Neo-Nazism in the fast lane on information superhighway

The Internet may be the wave of the future, says the Anti-Defamation League's David Hoffman, but it's a seemingly unstoppable force awash with white supremacist hatred.

Hoffman, who is the ADL's national Internet specialist, spoke about the explosive mix of hate and high technology to the Peninsula Jewish high-tech community at the Albert L. Schultz Jewish Community Center in Palo Alto recently.

Armed with a laptop computer and a television monitor, Hoffman revealed the severity and prevalence of anti-Semitism on the Internet's graphical interface, the World Wide Web: For instance, one white supremacist home page — also known as a Web site — was accessed more than 250,000 times last year.

"The Internet provides a unique possibility for racists," Hoffman said. "Here, two people are able to engage in high-speed, low-cost communication, reaching a large audience."

Racists are eager to take advantage of this "perfect distribution," he added.

Hoffman offered this hypothetical scenario: Someone could record an obscure anti-Semitic speech delivered at a poorly attended neo-Nazi conference, he explained, then disseminate the speech across the Web.

Within minutes, anyone with a computer and modem could download this material into a more "permanent" archive on the Web, he said.

Hoffman played for the audience an example of such a diatribe, in which a speaker angrily referred to Jews in Hitlerian fashion as "filthy liars" and "parasites."

Perhaps more dangerous is that many of these racist Web pages are designed specifically with youngsters in mind.

"One neo-Nazi `mogul' attempts to appeal to young people with the heading `Warning: This Web site contains music Big Brother doesn't want you to hear,'" Hoffman said.

Those who visit the site can listen to and download neo-Nazi music, and can order anti-Semitic CDs with their Visa or MasterCards.

Hoffman led the audience through a labyrinth of online racism, in which so-called "Christian identity" groups were tied to neo-Nazi groups, which in turn were linked with Holocaust deniers.

The end result, Hoffman declared, is that racists are reaching an infinitely expanding audience worldwide.

"What can and must be done is clear. People must continuously monitor the Internet to counter messages of hate with information that challenges bigotry and promotes tolerance, decency and truth," he said.

But as white supremacy rushes down the information superhighway, he said, halting these messages of hate is easier said than done.