Many hate groups, which often operate on the Internet, have posted messages and editorials blaming Jews for the attacks. Anti-Semitism, often mixed with hatred of the government, is a key component of their effort. "It's important to remember that these groups latch onto any current event to try in some warped way to make it work in their favor," said Jay Kaiman, Southeast regional director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).
Devin Burghart, a researcher at the Center for New Community, a human rights organization in Chicago, said some groups have adopted a three-part strategy since the attacks. "Blame Jews for Sept. 11, rile up anti-Arab and anti-Muslim sentiment and blame immigration as the root cause for the attacks," he said.
Some milder examples of the recent Web postings: "We may not want them in our societies, just as they would not want us in theirs," wrote Billy Roper of the National Alliance in Hillsboro, W.Va., shortly after the attacks. "But anyone who is willing to drive a plane into a building to kill jews (sic) is alright by me." The World Church of the Creator, based in East Peoria, Ill., shows on its Web site a photograph of the burning World Trade Center with a caption that reads, "Friendship with Israel leads to this."In addition to the Internet, the groups also are spreading their message by distributing fliers and turning to the airwaves. Experts say the groups have begun using shortwave radio broadcasts.
It is unclear how many hate groups are active in the United States. Kaiman said the ADL has identified more than 400, and there is a lot of "cross-pollination" among them. The Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Ala., which tracks hate groups, identified 602 active groups last year. Polls show that about 8% of the nation's people hold similar views, said Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University-San Bernardino.
Experts say it is too soon to know how successful the groups will be with this new effort to enlist sympathizers. "I don't think they have been particularly successful in recruiting large numbers of new members," Levin said. "They have been successful at solidifying their base." He and others say new members are not the only aim of the hate groups. Organizations such as white supremacists, neo-Nazis, skinhead groups, black separatists and other extremists also are trying to get people to agree with their beliefs and prejudices.
"Many of these groups have changed their strategy to converting people to their cause rather than increasing their actual membership," Levin said. "They are looking for fellow travelers who embrace their ideology and their rhetoric rather than people to join the group," he said. "They are much more interested in cultivating the lone wolf to go out and do violence but not under their rubric."
Experts point to Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh and Atlanta Olympics bombing suspect Eric Rudolph as examples of people influenced by the rhetoric of hate groups.