"Which is worse? The wolf who cries before eating the lamb or the wolf who does not."— Leo Tolstoy

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


NEW YORK NY - August 10, 2011 - 6:30 P.M.. -    In the past few weeks a number of mainstream local news websites featuring local crime stories involving black on white violence have had their comments sections overwhelmed with blistering racist hate speech from an online flash mob. The members of this racist online flash mob appear to be from all over the country and have one goal in common: to dominate the web page's comments section, leave as many racist comments and offend as many people as they can. The single common denominator that guides the traffic appears to be that the story link originally appeared and was taken from the Drudge Report.

Recently, the Drudge Report has prominently linked to local news stories involving flash mob violence, often emphasizing the racial motivation for the black on white crimes and the failure of the authorities to charge suspects involved in the events with hate crimes.

It appears that the online racist flash mob originates from a network of racist websites and/or forums. Alex Linder's Vanguard News Network and Stormfront have both been featuring news stories involving racially motivated violence against whites. According to the Anti-Defamation League, VNN is "one of the most active white supremacist sites on the Internet." In an earlier racist flash mob incident a participant remarked that the comments being posted were much milder than those that are normally posted on their own website.

On August 10th, the victim of the racist flash mob was Philadelphia's local CBS affiliate, CBS3, who published a story on their website about a white bicyclist who was sucker punched by someone wearing brass knuckles.  The story did not identify the race of the suspect which seemed to enrage the racist online flash mob, who believed the suspect must have been black.

A torrent of racist hate speech overwhelmed the comments section which, in turn, elicited a flood of irate responses. Most of the comments from self-identified African Americans seemed to be of local origin while the racist flash mob's comments seemed to originate from all over the country. The racist comments did not use the word "n-ger," but everything else seemed to be fair game.  African Americans were repeatedly called monkeys or primates and many comments called for violence against the black community. This resulted in responses in which self-identified African Americans vowed to defend their community.  The words "race war" was used several times in comments on both sides.

As the comments started to exceed 350 CBS3 began rapidly deleting comments. The number of comments went from 365 to under 200 within a matter of minutes. Even the replies, some of which offered rational rebuttal to the deliberately provocative racist hate speech, were deleted. By the end of the evening the entire comments section was deleted from the webpage.

Another CBS3 news story about efforts to fight flash mob violence in Philadelphia, that was published on the website the same day, was unmolested by the online racist flash mob and the comments section remained open.  This story was not linked to by the Drudge Report.

I spoke to the person who answered the telephone at CBS3's news desk and was asked to send an e-mail for an official comment.  However, I was told that the racist flash mob had also overwhelmed their phone lines with calls from all over the country protesting the station's failure to identify the race of the suspects.  

When I asked what criterion was being used to delete comments I was told that the calls and comments appeared to be coordinated and that they started deleting comments wholesale to try to get a handle on the situation.  CBS3's comments are managed by Word Press VIP's content management system.  CBS3's webmaster had left for the day by the time I called, but I will try to reach her again tomorrow.

It appears as if the racist online flash mob targets local news websites because the relatively low traffic enables them to quickly overwhelm and dominate the comments section.  It is more difficult to do that on a national media website's comment section due to the high volume of other people also posting comments.  For example, the same day that the CBS3 news story was published the Drudge Report also linked to a news story on Fox News' website that resulted in nearly 4,000 comments being posted by the end of the day.

If this is a new coordinated social media strategy, as it appears to be, this may bring radical changes to, or even end,  the comment feature of many news stories.

More later.

UPDATE -  AUGUST 11, 2011 - 6:00 P.M.

At 6:00 today I spoke with Mark Potok at the Southern Poverty Law Center.  Mark said that the SPLC had not been aware of the online racist flash mob activity but  has been researching the violent flash mob incidents and will be posting an item on their Hate Watch blog.

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