It's one thing when it happens elsewhere, as I usually find myself documenting. But having it in your own back yard drives home the reality in a particularly pungent fashion.
And it does continue to manifest elsewhere too, in nearly identical fashion: Until they unfurl their flags and don their costumes, today's white supremacists dress, talk, and comport themselves like normal people. They present their ideas as though they were simply normative, rather than the hateful aberrations they've been widely considered to be over the past half-century.
They see the current political environment as ripe for their return. So they constantly stress the need for movement followers to blend in and appear normal. They often call themselves "ghost skins" because their skinhead beliefs are often invisible. As Margaret Kimberley at the Black Commentator explained:
- The ghost skins eschew goose stepping and rioting, and proclaim their intention to blend in with their neighbors. They are skinheads, but kinder and gentler in their approach, hence the ghostly aspect of their movement. The ghost skin who distributed the most flyers denouncing "the Oregon cesspool of Niggers, Spics, Kikes, Faggots, Ragheads, Chinks, Gooks, Roaches & leftist communist swine," received among other prizes, 1,000 white power songs as a bonus for work well done.
Alina Cho at the Anderson Cooper blog recently wrote about her own experiences in dealing with these folks:
- I met Jarred Hensley, a Ku Klux Klan member, six months ago while working on a story about racial tensions in Ohio. I remember being struck by his age: At 23, he was -- and remains -- the second most powerful Klansman in the state.
Hensley told me the Klan was growing younger and larger, information we later verified with the Southern Poverty Law Center. I asked Hensley if we could attend one of his Klan meetings. He told me non-members are not allowed. But he eventually agreed to videotape the meeting for us. His tape arrived a few months later.
After reviewing the tape (only portions of the meeting were filmed), I went to Ohio to interview Hensley. He told me there was an increase in Klan membership after 9/11. He also said the Internet is the Klan's number one recruiting tool.
Skins, Klansmen, and neo-Nazis will often talk openly to white reporters like myself, but it can be very difficult for anyone of color to work on these stories. As Cho explains:
- Personally, this has been a hard story for me to report. As an Asian-American journalist, I found it difficult at times to listen to his views objectively. At one point in the interview, he told me I should leave the country.
Some people have asked me why we are giving the Ku Klux Klan a platform. I respond by saying there is clear evidence the white supremacist movement is on the rise in this country and around the world. This story cannot be ignored.
Neo-Nazis often express these ideas -- particularly their repugnance of minorities -- to white reporters as if they should be naturally understood. The leader of a group of white supremacist skinheads in Pennsylvania, described in a recent piece in News of Delaware County, talked exactly this way:
- However, according to a member of the Pennsylvania skinhead movement, the organization is not what people perceive it to be.
"It's about love of your people and love of your country," said Ron, a self-proclaimed white nationalist and a college student who grew up in Chester County, Pennsylvania.
Ron -- who did not want his last name released -- has been an active member of the skinhead movement for about one-and-a-half years and believes that white nationalists have received a bad rap.
"Everyone to a certain extent prejudges people," Ron said. "White nationalists are just more open about it.
"It's not about blind hatred, just wanting the best for myself and my country. There are people in our country that are hurting it," Ron said.
The new resurgence of skinheads can be attributed to the fall of other hate groups and the skinhead music industry, according the head of ADL's Philadelphia Office, Barry Morrison.
The skinhead music industry creates passion for young people to gravitate to, according to Morrison. Teardown, a Pennsylvania-based group on the label Final Stand Records is a favorite among white nationalists, according to Ron.
While the old skinheads' cachet used to be with rebellious young thugs, selling themselves as "normal" is a big part of their schtick now:
- Many of the new skinheads are young, impressionable, undisciplined and violent, according to Morrison.
"To be a skinhead is to be violent," Morrison said. "They have a great tendency to engage in criminal activity."
Ron, who is not a member of KSS but insists he does frequent their functions, agreed that many of the new members are in their 20s, but added that violence and crime are not characteristics of the skinheads.
"We're definitely not violent ... these people just care seriously about protecting their family," Ron said. "If one of us goes to jail, we're useless to the movement."
He added that the notion that members of the skinhead movement are uneducated is far from the truth.
"These people [skinheads] are very well educated," said Ron -- who is a junior and college and said he intends to go to medical school, or work as a financial analyst.
Public image makeover notwithstanding, it doesn't take long for these skinheads to start peddling the same old hate that's always been their raison d'etre:
- Although skinheads are misunderstood, according to Ron, he echoes ideas of complete racial separation that have been championed by other "hate groups."
"This country was meant for white Christians," Ron said. Adding that members of the movement advocate for non-whites and non-Christians to return to their homes of origin and begin a government like white Christians did in America.
"Black people should be given the opportunity to return to their homeland and do the same thing," Ron said. "There wouldn't be anymore interracial crime.
"Asians ... I don't have any problem with them," Ron said. "I [just] think it would be better if they stayed in their land and we stayed in ours."
Got that, Alina Cho? Oh, and you too, Michelle Malkin.
Fortunately, there aren't many indications that this tactic is succeeding any more than previous mainstreaming efforts. Certainly, as the Stranger reported, there weren't exactly a lot of eager recruits to be had at the Fremont rally.
Still, what they represent is so poisonous, and their dark intent so undying, that is warrants eternal vigilance. So you can count on this blog and others to continue to monitor and report on their activities.
In that spirit, please welcome to my blogroll Olympia United Against Hate, which is doing a marvelous job of tracking this local band of neo-Nazis.
Both of us were recently named "race traitors" at the Website of the regional National Socialist Movement outfit (sorry, I won't link to it). There is an innate threat in such a listing, of course, but it's one I'm accustomed to, not to mention well prepared to deal with.
Still, it underscores the potential problems that lie in wait for anyone publishing a blog like this. In addition to the harassment that comes with these things (the NSM folks kindly urged their followers to dump hate material in my comments, which I've been very easily deleting), there's always the potential for these things to trickle over into your private life. The NSM is a tiny contingent, really, but all of these groups attract unstable and violent followers, and they are an actual threat.
I recently wrapped up my regular fund-raiser (I raised over $2,000, and will report in a separate post on that). But I've decided to run a supplemental fund-raiser, based on a campaign of refutation for this kind of intimidation.
What I want is to be able to turn their campaign against them: For every post and threat they make, people can donate to the cause of keeping Orcinus afloat.
I'm asking folks to toss a fiver (or whatever amount you like) in the PayPal kitty at the upper corner (or write me at P.O. Box 17872, Seattle WA 99107), and designate it with the phrase, "Say No to Nazis". I'll report on the fund's progress in the coming weeks.
Here's hoping we can hoist them on their own petard.