Book Review of Cyber Racism – Jessie Daniels, 2009

On: September 12, 2009
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About ellen sluis
I am currently enrolled in the MA New Media. After graduating in Communication and Information Sciences from the Utrecht University I worked during one year in Brazil (São Paulo) as a web designer and, after that, at a NGO, developing the website and PR.

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http://marieellensluis.wordpress.com    

I realize the commonly held view that abortion is murder and that white women should be having children instead of aborting them. However, black women are much more likely to have abortions than white women. It’s as that joke goes, “What do you call an abortion clinic in Harlem?” “Crime Stoppers.” LOL. Those fetuses that are aborted are oftentimes better off dead. Sorry, but considering the environments that most of them would have been raised in, it’s usually true. Plus, if I were ever raped by a black guy, I’d definitely want rid of what was growing inside of me. I don’t think that abortion should be used as ordinary birth control, but under a lot of circumstances it seems justified… (Quoted in Cyber Racism, Jessie Daniels, 2009, p70).

The above quotation was posted at the white supremacist website Stormfront.org, by a woman under the nickname ConcernedKaia, on 19/02/2008.  It demonstrates the pro-white activism we encounter on racist websites in today’s digital era.

In her recently published book Cyber Racism, White Supremacy Online and the New Attack on Civil Rights Jessie Danielsexamines how the internet helps to realize and further the goals of white supremacy instead of striving the ideals of equality. Internet is supposed to be an globalizing network which could offer the possibility of different races getting in touch and to which everyone should have equal access, but at the same time it causes easier ways for racists to express themselves online, oftentimes anonymously, which results in more racism, hate and harm in real life as well.  Though her book is primarily intended as an empirical work, Daniels also uses a methodological design, based on Wendy Griswold’s Framework theory (1987), to write a fuller picture of today’s racism, which has extended from offline to both offline and online pro-white activism.

Jessie Daniels, sociologist, not the singer, is PhD, author (also blogger at Racismreview.com) and professor at Hunter College in New York City. For almost 15 years, her research in the field of sociology focuses on how the Internet is (and is not) changing social inequality. She is the author of several articles and two books (White Lies, 1997, and this year Cyber Racism) which all deal with race, gender, technology (media) and racism.

In the first couple of chapters Daniels points out how globalization dissolves national borders, what results in today’s blend of races. Unfortunately, this goes hand in hand with racism. She describes how white supremacy online in the global context facilitates the formation of a ‘translocal’ white identity online rather than racial identity being constructed as oppositional to forces of globalization. The Internet makes it possible for pro-whites to get in touch with each other and share their ideas more easily than offline. In her book she stresses how this has consequences both online and offline. She describes several cases of digital and material harassment, caused by hate speech. One example is the case of Richard Machado, a Mexican American guy who sends hate emails to all the Asian students from his University, threatening that he’ll kill them in real life (Although he is not really white, he probably considers himself to be more white than Asians). By this case Daniels shows how online and offline harassment always seem to be embedded in each other.

Than she continues pointing out how issues as interracial relationships, gender and homosexuality intersect with white supremacy and how this has changed in the digital era. She states that, different than in the print-only era when the dominant players were mostly white heterosexual men, nowadays white women can also react and/or resist on the internet, arguing for equality for white men and women. And that gays, with thanks to the Internet are eventually accepted, unless they are white:

Homosexuality is not ideal because it doesn’t produce white children, and its male version tends to spread disease. But homosexuality is part of the white condition. There have been loyal prowhite homosexuals who have found ways to contribute, like donating lots of money to prowhite causes…. (Quoted in Cyber Racism, Jessie Daniels, 2009, p79).

In the following chapters she focuses on the translation of racism from the print-only era into websites, spreading white supremacy online. As I said before, in the print-only era the hate speech was mainly dominated by white men. Although white supremacy online allows more participation by, for example, white women and white homosexuals, following Daniels many websites didn’t work out well and disappeared. If you are interested in checking out some of the existing websites today, take a look at the website The Insurgent: Resist.com (‘Shoot the fags before they rape you’). It is a static website, with only one-way information, but the information is really threatening. Stormfront.org (‘White Pride World Wide’) is one of the biggest, it allows people to discuss and value whiteness in the virtual community.

Worse than the hate speech websites, which are easily detectible and therefore easy to block, is according to Daniels, the existence of cloaked websites; websites that seem to inform about civil rights and being anti-racist but in fact are created by white supremacists for opposite purposes. An example is Martinlutherking.org, which by the name and URL seems a very trustworthy website, but in fact attempts to produce uncertainty about racial equality! This is particularly dangerous for teenagers, as Daniels points out in chapter 8, describing her analyses of cloaked websites and teenager’s valuation of the content.

In a small research she did on a group of teenagers, she found out that they think websites high ranked by Google and with URL names ending with .org or .edu are professional and educative websites of which the information can be taken for granted. Many images and a professional design also gives a website a trustworthy image, even though it’s full of deceiving information about race and civil rights.

In the concluding chapter Daniels tries to find a solution to beat white supremacy online.  To be able to distinguish these cloaked sites from legitimate sites it is, according to Daniels, essential to get rid of the ‘white’ frame that constructs our perception of social phenomena. It is very important to think critically about the Internet, race, racism and other forms of oppression. Only than people can criticize the information given on cloaked sites and consider it as to be false and can we fight the undermining of civil rights by white supremacy in old and new media.

Before I started reading this book, I expected an examination of racism on another level; focusing on the exclusion of many people in third world countries in the online debate, simply because they don’t have access to the medium and how this relates to the domination of the Internet by white people, especially Americans. How come that so many people don’t have access? Are they deliberately excluded from the Internet? Instead of, or besides, looking at racism mainly in the United States, as Daniels does, I think the exclusion of the internet by many people is an interesting point to stress on, because I think racism on this level causes much more inequality – through globalization the rich get even more richer and the poor, which without any access to new media, will have the hardest time to develop and might become even poorer…

However, I think Daniels managed to arouse her readers by empirically clarifying these shocking facts about cyber racism, which once again demonstrates the Internet is not just inherently progressive and the ultimate medium for an online democracy, but that we have to be well aware of the white frame through which we are looking at the Internet and that we should always criticize the reliability of the information we find online.

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