By Chris Joseph
By Chris Joseph
By Allie Conti
By Chuck Strouse
By Chris Joseph
By Chris Joseph
By Allie Conti
By Kyle Swenson
"Who? Oh, Don Black. We never see him," says Eileen Zern, who's lived next door on Lakeland Drive since before Black began fortifying his home a decade ago with enough advanced electronics to beam his racist call-to-arms around the globe. "They just don't have much to do with anyone else. Their house is kind of an enclave unto themselves."
Black faces a glowing screen that's positioned like an altar in his musty cybercompound, a Celtic cross reflects black, white, and red -- the colors of the Nazi flag -- in the Webmaster's glassy eyes. He scrolls down the site's greeting page (www.stormfront.org) to its burning block-lettered insignia: Stormfront. He passes a clump of white-supremacy articles in hypertext -- "Minutes of the Alternative Townhall [sic] Meeting on Race," "White Farmers in Zimbabwe," "Brainwashing Our Children: The Myth of Black History," and "My Indian Odyssey" by former Klan leader David Duke.
A banner in blocked text explains the site's purpose: "Stormfront is a resource for those courageous men and women fighting to preserve their White Western culture, ideals, and freedom of speech and association -- a forum for planning strategies and forming political and social groups to ensure victory."
Near the bottom an independently monitored hitbox -- an odometer of sorts that tracks visitors to the Website -- lists the number of times Stormfront has been viewed since Black launched the site on March 27, 1995. The figure, confirmed by the ADL, stood at 825,441 in February. On average, 1500 browsers visit the site every day. The number of hits doesn't mean Black has a faithful cadre now approaching one million. It represents how many times the front page has been called up -- including frequent accidents. A more reliable indicator for Stormfront's popularity is "unique" visitors, the number of which tells how many individual browsers have accessed the site. About 50 percent of Black's hits are unique, he says.
Black's headquarters -- a converted master bedroom in his house -- is a small square room that shelves scores of thick computer manuals and hundreds of books that range from Robert Lenski's Swastika at War and Toward a New Science of Man to John Toland's Adolf Hitler and The Bell Curve by Richard Hernstein and Charles Murray. Other titles visible include Lord Haw-Haw by William Joyce, Gore Vidal's Empire, and Which Way Western Man? by William Simpson, a favorite of Black's.
In one corner Old Dixie, the rebel flag, hangs from a high shelf. In another a David Duke campaign poster gathers dust on top of an old Solaflex exercise machine. The dank and brown paisley-curtained office -- with a main source of light being a gooey red lava lamp -- reeks of an unwashed dog.
While spewing computer jargon amid the stray monitors, keyboards, fax machines, scanners, and scattered circuitry, Black explains how he landed on the name Stormfront. "You need a colorful name. We wanted something militant-sounding that was also political and social. Stormfront says turbulence is coming, and afterwards there'll be a cleansing effect."
Black's first brush with computers came during childhood trips to the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. He later tinkered with an early-model PC while living with Duke in 1981. Ironically it wasn't until he spent 1982 to 1985 in a federal prison in Texas that Black began to develop computer expertise. Taxpayers paid for the grand wizard's programming classes, and he spent eight hours a day hacking away on the prison's RadioShack TRS-80.
Since moving to West Palm Beach in 1987, Black has built a portfolio of mainly local businesses and a smattering of political computer clients around the country. He started out managing databases and designing bulletin boards, but now most of his money comes from designing Web pages. A few hundred dollars filters in from political donations each month, he says. But he works pro bono for about a dozen like-minded comrades such as Aryan Nations, The Truth at Last Newspaper, the Church of the Creator's Website, a Ku Klux Klan history site, and a racy Aryan Dating Page.
Black spends most of his time maintaining Stormfront. His wife Chloe (the ex-wife of David Duke), pitches in by working as a secretary at Florida Crystal Co. in Palm Beach. Black's reluctant to admit his wife works, preferring to maintain the 1950s heritage that a man should provide for woman and child. Plugging away in cyberspace can get tedious. "There's at least twenty different things to do everyday," he says. Black formats articles in HTML (the Web's script), links and updates sites, answers up to 50 e-mails a day, maintains a graffiti board, and edits out potentially dangerous postings like synagogue addresses and bomb-making information. Black knows it's not illegal to tell people how to build a bomb. It is against the law to incite people to commit crimes. So to ward off eager censors and law enforcement, he avoids publishing anything critics might construe as advocating crimes. A recently added chat room features discussions on everything from "There's white trash too" to "Our dying culture," and it also requires frequent monitoring.
Then there are his enemies to contend with. Vocal critics from the ADL and the Wiesenthal Center routinely recite the evils of Stormfront, arguing that the smart presentation and politically correct language veils the racism and threatens unsuspecting children. "He is showing the way for Klansmen, neo-Nazis, Holocaust deniers, and other haters who now utilize the World Wide Web to spread their propaganda and seek to attract new members," says Michael Winograd, the associate director of ADL's Florida regional office. "[Black] is a troubling character precisely because he is relatively articulate and intelligent and is not the knuckle-scraping Neanderthal one might expect." Chief on Winograd's list of sources of offensive material are Black's spectrum of links (connections to other Websites) that deny the Holocaust, propound "scientific" racism and revolutionary violence, a graphics library that includes an array of Nazi images from S.S. emblems to swastikas, and the myriad pseudo-intellectual racist essays.