In the eyes of many White supremacist groups, the election of a Black president wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Federal law enforcement officials and those who keep a bead on racist organizations say that these groups have seen a dramatic rise in their Internet recruitment since Barack Obama was elected.
“It is the dark, underside of the Internet,” Raynham Police Chief Louis J. Pacheco, one of the founders of the High Tech Crime Consortium, told The Enterprise News of Brockton, Mass. “The Internet allows instant gratification and positive reinforcement to things outside the mainstream idea that you couldn’t get prior.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Project, which monitors White supremacist and neo-Nazi activity, counted 630 “hate sites” on the Web last year.
“Every time the television shows an image of Obama it will be a reminder that our people have lost power in this country," said a recent posting on an Arkansas-based Ku Klux Klan Web site. "The betrayal will stare them in the face each time they watch the news and see little Black children playing in the rose garden."
Adding fuel to the simmering hate is the reality that more and more Whites are finding themselves hurting economically in this rapidly weakening economy, experts say.
"I think it's very clear that we're at a worrying moment now, despite the remarkable accomplishment of electing a Black man president," said Mark Potok, of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors the activity of extremist groups. "We are seeing several things coming together that favor the continued growth of these groups and this movement."
In fact, the Chicago Tribune reports, Internet traffic to two major White supremacy Web sites rose so dramatically following the Nov. 4 election that it caused them to crash, and a New Jersey-based group is begging White folks to register in an effort to "help save Western civilization." In all, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported more than 200 hate-related incidents stemming from Obama's victory, according to the Tribune.
"Obama's election is essentially a rallying point for those who would preserve a white America," said Rick Ross, a national expert on controversial groups and movements. "They believe the power of the White majority is slipping away and it's a terrible thing and this is the climactic moment. It's a rallying cry for the faithful."
One of those who drew his inspiration from White supremacy Web sites is Keith Luke, a Massachusetts man who told police that he believed he was "tapping into the truth about the demise of the white race.” The 22-year-old Brockton man has been charged with killing two people, and raping and wounding a third in a plot that was to end in a massacre. His plan, according to police, was to kill as many “nonwhites” as possible.
Among Luke’s feeding troughs is Podblanc.com, where the public posts videos detailing handgun tactics and promoting “lone wolf” killings, said Mark Potok, director of the Intelligence Project.
“When this kind of propaganda comes into the mind of someone who is mentally ill, we do see violence,” Potok said. “The videos particularly, with certain kinds of mental illnesses, can have a galvanizing effect.”
Luke’s mother, Dara Luke, said Keith Luke was diagnosed as a teenager with psychopathic tendencies, major depression and paranoid schizophrenia. Sherrad Barton, who says she worked for years to promote racial reconciliation and religious tolerance in her native North Carolina, was sickened by the crimes of which Luke is charged.
“People died on my street because of the color of their skin,” Barton, a social worker, told Enterprise News. She was among several hundred area residents who marched against the violence Sunday night at a prayer service at Temple Beth Emunah on Torrey Street. The Jewish synagogue had been targeted by Luke, whose alleged plot was to kill bingo players there last Wednesday, according to court records.