Here’s an irony. The activist group hiding behind the moniker Anonymous is outing Ku Klux Klan members.
The Internet scuffle is a sideline in Ferguson as the nation awaits the grand jury’s decision on whether a police officer will face criminal charges in the shooting death of Michael Brown.
Pulling the sheets off the Klan began with a skirmish between two Klan groups over a fundraiser for Darren Wilson, the white officer who shot Brown, a young black man. Anonymous stepped in after one Klan group distributed leaflets threatening “lethal force” in retaliation to violence by protesters after the grand jury decision.
Anonymous hacked Klan Twitter accounts and began posting pictures of suspected members, naming names in some cases: #HoodOff, #OpKKK.
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It’s amusing, to a point. It’s always dangerous to belittle the Klan too dismissively. The savage murders of the rabbis Tuesday in Jerusalem would certainly be applauded by such anti-Semites. That is, if they still had control of their Twitter accounts.
No shock that the Klan popped up around Ferguson. The tensions and fears of violence are a ready-made recruiting ground. White officer vs. black teenager. It’s a perfect setup to exploit.
“They can’t win by reasoning with people,” said Leonard Zeskind, an expert in hate groups. “The Klan’s strategy for the last four decades has been to show up where there is racial conflict and the racists will come.”
He added, “Racial conflicts happen in the U.S. because there is racism in the U.S. Black people are not making this stuff up.”
So packs of vultures like the Klan will descend upon America’s trouble spots looking for scraps. The only way to keep them away is to deal with the problems that fuel unrest. It’s not one tragic shooting but complicated and intertwined problems of crime, class and race that leave some communities deeply mistrusting police.
And that’s the hard work that many people have been beginning in Ferguson since Brown was shot in early August. Ultimately, what will matter most is the dedication of these unsung numbers, most of whom are perfectly content to stay out of the limelight. When the media glare moves on, they’ll still be there.
It’s not the grandstanding of hatred wrapped in sheets or the Internet tricks of Anonymous that will create the necessary long-term changes.
Still, it never hurts to shine a little light as disinfectant. Well played.