White nationalists generally don’t vote unless David Duke is on the ballot; this year, however, with the ascendancy of Donald Trump, many white nationalists have finally found a political candidate they can stand behind. “I’m sure he would repudiate any association with people like me, but his support comes from people who are more like me than he might like to admit,” the editor of a white-nationalist magazine told The New Yorker writer Evan Osnos, who’s been tracking the far-right’s support of Trump.
But while Trump’s speeches are bringing xenophobia back into mainstream political discourse, such discussions have been happening online for years — notably on Stormfront, the first white-nationalist website, which was founded 20 years ago. At the time, groups like the Klu Klux Klan met in secret and communicated via back channels, such as CB radio. Don Black, Stormfront’s founder, was a noted white nationalist and former KKK Grand Wizard who was early to realize that the internet would allow niche populations — including hate groups — to generate and circulate their own news. Stormfront now claims more than 300,000 members, although only a fraction of those are active on the site.
Black, who is 62, is giving signs of seeming tired. In 2008, he banned Nazi imagery and certain racial slurs from Stormfront — and subsequently lost some users to more virulent, less moderated forums on Reddit. His son, who once served as Black’s tween white-power mini-me, has publicly denounced white nationalism.
What do you think of Donald Trump?
He resonates with many of our people, of course — and with white, middle America, which has been seething for many years now about the immigration issue. It’s been ready to boil over for a long time. Trump stumbled onto this issue and he’s benefiting from that. It inspires a lot of people, including a lot of our own people. I don’t know how far he’ll go, and I don’t know, if he were elected, if he really would follow through on his promise. But he’s definitely been a major boost for us.
Do you vote?
If there’s someone to vote for. So, rarely.
And are you going to vote for Donald Trump?
Yeah. Though I don’t know if he’ll get past the Florida primary. With the other candidates, they offer nothing, which is the reason Trump has gone [over] well — he’s at least taken a stand.
The Daily Stormer, the other major white-nationalist website, endorsed him for president. Will Stormfront do the same?
No. Anything we have to say would be conditional. We support Trump because of what he has accomplished, but beyond that, we don’t know what he will do. He doesn’t inspire me. In 2000, he was trying to control the Reform Party when Pat Buchanan eventually became the candidate. Donald Trump was attacking Pat Buchanan because David Duke supported him — which David Duke didn’t exactly do, but he did say favorable things about [Buchanan]. At that time, Trump was clearly not on our side. He was clearly on the other side. And now David Duke says favorable things about Donald Trump.
There were lots of reports about how traffic to Stormfront and other white-nationalist websites surged after Obama’s election in 2008.
I think the election came as a big shock to a lot of people. It came as a shock to me. When I was watching our traffic that night, I wasn’t expecting that [the site would crash because of all the visitors]. But on the worse-is-better theory, I was hoping Obama would be elected. These Republicans with white faces can get away with a lot more because our people get complacent simply because they have a white face. They might look a little more like them, but that doesn’t mean they represent them. Whereas Obama — there has been more resistance to him.
The Southern Poverty Law Center released a report last year saying that Stormfront members had committed nearly 100 murders over the past five years.
That lie gets promoted by the SPLC over and over and over again. The people they come up with have little if anything to do with Stormfront; their posting a few times had nothing to do with these scattered incidents over the past 15 years. Anders Breivik, who comprised the majority of those murders, posted four times three years prior to his shooting spree. He was not particularly welcome and never came back. [This is not entirely true. A Stormfront regular replied to Breivik’s first post with “glad to have you here.”]
Do you remember where you were when you heard about Dylann Roof shooting the nine black churchgoers in Charleston?
I probably first read about it on the net. I still don’t know the deal with Dylann Roof. I don’t think he ever posted on Stormfront. And even if he did, he never suggested doing anything illegal. Had he done so, he would’ve been banned. Our moderators ban any suggestion of illegal activity. We do get people who come through over the years and may do something — but it has nothing to do with their activity on Stormfront any more than it had to do with their activity on Facebook or Google. You know, I was visited by the FBI recently — the first time I’d actually gotten an FBI visit in 20 years. I still don’t know that he had ever posted on Stormfront; I tend to doubt it. They seemed to think otherwise. But I can’t really discuss that.
Do you feel any responsibility for the content on your site inspiring people like Roof?
Dylann Roof said he first got mad about Trayvon Martin. Well, where did he first hear about that? ABC? NBC? People have Facebook accounts, Twitter accounts — why not make those outlets responsible for anything they do? The standing joke with us after that 100-murders story came out was that, according to our research, 90 percent of murderers are Google users.
Okay, but Google, ABC, and NBC are not the same as a website that has a specific agenda.
We tell the facts. You know, maybe we’re a little less biased. Maybe we do report on the racial realities. So the truth should be outlawed because someone might find the truth? And what about all this incessant anti-white drumbeat in the mainstream media? This story that white cops murder black people. So maybe the mainstream media is responsible for the murder of white cops by blacks, for the countless other murders that don’t get reported in the media by people who have been inspired by these incessant anti-white messages. They have inspired hatred, hatred against white people.
Do you think that stories about the #BlackLivesMatter movement motivate violence against white people?
Of course they do. The whole narrative is that black people are uniquely discriminated against and subject to murder and that blacks have to retaliate.
So those stories can motivate violence, but yours don’t?
Well, we’re a pretty limited voice, compared to the anti-white narrative we’re subject to all the time. That narrative is a much bigger factor than if somebody went to a discussion board.
Stormfront has been around for 20 years. Do you think things are better or worse now than they were in 1995?
I think things clearly are worse. And they have gotten worse every decade since I became politically conscious. In terms of Stormfront, we have a lot more people than we did 20 years ago. And I think attitudes are changing. Younger people are more skeptical of official narratives than they ever have been. They may or may not be on our side. But many of them are.
In the last few months, I think an agenda is being pushed and overplayed. They want to eliminate every single vestige of our heritage and our culture because it is racist. Dig up the graves, tear down the monuments! Ultimately, the goal [is] to put all white people in a museum. [The movement against Confederate memorials] deliberately coincided with the Supreme Court’s decision on gay marriage and the rainbow White House. All these things seemed to come all at once. And despite all the conditioning, not everyone is accepting all of this. I think there’s more potential now for a real resistance movement. Whether it’s too little too late is another story.
You talk a lot about the negative media portrayals of Stormfront, and of white nationalists, and of you. Does it hurt your feelings?
I would say I’ve gotten used to it. Well, I don’t know. It might hurt my feelings a little bit. Obviously not as much as it would most people.
Is it true that you’re looking to pass the baton on Stormfront?
I’m always looking for someone to take my place. People get old. I’m not under 30 anymore, and people — we become fixed in our thinking sometimes. I try to combat that as best I can. But younger people have more innovative ideas as to how to win, and they tend to be a little more combative than us old guys. I mean, I started in the pro-white cause when I was 15, and I was a little too combative back then. I would’ve just as soon as skipped a few of my early adventures. But we mellow.
Your son used to be a teen star in the white-nationalist movement. A few years ago, he publicly repudiated white supremacy. Are you still in touch?
I talk to him from time to time. He’s involved in academia, in graduate school. He’s not involved with Stormfront anymore.
Is that a disappointment?
Yep. But I don’t really blame him. I’m kinda glad in some ways that he’s out of this because it is like living your life under siege.
I want to ask you about this serial killer you were friends with in the ’60s.
Joseph Paul Franklin. We weren’t friends. He was a real creepy guy when I met him, in ’69. He didn’t become a serial killer, a sniper of interracial couples, until the ’70s. He was executed last year — before, he called up the SPLC and denounced everything. He said we were all crazy — me, David Duke — we were all crazy. He was all reformed. He was trying to get out of being executed. Everybody that had met him agreed he was a real creepy guy, even if we never thought he was gong to become a serial killer.
When people like him, or posters on Stormfront, are saying things that imply violence, or are really beyond the pale — do you feel like you have any responsibility to alert somebody?
First, the Supreme Court defines what’s illegal as an imminent threat of something illegal. I don’t recall ever seeing that [on Stormfront]. The closest we get is somebody who seems a little off, suggests, you know, “We gotta do something.” But it would become very dangerous if you started reporting people just because they seem a little odd or say something off base. Then you get into the turning-in-your-neighbor territory.
Say somebody makes some offhand comment, like, “The only way this is going to end is in an all-out race war.” Does that mean you report them to the FBI? I suspect Dylann Roof’s friend who got arrested the other day probably had a similar situation. So, [Roof] gets really drunk and threatens to do something — what, is his drinking buddy supposed to report him to the police? That’s not the way things work in real life.
If there was some clear and present danger I would consider — but the only people I have ever encountered that go in that direction are government informants. Normally if you do get somebody that comes along and starts suggesting strongly that you need to set up your sniper positions, you can almost be sure they’re a government informant trying to entrap people.
Why do you live in Florida?
Because my wife was born here and lived here. We might leave here eventually — there’s nowhere to run, but there are nicer places to live. There aren’t a lot of white people left down here, in our neighborhood even. And we live in a nice neighborhood.
This interview has been edited and condensed.