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Saturday, September 09, 2006

Deconstructing Hate Sites

Bigotry and hatred thrive on ignorance, fear, false information and half-truths. But if readers are able to deconstruct any messages of hate that come their way, much of the messages’ power is reduced. This makes critical thinking skills an indispensable part of an anti-hate tool kit.

Common Characteristics

Journalist Keith Ferrell notes that, in their efforts to draw readers' support, most hate sites:

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1. Capitalize on Paranoia

Conspiracy theories abound on hate sites, which often blame the groups they target for any number of social, economic or political problems. Such theories rely on their readers’ ignorance, plus invented "evidence," to back up their claims.

One of the most infamous conspiracy theories is contained in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The book was written by agents of the Russian czar at the end of the 19th century, and falsely “documents” the existence of a Jewish conspiracy to take over the world. Although such a theory has been thoroughly debunked, hate-mongers continue to invoke the Protocols.

2. Suggest Sanction from Above

Hate sites often make use of scriptural references, religious writings and holy tracts to give the impression that their claims are sanctified by moral righteousness and guided by a higher power.

For example, the site God Hates Fags portrays gays and lesbians in a hateful and demeaning way. Embedded in its homophobic rhetoric are scriptural references to support the position that God has "given up" on gay persons.

3. Exploit Fear of Armageddon

Hate groups take advantage of people’s fears of social and economic uncertainty by blaming the woes of modern society on the particular group they target. Canadian sites like National Skinhead Front, CFAR and the Canadian Heritage Alliance focus on the “dangers” of immigration and the need to return to a “traditional European way of life.”

Common Strategies

1. Racialism

White power and white supremacy sites typically deny that they are racist organizations. Instead, they focus on the need to protect white people from assimilation and/or direct threats from non-white groups. They call this perspective "racialist" as opposed to racist.

The 14/88 Society is a good example of this dynamic. The site’s name combines two hate slogans popular in the white supremacy movement:

  • 14 refers to the 14-word slogan: “We must secure the existence of our race and a future for white children”
  • 88 represents HH (H being the eighth number in the alphabet), which stands for Heil Hitler

Overtly racist sites, like 14/88, are the easiest to identify because they conform to the mainstream image of the neo-Nazi skinhead hate group. However, Canadian researcher Matthew Lauder warns that many hate sites attempt to conceal a racist agenda behind a more moderate message.

For example, Melissa Guille of the Canadian Heritage Alliance (CHA) denies the CHA is a hate site, arguing instead that the site is concerned about “keeping Canada for Canadians” and “removing the anti-white sentiment in society.”

Racist messages are also used by non-white hate groups, such as Aztlan, a site dedicated to the establishment of a greater Hispanic empire in North America, and Libre Opinion, a Spanish-language ISP providing free hosting services to racist sites.

2. Pseudo-Science and Intellectualism

Many hate-mongers use pseudo-scientific intellectualized language and incorporate the work of university-based academics to make their views seem more credible.

Canadian professor Phillip Rushton’s work on the different intellectual and physical abilities of different “races” is a case in point. In addition, the late Dr. William Pierce operated a publishing company that released a steady stream of neo-Nazi literature. Pierce’s fictionalized account of racialist revolution in The Turner Diaries is said to have inspired the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.

3. Historical Revisionsim

Holocaust denial is a frequently used strategy. Haters who “revise” history argue that the Holocaust either did not occur, or was less significant than the historical record indicates. The Zundelsite, for example, houses a collection of revisionist writings, including Zundel’s pamphlet Did Six Million Really Die?

Patriot's Prayer4. Patriotism

A number of hate sites clothe their messages in patriotic language. For example, the High Desert Militia of Southern California includes quotes from Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin on their home page, beside the “Patriot’s Prayer” (see right).

5. Misinformation

A number of hate groups seek to embed their messages in sites that purport to exist for non-hateful purposes.

At first glance, the site martinlutherking.org appears to contain historical information about King and the civil rights movement; however, it in fact promotes racism and anti-Semitism. Similarly, the Canadian Association for Free Expression purports to advocate for civil liberties, but its founder, Paul Fromm, admits that the site was created to promote “conservative discussion especially of race and immigration.”

6. Nationalism

Sites such as the U.S.-based League of the South and the Canadian Heritage Alliance use the language of national pride and heritage to advocate for a return to white, “anglo-Celtic civilization.”

7. Hate Symbols

The hate movement continues to use well-known symbols such as the Nazi swastika and the KKK's burning cross to "brand" its message. However, it is increasingly common for hate groups to co-opt mainstream symbols such as the Celtic cross and pagan runes, re-signifying them as emblems of white supremacy.

The Anti-Defamation League argues that hate symbols are more than mere signs: “These symbols are meant to inspire a sense of fear and insecurity. [They] give haters a sense of power and belonging, and a quick way of identifying with others who share their ideology.”



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