Hate Group Recruitment on the InterNet: An Attractive Medium

An Attractive Medium

The typical Web site is colorful; black, red and white are very popular on the neo-Nazi sites. Filled with pictures or symbols, handsome typography and, occasionally, sound, these sites are perfect for presenting a propaganda message. The interactive features of the Web permit immediate responses and so on-line membership forms are found at several “hate” sites, making it even easier to order material or join.

Ease of use is a major selling point for the Web. Once a user gets to a Web site, moving around in “cyberspace” becomes relatively uncomplicated, but finding a particular site isn’t always simple. The National Alliance is aware of this. Its July 1995 Bulletin, mailed, the old-fashioned way, to members, encouraged “the Alliance’s seasoned cybernauts” to “spread our new [Web] site address around as widely as possible…. Imaginative and energetic members should be able to think of many novel ways to provoke other Internet users to go to our new site and examine our materials.”

Several devoted followers, taking this to heart, have hit upon a device that they hope will spread the group’s propaganda but also lead sympathizers to the Web sites of the National Alliance and similar groups. They have decided to exploit the USENET.

The USENET, or newsgroups, refers to the collection of thousands of computerized “chat” sites where users express ideas, argue and, often exchange insults. Anyone with a computer and Internet access can “join” one or more of these. A newsgroup is usually devoted to a single topic, some serious, such as talk.politics.mideast and others, less serious, such as rec.art.comics. The neo-Nazis have several newsgroups where they, and their opponents, go at each other. Some of these haters have argued that they will never recruit new members on the traditional on-line racist haunts such as alt.politics.white-power where the participants have already chosen sides. It is time, they say, to search for new members. To do this, they are developing a new tactic designed to direct people to sites such as the National Alliance.