Of all the places that might generate a racist, anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant, paranoia-oozing, self-described “white nationalist” website ... well ... you don’t quite expect a South Florida address.
But there it is, run out of a suburban house in West Palm Beach, Stormfront.org, the best known of America’s racist hate sites scattered around the Internet. In a county that’s 20 percent Jewish, 18 percent black, 20 percent Hispanic and a bastion of liberal politics.
Location hardly matters in the digital age, when radical ideas and pseudo-movements and hateful sentiments float through cyberspace untethered to geographical locations. So someone like Don Black, the onetime head of the Alabama-based Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, can move to West Palm Beach and set up a website that most of his neighbors would find abhorrent. And still get 40,000 hits a day.
The traffic spiked to 64,000 a day after the murderous rampage that left nine blacks dead in a Charleston, South Carolina, church last month. The accused killer, Dylann Roof, seems to have been one of those modern horrors, the self-radicalized terrorist with no known membership in any particular hate group, who found a warped sense of community on fringe websites.
Suddenly, sites like Stormfront.org have attracted interest from the mainstream media, trying to understand how some dope-addled, unemployed, shiftless loser convinced himself he could start a race war. In South Florida, we can only cringe when newspapers like The New York Times give Stormfront.org’s location.
Don Black, 61, set up the site in West Palm Beach two decades ago, after his own bizarre entanglements on the fringe. In the 1970s, he had worked for the white supremacist J.B. Stoner’s failed gubernatorial campaign in Georgia. That ended abruptly when he was shot by Stoner’s campaign manager, Jerry Ray, brother of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassin James Earl Ray. Apparently, there was a dispute over a Nazi party mailing list.
Next, he joined up with the infamous David Duke, a KKK marketing whiz.
In 1981, Black and nine other white nationalists were busted in New Orleans as they boarded a yacht bound for the tiny island nation of Dominica, where they planned to impose their own government on the mostly black inhabitants. That cost him a couple years in a federal lockup.
By 1995, he had married Duke’s ex-wife Chloe, moved to South Florida and became the first white supremacist to grasp the marketing potential of the Internet. In 1996, he told the Philadelphia Inquirer, “The potential of the net for organizations and movements such as ours is enormous. We’re reaching tens of thousands of people who never before had access to our point of view.”
Black was so successful that in 2009, the British government barred him from visiting Great Britain, along with the wildly homophobic Rev. Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church and a half-dozen Islamic clerics.
The hate-spewing radicals, including our South Florida neighbor, were banned for “seeking to provoke others to serious criminal acts and fostering hatred which might lead to inter-community violence.”