Sorting Out Simple Hate From Terrorism

The mother of a Michigan teenager accused of plotting a terror attack on his school said her son is a good boy, but something bad got into him.

Some of that may have been unveiled last week when police displayed some of the items they say they found at the teenager's home when they arrested him Friday. Along with an AK-47, two rifles, pipe bombs, bomb-making supplies and other weapons were Nazi paraphernalia and literature, police said.

And what brought Andrew Osantowski, 17, of Clinton Township, to the attention of authorities was an Internet dialogue he allegedly conducted with an Idaho girl — who was so shocked by the virulence of the white supremacism, race hatred and threats of violence she read, that she told her police officer father.

Osantowski did not belong to any known hate group, and apparently had little or no personal contact with others who might have shared his views, police said.

But Osantowski, who is being held on $1.35 million bail facing charges of threatening an act of terrorism, receiving and concealing stolen firearms, and larceny, among others, seems to fit with what some experts on extremist groups say is a growing face of hate — disaffected suburban white youths, acting alone, inspired by what they see on the Internet.

"This kid's a loner," Clinton Township police Capt. Doug Mills said. "But everything we've seen says he is a definite believer in these kinds of beliefs. He's like an encyclopedia."

Mills said the FBI has joined the investigation, looking into "the aspect of the hate-type crimes and possible involvement with groups like the Aryan Nation."


Osantowski's father, Marvin, 52, was also arrested on charges of concealing stolen weapons. He pleaded not guilty and was being held on $600,000 bail. Mills said it does not appear that the man knew anything about what his son allegedly planned to do with the arsenal, which was stored in an attic accessible from the teenager's bedroom and an attic over the garage.

A family friend, Dominic Queentry, 33, who Mills said allegedly taught the teenager "how to build a better bomb," was arrested on charges of possessing explosives and other counts. He pleaded not guilty and was being held on $100,000 bond.

In transcripts of the chat room dialogue Osantowski allegedly carried on with the Idaho teenager, Celia McGinty, that were published by the Detroit News, the teen appears angry and focused.

"DIVERSITY KILLS," he wrote in the chat room, using the name "Nazi Bot Sadistic," according to the newspaper. "There would be no hate in an all white world. Everything after WWII sucked."

Writing about what he planned to do, he allegedly explained why white people would be killed along with blacks, Jews and others.

"Their [sic] going to say if he has right wing ties why did he kill all these white people?" he wrote. "well frankly … they didn't meet my definition of being white. Just because u may have so challed [sic] white skin doesnt mean you're white. Its the values you have … the way you choose to present yourself … if you like black music, black culture … you're not white."

‘A Cesspool of Pent-Up Rage’

Nick Ryan, the author Into a World of Hate: A Journey Among the Extreme Right, said that what he found when he infiltrated neo-Nazi and other hate groups in the United States was a lack of organization or coordination, but an abundance of anger.

"It's a sort of cesspool of pent-up rage and energy," he said. "It's out of that that 1 [percent] or 2 percent might come out, the lone wolf who vents his alienation on the world."

There is no clear consensus on what is happening on the extreme right. Though environmental and animal rights activists have been able to translate their rhetoric into large-scale destructive acts, such as firebombings of housing developments or SUV dealers and attacks on animal research companies, right-wing groups have been in disarray for nearly a decade, most experts on the subject agree.

However, a couple of recent reports claim there has been a rise in activity on the far right, and there is no question there has been an increase in pamphleting and recruiting efforts by neo-Nazi, white supremacist and white separatist groups.

Have Hate Groups Grown?

The questions arise over what conclusion to draw from the increase in number of skinhead, neo-Nazi, white supremacist and other groups' Web sites and chapters found in a Southern Poverty Law Center study released earlier this year.

Or whether the increase in calls posted on militia Web sites to join and take part in training exercises really means that these groups are rebuilding toward the numbers they had in the early 1990s.

Mark Potok of the SPLC, which keeps tabs on extremist groups, said the study his group did may point more toward the desperation of right-wing groups to build their membership, rather than to any real growth that has already occurred.

But he said there has been a lot of unorganized violence that may be a product of the "background noise" created by these groups on the Net and with pamphleting.

"There does seem to be a lot of criminal violence coming from very young kids, high school and even middle school kids," he said. "There are really big demographic changes in a lot of neighborhoods. Where you tend to see a lot of youth hate crimes are in areas where minorities are moving into areas where they hadn't been before."

Jack Levin, the director of the Budnick Center on Violence at Boston University, said he used to believe organized hate groups had little effect beyond the narrow field of their members, but he has changed his view.

"If you look at hate crimes, you often find that the young people who commit these crimes have read the pamplets, have bought CDs from Resistance Records [owned by the neo-Nazi National Alliance], and have visited hundreds of hate group Web sites," he said.

And like Potok, he said the changing demographics in the United States have fueled a rise in hate crimes, particularly in the suburban areas that the National Alliance and other groups have targeted for new recruits.

"Hate crimes increase when minority families move into previously all-white communities," he said. "You see more hate crimes in the suburbs around Chicago than in the city itself. Hate groups have used the fear of middle-class white Americans as a recruiting tool."