The Consequences of Right-Wing Extremism on the Internet
Inspiring Extremist Crimes
In 1999 and 2000, three well-publicized hate crimes demonstrated
the influence of the Internet on radical and violent extremists
The Williams Brothers: Murder and Arson in California.
In California in June 1999, Matthew Williams
and his brother Tyler were charged with murdering gay couple Gary
Matson and Winfield Mowder and helping set fire to three
Sacramento-area synagogues. Police found boxes full of hate
literature at the home of the brothers, though they were apparently
"lone wolves" and not members of any extremist group.
In his first year at the University of Idaho,
Matthew Williams had joined a charismatic Christian church. Two
years later, he left that church. Searching for a new spiritual path
and relatively isolated because he did not own a functional car,
Williams turned to the Internet.
Described as a "born fanatic" by
acquaintances, Williams reportedly adopted nearly every
radical-right philosophy he came across online, from the
anti-government views of militias to the racist and anti-Semitic
beliefs of the Identity movement. He regularly downloaded
pages from extremist sites and used printouts of these pages in his
frequent attempts to convince his friends to adopt his beliefs.
Benjamin Smith: A Racial Murder Spree in the Midwest
After being named "Creator of the
Year" in 1998 by World Church of the Creator (WCOTC) leader
Matt Hale, Benjamin Nathaniel Smith went on a racially motivated
shooting spree in Illinois and Indiana over the July 4, 1999
weekend. Targeting Jews, Blacks, and Asians, Smith killed two and
wounded eight. As law enforcement officers prepared to apprehend
him, he took his own life.
"It wasn’t really ‘til I got on the
Internet, read some literature of these groups that…it
really all came together." Benjamin Smith told documentary
filmmaker Beverly Peterson months before his spree. "It’s a
slow, gradual process to become racially conscious."
The Webmaster for WCOTC at the time of the
Smith rampage, Kelly Daniels, admitted that Smith had sent him
"about five" E-mail messages "congratulating"
him on his Web work, indicating that Smith regularly consulted WCOTC
Richard Baumhammers: Racist Murder
& the Internet
Pittsburgh gunman Richard Baumhammers murdered
members of several minorities in April 2000. He was convicted of
killing five people and sentenced to death in May 2001. His victims
were a Jewish woman, a Black man, two Asian-Americans, and two
Before his shooting spree, Baumhammers visited
Tom Metzger’s WAR Web site. (Metzger later characterized him as
"a white man" who "decided to deliver Aryan justice
in a down home way.") Baumhammers also joined the E-mail
mailing list of the hate rock band Aggressive Force, repeatedly
visited the popular white supremacist site Stormfront, and
downloaded material from hate sites created by members of the
neo-Nazi National Alliance.
On the Web site for his fledgling
Free Market Party, Baumhammers called for an end to non-white
immigration. He stated that "almost all" present day
immigration "is non-European," and "the effect of
such massive waves of immigration has been disastrous for Americans
of European ancestry." Commenting on the 2000 presidential
candidacy of former Senator Bill Bradley, Baumhammers wrote,
"because of his 'pet theme' of racial harmony and civil rights,
European-Americans of all backgrounds should be leery of a Bradley
presidency." Baumhammers asked the Council of Conservative
Citizens, a prominent racist group, to provide a link from its site
to his, and the Council complied.