One of the things I was surprised to learn in research for my upcoming book, is that young people (ages 15-19) surfing the Internet for information about civil rights who stumble upon a reference to David Duke have no idea who he is, and therefore don’t immediately discredit him. I suppose this shouldn’t have surprised me given that most of the national headlines David Duke as former Ku Klux Klan wizard and then as a suit-and-tie-racist and Louisiana politician happened long before most 15-19 year olds were paying attention to news. And, in the past few years, Duke has spent much of his time in Europe where he his brand of white supremacy has been well-received (pictured here with German far-right leader, Udo Voigt). Duke even received an honorary doctorate and often refers to himself as “Dr. Duke.”
So, it was encouraging news when I read recently that Duke was banned from delivering lectures at Charles University in Prague and Brno, Czech Republic, university authorities said. (I guess I also felt a special glee because a couple of years ago I’d been to Brno, Czech Republic to give a talk about my work. I’m not saying these two events are related, just a happy coincidence, but I digress.) The article refers to Duke as a “former white supremacist,” and nothing could be further from the truth. While he has discarded the hoods and robes of the Klan, he is a regularly featured celebrity on an Internet radio show hosted by Stormfront, the largest and longest-running white supremacist website.
Part of what’s so pernicious about Duke’s particular brand of white supremacy, racism and antisemitism is the way that he has been able to both appropriate and influence more respected hatemongers, such as academic Kevin McDonald. Kevin McDonald’s ties to extremists such as David Duke have been well-documented by the ADL and I wrote a long post about him awhile ago.
And, Duke was among the first white supremacists to see the potential of the Internet for spreading his views of white supremacy. Back in the mid-1990s he wrote, “I believe that the Internet will begin a chain reaction of racial enlightenment that will shake the world by the speed of its intellectual conquest.” The reality that David Duke and other white supremacists were early adopters of the Internet, runs counter to prevailing notions about white supremacists as bumpkins and about the Internet as an inherently democratic space.
Finally, in the category of the extremely strange bedfellows created by Holocaust denialism, in 2007 David Duke attended a conference called “Review of the Holocaust: Global Vision,” sponsored by the Iranian government. While denounced by the governments of the United States, Britain (among others), in attendance were 67 participants from 30 countries including Frederick Töben of Australia, Robert Faurisson of France, and a group of Orthodox Jews who despise Zionism. Of course, Iranian President Ahmadinejad was a key figure in organizing and speaking at the conference. Ahmadinejad has repeatedly called the murder of millions of Jews by the Nazis a “myth.”
Perhaps now that the Czech Republic has cancelled lectures by Duke, the support he once enjoyed overseas is beginning to turn to distaste.