Using Hate Sites to Counter White Separatist Terrorism in the US

Wikimedia Commons

By Joshua Forget, Columnist

Since 9/11, terrorist attacks from right wing extremists have been more numerous and more deadly than terrorist attacks from jihadists in the United States.[1] In the wake of President Obama’s immigration decision, the feasibility of a white separatist terrorist attack being carried out on US soil may increase. This will require a refocusing of the FBI, DHS, and law enforcement on the white separatist terror threat. Using the robust white separatist internet presence to collect and analyze intelligence on a largely localized movement is a vital component in the domestic counterterrorism effort.

White Separatist Plots and Attacks

Seven of the 17 right wing attacks and 22 of the 38 resulting deaths since 9/11 are attributable to white separatists.[2] Furthermore, of the nearly 100 right wing terrorist plots both realized and unrealized between 1995 and 2012, 47 were organized by individuals or groups associated with white separatism.[3] This latter figure does not include the additional plots and successful attacks over the last two years, such as the April 2014 Kansas Jewish Center shooting or the June 2014 Las Vegas police ambush, both perpetrated by adherents of white separatist ideology.[4]

Ideology and Goals

White separatism and the distinctions among the various strains espoused by different organizations are too complex to explore here, but in general, white separatists are concerned with racial separation. These groups see themselves engaged in an epic struggle against a Zionist Occupation Government (ZOG) and see affirmative action, immigration, and interracial relations as a direct threat to the survival of Aryans. They often declaim the “14 Words” slogan of the terrorist David Lane (“We Must Secure the Existence of Our People and a Future for White Children”) and prepare for the eventuality of a race war.[5]

Leaderless Resistance

One of the largest challenges facing US domestic counterterrorism experts today is the ‘leaderless resistance’ strategy of the white separatist movement. The concept was proposed in 1992 by Louis Beam, a white nationalist with ties to the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), neo-Nazism, and the Christian Identity cult.[6] Beam prescribed the formation of small underground cells to protect the movement from infiltration and disruption by the authorities. In his words, “All individuals and groups operate independently of each other and never report to a central headquarters or single leader for direction or instruction…Participants in a program of Leaderless Resistance through phantom cell or individual action must know exactly what they are doing, and exactly how to do it.”[7] A 2009 DHS assessment on right wing extremism in the US identifies white separatist “lone wolves” as “the most significant domestic terrorist threat because of their low profile and autonomy-separate from any formalized group-which hampers warning efforts” and states “recent state and municipal law enforcement reporting has warned of the dangers of rightwing extremists embracing the tactics of ‘leaderless resistance’.”[8] and Political Violence

In the absence of a formal hierarchy, the white separatist movement establishes ideological cohesion through race-based hate sites. The most prominent of these is, a white nationalist forum started and run by Don Black. Today, Stormfront is the most prominent white separatist online forum in the world with 286,000 registered users. A recent study by the Southern Poverty Law Center revealed that registered Stormfront users have been linked to almost 100 racially motivated murders in the last five years.[9]

On August 5th, 2012 Wade Michael Page, a 40 year old US Army veteran walked into a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin and shot six worshipers to death before taking his own life during a shootout with police.[10] Page, a neo-Nazi, frequently posted on Stormfront and spewed hatred for minorities, particularly the Jews.[11] The August 1999 shooting spree at a Los Angeles Jewish day care center in which five people were wounded was also perpetrated by a prolific Stormfront user.[12] In Norway, Anders Behring Breivik emailed his racist manifesto to two American white nationalists he had met on Stormfront before going on a rampage that killed 77 and injured over 300 people in 2011. After Breivik was incarcerated, Stormfront users immortalized him as a “hero” and a “POW.”[13]

The Utility of Hate Sites in Counterterrorism

The majority of Americans would love to see websites like Stormfront closed, but as one scholar suggests, banning white separatist sites can backfire. Vidhya Ramalingam cites Germany as an example, where repressive measures against far right groups have perpetuated the problem by martyrizing extremists and fostering solidarity among them both regionally and globally. Similarly, French efforts to stamp out the sale of Nazi paraphernalia online prompted the neo-Nazis to simply move their operation to a foreign-based host.[14] Another scholar posits that eliminating what he calls “Aryan free spaces” may increase the likelihood of a terrorist attack in the short term because they function as “pressure release valves” for white separatists.[15]

The continued existence of Stormfront and analogous websites is essential to the domestic counterterrorism effort for several reasons. First, hate websites are a gold mine of open source intelligence. Even as an unregistered user, one can gather information on everything from ideological trends to the dates and locations of white power gatherings. A registered user can gain even further access to password-protected discussions by establishing trust with the more serious users, like this man did. Second, the forums provide a gateway for special agents and police officers to infiltrate white separatist organizations by establishing and maintaining a credible persona online. Finally, these sites can be used for training FBI, DHS, and law enforcement collectors and analysts who need to become familiar with the topics and jargon before engaging in research or initiating face-to-face interaction with a potential terrorist.

The online infrastructure of the white separatist movement is a cohesive virtual window on a world that is physically isolated. When countering a leaderless resistance, any opportunity to observe or interact with potential terrorists in a collective environment should be exploited. Preventing a future attack may depend on it.

[1] “Deadly Attacks Since 9/11,” New America Foundation, Accessed November 22, 2014,; Peter Bergen and David Sterman, “US right wing extremists more deadly than jihadists,” CNN, April 15, 2014,

[2] “Deadly Attacks Since 9/11,” New America Foundation.

[3] Heidi Beirich et al., Terror from the Right: Plots, Conspiracies, and Racist Rampages Since Oklahoma City, Montgomery: Southern Poverty Law Center, 2012, 1-27.

[4] Glenn Frazier Miller, Declaration of War, Manuscript, from Southern Poverty Law Center, The Extremist Files;Charlotte Lytton, “The Psychology of Frazier Glenn Miller’s Racist Homophobia,” The Daily Beast, April 24, 2014,; “‘Anti-government’ killers put swastika, flag on Metro Police officer’s body,” Las Vegas Sun, June 9, 2014, accessed November 23, 2014,

[5] Betty A. Dobratz and Stephanie L. Shanks-Meile, “Ideology” in “White Power, White Pride!” The White Separatist Movement in the United States, (New York: Twayne Publishers, 1997), 89-162.

[6] “Louis Beam,” Anti Defamation League, Accessed November 22, 2014,

[7] Ibid.

[8] US Department of Homeland Security, (U//FOUO) Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment, Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office, 2009.

[9] Heidi Beirich, “White Homicide Worldwide,” Intelligence Report 154 (Summer 2014): 2,6.

[10] Arie Perliger, Challengers from the Sidelines: Understanding America’s Violent Far-Right, West Point: The Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, 2012, 143.

[11] Beirich, “White Homicide Worldwide,” 5.

[12] Ibid., 2.

[13] Ibid., 3; Mark Townsend and Ian Traynor, “Norway attacks: How far right views created Anders Behring Breivik,” The Guardian, July 30, 2011,

[14] Vidhya Ramalingam, Policy Briefing: Countering Far-Right Extremism, London: Institute for Strategic Dialogue, 2014, 17-18.

[15] Pete Simi and Robert Futrell, American Swastika: Inside the White Power Movement’s Hidden Spaces of Hate, (Plymouth: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2010, 124.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.