Internet is Recruiting Playground for Hate Groups
"Sister" Corinne Schell sits in front of her computer at her home in
central Illinois. She should be designing web pages promoting her
"church", but instead the annoying chiming of AOL instant messages
constantly interrupts her.
Why? What makes her so interesting that everyone wants to talk to her,
that everyone wants to speak his or her mind to her? She lists the
occupation of 'member of World Church of the Creator' in her online
profile and in her marital status she says she is married to the church.
The WCOTC is a white supremacist organization that promotes, especially
through the use of the Internet, its racial messages. This is the also the
church of Benjamin Smith, who allegedly went on the July 4th killing spree
throughout Illinois area belonged to.
Schell continues her online conversation.
"We need more members like you," she says, "who want to do more for the
More members like whom? Does Schell really know whom she is talking to
on the other end of the modem?
Schell doesn't know that the girl on the other end is a 17 year old
she doesn't know the girl is pretending to have an interest in the hate
group, and she especially doesn't know that the girl is Jewish. Schell
continues to talk on and on about how the Jews are the parasite of society
and have too much control of the nation.
Schell sends the girl a link to her website, which she is neglecting to
work on at the moment. The first thing that appears on the screen is
"Jewoo: The Jewish Celebrity Search Engine."
"It's a joke," Schell says.
Other things she notes on the web page includes the white power dancing
baby, which Schell makes certain to mention was featured recently on CNN.
Such items, like the dancing baby, are what make websites appealing,
if they have an underlying racist message. Groups like the World Church of
the Creator have begun recruiting children at younger and younger ages and
the Internet has grown to become the most popular and effective tool for
recruitment. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, anyone with online
access, regardless of age, can get information pertaining to these groups.
Experts estimate that there are approximately 250-400 self-proclaimed hate
groups posted on the Internet. These organizations package websites in
ways that are attractive to the eye. They maintain web pages for children
that have coloring books, crossword puzzles, and fairytales all against a
crayon motif. There is a teen page that has music information and teen
bulletin boards for recruiting new members. But behind these "ordinary"
designs, lie racial messages.
The website the Women's Frontier demonstrates this idea that looks can
deceiving. Behind the feminist exterior, the site offers racial education
for white women, like Corrine Schell, wishing to learn more about "the
white race" and issues of the World Church of the Creator.
"[The site] serves as a motivational tool to get women interested in
becoming more active in their communities by handing out literature,
setting up their own websites, and networking among other white women
either on or off the Internet to spread the racial message," Lisa Turner,
Women's Information Coordinator of the WCOTC said.
The message often seems practical and appealing to the uninformed
It appeals to many people because they combine a warm support system, with
strong opinionated message.
"Once in the close-knit group of believers, converts encounter a darker
side filled with paranoid delusions about enemies and divine demands for
vengeance," Jess Maghan, associate professor of criminal justice and
director of the Center for Research in Law and Justice at University of
Illinois at Chicago, wrote.
But more and more frequently, this close-knit group of are teenagers. At any socio-economic level, there are groups of kids
who feel a little detached and disconnected from the group. "They usually
don't have much acceptance by other students, peers or parents.
So when someone comes along offering friendship, they all of a sudden
important to somebody," said Wesley Baumann, principal of New Trier High
School. Students susceptible to recruitment by hate groups often have
trouble relating to others, psychologist Lisa Kollmorgan of Glencoe Family
Services said, who explained that this usually starts at the home and
carries over to their teen years. Former neo-nazi/skin head, TJ Leyden,
knows what it feels like first hand. "I had so much anger and frustration
[from my parent's divorce], that [joining a skinhead group] was where I
wanted to vent it," he said in a lecture to a group of teenagers at the
Simon Wiesenthal Center, an organization that deals with hate groups on the
Internet, "So I vented it that way and then it was just one easier step to
get into the white power movement. We always tell people, 'Anger is one
step away from hatred.'" Hate is like a cancer. It feeds on itself and the
longer one harbors it, the more demonstrative the haters become.
"The reason [they are susceptible is that] they don't value others is
that they don't value themselves," said Andrew Shoenthal of the
Anti-Defamation League, an organization that investigates hate crimes,
primarily anti-Semitism, on a national level.
In the case of the Columbine High School shooting, "the shooters were
outcasts from the beginning," high school senior Steve Seigel said, who
attends a nearby private school, "They were hated by everyone, so they
hated everyone." The teenagers involved in that shooting had been avid
Internet users. Authorities say that the boys also learned bomb-making
techniques from the web.
However, hate groups do not always involve violence, as in the
incident. The World Church of the Creator notes that, "They neither
encourage nor condone violence." They believe that when violence does
occur, it occurs because of the ideas on the part of the individual, not
The first amendment grants both protection of freedom of speech and
freedom of association. The moment that violence occurs, then and only
then can authorities intervene. As one Peoria police officer said, "You
can't blame the Roman Catholic Church when a Roman Catholic steals
something from a store, just like you can't blame a white supremacist group
when one of their members shoots someone."
Rather than offering an outlet to committing violent acts, these groups
often offer a support system. They try to portray their views in a way
that is both visually and emotionally appealing through this new medium of
the Internet. Though the Internet makes the recruitment process even more
successful, music and concerts continue to serve as a popular recruitment
technique. News-magazine television shows have shown that the heavy metal/
punk rock format is a favorite venue for racist recruiters. The band
concerts are regular mainstays in the recruitment drives.
One white supremacist record label, Resistance Records, sells over 300
Late night radio programming often contains white supremacist music.
the District of Columbia, two Bay Path High School students were convicted
of burning a cross in a family's front yard. Mike Toomey of the SCT Group,
a software corporation, tuned into Bay Path High school's student run radio
station and heard that they were playing racist programming. He called the
superintendent who was not aware of the station's musical selections.
Similar events occur at colleges around the country, as radio stations are
playing classical music and jazz by day, and in the off hours they are
playing racist music. Toomey had registered a complaint with Harvard's WHRB
radio station for continually playing racist programming. Ironically, this
station won Time Magazine's 1999 station of the year award. Toomey
reported similar programming on WHCC, at Holy Cross College.
However, the most common recruitment method is still to pass out
containing the group's mission statement that advocates the supremacy of
the white race.
"You can start by getting our literature out there to the public and
getting us more members," said Corrine Schell to a teenage girl professing
an interest in the WCOTC organization.
But this method of recruitment probably won't be around for much
With the increase in web technology, homepages are serving a very
productive role in the recruitment process.
"Hell, I even had people offer me money to help support my website,"
Schell said. She is currently in the process of adding more WCOTC pages to
her site and adding a printable application for prospective church members.
She is even adding a moshing skeleton dancing to a newer tune of a white
Maybe when the Instant Messages finally stop appearing on the computer
screen, and maybe when she no longer hears the constant message of "you've
got mail," Schell will finally have time to finish updating and expanding
the web page as she continues her online recruitment drive, so not only 17
year old nosey Jewish girls, but people actually interested in the church,
can understand her racist message.