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Social Networking: A Place for Hate?

In 2000, HBO produced a documentary chronicling the capitalization of the internet’s exponential growth by hate groups in America. Hate.com, narrated by Southern Poverty Law Center founder Morris Dees, exposed hate groups’ online efforts to the wide audience provided by the piece’s frequent broadcast on HBO. Millions of youth, parents, educators and activists gained a better understanding of the power of the web as a recruiting tool for organized bigots.

Since Hate.com’s 2000 release, internet use has continued to evolve, and hate groups have not been far behind. The explosion of the social networking capacity of the web, often referred to as ‘Web 2.0,’ has been accompanied by organized attempts to expand and recruit for almost every documented hate group in America. In other words, white supremacists are on MySpace, and more than likely, they’d like to be your friend.

MySpace, to its credit, has a strong and unambiguously worded policy about the presence of hate groups and hate speech on the site. Under MySpace’s ‘Terms & Conditions,’ they state:

Prohibited Content includes, but is not limited to, Content that, in the sole discretion of MySpace: (8.1) is patently offensive and promotes racism, bigotry, hatred or physical harm of any kind against any group or individual.

It is also worth noting that this clause is listed as the site’s first type of prohibited content – followed by other banned subject matter, including nudity, solicitation of minors, copyrighted material and libel, to name a few. Clearly, MySpace places a priority on keeping their site free of racist hatred, which is distinctly within their right as a private enterprise. The enforcement of MySpace’s laudable policy, however, is another matter.

After establishing direct contact with MySpace as the Turn It Down Campaign launched our page, we learned that they did, in fact, make concerted efforts to delete pages that violate this aspect of their Terms & Conditions. However, site administration depends on users reporting violations. In our time on the site, the enforcement has been spotty – from time to time, a rash of pages disappear; for other stretches of time, they seem to go untouched, no matter how blatantly offensive and in violation.

For those interested in trying their hand at reporting violations on MySpace, you’ll see a ‘Report Abuse’ button at the bottom of every profile page, and a ‘Report Image’ button under any photo on any page. Recently, we’ve seen MySpace pages for white power bands, labels and individuals disappearing by the dozens. Perhaps MySpace has found an efficient way to address the issue, and we hope this continues.

Elsewhere online, guidelines vary between far less enforced and far more ambiguous. On YouTube, the Community Guidelines section offers users the following assurance:

We encourage free speech and defend everyone's right to express unpopular points of view. But we don't permit hate speech (speech which attacks or demeans a group based on race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, gender, age, veteran status, and sexual orientation/gender identity).

However, a search of the term ‘white power 88’ yielded no less than 1,260 videos. (The number 88 is a common code for white supremacists, referring to the term ‘Heil Hitler,’ as H is the 8th letter of the alphabet.) Other searches of codified and not-so-codified hate speech yielded similar results, and queries of specific hate groups produced hundreds of results for each. The ‘Flag’ button under each video, it turns out, leads users to the option to report a video; however, users are immediately warned that ‘abusing this feature is also a violation of Community Guidelines,’ so it’s possible that users are reluctant to flag videos, for fear that their own accounts may be jeopardized. Or it could be that YouTube doesn’t heed users’ complaints.

Needless to say, enforcement of YouTube’s Community Guidelines is questionable, at best. And Turn It Down isn’t the only entity to notice this. Stormfront, arguably the largest white power online forum, sees racist, anti-Semitic, homophobic and xenophobic YouTube videos reposted there by the hundreds. A single thread, titled ‘YouTube,’ has 1,170 posts – most of which contain reposted YouTube videos of white power bands, hate group leader’s speeches, and various white nationalist call-to-action videos. Other threads on Stormfront encourage members to post videos to YouTube, as a way to spread white nationalist ideals.

On the other hand, Facebook’s ‘Statement of Rights and Responsibilities’ is both clear and seemingly stringently enforced:

[Facebook users] will not post content that is hateful, threatening, pornographic, or that contains nudity or graphic or gratuitous violence.

A search of Facebook groups for the term ‘white power’ drummed up dozens of hits for everything from fans of the White Power Ranger character to white cat enthusiasts, but only one group promoting racism. (We promptly hit the ‘Report Group’ button, and we’ll see how fast the group is taken down.)

So where does this leave the average user of any of these or other popular social networking sites? Your options are many, and your efforts are entirely up to you. Each site offers an avenue for users to report the presence of blatantly bigoted material, and the only way to know a site’s level of actual commitment to its policies is to test them. So report what you see. Be an active member of the communities in which you keep in touch with friends, check out new bands, or simply kill time every now and then. Communities are only as strong as their membership. You can also go a step further by emailing the site administration for any of these sites and either commending their policy enforcement or requesting that they do more to uphold their own rules, whichever the case may be.

Online networking continues to move forward, and those who would exploit its capacity are never far behind. Hate groups are using social networking sites to promote their agendas and recruit new members. We need to use our power as users of these same sites to make it known that policies against hate speech are a good start, but consistent enforcement is key.

 White Nationalists and St. Patrick’s Day: An Unholy Union

 For several years now, we’ve noticed an increasing connection that we find both disturbing and downright ridiculous. White nationalists love St. Patrick’s Day. A lot. Turn It Down supporters and bands have noted an increased presence of overtly white power skinheads at Celt punk shows, and more white power St. Patrick’s Day events spring up every year.


At first we thought this might be our imagination. We thought maybe we were lumping them in with all the green beer and plastic hats. But it’s not the usual superficial attachment to the holiday that many non-Irish Americans enjoy. It’s more than that. While some of the bands are great, it’s not them either.

Here’s a bit of explanation offered in the wake of last year’s St. Patty’s celebration in central Florida, an event which will be repeated this coming weekend, from one of its organizers:

“St. Patty’s Day is one of the few White holidays we have left. Christmas has been watered down into an obligatory commercial capitalist consumer feeding frenzy, flanked by Hannukah for the kikes and Kwanzaa for the toads. Columbus Day is smeared by skraelings whining and crying because our ancestors took this land from them and made it into the greatest country on earth. But you don’t have to be Irish to celebrate St. Patty’s Day. All of us whose ancestors came from Europe feel a rising heat in our blood when we hear the wailing of the bagpipes like the valkyries themselves screaming our names to come and take our places in Valhalla. All of us like a good drink or two to cheer us. And, just like in the holiday’s legend St. Patrick drove all the snakes out of Ireland, we all would like to do a little driving of snakes out of our country, too. So, we’re all a little Irish, today.” (White Revolution Florida)


So the white nationalists are hijacking a holiday intended to honor a hero of Irish Catholic history and culture, and they are holding multiple events in different parts of the country to mark the day. It wasn’t enough that a number of white power idiots made the Celtic Cross an ambiguous symbol by adopting it as a common tattoo among themselves. Now they’re trying to claim St. Patrick’s Day as their own, for their cause.

Never mind that Daniel O’Connell, another hero of Irish history and culture, argued vehemently to Irish immigrants in America in the mid-19th century that they should fight to abolish slavery. O’Connell maintained that Irish Americans should see American slavery as parallel to the oppression of the Irish at the hands of the British, imploring, “How can the generous, the charitable, the humane, the noble emotions of the Irish heart have become extinct amongst you? ...It was not in Ireland you learned this cruelty.” O’Connell goes on to call his ex-countrymen who would support slavery “pseudo Irishmen,” and he painstakingly outlines all the hypocrisies inherent to racism among Irish Americans.

Apparently they haven’t bothered to really learn the history and heritage of the culture they’re trying to steal. Don’t get me wrong; there are, doubtless, racists of every ethnic variety out there. But to lay claim to an ethnic/religious holiday because it allegedly mirrors their own struggles renders them particularly ridiculous, not to mention ignorant. We realize this assessment is nothing new; we just thought we’d point it out in singular regard to this issue.

So while the white nationalists are dancing around to Pogues and Dropkick Murphys cover songs in Baltimore this weekend (yes, that’s what they’re advertising) and doing who-knows-what in Florida, some of us will be scratching our heads, marveling at the mental gymnastics necessary to attach St. Patrick’s Day to racism in America.

Some of us can do more than that. When your Guinness hangover subsides, or you’re done with whatever festivities the holiday may or may not have in store for you, read up on the history of Irish American anti-racism. Remember that the nation’s only Irish Catholic president worked toward Civil Rights. Play a few of the Pogues, Dropkick Murphys, Flatfoot 56, Flogging Molly, or Tossers songs that deal directly with the sting of hate and oppression in Irish and Irish American history – because they’ve all recorded these songs. And know that a few misguided, literacy-challenged idiots can’t take a holiday away from a people with a history that stands squarely against the ignorance of racism.

You can read the full text of O’Connell’s famous speech here: http://digital.library.cornell.edu/cgi/t/text/pageviewer-idx?c=mayantislavery&cc=mayantislavery&idno=05836507&frm=frameset&view=image&seq=1


A Story for Our Students (and Those Who Care About Them)

October 15, 2008

Now that another school year in underway, we thought we’d address the issue of white power music and other recruitment efforts popping up in schools – specifically, what to do if you see signs of hate groups in your school. As we’ve said in the past, music is the single strongest recruitment vehicle for new, young membership. If you’re seeing a white power band advertised on someone at your school, in essence, you’re seeing a new recruit. Read the basics we’ve outlined below, pass this link along to any students you think should see it, and feel free to email us with any comments, questions, or aspects of the issue you think we may have missed.

And please note: this is not about turning students against one another. If someone has joined a hate group, they’ve already turned themselves against the vast majority of their school community. Additionally, this has become an issue of school safety – yours, your classmates, and everyone else in the building. If someone in your school is flying the flags of racist hatred, it can change the school’s entire climate. It can lead – and has in many instances – to acts of vandalism, harassment and violence. This isn’t one of those situations where a student should sit and wonder if it’s okay to tell. It’s okay to tell. You’ll not only be fighting hate in your everyday life; you’ll potentially be keeping your school and everyone in it safer.

What to look for

The first signs you might see of an increasing white power presence include patches, pins, t-shirts or fliers for white power bands or organizations. High schools have also reported finding recruitment fliers – often printed directly from the ‘youth outreach’ sections of a number of white nationalist organizations – in students’ possession and around the school. These materials, both for bands and organizations, often have recognizable hate symbols on them. While the swastika is the most obvious symbol, it is by far not the only one commonly used. Take a look at the Anti-Defamation League’s page titled Hate On Display: A Visual Database of Extremist Symbols, Logos and Tattoos for a quick rundown of some of the most common graphic indicators of a hate group. We’ll provide the link at the end of this article.

But you should also know the difference between punk and hatecore, and between the nonracist skinhead subculture and white power skinheads. A kid in a pair of boots with a shaved head is not automatically a racist. In a lot of areas, there are large numbers of nonracist and antiracist skinheads. Boots don’t make a bonehead; politics do. So check out the patches and pins on his or her jacket. You might be looking at somebody who’s on the exact same side of the issue as you are.

What to do

While this might sound a bit like every cautionary public service announcement you’ve ever heard, your best ally is an adult you can trust. Don’t go to the administrator who overreacts to every little thing. Don’t go to the teacher who will have no idea what you’re talking about. Think of the teacher that you know is a big music fan, or the one you know holds strong antiracist personal politics. Tell them what you saw. Show them this story, or link them to www.turnitdown.com so they can see more about what you’re trying to tell them.

If you don’t feel comfortable going right to an adult in the school, talk to a few friends or classmates whom you know would be concerned. Or talk to one of your parents or an older sibling, if you think that would go more smoothly. But talk to somebody. Don’t sit around and wait for it to get worse.

Avoid telling too many people, though. You don’t want to create a panic or encourage violence against any student. Situations like that get really bad, really fast. This isn’t something you want to feed to the school rumor mill. Get an adult involved as quickly as you can, so that the problem can be resolved without incident.

You have every right to ask the adults at your school to keep your name out of the situation. If they’re halfway decent at their jobs, they’ll understand why you want to stay anonymous. They’ll also realize that you’re talking to them for the good of your school and everyone in it, and that you’re alerting them to something they wouldn’t have seen themselves. Some schools might not want to see or admit that they have a growing problem. That’s where physical evidence comes in: show them the ADL list of symbols, and show them which ones you’ve seen.

We’ve heard from schools in which an entire recruitment effort was caught because one person recognized the name of a white power band on a t-shirt, or saw a racist symbol on someone’s jacket. It sometimes takes a couple of tries to get people to listen, but we’ve seen schools successfully nip a hate group problem in the bud without creating additional problems and without infringing on anyone’s constitutional rights, either.

The rights and wrongs

Now that we mention it, you should know that students do not have the free speech right to display hate symbols in school. Every school we’ve ever known of maintains some kind of completely legal policy against hate group activity. In some schools, hate symbols fall under gang activity rules; in others, a more general ‘disruptive to the educational process’ rule is invoked. Either way, know that these symbols aren’t allowed. If by some oversight of basic common sense, your school doesn’t have a policy against stuff like this, contact us, and we’ll help you demand a policy change.

We hope you never have to deal with the issue of hate in your school. But if you do see it rearing its ugly head, we wanted you to know that you can do something about it. And you should. Just like our music scenes are ours to keep free from hate, so are our schools. Nobody should have to sit in class everyday next to somebody advertising organized hate.

Let us know if we can help in any way if you ever find yourself dealing with any of this. And if your school has faced problems with hate groups, we want to know how it went. Email us anytime at [email protected]. Also, please see Chapter 2 of our Turn It Down Resource Kit at www.turnitdown.com for more suggestions about keeping your school free of organized bigotry. The Resource Kit contains tips for working with fellow students, talking to adults in the building, and organizing against hate in your school.

Link to ADL Database: http://www.adl.org/hate_symbols/default_graphics.asp

Link to Resource Kit, Table of Contents: http://turnitdown.newcomm.org/content/view/73/30/


Racist Groups Using Hip-hop to Spead Hate

August 15, 2008

Recently, Turn It Down was asked to contribute an article to a magazine overseas regarding the existence and potential of white power hip-hop here in the United States.  Several European nations are seeing a sharp rise in racist and nationalist hip-hop, and our sister organizations wondered if America is seeing a similar cultural absurdity, particularly since America is essentially the birthplace and epicenter of hip-hop.

A large portion of membership and participation in the Turn It Down Campaign comes from bands and fans within the punk and metal genres, along with indie, alt.country, and other subgenres of rock.  This may be due to the fact that these genres are the ones most often hijacked by white nationalist music.  Additionally, or perhaps as a reason for this tendency, white nationalists find their most fertile recruiting grounds among the fans of these predominantly white music subcultures.

But hip-hop?!

Whether or not you’re a fan of the genre, it seems common cultural knowledge that hip-hop emerged from the black and Puerto Rican communities, initially in New York and soon after in Chicago, Los Angeles, and across the nation.  The notion that hip-hop could ever find validation within our nation’s enclaves of white nationalism seems ludicrous.  

But believe it or not, there is white power hip-hop out there.

You may have heard of Woodpile.  They were a blip on the controversy radar a couple of years ago when they were signed to West Coast Mafia Records, run by well-known black rapper C-BO.  The band and the label have staunchly maintained that Woodpile, who market their music to incarcerated white listeners and often pay homage to ‘the Woods,’ a white racist prison gang, are not in any way racist.  They admit that they encourage ‘white pride,’ but their lyrics stop there.  If anything, we’ve concluded that Woodpile is a bit silly, but not explicitly racist.

Politiko, however, is less ambiguous.  Politiko emerged as part of the brief ‘Ron Paul Rap’ trend, in which artists created and posted tracks endorsing Ron Paul all over the internet.  Politiko’s track was fairly benign, but his follow-up work spelled out where he stands:

“I’m a conservationist
Conserve America, ‘cause the white man created it
Other races are defacing it
Soon they’ll be renaming it to Aztlan...
This is how every civilization has fallen.”
--Politiko, “NotSee”

Here we have one example of what most culturally literate Americans would consider unthinkable – a white artist using hip-hop to spread racist hate.  (Go ahead.  Take a moment to get your mind around it.  We needed to do so ourselves.)  But if you think WE find it hard to stomach, you should read the chatter among white racists on the subject.

Messageboards across the white power online community contain heated debates around the question of whether or not the white power movement should acknowledge and use the power and popularity of hip-hop to further their cause.  Some admit that it would be an undeniably effective tool in reaching alienated white youth, as white youth are the single largest consumer group of hip-hop music.  Other hardliners refuse the possibility of having anything to do with a decidedly minority form of music; they feel that to use hip-hop, even for the purposes of recruitment and propaganda, would be to sink to the level of one of the groups they hate most.

We can’t say for sure if white power hip-hop has a chance to taking off in the United States.  Our gut and sense of cultural history both say it’s impossible, but our research forces us to acknowledge at least a shred of possibility.  We also can see that the white power movement is actively considering it – only the latest of many calculated possible efforts, directly aimed at recruiting new membership by infiltrating another music subculture.

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