Stormfront under state microscope

Searchlight, October 2005

Dutch justice minister Piet Hein Donner has confirmed - in response to parliamentary questions about the American nazi Stormfront.org website - that his department is currently investigating texts posted to the so-called Flemish-Dutch part of the forum.

MPs urged Donner to prosecute Dutch citizens who post antisemitic texts on the forum, block off the site and to ask the American authorities to take measures against the Florida-based mother site.

Donner refused to give precise answers to MPs, while an investigation of the identity of perpetrators, going on for more than four months now, was still running.

Most popular with the tens of thousands of visitors to the site are the British and Dutch parts of Stormfront.org, with the Dutch pages accounting for about 18.5% of surfers, many of whom have reacted to the investigation with references to "Jews who try to silence them".

Stormfront.org, founded by former Ku Klux Klan boss Don Black in 1995, has now existed for a decade and the Dutch-Flemish part for five years. It was the first nazi site on the worldwide web.

In its early years, Stormfront was a slow- growing web site with large amounts of downloadable nazi propaganda and swastikas but was focused almost entirely on the USA. Its international character was gradually developed with German and Spanish pages. In 1997, an e-mail discussion list became operational. Participation was mainly confined to Americans, but there was also some Dutch involvement. In 1998, Stormfront started a web forum and, in 2000, the Dutch part of the site was opened.

This move opened a window of opportunity for the right-wing scene in the Netherlands, enabling the fascists to have practical and ideological discussions, make propaganda, recruit new members and, last but not least, say whatever they wanted since the site host is American and, thus, not subject to the Dutch law. Besides that, they could wander around the forum, picking and mixing extremist ideas, anonymously.

These hitherto-unheard-of possibilities tempted a lot of prominent activists to put their propaganda on the forum and enter discussion with like-minded morons. But it also had a downside; the discussion had to be followed publicly, inadvertently gifting anti-fascists loads of information and enabled the authorities to act against message posters, despite of the fact that they thought themselves untouchable.

The discussion forum, as well as the website, is dominated by national socialists who put swastikas, portraits of Hitler and SS runes in their "signatures", write with seething hatred of the Jews and almost ritually deny that the Holocaust happened.

Various Dutch people were arrested and convicted for posting comments on the Stormfront forum. When the content of the messages is aimed at or concerns the Netherlands, then Dutch law becomes operative, independently of where these messages physically exist in the United States. Another negative side effect for the fascists is that postings on Stormfront can be seriously injurious to political reputations. The best example of this is the current Nieuw Rechts leader, Michiel Smit, who posted as a Leefbaar Rotterdam member on Stormfront, a step that still haunts him today.

Stormfront also became famous among anti-fascists for the way that vendettas between various right-wingers were fought out in the glare of full publicity. Especially eye-catching was the feud between NA executive member Virginia Kapic and the Dutch People's Union (NVU) leader Constant Kusters, who both, after some kind of personal relationship failure, put heaps of personal and internal stuff on the internet.

Also, a controversial commemoration of the 11 September terrorist attacks in the US by Nieuw Rechts and the NNP that was guarded by the Dutch branch of the Jewish Defence League was openly fought out on a Stormfront forum.

The former core of Stormfront posters has quit the forum, the only party still active being the NVU. The NA and Nieuw Rechts have opened their own fora, leaving Stormfront as a ragbag of so-called keyboard warriors, antisemitic conspiracy artists, young boneheads and Gabbers and some lost and lonesome right-wing political activists.

A clear sign of the decline of the forum are the three current moderators. Where the moderators used to be veterans in the right-wing extremist scene and were carefully selected, now the forum's moderation is in control of three political featherweights, who are young and who have only been active for a few years.

If the justice department plans to prosecute Stormfront, the three current moderators are interesting targets, responsible for the grossly illegal messages that they leave standing on the forum and many of which they, themselves, have posted.

By Jeroen Bosch of Alert! and Antifa-Net in Utrecht with especial thanks to the anti-fascist research group Kafka
alertafa@xs4all.nl

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