March 4, 1998 in Nation/World

Anti-Government, Racist Hate Groups Reach All-Time High Teenagers Recruited Via Web, Rock ‘N’ Roll

Richard A. Serrano Los Angeles Times

Aided by the Internet and alarmed about the coming millennium, the number of anti-government and racist hate groups in the United States has risen sharply over the past year, according to a new study released Tuesday by two of the premier agencies that watchdog such groups.

Experts from Klanwatch and the Militia Task Force have documented an all-time high of 474 hate groups last year, a 20 percent increase over 1996. The growth of such groups could trigger a wave of bombings and other domestic violence as this century comes to a close, the two watchdog agencies warn.

While the traditional white supremacist movement continues to grow, a new breed of far-right fanatics is being recruited by biblical doomsayers, an underground culture featuring violent rock ‘n’ roll, and the Internet, which allows hate groups to reach teenagers at home.

“Mainstream America is being targeted in a way that this country hasn’t seen in decades,” said Joe Roy, director of the study.

Florida - often the scene of anti-abortion violence and other hate crime incidents - was the state with the largest number of groups, 48, followed by California with 35.

The monitors used a new methodology for counting the number of hate groups across the country, making it impossible to determine exactly how many there were in the past. But they said that if their old monitoring system was used, the new figures would show a 20 percent increase in hate groups.

While the traditional Ku Klux Klan continued to be the largest hate group, growing in popularity were Neo-Nazis, Skinheads, white Christian fundamentalists and black separatist organizations, the study said.

How many people actually may have some affiliation to these groups is uncertain. But the monitors believe some 50,000 people practice the Christian Identity religion, a racist movement that has been embraced by, among others, Eric Robert Rudolph, the man wanted in the January fatal bombing of a Birmingham, Ala., abortion clinic.

The experts said there are also an unknown number of small, individual extremist cells that operate independently, making them difficult to track. They can be the most dangerous, the experts said, because the members often flit in and out of the movement and tend to act on their own.

Timothy J. McVeigh, now on death row for the Oklahoma City bombing, is typical of that trend in that he never joined a militia or other organized group, and yet he often moved freely among anti-government organizations.

Of equal concern, the experts said, is the rise of a new subculture. In three years’ time, 163 Web sites that preach hatred have popped up on the Internet, and about 50,000 music CDs have been sold by hard-rock groups urging violence, the report said.

And with the year 2000 approaching, many hate preachers are warning that 1998 marks “the start of the end times,” the study says.

“It’s not a Southern phenomenon anymore,” Roy said of racial and government hatred. “Technology has made us a much more mobile society and a smaller planet. These groups are branching out everywhere.”

Last weekend, for example, a preparedness exposition in Del Mar, Calif., drew thousands of attendees purchasing propaganda and listening to speeches from extremist leaders.

John Trochmann, who heads the Militia of Montana, and others were full of bombast, even to the point of Trochmann suggesting that the federal government was going to bomb selected U.S. cities and blame it on Iraq.

And Trochmann, like many at the convention, still believes the government was behind the Oklahoma City bombing, the deadliest terrorist attack in U.S. history. When asked what sentence imprisoned bombing co-conspirator Terry L. Nichols should receive, Trochmann barked back that Nichols should get “out.”

In Washington, FBI Director Louis Freeh on Tuesday told a Senate Appropriations subcommittee that the Uniform Crime Report for 1996 found 11,000 hate crime incidents involving everything from murder to property vandalism.

“The hate crime problem is far more pervasive than currently recognized,” he said.

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