The article below ran in the January 2013 edition of Searchlight, an anti-racist, anti-fascist magazine published monthly in London with international distribution. It analyzes Klan, neo-Nazi and Tea Party activity during 2012, and recounts some of the movement's most violent episodes. At the end, please note the data that points towards problems in the future.
2012: A Year in ReviewBy Leonard Zeskind and Devin Burghart
The year began with whimpers from white nationalists about the decay of their supposed civilization. And it ended with a bang from gunners screaming about their rights after yet another mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school. Election year events dominated the ebb and flow of the far right, the racists and the bigots. In between, skinheads and assorted Aryan-types were arrested and convicted in multiple instances of horrific violence.
On 5 August 2012, members of Sikh Temple of Wisconsin were preparing a meal and readying for the day’s children’s classes when a heavily tattooed man in a white t-shirt burst into the Oak Creek, Wisconsin Sikh temple, pulled out the 9mm semi-automatic pistol and started firing. The attacker killed six people before engaging in a fire fight with local law enforcement when they arrived on the scene. After being hit by police, the gunman shot himself in the head. The killer was Wade Michael Page, a white power musician and a “fully patched” member of the white power skinhead crew, the Hammerskins.
On 24 February, after a multi-year investigation, Dennis Mahon was convicted of sending a mail bomb in 2004 that severely injured an Arizona diversity officer and hurt two others. Mahon, a one-time state leader in Thom Robb’s Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and then a secondary tier loudmouth in Tom Metzger’s White Aryan Resistance (W.A.R.), was later sentenced to 40 years in prison. W.A.R. once commanded the loyalty of legions of white power skinheads in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
In March, Alaska police arrested serial killer Israel Keyes. Before committing suicide in prison, Keyes confessed to several murders, bank robberies and other crimes. Keyes had attended a racist and anti-Semitic Christian Identity church with white nationalist killers Chevie and Shane Kehoe while growing up in rural Washington State.
Also in March, a former member of the National Social Movement and his cohort in the embryonic “Aryan Liberation Movement” were arrested for drug and firearms charges after a terrorism task force uncovered their plot to attack the Mexican Consulate and commit violence against minorities and the government.
That same month, a white power skinhead in Washington State pleaded guilty to brutal 2011 west coast killing spree. In September 2011, he and his girlfriend were arrested after a multistate crime rampage to “purify” and “preserve” the “white race.” The pair robbed their victims to finance the campaign, stole their cars to escape and murdered them to eliminate witnesses and avoid capture. They also targeted Jewish leaders and members of prominent Jewish organizations as potential targets for elimination.
In May, J.T. Ready, a former member of the National Socialist Movement who became an anti-immigrant border vigilante, murdered four people (including a 15 month old baby girl) then shot himself to death in Arizona. Chemicals and “military grade munitions” were discovered at the gruesome scene.
Also in May, as Searchlight previously reported, 11 members in Florida of American Front, led by former Hammerskins member Marcus Faella, were arrested on weapons, conspiracy and hate crimes felonies. American Front and Hammerskin Nation are both white power skinhead organizations with long pedigrees of murder and mayhem, As Searchlight went to press, a trial in had not yet started.
In June, a jury convicted two Alaska militia leaders of conspiracy to murder a judge and law enforcement officials. It was one of several cases involving militia members in 2012. A self-proclaimed member of the Southern Nevada Militia was arrested on firearms and explosives charges when authorities uncovered his plans to “conduct mass killings” and “shoot people on the Las Vegas strip.” Members of a Georgia militia group were arrested in a case that involves drugs, burglaries, murder, and a plot to take over a military base, poison apple crops, and blow up a dam.
In September, a white nationalist with the word “NAZI” tattooed on the fingers of his left hand and “HATE” on his right calf used a knife to murder a man in Lake Oswego, Oregon.
In October, Kyle Allan Batt, a tattooed white supremacist with ties to the Hammerskins, was arrested in Idaho after shooting two sheriff’s deputies. Just 17 days before the deputies were shot, the Hammerskins held their 2012 “Hammerfest” concert in the area.
National Socialist Movement Still a Problem
The National Socialist Movement (NSM) survived and even thrived in 2012. Its membership has continued to grow incrementally, and in 2012 it began to absorb smaller, less stable national socialist groups. It has also developed a following among motorcycle gangs. The NSM’s mini-fuhrer, Jeff Schoep, claims that the organization has purchased land in North Dakota and is looking for someone to work it. The operating ideology continues to be derivative, and without any of the flair that William Pierce added to old Nazi ideas. Similarly, it follows rather than leads the issue flow in the white nationalist world around it. For example, it picked up anti-immigrant topics years after other white-ists began targeting the brown-skinned, Spanish-speaking laborers seeking work. Despite being late to immigrant-bashing, it is fervid, and continued to mount its own border patrols at different points in 2012.
The NSM has a stable internal structure and will likely to continue to grow. And the organization remains a cesspool for violence-prone characters, such as those described above. Rallies in small towns and medium size cities are still the NSM’s primary mode of operation.
Opponents should note that its leadership looks forward to public opposition on the street. “One of the points to any rally is to draw protesters and demonstrate to the public what the opposition sounds like and looks like. This has always been one of the most effective means of gathering support.”
In a couple of instances these public rallies have included some of the newer Klan organizations that have been popping up in the South and Mid-South.
Number of Klan Groups Growing Again
The Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, created by David Duke in 1973 and captained by men (and they were all men) who would become leading lights of the white supremacist movement for the next two decades, is now barely a shadow of its former self. In the hands of Thom Robb’s family, nestled away in the north Arkansas hills, it publishes a website, a newsletter, and an occasional tabloid; it holds periodic gatherings and provides something of an income for the Robbs. As such it has left a vacuum amongst wannabe Kluxers. And a host of smaller, independent Klans have grown up to fill the void.
The Georgia “realm” of the International Keystone Knights was fairly active, and last June managed to get the ACLU to file suit protect its right to collect trash along the Appalachia Highway in North Georgia and have its name on a marker. In 2012, the Loyal White Knights, a splinter group based in North Carolina, held several poorly attended but highly costumed rallies in Virginia, North Carolina, and Georgia. The rally in Virginia was held in memory of racist killer Wade Michael Page, mentioned above. The Loyal Knights also attended a relatively successful joint event with the National Socialist Movement in Frankfort, Kentucky.
By contrast, the “Southern Alliance of Klans,” led by Georgia Knights Riders Wizard Jeff Jones adopted a policy of non-cooperation with neo-Nazis, skinheads and others they deemed to be “White Nationalists.” The Knights Riders seem to be the largest faction in this Alliance. But the North Louisiana and the Mississippi White Knights are also in this grouping. The latter appeared to be big enough to suffer a split in August between its main body and the North Mississippi White Knights, led by a relatively young and aggressive Steven Howard.
Klan concentrations have also re-emerged in Alabama, Tennessee and elsewhere. Altogether the Southern Poverty Law Center estimates that the membership stands at about 6,000. As the year ended and a new one began, these Klan groups—much like the National Socialist Movement—are outgrowths, secondary symptoms of the racial polarization at the center of American life. And much like the NSM, they are certain to become sources for future violence.
The Council of Conservative Citizens-American Renaissance-Occidental Dissent ComplexLike the NSM and the Klan groups, this multi-organizational complex has made incremental gains over the past year. American Renaissance, however, has discontinued print publication of its monthly bulletin. While its annual conferences continue, they suffer from lower attendance rates, as Searchlight has previously reported, and the open split between Taylor and the upfront anti-Semites that populate most of the white nationalist movement. Further, mainstream conservatives, such as those at National Review magazine, no longer quietly accept Taylor’s scientific racism as part of their political milieu.
The Council—which is the membership organization at the center of this—continues to miss Sam Francis’ input, and still lacks a strategic vision. Nevertheless, it continues to have capable mid-level leaders, particularly in the Tennessee, Mississippi, and Alabama region. It has also started to attract a younger set of members. While its leadership position in the movement as a whole remains, this state is more the result of inertia rather than any grand new initiative. But its participation in the Tea Party movement enables it to maintain a stable periphery in some locations.
Tea Party Movement Grows South
Unlike the Klan, neo-Nazis and other white nationalists, the Tea Party movement’s racism is covert rather than overt—but it is full of white resentment at the black president and black people. And it continued to grow in 2012, particularly in the South.
MEMBERSHIP BY YEAR
The Tea Partiers also had an outsized impact on the election cycle: knocking Republican regulars like Sen. Richard Lugar out in an Indiana primary election, fielding a team of challengers in Republican congressional contests, and effectively taking control of several state legislatures.
Entering 2012, the Tea Party Caucus had 59 members in the House of Representatives. Before the November election, two members retired, two lost in primaries, and one left to become governor of Indiana. Of the 52 remaining Tea Party Caucus members, 48 won re-election—a 92% win rate.
Incumbency was extremely helpful to Tea Party endorsed candidates, a broader group than just members of the caucus. The FreedomWorks for America Super PAC endorsed 86 candidates, 66 won, and 20 lost.
Tea Party endorsed candidates had more trouble in statewide races this year. , but did very well in gerrymandered House districts. This year all the national Tea Party groups endorsed a total of 83 candidates, 67 won, and 16 lost. The 2012 winning percentage in the House of over 80% was even higher than in 2010.
None of the four members of the Senate Tea Party Caucus were up for re-election in 2012, and Tea Party-endorsed candidates for the Senate fared even worse in 2012 than they did in 2010. This year, national Tea Party groups and their PACs endorsed thirteen candidates. Eleven lost.
Steve Stockman, Again
Steve Stockman, a poster boy congressman for the militia in the 1990s, is rejoining the House of Representatives after a 16-year hiatus. Stockman defeated two opponents with more money in the Republican primaries for Texas’ 36th CD, and then won the November contest with 71.8% of the vote. He was endorsed by former Texas Congressman Dick Armey’s FreedomWorks Tea Party faction along the way.
Steve Stockman was last elected to congress in 1994, in the Gingrich-led Republican takeover of congress. During that period he was known as a religious conservative opposed to abortion rights, and a fierce advocate of gun rights and a friend of the militia movement. Congressman Stockman wrote a conspiracy-besotted article for Guns & Ammo magazine in June 1995, after the error-ridden BATF and then FBI siege of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco Texas. Stockman argued that “Waco was supposed to be a way for the … Clinton Administration to prove the need for a ban on so-called assault weapons.” Further he wrote, “Bill Clinton and the gun-control lobby were not unhappy with the fiery end of the siege at Waco. Waco was to be a lesson to gun owners all over America.” (Hon Steve. Stockman “Congressman Stockman Assaults the “Assault Weapons” Ban,” Guns & Ammo, June 1995, p. 26.)
Similarly, Stockman’s friendship for gun advocates and the militias became a point of controversy after the murderous bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building in April 1995. In March, at the behest of gun lobby groups, he wrote a letter to Attorney General Janet Reno inquiring about any planned “paramilitary-style attack against Americans.” Then on April 19, the day of the bombing, Stockman received a FAX from a militia follower about an hour after the bombing that contained the message: “First update. Bldg 7 to 10 floors only. Military people on scene-BATF/FBI. Bomb threat received last week. Perpetrator unknown this time. Oklahoma.” Stockman’s office sent the FAX immediately over the National Rifle Association, but it took over two hours to send it to the FBI.
In addition to his anti-choice, guns and militia politics, Stockman was also active in anti-immigrant causes. In May 1995, Congressman Stockman introduced a proposal to amend the constitution, H. J. Res. 87, calling for an end to birthright citizenship. Initial co-sponsors of that measure included Cong. Helen Chenoweth (R. Id,) another militia advocate in the House of Representatives at that time.
Stockman’s 2012 endorsers represent these passions from the mid-1990s: former Cong. Tom Tancredo, an anti-immigrant voice from Colorado, four gun groups (including Guns Owners of America), the 2008 Constitution Party presidential candidate Chuck Baldwin, and a host of others from the far right. The Tea Party caucus in Congress will be tame stuff for Stockman, and his endorsement by FreedomWorks signals a further radicalization in Tea Party ranks.
The Most Important News Bit in 2012
The combination of all the calumny heaped on President Barack Obama by the Tea Parties, the Kluxers and the white nationalists have resulted in a deterioration along the racial fault line in American life. In October, the Associated Press released a poll which stated the painfully obvious truth: racial attitudes among white people have worsened during the President’s term.
According to the AP, “In all, 51% of (white) Americans now express explicit anti-black attitudes, compared with 48% in a 2008 survey. When measured by an impilcit racial attitudes test, the number of Americans with anti-black sentiments jumped to 56%, up from 49%.”
Say what you will about President Obama’s foreign policy, his domestic and economic policy or anything else. For too many people it boils down to one thing: He broke the white monopoly on the presidency. And that is the sea that all these white nationalists swim in. And it is a danger that most human rights advocates do not want to recognize quite yet.
- Ku Klux Klan
- Wade Michael Page
- Dennis Mahon
- Tom Metzger
- National Socialist Movement
- Israel Keyes
- Christian Identity
- Aryan Liberation Movement
- JT Ready
- American Front
- Marcus Faella
- Jeff Schoep
- Knights of the Ku Klux Klan
- Thom Robb
- International Keystone Knights
- Southern Alliance of Klans
- North Mississippi White Knights
- Georgia Knight Riders
- Council of Conservative Citizens
- Occidental Dissent
- American Renaissance
- tea party
- Tea Party membership
- Steve Stockman
- white nationalists
Leonard Zeskind is president of the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights. Devin Burghart is IREHR vice president.