By Francisco Alvarado
By Trevor Bach
By Chris Joseph
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By Keegan Hamilton and Francisco Alvarado
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"In many ways Florida presents the ideal culture for these groups," says Mark Potok, a spokesman for the Center's Klanwatch. "Much is due to immigration, government regulation, and a history as part of the Deep South for resenting Northerners."
He cites multiple reasons for the Sunshine State's white backlash. One long-standing gripe is the strict regulation of land use. Florida -- with its history of land scams, protected wetlands, and suburban sprawl edging into rural regions -- has often served up a raw deal for poor whites, instead favoring the wealthier transplants from the north or immigrants from the south. And with wealthy Jewish retirees having flooded into previously undeveloped pockets from Miami to Jacksonville, the state has become fertile ground for anti-Semitism, Potok says. "Then there's the organizers like Black, who come in and tell people it's a conspiracy to do them in. That twists it into patriotic Americans versus satanic cabals."
One such proselytized patriot is Paul Wolff, age 74, of Lake Worth, who spent World War II fighting Nazi Germany. He met Black about a decade ago at a mutual friend's picnic. Now Wolff calls him "our leader," asks "Permission to speak, Commander?" and compares Black to the "inscrutable and monolithic" Rapa Nui stone statues on Easter Island. Wolff hasn't read his commander's Website but dismisses Nazi relics on Stormfront as mere means "to attract attention." The native New Yorker says he once sang in the Palm Beach Opera and acted as "information officer" for the state's white supremacist Independent Populist Party (IPP). He claims Black has as many as 600 Florida supporters through his role as IPP chairman in Palm Beach County. And while Wolff is more a codger than a storm trooper, he's convinced mixing the races is unnatural, breeds conflict, and is a prelude to war. "We are a minority on this planet," he said, in between naps on a rickety chair in Black's office. "And if we don't fight for our right to exist, then our fight to give to the grandchildren and the people beyond what we've already fought for -- which took a thousand to two to three thousand years to produce -- will leave us with no such thing as the white race."
Florida has always been a lawless place blurred by Disney-like illusions, says Jack Moore, an American Studies professor and expert on extremism at the University of South Florida in Tampa. "People come here and become caricatures of themselves." Theme parks and rogues combine to generate elaborate fantasies -- ripening the climate for the rites of Klan groups and the conspiracy theories of militias. Another factor, he adds, is just a lot of conservative elderly people with too much time on their hands.
To J.D. Alder, the 43-year-old retired imperial wizard of the United Klans of Florida and fifteen-year resident of Port St. Lucie, whose third annual "White Pride Rally" is the only upcoming event listed on Stormfront, the upcoming struggle will be brought about by rampant immigration and the "Balkanization" of America. "We're just the response to a dangerous situation," he says.
A framed portrait of infamous Civil War Confederate general and first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan Nathan Bedford Forrest clings to a hook above Black's master computer. The wealthy slave trader turned fearsome cavalry general -- known for saying "War means fightin', and fightin' means killin'" -- glares sternly onto the millenium-ending bedlam of Black's office.
All the jazzy graphics of Stormfront and the buzzing and beeping of the techie plying his trade almost conceal one pertinent fact: Black, like his pugnacious hero and the thousands of other increasingly connected militias and white supremacists, means war. He says he doesn't advocate violence. Yet, he says, it's inevitable.
A link to Stormfront called Civil War II spells out the scenario -- the Yugoslavian future of America. The partition starts with the white flight that comes from excess immigration. Whites flee inner cities and consolidate their power in gerrymandered districts. Immigrants and blacks flood the cities. Then the racial meltdown: Mexicans rise up in the Southwest to reclaim the land the United States seized in 1848. That unleashes the anger and aspirations of blacks, and a race war ignites in the South. Ultimately whites carve out, or ethnically cleanse, various regions and plant their new flag.
These sorts of prophecies used to be easily dismissed as the futile longing of a handful of white supremacists. They still are. But, as Black and his critics point out, the Internet makes an increasingly dense community of a formerly disparate far-right. "The scary thing is he's not just able to concentrate his followers but can now attract young people," the Wiesenthal Center's Rabbi Cooper said. "We should be concerned about tomorrow's Timothy McVeigh emerging and saying, 'Well this turns me on,' or 'I'm really angry about this too.'"
Black says the McVeigh argument's a red herring. "You can accuse any movement of eliciting the same violence. What about Zionism? What about the violence during the civil rights movement?" He also believes the Oklahoma bombing was a covert government operation to discredit militias and to justify further gun-control legislation.