"Thirty years ago," Mark Potok says, "the people on the radical right really were white supremacists." Today, he says, they're white separatists insteador, euphemistically, white nationalists. "Someone like Derek Black will make white nationalism sound like it's a benign version of white supremacy," he says. "But what it really says is 'There is absolutely nothing in this country worth saving. We've got to tear it down and start over.'"
Don Black, Derek's father, has tried to put this idea into practice: In the early eighties, he was sentenced to three years in federal prison for conspiring to overthrow the black-majority government of Dominica, a Caribbean island, and replace it with a white-supremacist one; he was arrested as he and his co-conspirators prepared to board a boat loaded with guns and dynamite. Asked about his father's history, Derek Black says sharply, "My family and friends . . . have always been very mild American men who wanted to see change in their country." Don Black founded Stormfront in 1995, after learning HTML in prison. Today, his son produces Stormfront's Internet-radio broadcasts, including a regular program featuring David Duke. Derek is also a frequent contributor to the site, with more than 4,000 posts to his name.
"I don't know of anybody who's got better gifts for his age than Derek does," Duke says by telephone from somewhere in Ukraine (he won't be specific), where he's lecturing. "By the time I was 19 I was pretty much on fire politically, and he does remind me of how I was at that age. He's way ahead of me, I think, in his political maturity. He's got views more like I have now than what I had then. I don't really know of any areas that we're in fundamental disagreement."
"I speak about what affects people directly, not the lofty ideals of a liberal society that we have from Lyndon Johnson on down," Black says. "I'm talking about the real economic impact of a welfare society, of Third World labor coming into this country, of our foreign excursions, of our immigration policy. I am not a white supremacist. I am a white person who's concerned about discrimination against white people. But anyone who speaks on behalf of white folks is considered racist and a white supremacist. And there's no excuse for that in a country in which whites will be a minority by 2042."
"These people are essentially neo-Nazis," Potok says. "They're trying to make themselves look more acceptable to the mainstream, but their ideas haven't changed."
"I am not a menacing person," Black says. His next strategy will be to ask the local Republican party to confirm his election by secret ballot at its May meeting. Should he fail to be reinstated, he's not certain he'll run for office again, although he will stay involved in right-wing politics. "I see these people on the Hill and they're totally disconnected from real issues," he says. After the committee meeting, we finish speaking and Black extends his hand. I beg off again, mentioning my flu. "Still?" he says accusingly. He turns away, looking woundeda kid who, despite his hateful views, wants to be liked.