Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Examining the Minutemen

A young reporter named Joe Killian has been writing about the Minutemen for the News-Record of Greensboro, North Carolina, in the wake of the group's recent aborted appearance there.

As Killian notes in his more detailed report at his blog, the important underlying debate raised by the Minutemen was obscured by the outrageous rhetoric and behavior that was being employed on both sides.

And unfortunately, that means the Minutemen win, because they prosper in an atmosphere of distrust and disinformation. That's probably why they use these tactics, knowing the other side will respond in kind.

Killian began digging well beneath the surface of the matter, though, and his subsequent report is well worth reading in its entirety.

Unsurprisingly, he finds that, despite their claims to the contrary, the Minutemen's ranks are indeed riddled with a broad range of garden-variety racists and extremists, including a Hammerskin admirer named Jenny:
But, strangely, Jenny's case isn't singular or even extraordinary. The corners of the net where white supremacists gather are crawling with photos of people who claim to be both Minutemen and members of organized white supremacist groups. And they’re not shy about it. They post pictures of themselves giving Nazii salutes at Minuteman rallies to their MySpace profiles. They blog about it. If you know where to look you can find literally dozens and dozens of examples of people who are clearly members of violent, organized racist groups who are are also acting as Minutemen. The examples I found are the tip of the iceberg.

When confronted about the evidence, Minutemen organizers hung up on him.

The upshot:
None of this is a blanket indictment of the Minuteman Project, its sister and splinter groups and all of those who support them as racists. My personal experience is that there are many among the group and its supporters whose motivations are not racial. But I think this little bit of actual reporting by an unbiased reporter in his off-hours does pretty clearly diffuse the argument that accusations of the group and its members being either racially motivated or very tolerant of radical, organized racists within the group are ridiculous, have no basis in fact, are exaggerated or may just be an attempt by the left to distract people from the Minutemen's real work.

Later, in his comments, someone defends the Minutemen by claiming, among other things, that the Minutemen "are the only ones we can see that are trying to keep murderers, rapists, and diseases out of our country."

Killian responds on point:
The stated goal of the Minutemen is not to keep rapists, criminals and diseased people out of a healthy country. Jim Gilchrist told me in the interview I had with him this isn't their goal. They want to prevent all people from any country from getting into the country illegally. Some of the Minutemen I interviewed who were clearly not racists mentioned specifically that they don't like it when people imply that all illegal aliens are diseased or criminals or both.

I think that sort of talk may lead people outside the organization to think that even those Minutemen and their supporters who are not organized racists have racist or xenophobic reasons for getting involved with the group.

There are all sorts of reasons why people get involved with this group. But I think those who have reasonable concerns about border security and illegal immigration that have nothing to do with race are a little tired of those who think brown people are going to poison our culture, hurt us, make us dirty and diseased.

Well said. And perhaps more to the point, the resurgence of this kind of bigotry strikes many of us as a much deeper problem than illegal immigration itself.

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