She is a dental hygienist, a vegetarian, an animal rights advocate, a mother, a beer drinker and a self-proclaimed white nationalist. Thus reads the profile of one Eureka resident, whose user name is “Fenria.” Fenria is one of the handful of Humboldt residents who posts on Stormfront, a white supremacist website. According to a 2014 report by the Southern Poverty Law Center
, almost 100 people were murdered by Stormfront users in the last five years. The SPLC says that Stormfront forums “nurture budding killers” and allow them to connect with like-minded people.
In light of the recent Charleston shooting and the renewed conversation about racism in America, we wanted to know if members of this white supremacist cyber community walk among us. So we dived in, trawling the site’s forums using the keyword search “Humboldt.” (“Humbolt” also came up with some hits.) Here’s what we found out:
1. Humboldt County is a lonely place for some racists.
This according to user “White dragyn,” whose posts resemble the saddest Craigslist singles ad ever. “I’m on the North Coast of California….very lonely up here,” he says, later reporting that he is homeless and looking for work as a writer. “I can write propaganda,” he says, drawing no replies. While bigots in the Sacramento and Los Angeles area seem to have regular white pride potlucks, Humboldt folks either have little follow through or are too canny to advertise their plans. A few shout outs to the ether asking for a get-together are met with no response. A sympathetic Oregonian did chime in, saying, “I just want to say I feel so bad for you guys living in California. It must be hell for you out there, stay strong.”
2. Not every secessionist is a white supremacist, but almost every white supremacist appears to be a secessionist.
The leading location of most posters on the Humboldt-related forums appears to be “State of Jefferson” or “Would-Be State of Jefferson.” There’s a Venn diagram begging to be drawn. Most Stormfront members decry the increased racial diversity of California and solicit input on where they should move to be in a “racially pure” community. Humboldt’s relative lack of racial diversity seems to be a draw for some, although it’s far from an extremist’s paradise. A former philosophy student at HSU, for example, says he’s “trying to stay sane in the midst of all these self-hating whites and communist wannabes.” Fenria, whose husband is Norwegian, celebrates that they could move back to Norway when Humboldt is no longer white enough to suit them, and says, “It’s still relatively nice up here, but for how long is anyone's guess.”
3. They feel oppressed everywhere, all the time, and that’s kind of the scary part.
The Southern Poverty Law Center profiles a potential committer of hate crimes as a frustrated, impoverished young white male who “instead of building his resume, seeking employment or further education projects his grievances on society and searches the Internet for an excuse or an explanation unrelated to his behavior or the choices he has made in life.” We found at least one Stormfront user that met this description, a young man naïve enough to include his real name and his parents’ names on his profile. He likes Slipknot and Korn and Jesus. He works as a dishwasher at a local restaurant. He would like to donate to Stormfront he says, but the financial situation with his fiancé right now makes it impossible. He feels embattled everywhere, even at work, where his “managers are a mexi who is a member of the NAACP, so are the managers at other restaurant….there’s only two white male waiters, and the rest of us are dishwashers who do the majority of the work for less pay than the cooks. We white workers band together in our own group, it's safer that way.”
4. They have strong opinions about Humboldt State University.
The afore-mentioned philosophy student tells a story of confronting his professor when the professor dared say something negative about Nazis. Another user says “Humboldt State has a heavy Judeo Marxist agenda going, and the University is a big part of the darkening of the area.” Some unrepeatable things were posted on the forum about the 2014 bus crash that killed five students on their way to the university. “Who are these sick-minded liberal losers, who want to bring Blacks into a beautiful White part of the country?” asks one concerned citizen.
5. Our local white supremacists are just like the rest of us, except, you know, racist and crazy
. Meet local jackboots-wearer and nature-lover FragHag. FragHag spends a lot of time on Stormfront talking about ceramics and exchanging recipes. She’s one of a large number of white supremacists who use the site to discuss genealogy and other relatively benign topics. Of course, one could probably find pleasant conversations about all of one’s interests on websites that don’t promote hatred, bigotry and violence, but apparently it’s important for FragHag to talk about lemon meringue pie in a place where she can truly be herself. Consider the following gem from a thread devoted to photography, where she posted black and white photos of Arcata’s Community Forest.
“California is a very beautiful state, a demographic shame but beautiful nonetheless. Redwoods are impressive. LOOK AROUND YOU, FEEL YOUR STRENGTH! YOU ARE PART OF A TIDAL WAVE OF PRIDE THAT IS SWEEPING THE WORLD AT AN UNCONTROLLABLE RATE! WE WILL NOT BE HELD DOWN! WE WILL NOT SURRENDER!”
Of course, these are only random samplings from the digital Wild West. On the next installment of our three-part series on Racism Behind the Redwood Curtain we’ll be going offline, and exploring why so many Confederate Flags have found their way here, many miles away from Gettysburg and Antietam. Please add your experience and voice to this topic by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or commenting below.
Editor's Note: This post was updated from a previous version to correct the number of prospective Humboldt State University students killed in a bus crash near Orland in 2014.