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Studying Hate Crime with the Internet: What Makes Racists Advocate Racial Violence?

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Abstract

We conducted semistructured interviews with 38 participants in White racist Internet chat rooms, examining the extent to which people would, in this unique environment, advocate interracial violence in response to purported economic and cultural threats. Capitalizing on the anonymity and candor of chat room interactions, this study provides an unusual perspective on extremist attitudes. We experimentally manipulated the nature and proximity of the threats. Qualitative and quantitative analyses indicate that the respondents were most threatened by interracial marriage and, to a lesser extent, Blacks moving into White neighborhoods. In contrast, job competition posed by Blacks evoked very little advocacy of violence. The study affords an assessment of the advantages and limitations of Internet-based research with clandestine populations.

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