Charleston Massacre Forces White Nationalists Out of the Shadows

by Bill Berkowitz, Truthout | Report –

screaming man

While white nationalist leaders have largely gone silent in the wake of the shooting in Charleston, rank-and-file white nationalists are flooding websites with comments, often “defaming the dead.” (Image: Screaming man, angry silhouette via Shutterstock; Edited: JR/TO)

Where once they were found mostly in the dark corners of the internet, at members-only conferences, backwoods barbeques and on rare occasions at rallies in small towns, white nationalist groups are facing heightened scrutiny since Dylann Storm Roof murdered nine African Americans attending a Bible study class at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

Before the Charleston Massacre, the white nationalist movement faced numerous challenges: Older leaders had died or moved on, there had been serious infighting among competing groups, and financial problems had become endemic.

Meanwhile, younger technology-savvy activists are grappling with taking greater advantage of the internet and developing a stronger social media presence. “A new crop of leaders were remaking the movement to fit the times,” the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights’ Devin Burghart told me in an email exchange. Using new media platforms creates space for connecting and broadening ideological discussions among white nationalists, an opportunity that wasn’t available to previous generations.

Most of these developments were happening outside the lens of the national media. Only a few organizations have consistently monitored and reported on hate group activities, even though since 9/11, homegrown terrorists have been responsible for nearly 50 deaths, including police officers, sheriff’s deputies and civilians in Overland Park, Kansas, and Brockton, Massachusetts.

In the week since Charleston, white nationalist leaders are trying to dial back the hate speech, becoming unusually silent. Groups such as the National Alliance, the National Socialist Movement and the National Policy Institute have eschewed making any comments at all. Others, including Stormfront, American Renaissance and the Vanguard News Network, haven’t issued any official statements, though their websites are filled with hate speech supporting Roof’s act.

“As is often the case after these horrific incidents, most white nationalist leaders go to ground and maintain radio silence as best they can” said Devin Burghart, “The responses of white nationalists generally tend to fall into three categories: deny, deflect, and defame,” said Burghart, who has been monitoring and writing about white nationalist/supremacist groups for many years.

“Not wanting added heat, they initially deny that any ‘real’ white nationalist would have done such a thing (despite their literature reveling in acts of murder and genocide). At the Stormfront website – whose tagline is, ‘We are the voice of the new, embattled White minority!’ – founder Don Black regularly scrubs comments that seem supportive of racist killers.”

On the Stormfront website, Black has “remind[ed] people not to make violent statements and that violence is not the goal of their movement,” said Sophie Bjork-James, an anthropologist and a postdoctoral fellow at Vanderbilt University and an expert in white supremacist social movements.



Reprinted with permission from Truthout


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