the president of the United States. Once in place they fear it will impose martial law, suspend the Constitution, institute totalitarian rule and seize all weapons from citizens.nidu
For many of these groups, the more traditional means of disseminating their views - by hand or mail - has largely been replaced by home pages they have established on the Internet.
The league ADL said heavy use of the Internet by hate groups began in May 1995 when Don Black, a former KKK head and longtime associate of Mr. Duke's, set up a site called Stormfront. This site on the World Wide Web contains a library of white supremacist propaganda and numerous links to other like-minded home pages, including Aryan Nations, William Pierce's neo-Nazi National Alliance and the Posse Comitatus.
Also last year, Reuben Logsdon, who said he was a physics student at the University of Texas in Austin, became one of the first neo-Nazi sympathizers to set up a Web site. The page was initially called "Cyberhate," thene renamed it "Aryan Crusader's Library." A map of the United States on the home page is emblazoned with the slogan "Keeping America White."