An international Web site with more than a half-million members around the world has a comparatively high following in Maine, according to a study undertaken by a Harvard economist.
Seth Stephens-Davidowitz's findings, published in the New York Times Sunday Review, concluded that Mainers are becoming members of the white supremacist Web site Stormfront in larger numbers than in other New England states.
The New York Times report by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz concluded that somewhere between 130 and 140 Mainers list themselves as members of Stormfront, a white power organization that directs most of its venom towards African-Americans and Jews.
"They're just a lot of people who are very angry about multiculturalism, changing societies, the Jews, whatever their beefs are," says Heidi Beirich, the director of the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Project.
She says Stephens-Davidowitz's findings are anything but a good sign for emerging diversity in Maine, long recognized as the whitest state in the union. At the very least, she says the Stormfront Web site provides a social forum for the propagation of hate speech, and at worst, Stormfront's members could potentially be a threat to others.
"Eventually, some of them act on their rage and are killing people or beating people up or engaging in criminal activity," Beirich says. "It's a bit of an offense cluster really. It's where a lot of criminals end up hanging out."
Maine Attorney General Janet Mills says her office is not aware of the group's online or offline activities in the state. And Beirich says law enforcement is only starting to move deeper into the online world that Stormfront members populate in order to advance their racist ideology.
"It's the kind of electronic living space of these groups that tells you what the level of danger is, what the threats are," Beirich says. "The number of murderers that Stormfront has produced is extraordinarily high, and when people think of white supremacists and murder in the past they would think of someone who was like a leader in The Order, which was a white supremacist terrorist group back in the 1980s. But nowadays where they exist is on Stormfront."
According to the New York Times report, Stormfront members tend to be young, with 19 being the most common age at which people join the site.