Posts Tagged ‘scum of the earth’

“I have spent a decade studying an earlier incarnation of the white power movement, which gathered extremist groups and activists together in the late 1970s. It united Klansmen, neo-Nazis, racist skinheads, radical tax resisters, and others in common cause. This movement, organized around the paramilitarism and weapons of the Vietnam War, turned even more violent in 1983, when it declared war on the state. It used cultural currents and political events to recruit and radicalize its members, and grew into the militia movement beginning in the late 1980s. Its largest act of mass violence, the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, killed 168 people including 19 young children.
White power activists from the 1970s onward understood anti-Semitism as one strand of a linked and coherent worldview. White power proponents believed that Jews and other malevolent international forces conspired to control the federal government, the United Nations, the banks, and more. They called this conspiracy the Zionist Occupational Government (ZOG), and, later, the New World Order. They understood the stakes of this conspiracy as tantamount to racial annihilation: that is to say, they believed that social issues like immigration, abortion, LGBT rights, and more were thinly veiled attempts of a Jewish conspiracy to threaten the future of the white race.

Significantly, Bowers [the Pittsburgh shooter] reposted references to ZOG [on social media]. He also wrote about the idea of Jews descending from Satan. This belief appeared in the earlier white power movement as Christian Identity and Dualism, political theologies that posited that white people were the true lost tribe of Israel while Jews and people of color descended from either Satan or animals. This is a significant statement not only for its dehumanizing claim, but because it is tied to an overtly violent faith. Christian Identity foretold an imminent end of the world in which believers would have to take up arms to clear the world of Jews, people of color, and other enemies before the return of Christ. In other words, it attempted to cast white power violence as a holy war.

The white power movement has pursued cell-style organizing since 1983, emphasizing the work of one or a few activists without ties to leadership. Its members, by design, do not always make clear their connections to one another. This strategy, often called “Leaderless Resistance,” was first implemented to foil government informants and criminal prosecutions. But its larger legacy has been its power to blur and erase the organized white power movement from public understanding.

Furthermore, social media played an important role in how the white power movement connected activists in common cause, and it has done so for decades. White power activists got on computer message boards in 1983-84, with the codeword-protected Liberty Net. These message boards included hit lists, but they also included personal ads and similar materials designed to join white power groups and activists in a social network. They used such message boards to circumvent laws prohibiting the distribution of hate literature over the U.S. border—in other words, to build a transnational movement. And this initiative was important enough that they used the money stolen from armored cars to purchase computers for groups that didn’t have them. One activist traveled around the country, teaching groups how to get on the message boards.

The historical archive shows us that events of mass violence motivated by white power movement organizing tend to be connected not only to one another, but also to more public-facing rhetoric and activism. In public, the earlier white power movement pursued political runs and suit-wearing talk show appearances by people like David Duke. It posted fliers, ran newspapers that reached not only movement faithful but casual members, and held public events designed to attract and recruit people.

It will be critical, in the coming weeks and months, to closely evaluate the relationship between public-facing white power activism in the present moment, such as rallies and altercations like the one at Charlottesville last year, and underground organizing that gives rise to mass violence like the 2015 shooting of Bible-study worshippers in Charleston by Dylann Roof. Roof, radicalized online by the social networks begun decades earlier, wore a Rhodesian flag patch in photographs, symbolizing a nation that had never existed in his lifetime, and connecting his activism to that of the earlier movement.

Tragically, the resources devoted to establishing such ties have been sparse at every level.”

– Kathleen Belew, “Pittsburgh Shooting Was Straight Out of White Power Movement.” The Daily Beast, November 2, 2018.  

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