The founder of the online white supremacist forum Stormfront.org this week began soliciting donations for a legal defense fund, just days after he was reportedly visited by the FBI in connection with last month’s shooting at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina.
Don Black, the former Ku Klux Klan grand dragon who founded the online forum two decades ago, said Tuesday on his online radio show that its commenters’ right to free speech was “under attack.” But he was vague about just what imminent legal challenge the website faced.
“We are under legal attack and we do have to have a defense,” he said. “We’re not going to just sit back and let the government do whatever it wants in lockstep with much of the media.”
Black said that on Independence Day he made an appeal to Stormfront’s “sustaining members,” or commenters who’ve previously donated to the site, to contribute to the legal defense fund. In that appeal, which was obtained by the Southern Poverty Law Center, Black wrote that “Stormfront’s existence is threatened now more than ever in its history.”
“I can’t discuss any details for the usual lawyerly reasons, but the assault has begun,” he added, as quoted by the SPLC. “I don’t know how far it will go or where it will end.”
The Stormfront founder recently told The New York Times that the FBI visited his West Palm Beach, Florida home last week. He told the newspaper that the agents were seeking information about Charleston shooter Dylann Roof’s online associations, but wouldn’t comment on whether he received a subpoena.
It wasn’t immediately clear whether the legal defense fund was related to the reported FBI visit to Black’s home. Black did not respond Tuesday to a request for comment from TPM.
Roof’s connection to Stormfront.org also remains unclear. A chilling manifesto that was apparently written by Roof before the July 17 shooting at Emanuel AME Church specifically credited a group called the Council of Conservative Citizens with opening the author’s eyes to black-on-white crime. An analysis by the SPLC further found that passages from the manifesto, which was published at a site called lastrhodesian.com, closely resembled comments published by a user named “Aryanblood1488” on The Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi forum.
Black alluded to the shooting, which left nine black parishioners dead, on Tuesday’s radio show.
“There are attempts to shut us down effectively by associating — by calling the truth ‘hate speech.’ That’s the method being used and suggesting that hate speech is illegal,” he said. “Telling the truth about race, telling the truth about the racial reality of crime is illegal because, well, it might cause somebody to get so outraged. Some mentally unbalanced person. He might do something illegal. He might go out and commit murder.”
In his interview with the Times, Black said he was concerned that a federal investigation into the shooter’s online associations could have a chilling effect on online commenters. He further suggested Tuesday that the specter of a federal inquiry could scare off people from posting in the public Stormfront forums.
“I didn’t want to immediately post in the public side of the board because our people are a little timid,” Black said on his radio show. “People coming to the board might get scared off if I start talking about government crackdowns that have to be fought with a legal defense fund.”