Commodore 64. Photo (cc) 2010 by Luca Boldrini.

The New York Times has an interesting long look at the history of online activism among violent white supremacists. Laura Smith traces it back to a former Ku Klux Klan “Grand Dragon” named Louis Beam, who launched a bulletin-board system for haters on his Commodore 64 back in the early 1980s. In one of his early screeds, Beam wrote:

Imagine, if you will, all the great minds of the patriotic Christian movement linked together and joined into one computer. Imagine any patriot in the country being able to call up and access these minds.

The people Beam was trying to reach could imagine it only too well. Among those who may have been influenced by such early online networking on the extreme right was the Oklahoma City bomber, Timothy McVeigh, who owned two Commodore 64s when he was in high school and may well have stumbled across Beam’s network.

And as Smith writes, the goals espoused by today’s extremely online domestic terrorists “can sound chillingly similar to those envisioned by Mr. Beam and his cohort.”

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