Wednesday, March 23, 2005

The Succubus

There are many kinds of evils, but there is a truly unique and awful quality to the evil produced by naked racial and religious bigotry. People in Red Lake, Minnesota, can tell you all about it.

What the strange saga of Jeff Weise reveals is one of the more remarkable qualities of that evil: Even when consigned to the fringes and shadows, it retains a kind of vampiric half-life that has an ability to not only survive but adapt, finding fresh clawholds wherever it can, and then fester and grow -- almost inevitably exploding in violence.

Many of the attempts at analysis so far have emphasized the peculiarity of a minority -- Weise was Native American -- adopting neo-Nazi beliefs. But for researchers of the far right, it's perhaps not so surprising. After all, it has been known for some time that the Ku Klux Klan has actively attempted to recruit tribal members from the Lakota Sioux and other reservations for years.

Some Indian leaders who have caught wind of these activities have undertaken high-profile efforts to combat recruitment by extremist organizations within the tribes, partly because the far right's virulent anti-government beliefs struck a chord with some Indians. Some adherents of the white-supremacist Christian Identity movement are known to argue that Indians are Aryans, while others voice admiration for Native Americans who insist on marrying only within their tribal nations. Such notions of "racial purity" obviously were all the common ground a kid like Jeff Weise needed.

There is also a real fascination on the far right with Native American tribal sovereignty and how it might relate to their shopworn theories about "sovereign citizenship, which was a staple of the Posse Comitatus and Montana Freemen, as well as numerous militias. Tribal sovereignty, in essence, offers the far right whole new horizons in kookery. In recent years, this has mutated into such far-right scams as the Little Shell Pembina Band.

At the same time, there is little question that the racist right has been stepping up its recruitment efforts, particularly among young people. I've discussed this phenomenon and its ramifications numerous times over the past year. It should be clear that Weise's rampage is the kind of ramification I've been warning against.

There's no sign of it slowing down, either -- largely because the issue has been getting zero attention from the Fifth Estate. But nature abhors a vacuum, and the succubus loves the shadows.

Just recently, the white supremacists at the National Vanguard [warning: hate site] boasted of their "successful" roadsigns in Florida:
In the distance, another billboard, set apart from the rest, comes slowly into focus. It shows a lovely White woman seated in a field of flowers. She has no Black arm around her. She is part of no multiracial "team." Her fair skin is softly shining in the lights as you get closer. She is the image of natural beauty, innocence, wholesomeness. You notice she bears the symbol of life on her simple White dress. The message, too, is simple: "News. For us. For a change." And then the url of our news site,, in letters thirty feet across. Different enough and intriguing enough to get people to visit -- our kind of people. Our people.

"News. For us. For a change." Seems like a message tailored to an audience conditioned by Fox News and its conception of "balance." [More on that soon.] Which is, of course, exactly what they intend: Make themselves look like normal people. Because, for all intents and purposes, they are.

The Vanguard also boasted of another billboard in Las Vegas demanding, "Stop Immigration." Again, tailored to resonate with mainstream conservatives, at least those of the Michelle Malkin/VDare crowd.

The haters on the far right are also becoming much bolder about operating openly. The same characters at National Vanguard also organized an attack on various supposedly "pro-Jewish" professors:
A few weeks ago, participants on an anti-Semitic Web site became angry when a law professor at the University of California at Los Angeles refused to participate in an exchange of e-mail messages.

The professor was Jewish, and the Web site responded by placing photographs of and biographic material about UCLA professors and anti-Semitic diatribes online. In recent days, the Web site ? Vanguard News Network ? has expanded its campaign, which it says is designed to draw attention to the high percentage of Jewish professors on law schools? faculties.

The Web site is now publishing a variety of information ? photographs, results of Google searches, phone numbers ? of faculty members who are Jewish (or have Jewish-sounding names) at leading law schools all over the United States.

Among the institutions who have faculty members discussed by name on the Web site are Georgetown, Harvard, New York, Stanford and Yale Universities; and the Universities of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Virginia. Most of the comments attack Jewish faculty members at law schools, with a theme being that they make up a larger share of law school faculties than do Jews in the U.S. population, and that this over-representation signifies Jewish control of American society.

The attacks were inspired by the wise refusal of Eugene Volokh to participate in an exchange with them.

All this is happening even as the far right, to all appearances, is at a real low tide in sheer numbers. A recent Judy Thomas piece in the Kansas City Star explored this further:
Despite disarray in the anti-government movement, no one should let their guard down, said Leonard Zeskind, director of the Kansas City-based Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights.

"At the end of the day, this movement never loses the impulse for violence," Zeskind said.

"They reconfigure it, and they think about whether they need small cells, big cells, underground armies, lone-wolf killers. But the fact of the matter is the pulse of violence just never goes out on this thing. And that's really the ugly truth."

Those left in the white-supremacist movement agree that the turmoil in their organizations could lead to increased violence.

"What's changed is that because of the way the country's going, it's basically sent the luke-warmers and the fence-sitters running for cover,? said August B. Kreis III, national director of the Aryan Nations, a white-supremacist group. "And the only people that will really stay are the hard-core people."

But Kreis said he preferred it that way.

"I want the hardest of the hard," he said. "When enough white people say that we've had enough, we're not going to take it any more and we realize now that blood is going to have to be spilled, then it's going to get bad. I really believe that, and I'm really hoping I'm here to see that."

A former Kansas City Ku Klux Klan leader also says the movement today is not for "wimps."

"After the bomb went off in Oklahoma City, the White Knights completely collapsed," said Dennis Mahon, who now lives in Tulsa, Okla. "They shut down the post-office box, they shut down the hot line. They were scared to death. They just went down the hidey hole."

The militia movement also went into hiding after the bombing, Mahon said. He said now a different strategy is needed.

"There'll be a time when we can go ahead and go with leadership movements," he said. "But right now, I think it's just we all want to overthrow the government and get a state of our own. There's many ways to do that. It's called small cells and lone wolfism."

The apparent downturn is deceptive in another important way: It lulls the rest of society into thinking the problem has been licked. But what we have known historically of the far right is that it is cyclical in nature -- and the low tides are almost inevitably followed by a waxing and finally a high tide. What's more, the remaining "true believers" who are active during the low periods inevitably seem more radicalized, more likely to spiral crazily into violence.

As Lenny Zeskind says, these haters never really go away. They're like demonic versions of the Energizer Bunny: Combined, they become part of the Succubus, which just keeps on going and going and sucking the life and souls of whatever hapless victims it encounters.

And chief among these are people like Jeff Weise: vulnerable, angry, unstable. Ready to explode.

People who study the far right have known many of these people over the years: Gordon Kahl. Robert Matthews. Tim McVeigh.

One of the most memorable of these, for me, was a man named David Lewis Rice.

On Christmas Eve 1985, Charles and Annie Goldmark were at home with their sons Derek, 12, and Colin, 10, preparing for a holiday dinner when the doorbell rang. It was Rice, a 27-year-old unemployed transient, posing as a taxicab driver delivering a package. He brandished a toy gun and forced his way into their home, then set about using chloroform to render all four Goldmarks unconscious. He then proceeded to kill them slowly, using a steam iron and a knife that he used to insert into at least one of the victim's brains. Annie was pronounced dead on the spot, Colin pronounced dead on arrival, while Charles died there a short while later; Derek finally succumbed 37 days later.

But Rice wasn't just a deranged loony -- though he probably fit that description too. He also was a deranged loony who had been set into action by the malicious lies of a group of right-wing haters, whose venom became his inspiration, as the HistoryLink piece explains:
David Rice, a former steel worker from Colorado, joined an extremist group in Washington called the Duck Club. Although the Duck Club was almost defunct, the Seattle chapter still functioned. The group convinced Rice that Charles Goldmark was Jewish and a Communist. (Charles Goldmark's parents, John and Sally Goldmark, had won a highly publicized libel case in 1964 when they were accused of being Communists.)

The Goldmark case is a centerpiece of James Aho's study of the far right, This Thing of Darkness: A Sociology of the Enemy (which I've discussed previously). Aho goes into more detail about what drove Rice, as well as the circumstances surrounding his decision to kill:
Conversion (resocialization) ... occurs not through brainwashing of passive victims or through obsessive self-conversion. It takes place through active efforts of the disciple, sometimes indifferent to ideology or theology as such, to solidify and preserve social ties with his mentors.

... Ed Fasel [fictitious name] was head of the local Duck Club chapter. It was from Ed that Rice received the tragic misinformation that Charles and Annie Goldmark were leading Seattle Communists. In the course of discussions concerning local subversives and crooks who were presumably frustrating Rice's efforts to secure a job, Fasel, mistaking Charles for his father John, related to Rice that the Goldmarks had been investigated and that Charles was "regional director of the American Communist Party." Rice took this to mean that Charles was the "highest obtainable target I could reach, the greatest value informationally." After handcuffing the Goldmarks, Rice intended to interrogate them about the next person in the conspiratorial hierarchy, possibly to preempt at the last moment the impending invasion of alien troops [a conspiracy theory to which Rice subscribed].

What occasioned Fasel to dredge up a name associated with an event that had occurred two decades previously in another part of the state? In a Seattle Port Commission election during the summer of 1985, one of the candidates was Jim Wright, a Republican. Wright's campaign manager was none other than Ashley Holden, a defendant in the Goldmark trial. [Holden had been a leading torchbearer in the McCarthyite "Red fever" that swept Washington state in the late 1940s and '50s, and had been one of the people who falsely accused the Goldmarks in print of being part of the Communist Party.] Upon discovering this unusual link, the Seattle media jumped on it, and the name "Goldmark," with its unfortunate connotations, "got out again," to use one informant's phrase.

In my interview with him, Holden convincingly insisted that he knew nothing of the Duck Club nor any of its members. "I deplored the murder," he said. "There is no question," he went on, parroting local wisdom, "Rice was demented."

I have met some of the old leaders of the Duck Club, including "Fasel" -- whose real name was Homer Brand. They reminded me of Richard Butler: they had a moral stench about them like rotting corpses. Of course, they never faced legal liability for their role in the murders. But they had blood on their hands, just as surely as does the "Libertarian National Socialist Green Party" and whoever else gave Jeff Weise his inspiration.

Much of the conventional wisdom coming out of the Red Lake massacre was that Jeff Weise was "deeply troubled." No doubt in coming days and weeks we'll hear how this was an "isolated incident." How "the only person responsible" for what happened was Weise himself. Heaven forfend that anyone should suggest that the kind of hatred of multiculturalism so common on the mainstream right nowadays -- and so significant a factor in Weise's beliefs -- might have played a role in fueling this rampage.

That's how the Succubus lives. It dwells in the shadows -- unseen by those who purposely deflect their vision from it, because it serves their own interests to do so -- until it becomes strong enough to venture out into daylight. And then it kills.

Every time.

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