By Chris Joseph
By Chris Joseph
By Allie Conti
By Chuck Strouse
By Chris Joseph
By Chris Joseph
By Allie Conti
By Kyle Swenson
The bulky bigot plods north along South Olive Avenue in West Palm Beach, tugging at the hand of his eight-year-old son. Black disregards the Guatemalan immigrants grooming the row of manicured lawns. Clad in khaki pants and bright white tennis shoes, the 6-foot-3-inch man with the helmet of gently graying hair effects more a suburban soccer dad than a frothy monomaniac poised to lead the next Civil War. Yet Black's beefy shoulders, like the indelible numbers branded onto Holocaust survivors, reveal that which can't be concealed -- a criminal history marked by a three-year prison term for plotting a coup on a mostly black Caribbean island. And now the former national KKK leader is crusading to split the country along racial lines as the vanguard of white supremacy on the Internet.
Black's swastika-strewn "Stormfront" -- the only white supremacist Website on the Internet before the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City -- is identified as "the trailblazer" and "the granddaddy of extremism" in on-line racism by staunch critics like the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the Nazi-hunting Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles. Their concerns are not unfounded. Black is capable and has a distinct vision.
"We see the breakup [of the United States] coming in about twenty years -- it's a natural progression of events," says Black, walking hand-in-hand with his son to their lemon tree-shaded clapboard home in West Palm Beach. "The Internet is a means of planting seeds for the future. There are a lot of middle-class people who feel disaffected -- and in Stormfront they can find what they can't in the mass media. It's about building a community and attracting hard-core supporters.
"We don't use the 'nigger, nigger' type of approaches," he says, showing disdain for name-calling. He now prefers quasi-scientific or pseudointellectual identifications of racial differences. "We don't want to present the Jerry Springer or Geraldo Rivera image of rabid racists. There are a lot of people who want to agree with us. They just don't want to be associated with that."
Black and son stroll past the scores of squat mission-style homes in their Central Park neighborhood. The red-haired boy's out of school for the day celebrating Robert E. Lee's birthday, unlike the four black children in his third-grade class at Palm Beach Public School. "I'm not into Martin Luther King's birthday, of course," Black explains. "It's an example of a government that no longer represents the interest of the majority of its people. One that no longer represents the heritage of this country. But the minority liberal, multicultural orthodoxy in this county has determined him to be a national hero. And while most Americans opposed the holiday -- white Americans, of course -- they now have to accept it, like they have accepted everything imposed on them."
A few miles north, city officials are breaking ground for a $300,000 Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial at Currie Park on Flagler Drive. In the Latino Southdale neighborhood to the south, salsa is heard more than country. And sandwiching Central Park's stucco façades and Mediterranean-style bungalows are bodegas scattered along Dixie Highway to the west and a row of high-rise apartment buildings hugging the Intracoastal to the east that house many elderly Jews.
"It bothers me this area is more Guatemalan than American. It bothers me to wait in line at Publix for a Guatemalan to get out his food stamps. I don't want to pay taxes for them," says Black, who admits to years of chiding by fellow white supremacists for such an ill-fated family name. "It's too much like New York -- it's the front lines of the third-world invasion." He pauses then adds that he doesn't hate people of other races. In fact he admires resourceful leaders like Louis Farrakhan and Mexico's Zapatista rebel leader Subcomandante Marcos. They should just live in other countries, he says.
There's an upside to spurring a revolution with the click of a mouse instead of a flaming cross: Black can spread his screed to the rest of the world without rankling his next-door neighbors. And he can do it in the den of South Florida's 18,400 Holocaust survivors and more than 620,000 Jews, 1.4 million Hispanics, and 814,000 blacks. A 30-year-old black neighbor who lives two doors from one of the nation's most outspoken racists has only heard rumors about the ex-Klansman. In the four years they've been neighbors, the man has only a few times glimpsed Black walking his scruffy German shepherd Heidi and his Belgian shepherd Gwen.
"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.
The link to Aryan Nations, which Black designed, frets: "The Jew is like a destroying virus that attacks our racial body to destroy our Aryan culture and the purity of our race. Those of our race who resist these attacks are called 'chosen and faithful.' We believe that there is a battle being fought this day between the children of darkness (today known as Jews) and children of light, the Aryan Race, the true Israel of the Bible."
An essay "Love and Hatred: Two Sides of the Same Coin" on the Website RaHoWa.com (Racial Holy War), another link to Stormfront fashioned by Black, counsels: "The problem is not that people hate, but that they hate the wrong people. For example, due to Jewish mind scrambling, many people hate us -- the very people who are trying to insure that they have a future. On the flip side, many people "love their enemies," the Jews, niggers, and other mud races -- those who seek their destruction. Does it make sense to love your friends and hate your enemies rather than the other way around? Does it not make more sense to destroy your persecutors than to 'pray for them?' Of course it does."
Black says aspiring censors like the ADL and the German government force him to devote a part of every day to defending against cyber-assaults. He frequently gets "e-mail bombed" (a massive chain of e-mails that clog up a system or shut down the server), "ping flooded" (data packets of information that severely slow down communications to the server), and "blue screened" (data sent to overload and crash an operating system). He now uses three servers to protect Stormfront from crashing or being otherwise shoved off-line.
And, with a trace of pride, Black says he's on the verge of taking Stormfront into the Internet's next generation. He expects to stretch its interactive capacity to the edge of current technology by broadcasting audio feeds for a live call-in, radio-type show by mid-February. Thereafter he plans to cram a few dozen followers into his cave-like office to help air weekly shows through the Internet. Other updates in the near future include adding Russian and Italian sections to the international page, which already features racism and revisionism in Spanish and German. The next step -- which Black says could come in the next few years -- is video feeds or Web TV. The Stormfront of today will be clunky in comparison to the flashier video. And Black believes that its message will only become more accessible.
Leaning back in a swivel chair, he says with the hint of a grin curling his lips, "The future's on our side; it's only a matter of time."
"At its core the argument is an old one -- should an incitement to hate be protected by the First Amendment?" harrumphs ABC News Nightline's Ted Koppel. The veteran late-night interrogator introduces the "Hate and the Internet" program, which aired last month, in his signature staccato cadences: "But what used to be limited to pamphlets and leaflets and street-corner ranting, what used to be inhibited by the reluctance of radio and television station owners to lose advertisers or even their licenses, has received an unprecedented shot in the arm from the Internet...."
It's not every racist who gets a soapbox with a national audience of about four million or the legitimacy of a perch once held by the likes of Henry Kissinger and Mikhail Gorbachev. And few right-wing conspiracy theorists get the chance to brand an apostle of the mainstream media a tool of a news monopoly on live net- work TV. On January 13, Black got those opportunities.
"Like many Website operators," intones a reporter in the opening video segment, "Black is using the Internet to promote a specific idea, in his case a political point of view."
Cut to Black propped in front of Old Dixie, a row of books, and a computer monitor advertising Stormfront: "The Net has provided us with the opportunity to bring our point of view to hundreds of thousands of people who would never have otherwise subscribed to one of our publications or otherwise been in touch with any of our organizations."
The reporter tells viewers the Wiesenthal Center estimates at least 800 Websites like Black's are now on the Internet and the bigotry-bashing group now spends 80 percent of its resources tracking "so-called 'on-line hate.'" Koppel explains the Internet could have about 200 million users by the turn of the century.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Wiesenthal Center: "The lunatic fringe has embraced this technology with a sophistication and a veracity that is frightening.... What started as a trickle has now evolved into an incredible deluge. In the last year alone, we've seen a 300 percent increase in the number of these pages put up on the World Wide Web."
Despite a sheen of sweat, the onset of stubble, and a drab gray pinstripe suit -- a no-no for TV -- Black was smooth, believable, and effective. He spoke in clear, crisp sentences. He invoked history, came across as authoritative about the mystifying mechanics of the Internet, and, when necessary, he parried sharply against Floyd Abrams, a prominent First Amendment attorney, who was featured as Black's foil in the téte-à-téte portion of the show. Yet the two didn't spar that much. Abrams repeatedly expressed support for Black's right to spread his message. And if face-time renders a winner, Black won. His nine ripostes -- which included repeated plugs for Stormfront, condemnation of proposed censorship by ADL and America Online, and summoning Thomas Jefferson to his defense -- pummeled Abrams' six shorter responses.
"You may consider my views dangerous, but so were those of the founding fathers," says Black, who in the video segment delivers his beloved Jeffersonian quote: "Nothing is more certainly written than that these, the Negro people, are to be free, nor is it less certain that equally free they cannot live under the same government." Black adds, "In fact their views... weren't that much different from my own."
Abrams: "Well, my --"
Koppel interrupts to dump on Black: "If you'll forgive me, most of us won't have trouble distinguishing between you and Thomas Jefferson," he said. But the momentarily flustered ex-Klansman sallied back: "The truth will win the debate. There's no controlled point of view on the Net. There's no, unlike the, what I, what we consider a media monopoly, which your network is part of, all points of view are accessible, good and bad... So when you start talking about how dangerous or hateful I am, I think that's a little bit self-serving."
Media attention is a double-edged sword for Black. He knows he'll be labeled a "hater," "bigot," or "supremacist." Words he views as "pejorative... meant to stifle argument." He prefers the sobriquet "racialist." But the mainstream media also brings large audiences. And his message, as was evident from his Nightline appearance, only has to prick a relatively few ears to serve his purpose. The next day 8020 hits registered on Stormfront, five times more than average. And a raft of e-mail queued up over the next few days. Some derided him or likened him to pure evil. Others simply requested more information on "interesting ideas." But most lauded him for being "articulate and credible," "cool-headed, polite, and very much a gentlemen," he claims. A few examples of those favoring Black:
Because I watched Nightline this evening, I found your site. I am a "white" person who has decided I will no longer accept that title. Because black people have demanded that they be called "African-Americans," I have demanded that I will henceforth be referred to as a "European-American."
I watched Nightline last night, and Ted Kippel's [sic] closed and bigoted mind positively disgusted me. It is clear to anyone with a trace of intellect that the USA promotes myths such as racial intellectual equality.... Negro intellectual inferiority is so obvious that one would think that only total idiots could conclude otherwise.
Dear Mr. Black:
Thank you for taking the time to care about our white pride and heritage. I am a firm supporter of your aims. The article entitled "What Is Racism" by Mr. Jackson touched me greatly. He clearly articulated what I have been feeling for many years. I will add your Website to my links page very soon... Again, thank you for your dedication and devotion to white heritage. White Pride!!!
David Hoffman, ADL's Webmaster in New York, lamented Nightline's decision to grant the ex-Klansman such exposure. "The short-form medium of television gives him a legitimacy he doesn't deserve," he said. "He was like an honest computer consultant with a different point of view. I believe in contextualizing this stuff. Most Americans will reject this garbage when they understand what it is. But people do elect demagogues -- and any soapbox only serves to fan the flames." The irony, both Black and Hoffman say, is that Black's enemies are often his best promoters.
"It turned out about as well as could be expected," Black said. "Most of our supporters thought it was very biased. But it's as good as it's going to get for network TV."
Even in the unreconstructed world of 1950s Athens, Alabama, Black's prejudices led him to grow up an outcast. The son of a wealthy real estate developer, Black remembers always being "vaguely concerned" about the civil rights movement. "I thought it was disrupting," he says. He avoided sports and cultural currents like jazz or the likes of Jimi Hendrix. Richard Wagner was more his style. Black was a loner and never had black, Hispanic, or Jewish friends. He once read John Howard Griffin's Black Like Me, a 1961 account of a white man who dyes his skin black. "It was a heart-wrenching thing," Black says. "He couldn't use the bathroom anywhere. But I didn't believe everything he wrote."
Black's views began to jell at age fifteen. A booklet called "Our Nordic Race" motivated him to write segregationist groups like White Power and Thunderbolt for similar literature. By his sophomore year, he was handing out their race-baiting tabloids at Athens High School. That was the young racist's first taste of controversy. The school board banned the distribution of political pamphlets. So he defied them, launching a mail campaign with addresses from the student handbook.
In 1970, a year later, Black joined the Virginia-based, neo-Nazi National Socialist White People's Party and went to Savannah to help entice Georgians to vote for white supremacist J.B. Stoner as governor. A few weeks later he nearly became a casualty to a conflict between Stoner flacks and the Nazis. Jerry Ray, Stoner's campaign manager and brother of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s killer, James Earl Ray, unpacked a .38-caliber pistol and pumped the teenager with one hollow-pointed bullet in the chest. Black had allegedly broken into Stoner's campaign office to filch records for the Nazis. He doesn't like to talk about the incident now. "The conflict has long since been resolved," is all he'll say. When he recovered, he returned to Alabama and finished high school.
Black sidestepped the draft during the Vietnam War by enrolling as a political science major at the University of Alabama. He joined the ROTC but was booted out for racism. The budding bigot then found his true milieu: the David Duke-led Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. Black eventually rose to become the leader's right-hand man -- trolling for recruits and helping run his boss' unsuccessful campaign for governor of Louisiana. At age 26 Black sought to mirror Duke's veneer of clean-cut respectability by running for mayor of Birmingham in 1979. He got 2 percent of the vote.
Duke taught Black it's easier to attract supporters by criticizing affirmative action, illegitimate welfare births, and illegal immigration than labeling blacks as inferior or Jews as rich enemies. The goal was to avoid inflammatory remarks and present oneself as dignified -- sticking to the issues. Supremacy is presented as nationalism. And intolerance warps into a preference for one's own heritage. Black says he speaks to Duke, whose two daughters he helped raise, every few days. And the mentor has only kind words for his protege.
"Don is more than a very good friend, he is one of the leading individuals in the white-rights movement," said Duke, who knighted Black grand wizard in 1980. Duke resigned after a rival Klan faction alleged Duke offered to sell membership lists for $35,000. "He's matured over time -- like we all do with age -- into a very calm and stoic individual," Duke says of Black. "He has always been a dedicated individual that's self-sacrificing."
Black gained national notoriety in the spring of 1981 in an impetuous and bungled bid to spark a coup on the 300-square-mile Caribbean island of Dominica. Black and nine other white mercenaries drawn from the ranks of the KKK chartered a 52-foot boat called the Manana. The Klansmen plotted to motor 2000 miles from a New Orleans marina, somehow lead disgruntled black soldiers in battle against the island's 70-man police force, and oust the prime minister. The mission -- called Operation Red Dog -- was to "secure the island against communist incursion," Black said. But the coup attempt never left port. Manana's captain, a disabled Vietnam veteran, ratted them out. On the night they planned to embark, federal agents swarmed in on the gaggle of would-be warriors, confiscated eight Bushmaster machine guns, ten shotguns, five rifles, ten handguns, ten pounds of dynamite, 5426 rounds of ammunition, and a large red-and-black Nazi flag. Local newspapers dubbed the botched raid the "Bayou of Pigs."
"What we were doing was in the best interests of the United States and its security in the hemisphere, and we feel betrayed by our own government," Black said shortly before he and three others were sentenced to federal prison for violating the U.S. Neutrality Act. Investigators charged the ten men -- who were initially to be paid $3000 apiece and installed as government officials overseeing the army -- with seeking to create a drug, gambling, and offshore-banking empire on the island republic of 70,000 people, most of whom are black. More than a decade later, Black now regrets his misadventure. "I wouldn't do it today, even if I had a different plan. It was extremely risky. I could have been killed."
Black returned to Birmingham in 1985, announcing, "I'm here to build the greatest white racist regime this country has ever seen." Shortly after, he quit the Klan (claiming it too violent) and made another failed run for office as the Populist Party candidate for a U.S. Senate seat in Alabama. In 1987 he was arrested during civil rights demonstrations in Forsyth County, Georgia, for reckless conduct and for illegally blocking a state highway. Later that year Black moved to West Palm Beach with his wife and joined a brokerage firm. He never became a broker. The ex-Klansman was stiff-armed by the Florida brokerage industry, which blocked his application for a license because of his ties to Duke. Despite the lucrative economy, paid-for house, and a bevy of like-minded racists -- the moorings that keep him here -- South Florida is not quite right for Don Black.
"I'm not a Palm Beach type of person," he says. "It's a good place to do business. But it's a fantasy world. I'm not comfortable with most of the people here. I have nothing against them. Most who live here have the power to do something. They just don't want to jeopardize their status."
Depending on how you look at it, Florida is shaped like a gun. Its reputation for a trigger-happy populace is about as well known to the world as the late Gianni Versace was. But there's a lesser-known, more subterranean threat of violence that pervades the state from the Panhandle down to the Keys.
Florida has more militias, Klan groups, and patriot groups than any other state, according to the Montgomery-based Southern Poverty Law Center. In 1996 the Center counted 72 militias from the 1st Regiment Florida State Militia in Key Largo to the 3rd Regiment in West Palm Beach, and 33 KKK groups including Lantana's Fraternal White Knights and the America First Klan in Miami. California, which rates second, has 56 militias and 14 Klan groups. Alabama, by comparison, has 21 militias and 6 Klans.
"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.
Black doesn't operate in a racist vacuum. As of today more than 50,000 white supremacist compact discs have been sold with titles like Stretched by the Rope, Racial Holy War, and White Terror, according to Resistance Records, a racist music distributor near Detroit. In 1996 the Southern Poverty Law Center counted 858 militia or patriot groups and 241 KKK groups throughout the country. The most foreboding benchmark, however, is the sharp increase in domestic terrorism. Since the Oklahoma City bombing and the emergence of the Internet in 1995, the number of open domestic-terrorism investigations has climbed from fewer than 100 to more than 900, according to the Center.
"The Internet is a real boon to these groups," Potok said. "There is a real threat. I don't see the race war that they want so much. The threat is against individuals. And I think it's entirely likely we'll see another Oklahoma City. It doesn't take much to motivate someone who's been talking about revolution for years. The more people mouth rhetoric, the more likely it is someone will act on it -- and that's what we're seeing now."
In West Palm Beach a low- flying jet thunders overhead, rattling the Confederate general on the wall. To Black -- whose three-bedroom house is directly under the flight path of Palm Beach International Airport -- the jets are as inaudible as the static sounds of clicking onto the Internet. He doesn't seem to notice the shaking. He's busy bickering with his son, who's barefoot and wearing a long Spiderman T-shirt, playing pinball on a nearby computer.
Black regains his composure. He smooths his uncombed coif and straightens his sweat-stained shirt. Then with a piercing glare and a calm voice, he recites his mission. "We want to take America back," he says, with Stormfront's German-Gothic font glowing on a monitor behind him. "We know a multicultural Yugoslav nation can't hold up for too long. White's won't have any choice but to take military action. It's our children whose interests we have to defend.