Monday, June 20, 2005

The real Minutemen

The media keep sending love letters to the Minutemen, this time in the form of a remarkably nearsighted Monterey Weekly piece that offered the following assessment:
Indeed, it soon seemed that the hysteria over the armed and dangerous Minutemen was much ado about nothing. Retired men and women sitting on the backs of pickup trucks in six-hour shifts, concentrated along a two-mile stretch of border fence eyeing the vacant desert, appeared more like a group on a bird watching excursion than a paramilitary force.

The author of the piece, Andy Isaacson, thus blithely ignores one of the realities about dealing with organizations like the Minutemen: when they're posing in front of the cameras, they're very careful about what they say and how they appear. It's what they're doing and saying when no one is looking that is the problem.

I had a little experience with this in my dealings with a previous permutation of the militia movement -- from which, in fact, the border "patriots" are directly derived. The Washington State Militia, for instance, held public rallies and talked before the cameras about how they were just trying to be a "neighborhood watch" out to protect their fellow citizens. Behind closed doors, as we later learned, they were building pipe bombs and talking about blowing up railroad tunnels as well as their fellow citizens. (See In God's Country for more on this.)

The Minutemen's public face works exactly the same: Have your spokesmen work hard to present a sincere and concerned image of ordinary citizens who are just "fed up," while behind closed doors they let their hair down. The core of the Minutemen comprises a corps of True Believers from the extremist right. The leaders spout talk about the "war on terror" in public, but the followers mostly (in private, of course) spout talk about their neighborhoods and homes being "invaded" by criminal brown people.

A good example of this popped up in a recent story out of Tennessee involving a formative Minuteman operation there. Tennessee, of course, has no international border; and so its Minutemen, unsurprisingly, are focused on the "invasion" of Latinos from elsewhere:
Before a meeting in Hamblen County Tuesday night, 6 News asked meeting leader Carl Whitaker if he's operating a hate group, like some people say.

"We're not a hate group. We're a concerned group. We're concerned what's happening," Whitaker says. "If people are here illegally and they want to get legal, we would be glad to try to help them follow through the process. We don't hate anybody."

He says the Tennessee Volunteer Minutemen are working to expose companies that hire illegal aliens and take jobs away from taxpaying Americans. "We've turned in five different places of employment here that are hiring illegals."

But another supporter told a different story. Off-camera, James Drinnon says there are more Mexicans than African-Americans in Hamblen County. But he didn't really say African-American. He used the "N" word.

On camera, Drinnon says, "I think they ought to get them all out. Most of them in here. That's where all the dope's coming from. Most of them's Hispanic."

That's pretty consonant with the expressions of support from the Minutemen we've seen in the comments section of this blog, isn't it?

It also resonates with a quote from another Minuteman I posted earlier:
"We understand why Gilchrist and [project co-organizer Chris] Simcox have to talk all this P.C., crap," said one. "It's all about playing to the media. That's fine. While we're here, it's their game and we'll play by their rules. Once Minuteman's over, though, we might just have to come back and do our own thing."

The Minutemen keep promising us that they're just ordinary folks. Of, course, so do Ku Klux Klan members. And there's little mistaking the real presence of exactly the same kind of "citizens" throughout this merry band, forming its real, activist core.

Daryle Jenkins of One People's Project recently found a historical reason for that: Neo-Nazis have been talking about forming precisely this kind of "citizen's border patrol" for many years now. He has the video to prove it:
Almost thirty years ago there was another group that basically our current vigilante xenophobes pattern themselves after. They weren't called the Minuteman Project then. They were the Klan Border Patrol, and it was what gave David Duke his first big break. This is an excerpt from a 1989 video titled The History of W.A.R., Pt. 1. For those who forgotten about this crew, W.A.R. stands for White Aryan Resistance, the group that Tom Metzger runs when he isn't going around California doing blues karaoke. He talks about the formation of the Klan Border Patrol back in Oct. 1977 and what it entailed.

They may hide behind masks -- whether made of white sheets or soothing PR. But we can see who they are well enough anyway.

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