The other night I listened to Terry Gross (Fresh Air, NPR) interview Floyd Cochran, former member and publicist for the "Aryan Nation", a white supremacist hate group. He seems like a regular guy, well-spoken, thoughtful, no racial epithets spewing from the mouth, no vitriol running down his chin. He described himself as a racist long before he joined the Nation. But his take on the media, on what it takes to sell ideas, on the tricks of his particular trade was eye-opening, if not confirmatory. He said "racism sells newspapers and TV". He said he cultivated relationships with reporters, gave them interesting quotes and such, and generally used them to generate press for his organization. He said they were usually impressed with what he wasn't.
Cochran also said that "George Bush validated everything I ever thought with the Willie Horton Ad" campaign. He described his job as one of "pressing the right buttons" and that "racism is always just below the surface". He would basically use "whatever worked" to get his point across, to recruit new members. He would use welfare or crime as a code word for blacks. He would tie international issues to Jewish conspiracy theories. He said that you "can't talk negatively about blacks in Philadelphia (where Terry Gross is located), but you can walk outside and attack gays and lesbians and have 35 percent of the public agree with you". He also said more and more women are joining hate groups like Aryan Nation (even forming their own groups). Cochran talked of how he used attractive women as a recruiting device (sex sells soap, and it can sell racism too).
These days Cochran tries to spread the word against racism (while he receives threats, etc.), often at his own expense. He said he still harbors some racist views, but tries to fight against them. It was pretty powerful testimony. The delivery gets slicker but the message remains the same.