The Ku Klux Klan:
Burning Crosses in Cyberspace
NAAWP members sometimes attend rallies organized by an older, better-known
hate group: the Ku Klux Klan (KKK). For more than 130 years, the Klan
has provided a model for extremists by actively practicing and promoting
bigotry, intimidation and violence.
The strength of America's oldest hate group has fluctuated, peaking and
receding at various times in American history, coinciding with the rise
and decline of social and economic discontent in the nation. The economic,
political and cultural changes in the South after the Civil War, the dislocations
in the early 1920s and the struggle for civil rights in the 1950s and
1960s all fueled Klan growth.
In recent years, as a result of the counteractions of law enforcement
and civil rights groups, changing fashions in the extremist movement,
and internal power struggles, the Klan has lost much of its clout. David
Duke's Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, which fell into decline when Don Black
went to jail, underwent a major split in 1994. Other large, national Klans
active in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s have also disintegrated. For instance,
a 1987 Southern Poverty Law Center legal victory effectively dismantled
the United Klans of America after its members lynched a Black teen-ager,
Michael Donald. A 1993 court order disbanded the Invisible Empire, Knights
of the Ku Klux Klan after group members pelted civil rights activists
with rocks and bottles during a brotherhood march in Forsyth County, Georgia.
Still, in the 1990s, Klan members remain active and violent, planning
terrorist bombings and burning Black churches. In April 1997, three Klan
members were arrested in a plot to blow up a natural gas refinery near
Fort Worth, Texas. Three more men with links to the Klan were arrested
in February 1998 for planning to poison water supplies, rob banks, plant
bombs, and commit assassinations. In a July 1998 court judgment, the Christian
Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, its South Carolina state leader Horace King,
and several other Klansmen were held responsible for their roles in a
conspiracy to burn down a Black church.
Like other white supremacist groups, the Klan has turned to the Internet
as a means to revitalize their movement and attract a new cadre of supporters
and activists. "Up until last month, the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan
Realm of Florida was very small," writes Brian K. Bass of his Klan
group. "But now we have a website up, and our numbers are growing
dramatically. We picked up 6 new members in just the last two weeks, and
have other applications under consideration. I feel that this is due to
|Like other white
supremacist groups, the Klan has turned to the Internet as a means to revitalize their
movement and attract a new cadre of supporters and activists.
On the Web, some Klan factions favor the toned-down rhetoric associated
with the NAAWP and other hate groups trying to appear mainstream. The
first Klan page on the Web belonged to a group that adopted this strategy:
Thom Robb's Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.
Robb's site presented a "kinder, gentler" Klan that teaches
white racial pride but professes to be neither anti-Black nor anti-Catholic.
Whites "have a right to be proud of their race"17
the site explains, adding that the popular image of a racist Klan is a
lie deliberately spread by the liberal media.
Nonetheless, Robb's site relied on traditional Klan themes: whites are
victims of intolerance who face racial extinction from a horde of Blacks
and foreigners eager to intermarry and destroy American culture and religion;
America should belong to Americans, not Asians, Arabs or Jews. Furthermore,
early incarnations of Robb's site reprinted the "Franklin Prophecy,"
a vile, anti-Semitic speech falsely attributed to Benjamin Franklin.
As of mid-1997, about half of the Klan sites on the Web were affiliated
with Robb's group. Its impressive presence on the Internet obscured its
diminished power and meant to give the casual observer the impression
of a revived, vital and active Klan attracting members everywhere:
Here are some reasons why we are growing so fast and why the Klan Movement
is the White People's answer...The Klan name and symbol breaks through
the paper curtain of the anti-White media and brings us to the attention
of those who want to learn more about us...The Klan is youth oriented...The
Klan is worldwide in scope...The Klan is surging; it is pulsating forward
and growing with every day and every hour.18
At that time, the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan Realm of Texas site posted
a glamorized, mythic version of the Klan's history one long rejected
by historians. The site then offered a distorted account of the present,
using its fictionalized history to argue that the Klan is needed because
history is repeating itself:
The end of the War Between the States in April of 1865 marked the beginning
of a terrible time of trouble for the citizens of the southern states...It
was out of these dismal conditions that six just and decent men of honor
came together forming the Ku Klux Klan. Led by General Nathan Bedford
Forrest, by 1877 these courageous men had driven the troops back north.
For a time, they saved the White South from...the hatred of the numerous
renegade Negroes. Today, we are seeing history repeating itself. Our
land is once again being destroyed by the same treason. This time it
is not only confined to the South, but it is affecting the nation as
This preposterous and self-serving version of history was coupled with
the brazenly false historical claim that the Klan robe and hood have "never
been used by the Klan for any type of wrong doing [sic]."20
Today, Robb's Klan site reflects even stronger efforts to appear respectable,
particularly in stating, like Duke, that the Klan's goal should be "political
power."21 This "political power" is to be used
to combat "anti-white and anti-Christian propaganda" and "to
promote "White Christian civilization." Robb remains dismissive
of the Klan's violent image, claiming his group "is well known through
out [sic] law enforcement for being non-violent."
Some Klan members are not content with this toned-down language. Robb
comments that "some individuals quit [his group] because they don't
believe we are 'tough enough!'" Possibly he was referring to Dennis
McGiffen, David Neumann, and Troy Murphy, who broke from Robb in 1994
to start their own Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in Michigan.
Now led by Shane Crowe of Louisiana, this group has numerous sites on
the Web as well. Unlike Robb's sites, those of the Michigan faction do
not soft-pedal their bigotry. At the Web site of its Oregon chapter, this
Klan openly and honestly declares, "we believe in White Supremacy.
The Klan believes that America is a White man's country, and should be
governed by White men." Blatant extremist views can also be found
at the national Web site for Crowe's Klan, which features a prominent
link to Stormfront, the text of Kevin Alfred Strom's "The
Beast Is Saint," and a reprint of Henry Ford Sr.'s "classic"
anti-Semitic text, The International Jew.
At its national site, Crowe's Klan has a page entitled "Judas Amoung
[sic] Us," which describes numerous "traitors" to white
supremacy, including Robert Spence, an "Imperial wizard [sic] who
founded the True Knights of the Ku Klux Klan." Spence is accused
of turning in and setting up four Klansmen who "allegedly were going
to bomb an oil refinery, as a diversion for a robbery." Richard Bondira,
whose address and phone number are also listed on the "Judas"
page, is accused of turning in Troy Murphy, one of the leaders of Crowe's
Klan, to the FBI.
One "traitor," Vince Reed, was described on the "Judas"
page as an "FBI informant" who was "always trying to involve
others in illegal activity." In fact, Reed was an informer who helped
Federal prosecutors and the FBI win convictions against five supremacists,
including former Klansman Dennis McGiffen. Following these convictions,
Assistant U.S. Attorney Norman Smith told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch,
"There has been an effort by numerous individuals to locate Mr. Reed."
Citing an E-mail mailing list run by Crowe's Klan ("Klan-E-Mail-News"),
the Post-Dispatch reported that a number of Klan activists looking
for Reed posted numerous comments on the Internet. One Internet user wrote,
"I have a picture of this RACE TRAITOR," and another offered
a physical description of Reed, calling him "this scum of the Earth...I
shall scan his picture from a news clipping and make it available."22
Internet users can also find the "Judas" page at the Web site
of the Knights of the White Kamellia, Realm of Virginia. Another unabashedly
bigoted Klan with more than a few Web sites, the Knights of the White
Kamellia was founded in Louisiana in 1993.23 This group seeks
to "maintain and defend the superiority of the White race,"
maintain "a marked difference between the White and Negro race,"
prevent the government "from falling into the hands of the Negro
and or the ungodly," and educate "against miscegenation of the
Many other Klans are also now on the Web. Web users can find a membership
application for the American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, perhaps today's
most vocal and active Klan, at that group's Web site. A few sites use
the old Klan moniker "Invisible Empire," among them America's
Invisible Empire of Alabama and Pennsylvania's Invisible Empire KKK. Smaller
regional groups, such as the Southern Cross Militant Knights and the Northwest
Knights, are active on the Internet as well.
While the Klans on the Web represent different factions and espouse various
viewpoints, their Web sites are formatted in similar ways. Most Klan sites
contain a membership application, a list of upcoming rallies, a statement
of principles, an explanation of customs (such as cross burning), and
a spurious account of Klan history. At many sites, the three latter items
are adaptations, if not direct appropriations, of the materials originally
posted at Robb's Klan sites. In fact, Robb threatened Crowe's group with
legal action for posting a document that Robb claims belongs exclusively
to his Klan.
Furthermore, some Klan sites link to other Klan sites with which they
are not affiliated. For instance, the North Georgia White Knights Web
site links to many chapters of the Knights of the White Kamellia, the
New Order Knights, and the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. The site for America's
Invisible Empire links to the Web pages of the Northwest White Knights
and Knights of the White Kamellia, among others. Such links, as well as
the similarities between KKK sites, demonstrate the bonds among the different
Klan factions, despite their infighting.
Also common to many Klan Web sites is advocacy of "Identity,"
a pseudo-theology that claims to be a form of Christianity, but is in
reality a hateful mixture of anti-Semitism, racism, and homophobia. Identity
holds that Jews are the offspring of Satan; that Blacks and other racial
minorities are inferior; and that white Anglo-Saxons are the "true
Though his Klan site currently contains no mention of Identity, Thom
Robb has long been an adherent, and one of his earlier Klan sites provided
links to Identity sites. Crowe's Knights of the Ku Klux Klan site and
the Oregon chapter site contain numerous links to Identity materials.
The Northwest Knights of the Ku Klux Klan Web site lists "Christian
Identity programs on cable access" and Identity events, along with
an article sympathetic to Identity "theology" entitled, "Christian
Identity: What is It?" The Web site of the Knights of the White Kamellia
Texas chapter includes the text of an Identity article which claims that
"many Christians may have much more Hebrew-'Israelite' blood in their
veins than most of their Jewish neighbors." At its site, the White
Camelia Knights of the KKK identifies itself as simply a "Christian