Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Oh, that difference

My friends at the Center for New Community recently performed a great public service by ripping the facade off the anti-immigrant "Protect Arizona Now" initiative. Seems that one of the group's senior advisers -- the titular head of its national operations -- is in fact a well-known white supremacist named Virginia Abernethy.

As the Arizona Republic recently reported, Abernethy, like many such believers, happens to deny that she's a "supremacist":
In naming Virginia Abernethy a national adviser of PAN, the group has handed her a "megaphone to promote racist views," charged the Center for New Community in a nine-page report and in interviews with The Arizona Republic.

Abernethy denied the allegation from her Nashville, Tenn. home. She's a separatist, not a racist, she said.

"There's a huge difference," said Abernethy, 69. "We're not saying anything about supremacy, not at all. We're saying that each ethnic group is often happier with its own kind."

We used to hear this line a lot in the 1990s, coming especially from Christian Identity adherents who didn't want to be associated with neo-Nazis and skinheads. (Classic case: Randy Weaver.)

It is a paper-thin distinction, of course. If you ask a white "separatist" to explain his or her views, and you continue to press them, they inevitably resort to racist stereotypes and white-supremacist beliefs to justify their desire to remain "separate", ranging from personal hygiene to intelligence to alleged criminal propensities. They also like to trot out a crude kind of Darwinism. In any event, it doesn't take long to figure out that their desire for separation boils down to their utter contempt and desire to exclude other races.

Readers of In God's Country may recall the little anecdote contained in Chapter 4 about my efforts to pin down the leaders of the Militia of Montana, John and Dave Trochmann, on whether or not they were adherents of Christian Identity, the nakedly racist "religion" which preaches that white people are the "true children of Israel" and that other races are either subhuman "mud people" or Satanic in origin (the latter designation being reserved for Jews). The Trochmanns were coy about it:
So I want to get the truth from Trochmann, if I can. Is he a racist or isn't he? Is he a believer in Christian Identity, or not? He denies, angrily, having a racist bone in his body or his agenda. But evidence keeps cropping up: A letter from [Aryan Nations leader Richard] Butler, for instance, that outlines Trochmann's long and storied activities at Hayden Lake (including having co-authored the Aryan Nations' code-of-conduct manual). Documents Trochmann filed in Sanders County declaring himself a "sovereign citizen" by virtue of being a "free white Christian." Books carried in MOM's catalog that suggest a Jewish conspiracy of "international bankers" is behind the New World Order.

On my own, I'd found other evidence suggesting the whole Trochmann clan was comprised of Identity believers. I'd heard in early 1995 from friends in the Sandpoint area that Trochmann had at one time organized Identity Bible studies in the Panhandle. So I decided at the next opportunity to ask the Trochmanns about it.

The chance came at a militia meeting in Maltby, Washington, that February. The meeting was at a little barn-red town hall in the semi-rural village, the kind of town where edge dwellers proliferate. Bob Fletcher was the MOM representative that day, but Randy and Dave Trochmann were operating the book-and-video tables where they hawked their wares. They saw me taking pictures of the table and came over and asked who I was. I gave them a card, and we stepped outside for a smoke.

Dave Trochmann has the same kind of intense demeanor as his brother, but there's something vaguely unsettling about him. I've known men like him, that hard-eyed working-class kind of man, and they are not people you want to mess with. If you do, they'll fix you and anybody close to you. It's hard to believe that Randy is his son. Randy, a skinny, dark-haired twentysomething, is doe-eyed and easygoing, a little jittery like all the Trochmanns, but you get the feeling he'd find it possible to like you even if you were a liberal.

I asked Dave about the Identity Bible studies. Any truth to that?

"Well," he said, looking about before answering, "you know, we're not white supremacists. We just think the races should be separate."

I'd heard the distinction made before.

"We just don't believe in race mixing," Trochmann said. "It's the laws of nature. You don't see robins and sparrows mating, do you? We don't have a bunch of spobbins flying around."

I started explaining the genetic distinction between race and species, but realized it was a useless argument here.

"We don't hate other races," Randy said. "We just don’t think they should mix. That's all Identity means to us." I let it go at that, and we wandered off to other topics, and eventually back into the meeting hall.

Another little note about Dave Trochmann: He was the chief target of the BATF investigation into alleged gun-running activity in western Montana which sparked the Ruby Ridge case. Randy Weaver was a friend of the Trochmanns and visited them semi-regularly, and the ATF wanted him to inform on their activities. They hoped to squeeze Weaver into doing this work by threatening him with the gun-alteration charge. Weaver refused, and, well, the rest was history.

In any event ... back to Arizona.

It seems that the dustup over Abernethy is just the beginning of the story regarding PAN.

The folks at the Federation for American Immigration Reform have been working to take over the largely local FAIR organization, and the flap over Abernethy is providing them with just the opening. They're denouncing PAN for the Abernethy hire.

Problem is, FAIR is not noticeably any more taint-free than Abernethy herself, having had numerous dalliances and associations with the same white supremacists as Abernethy, notably the Council of Conservative Citizens.

Center for New Community has filed a fresh report on this aspect of the controversy:
While the Center for New Community believes that FAIR's denunciation of Dr. Abernethy is a laudable first step, a closer examination reveals that FAIR continues to work with numerous organizations and individuals who either work alongside Dr. Abernethy in racist organizations or share her "repulsive separatist views."

Unfortunately, rather than using their considerable clout to rid racists and anti-Semites from leadership positions across the anti-immigration movement, FAIR's press release appears to be part of a cynical attempt to snatch control away from PAN's local leaders.

What's especially noteworthy is the long history between FAIR and the CofCC:
In the Arizona Republic article of August 7, Virginia Abernethy describes herself and the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC) as a white "separatist." In their press release, FAIR rightly calls such views "repugnant" and repudiates them.

Disturbingly, however, FAIR has had plenty of opportunities to repudiate these views in the past, yet has not done so. In fact, like Abernethy, FAIR staffers have spoken at CCC events and shared the stage with CCC leaders (including Abernethy). At least one FAIR staffer is even reported to be a CCC member.

Among the examples of FAIR working with the white supremacist CCC:

-- FAIR Western Regional Coordinator Rick Oltman is described as member of the Council of Conservative Citizens in the Winter 1997/1998 edition of the Citizens Informer.

-- In 1997, FAIR Western Regional Coordinator Rick Oltman actually shared the podium with Virginia Abernethy at the Council of Conservative Citizens conference. Oltman and Abernethy sat on a panel entitled, "Immigration – Are We Being Overrun?"

-- At a January 17, 1998 anti-immigration rally in Cullman, Alabama, Rick Oltman shared the podium with Council of Conservative Citizens leaders and William Burchfield, a onetime Alabama state leader of Thom Robb's Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.

-- According to the Citizens Informer, FAIR Field Coordinator Dave Ray was a scheduled guest speaker at a March 11, 1997 Central Alabama CCC meeting.

-- FAIR's weekly television show, "Borderline," has featured white nationalist leaders, including Sam Francis, a leader in the Council of Conservative Citizens and Associate Editor of The Occidental Quarterly, and Jared Taylor of the CCC and head of the New Century Foundation, the publisher of the racist journal, American Renaissance.

-- FAIR Eastern Regional Director, Jim Staudenraus, shared the stage with Jared Taylor of the CCC and American Renaissance at a September 7, 2002 anti-immigration conference.

-- CCC members have participated in several of FAIR's Immigration Reform Awareness Week lobbying events.

Though FAIR has attempted to separate themselves and Proposition 200 from Virginia Abernethy, they have made no effort to separate themselves from the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens. Nor has FAIR taken any public action against staffers who chose to work with the CCC -- Rick Oltman, Dave Ray and Jim Staudenraus have not been disciplined or fired.

One thing about the extremist right: They're such nasty characters that they often neutralize themselves by busily cutting each others' throats. Would that they did so more often.

The whole cauldron is creating enough of a stink that even Arizona voters should be thoroughly repelled by now.

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