Hate groups try to capitalize on Sept. 11

Some extremists say immigrants threaten 'Aryan race.' Others praise terrorists' strike.

Hate groups around the United States are using the recent terrorist attacks to promote their causes.

White supremacists, Christian Identity adherents, neo-Nazis, conspiracy theorists, skinhead groups, and other extremists are citing the events of Sept. 11 (and since) to recruit new members - especially young people.

Many claim that the attacks on the US are the result of "the US government acting on behalf of the Jews instead of on behalf of the American people." This is one of the more subdued charges made by William Pierce, head of the West Virginia-based National Alliance, on his website. Mr. Pierce is also author of the book about race war that supposedly inspired Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.

Such messages are seen in leaflets handed out at public gatherings, on Internet postings, and as part of the lyrics to "white-power music."

One recent development in recruiting is shortwave radio. A shortwave receiver is far cheaper than a computer, and hate-filled messages (some advocating violence) now are heard on 1,100 hours of broadcasting a month across the US, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

It's difficult to know for sure how effective such messages are. But experts are concerned that as the mostly-secretive world of hate shifts from robes and pointed hoods to cyberspace and cable TV, the message is at least being heard by more and more people susceptible to its message of exclusion, racial superiority, and violence.

In its recent report, "State of Hate: White Nationalism in the Midwest," the Center for New Community, a faith-based human rights organization in Chicago, details 338 such groups across the Midwest, many of which are actively recruiting young people.

This includes 95 neo-Nazi and racist skinhead groups, a 30 percent increase over the past two years. Pierce claims that his National Alliance has seen a 50 percent increase in website visits over the past year.

Old message, new twist

Much of the hate propaganda is merely the same old message with a new twist.

"As the bombs rain down upon Afghanistan, let us remember that it is the Jewish Occupational Government in Washington, D.C., that is gaining most by this event and that any victory in this campaign accrues to the benefit of the enemies of our White Racial Loyalist idea," writes Matt Hale, head of the World Church of the Creator in East Peoria, Ill., on the group's website. "As was the case with his father, George W. Bush is determined to spread his so-called 'New World Order' around the world making the world 'safe' for Jewish supremacy and corporate profits."

"Is Our Involvement in the Security of the Jewish State Worth This?" reads a headline next to a photo of the collapsing World Trade Center in National Alliance magazine.

Many such groups focus on the growing number of newcomers to the US as a threat to the "Aryan race," particularly in the weeks following the recent terrorist attacks.

"They're blaming immigration for the events of Sept. 11," says Devin Burghart, author of the Center for New Community's report. "They're out there trying to mobilize on that very issue."

Even before the recent attacks, such groups were seen as a danger to domestic security.

"On the national level, formal right-wing hate groups, such as the World Church of the Creator and the Aryan Nations, represent a continuing terrorist threat," former FBI Director Louis Freeh told the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence last May.

But in a new and somewhat ironic development, some right-wing radicals find themselves supporting terrorists they might otherwise lump together with what they consider to be subhuman "mud people."

The Aryan Nations proclaims the Middle Eastern attackers in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania to have been "Islamic freedom fighters."

There may even be ties between US hatemongers and terrorists abroad. Intelligence officials know of such connections dating back to at least 1987, when a meeting of US white supremacists and Arab radicals - united in their opposition to Israel - took place in Libya. More recently, a meeting between US and European Holocaust deniers was to have taken place in Beirut. But under pressure from American Jewish groups, the Lebanese government refused permission for the meeting.

Still, the messages of Pierce of the National Alliance, former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, and other right-wing extremists have been broadcast from Iran and Iraq.

"We are also concerned with some people in the Middle East who have begun reproducing the propaganda of American right-wing extremists - alleging Israeli complicity in the 9/11 attacks, for example," says Mark Pitcavage of the Anti-Defamation League, a historian specializing in antigovernment radicals.

An anthrax connection?

Some observers see the possibility that US extremists may have been in cahoots with foreign sources to plan and carry out the recent anthrax attacks.

"US government experts do not seem to have seriously considered the possibility that Middle Eastern terrorists might have slipped some weapons-lab anthrax to a right-wing ally in the US," says Chip Berlet of Political Research Associates in Somerville, Mass., a leading authority on such groups.

There is also concern that European right-wingers - philosophical soulmates of the National Alliance, Aryan Nations, and other US white supremacist organizations - may have helped Osama bin Laden. Ahmen Huber, a Swiss national reportedly connected to both Islamic fundamentalism and the neo-Nazi movement there, was questioned last week about his financial support for Mr. bin Laden's Al Qaeda terrorist organization.

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