Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The hate also rises

I'm a little late remarking on this, but the threats against Leonard Pitts really raise some disturbing issues:
A white-supremacist Web site angered by a Leonard Pitts Jr. column alluding to the murder of a white couple posted The Miami Herald writer's home address and phone number -- leading to threats against the 2004 Pulitzer Prize winner.

When Herald Managing Editor/News Dave Wilson asked Overthrow.com to delete the address and phone number, site editor Bill White replied: "We have no intention of removing Mr. Pitts' personal information. Frankly, if some loony took the info and killed him, I wouldn't shed a tear. That also goes for your whole newsroom."

Elsewhere on the Roanoke, Va.-based site, the N-word was used to refer to Pitts, who's African-American. He won a Pulitzer for commentary in 2004. His column is syndicated by Tribune Media Services.

White's reply to Wilson was posted on Overthrow.com, as was Wilson's e-mail message to White -- leading the Herald editor to also get some nasty responses from white supremacists. But Pitts has received most of the messages.

When reached today by E&P, Wilson said some of the messages were "thoughtful" but others were "very unsettling" in nature. "We did refer some of them to our legal representatives," added the Herald editor. "Our first concern is for Leonard, and we have been in close contact with him."

You may recall the case that sparked this brushfire: the right-wing brouhaha over a particularly heinous black-on-white crime for which no evidence of a bias crime is known to exist, though what we've seen in play is a classic far-right technique for muddying the public perception of what constitutes a hate crime. And Pitts had the matter pegged:
Pitts, in the early June column that set off Overthrow.com, wrote about the brutal January murder of a white couple in Tennessee. A group of African Americans were charged with the crime. "(I)f the defendants in this case did what they are accused of doing, I'd be happy to see them rot under the jailhouse," wrote Pitts.

But Pitts also noted that the supremacists and conservative bloggers who pushed the murder case into the national spotlight were examples of white people who "put on the victim hat" and allege that black crime against whites is underreported.

"Black crime against whites is underreported? On what planet? Study after study and expert after expert tell a completely different story," wrote Pitts, who's syndicated by Tribune Media Services .

Pitts concluded: "I have four words for ... any other white Americans who feel themselves similarly victimized. Cry me a river."

The chief player in all this -- Bill White, the neo-Nazi former National Socialist Movement leader responsible for sparking the 2005 riots in Toledo -- has a real track record of fomenting hate and threats: he was one of the gleeful participants in the far right's celebration of the murderous assault against the family of the Illinois judge who put Matt Hale away.

He also is known for claiming that he has social connections to major right-wing media figures, particularly at the Washington Times, where he claims to be friends with Robert Stacy McCain and Fran Coombs (see more about them here and here). He once wrote the following in an Internet forum:
This is amusing. First, Stacy McCain is a pretty good friend of mine, Francis Coombs is a big fan of our website, and I've had lunch with his wife at an American Renaissance conference. Stacy, at least, is not anti-Jewish -- they all come from that weird part of the "far right" that buys into race theories but has a weird admiration for Semites. I once suggested to Mrs Coombs that the Washington Times should more virulently criticize the Zionist Entity, and she told me that several Jewish columnists -- Charles Krauthammer, Norman Podhoretz and AM Rosenthal, among others -- had threatened the Moonie organization if they ever took an anti-Zionist stance. Wes Pruden, who is in charge of the Times, however, is an extreme Zionist, and I have cussed him out violently for his extreme pro-Jewish views. People who know him tell me they can't understand his love of the Zionist state.

In any case, the SPLC has been trying to get these guys fired for years now. Stacy, in paticular, wrote a front-page story exposing how the SPLC made up the Y2K militia threat in order to con a multi-million contract out of the Clinton government, and has been on their shit list every since.

Anyways, read on, as the homosexual Jewish lobby rails against some of the few good folk still writing in an American newspaper:]


If they wanted to go after Stacy's FreeRepublic postings, they should have done it in a timely manner (this is all about a year and a half old) -- and just attacked him, since he's a little guy and the bigger guys at the Washington Times are political and not particular brave, and thus always willing to throw the little guy overboard if they think it will save their own asses.]

[You can read the cached version of this missive here.]

Rob Redding has been diligent in following up on this aspect of the threats. In addition to reporting on the connection, he obtained a clarification of sorts from McCain:
McCain, who has been linked to a pro-slavery group in the past, admits to knowing White.

"I first encountered Bill White who was, at that time, head of something called the Utopian Anarchist Party. He later, I believe, changed the name of his group to the Libertarian Socialist Party," McCain wrote in an emailed response. "In the past few years, Bill has associated himself with neo-Nazism. I have no explanation for this bizarre turn, except as a continuation of his tendency toward radicalism.

"The 'link' you assert is non-existent, and is irrelevant to anything happening in 2007" to Pitts, McCain wrote in an another emailed response. "That kind of thing is completely wrong. Opinion journalism should be provocative, and provocative opinions will necessarily generate strong disagreement, but disagreeing with someone's opinion should not lead to death threats, slurs, etc."

This is actually true as far as it goes. I first encountered White in the 1990s when he was indeed involved in various kinds of anarchism and libertarianism, though even then he clearly operated on the fringe and was a dangerously unstable character. McCain's judgment then was evidently as impaired as it is now.

More to the point, you'll note that nowhere does McCain indicate that he no longer considers White fit company -- he just makes clear that he himself disagrees with White, which is a small comfort, I suppose.

What's much harder to explain, exactly, is why White hasn't been charged with making threats against Pitts. It is difficult to read White's words and not comprehend them as an exhortation to violence and a threat against Pitts.

This is not a free-speech issue. Threats and intimidation are crimes in every state, and a crime by its nature is not a form of protected speech. I'm not certain why authorities haven't taken White's threats seriously, but their inaction, unfortunately, speaks volumes. If this were George Will being threatened by a Nation of Islam figure, you know you'd have seen the perp walk already.

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