Education

Internet Postings Linked to Student Highlight Interest in ‘Hate Groups’

Experts Say Recruitment Efforts Targeting School-Age Youths
By Sean Cavanagh — March 25, 2005 4 min read
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It reads like a teenager’s offer to work for a local political campaign or write for a neighborhood newsletter. Jeff Weise’s tone was respectful, articulate, and more than a little eager.

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School Shootings Stun Reservation

“I’m interested in joining your group, as I support your ideals,” he wrote on March 19, 2004, “and even though I am young, I still want to join. What is the age requirement (if any)?”

Mr. Weise’s inquiry, however, was anything but typical by the standards of most American high school students. Those comments appear to be the first of 34 postings the 16-year-old Native American youth made on an Internet forum run by the Libertarian National Socialist Green Party, an organization espousing neo-Nazi views, in the year leading up to his deadly armed assault at Red Lake High School in Minnesota last week.

The commentary Mr. Weise is believed to have submitted to the site has drawn renewed attention to the influence of neo-Nazi and other extremist organizations in schools and among teenagers across the country. Those who track the activities of “hate groups” say they have seen increased interest in such organizations among students in recent years, as well as an effort by those secretive communities to appeal to the precollegiate age group.

Jeff Weise is shown in an undated Red Lake High School class photo taken in the school's gymnasium.

“They are trying to recruit more mainstream youth,” said Randy Blazak, an associate professor of sociology at Portland State University in Portland, Ore., who has studied school violence and the influence of extremist organizations.

Extremists have modified their message to teenagers in recent years from outright advocacy of racism to a more subtle emphasis on the loss of ethnic identity in an increasingly diverse American society, Mr. Blazak said. Those themes pervade the Internet postings believed to have been written by Mr. Weise.

“That tends to be the awakening for the kid,” Mr. Blazak said of questions of racial identity. “To a [teenager] who doesn’t have a historical frame of reference, that’s a [tangible] issue.”

‘Interracial Mixing’

Mr. Weise’s apparent infatuation with Nazism, of course, comes with a bizarre twist: As a member of a minority group, Mr. Weise would most likely have been a target of Germany’s Nazi Party, which espoused white supremacy. The teenager appears at times to have found the Nazis’ views on racial and cultural homogeneity appealing, believing that worldview applied not only to whites, but to American Indians.

Exploring Questions of Identity

The Libertarian National Socialist Green Party says Jeff Weise posted these comments on its Web site under the subject lines below.

Re: A hero for the black community
July 13, 2004, 5:48 a.m.
“Where I live less than 1% of all the people on the Reservation can speak their own language, and among the youth wanting to be black has run ramped. We have kids my age killing each other over things as simple as a fight, and it’s because of the rap influence. Wannabe-gangsters everywhere, I can’t go 5 feet without hearing someone blasting some rap song over their speakers. Under a National Socialist government, things for us would improve vastly… That is, if we haven’t already become too soft from the way this materialistic life-style has made us, and that is why I am pro-Nazi. It’s hard though, being a Native American National Socialist, people are so misinformed, ignorant, and close minded it makes your life a living hell, but I know if we achieve what we set out to, it will be worth it all.”

Re: Is this place for real?
July 18, 2004, 3:55 p.m.
“Breeding out the purity in all races is not the way to go. Not the way to go at all. I disagree with you on that, as well as your idea to create a “master race.”

Re: What is your heritage?
July 19, 2004, 1:30 p.m.
“Both my parents were Native American, though from what I understand I also have a little German, a little Irish, and a little French Canadian in my blood as well.”

“As a result of cultural dominance and interracial mixing, there are barely any full-blooded natives left,” he wrote in one posting.

“Where I live, less than 1 percent of all the people on the reservation can speak their own language.”

Paul A. McCabe, a special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, said the agency was still investigating whether the Internet postings on the Nazi-oriented Web site were actually written by Mr. Weise, despite the messages’ descriptions of life on the Red Lake reservation and at Red Lake High School.

The Minnesota shootings have drawn parallels to the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School in Jefferson County, Colo., where investigators also explored the assailants’ interest in extremist ideology. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the teenage perpetrators of that assault—the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history—are believed to have dabbled in Nazism and launched their attack on Adolf Hitler’s birthday.

Yet even while observers believe extremists’ influence among teenage students is rising, Mr. Blazak and other experts discounted the notion that Nazi ideology, or any single cause, was behind Mr. Weise’s rampage. They pointed to various media accounts detailing the Red Lake youth’s problems at home and at school, a common theme among assailants in a series of school shootings over the past decade.

“If it hadn’t been Hitler, it would have been Satan,” said Mark Potok, the director of the Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit organization in Montgomery, Ala., that monitors the influence of extremist groups. “Obviously, this was a kid in serious trouble.”

Hoping to overcome a sense of isolation and powerlessness, minority youths are sometimes drawn to extremist organizations, some after concealing their racial identity, Mr. Potok said. Aside from Mr. Weise’s ethnic heritage as a member of the Chippewa tribe, he appeared from news reports to fit the profile of many teenagers who seek out such organizations, Mr. Potok added: a troubled family, isolation from his peers, and a sense that his community was unraveling in the face of demographic changes.

In recent years, some extremist organizations have grown increasingly brazen in attempting to appeal to students. Last year, a reputed neo-Nazi organization in Minnesota called the National Alliance launched “Project Schoolyard,” an effort to distribute music to teenagers espousing white-supremacist themes. Mr. Potok believes that effort has since fizzled.

Jeff Weise’s apparent postings on the neo-Nazi site also demonstrate extremist groups’ efforts to target school-age youths through the Internet, the Anti-Defamation League said last week. Such sites are designed to “lure young people to join a community of like-minded racists,” Abraham H. Foxman, the national director of the New York City-based league, wrote on March 22.

Last year, league officials noted that a 2001 report by the U.S. Department of Justice found that 33 percent of known “hate crime” offenders were under the age of 18.

But extremist groups’ recruitment campaigns are likely to have little appeal to American Indian students, said Gordon Adams Jr., the school board chairman of the Nett Lake Independent 707 district, located on the Bois Forte Band of the Chippewas in Nett Lake, Minn.

“We haven’t seen any of that in our schools,” Mr. Adams said. After all, he said, “We’re the people they hate.”

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