When Frank Ancona, imperial wizard of the Traditionalist American Knights of the Klu Klux Klan, learned he had been "doxxed" by the hacktivist group Anonymous, his first reaction was disappointment. Not that he was named. No, he's proud of his KKK affiliation.
What disappointed Ancona, a onetime machinist living in Park Hills, Missouri, is that he didn't see more of his friends' names in lights. “I was disappointed because I was hoping I’d find out one of my friends is actually in another Klan group,” Ancona said. “Or maybe Obama is actually a Klansman or something, I don’t know. I can say there’s not going to be a big mass exodus from the Klan because of this.”
Ancona told International Business Times that he recognized many of the names and aliases on the list, which was posted by Anonymous on the text-sharing site Pastebin on Thursday, but after spending nearly a decade in the public eye as a KKK member, he called the level of research that went into putting the names together "pathetic."
On this point, both the KKK and human rights organizations are in agreement: After weeks of bluster from Anonymous, the promised 1,000-name list of white supremacists turned out to be barely 350 supposed racists, many already well-known to authorities and others who make no secret of their affiliations.
Rather than launching a cyberattack, Anonymous appears to have simply scoured Facebook for users who “liked” KKK-affiliated pages, or included a Confederate battle flag in their profile picture. Hundreds of the names are known KKK members, experts say, but many more are certainly aliases, and at least one is flat-out wrong.
“It’s much ado about nothing,” said Mark Pitcavage, director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, which tracks radical right wing groups in the U.S. “Calling a single person a white supremacist is a serious thing, and it’s something one does after much deliberation and with much thought. That wasn’t done here, and it’s hard to see what, if any, good can come out of this.”
Anonymous posted the database of names -- often with corresponding Facebook or Google Plus pages attached -- along with a statement explaining the data dump was meant to “spark a bit of constructive dialogue about race, racism, racial terror and freedom of expression.” Many of the attached Facebook and Google Plus pages vanished in the days before the leak, or immediately after. The list’s publication comes days after another widely discredited list of purported KKK members was also posted by an unrelated group.
Anonymous has been at odds with the KKK since late 2014, when the hacking group starting releasing personal information on Klan members who threatened war against protesters in Ferguson, Missouri. This list’s Nov. 5 publication coincided with Guy Fawkes Day, the annual commemoration of the English 1605 Gunpowder Plot organizer and inspiration for Anonymous’ mask.
But it included at least one inaccurate name. Ben Garrison is a libertarian political cartoonist who had one of his cartoons edited into a racist meme on the notorious imageboard 4chan (the birthplace of Anonymous). When Garrison complained, the 4chan community responded by editing dozens more of his cartoons, and setting up social media pages under Garrison’s name depicting him as a racist.
He has consistently denied being a white supremacist, telling the Washington Post that 4chan has ruined his professional career. But Anonymous, in its search for known racists, apparently took 4chan’s cartoons at face value and included the animator on their KKK list. It has since been revised.
“What they did is post a long list of names and sprinkled in some well-known white supremacists,” said Pitcavage. “Responsible organizations like ours don’t out every extremist they come across. It doesn’t accomplish much other than to get someone fired from their job, and it certainly doesn’t change their mind.”
The Klan Refuses To Pull Off The Hood
Nor does it seem to do much to intimidate them. Fewer than 4,000 Klansmen are believed to still exist in the U.S., a stark decline from the peak membership of at least 4 million in the 1920s. While other white supremacist groups have flourished in the Klan's place, it's hard to imagine many will quit now after yet another threat from hackers.
Ancona said membership in his organization fluctuates, though he claimed it sometimes numbers as high as 2,000 across the continental U.S. To adapt to the times, he said, the Klan has had to back away from its traditional racist stances and do more to show “it’s not just about hatred, it’s more of a Christian fraternal society.” Anonymous has become just another challenge.
"I thought these guys were supposed to be genius computer hackers, but to verify that someone is a Klan member they'd have to actually have to break into our headquarters and steal a copy of our applications," Ancona said. "I've always been a vigilante, so this is just part of the job description."