Charlottesville and a Guide to the Racist Cosplayers of the Modern White Supremacist Movement

By: Jacob Lewis

Since the events of Charlottesville last weekend, a lot of different organizations have been releasing information about White Supremacist groups in America. These organizations range from the official score keeper of this subject matter, the Southern Poverty Law Center, to news organizations, bloggers, independent journalists, and activists. I’ve decided to do the same, because unlike the other people I’ve just mentioned, I have no particular hands on experience with these groups, no track record in the activist community and no credibility to my statements. I’m also a white male. As such, I really feel like mine is a voice that should be heard at this time in our country’s history.

However, what I do have, and always have had, is a strange fascination with hate groups, to such an extent that I have been doing independent research on them for the last 20 years. So, before I actually say my opinion on this matter, I thought I would at least provide people with some crib notes on some of the hate organizations associated with the the Charlottesville rally.

Also, since I don’t really feel like searching for images of a bunch of racist assholes for each category, I’m going to instead use the best public domain pictures of kittens that money can buy.

The Ku Klux Klan

The Ku Klux Klan is probably the most widely known hate group in America. Founded in approximately 1865 it was founded in response to the loss of the Confederacy and the perceived destruction of southern culture by the invading northerners. Slavery mostly…other things too, but yeah, mostly they didn’t like the end of Slavery. They were not a fan of Black people. Since that time the Klan has risen and fallen a half dozen times, mostly due to the actions of the United States Government. Anti Klan laws, including prohibitions to wearing the hood were enacted in the 1870s which effectively squashed the organization. It reformed in 1915 where it soon boasted a membership of over a million, including high ranking individuals in State politics. It was brought down by political scandal in the 1920s and poor financial management.

And then in 1944 the IRS decided to act on the fact that the Klan had not been paying its taxes and shut down the organization and its many chapters. The Klan was never heard from again.

Wait, asks an imaginary voice, what are all those other times I’ve seen them on TV. I seem to remember them not liking the Civil Rights movement. Also, there was that David Duke guy, and also I fucking saw some Klan people at the rally last week. Unless those guys were real ghosts, what the fuck are you even talking about!

Well, first, I will not deny the possibility of there being actual ghosts. If building a housing development over a graveyard was enough to make spirits go crazy in Poltergeist, than I can’t imagine what a bunch of racists marching over your grave would do. However, if they weren’t ghosts, it was probably one of those Klan knock offs.  When the Klan broke apart it splintered into dozens of factions. They all have new names, such as the White Knights of the Klan, the American Knights of the Klan and the Traditional Knights of the Klan. Every one of the organizations has their own independent leadership and manifestos. While some of them are ideologically aligned, others are hated even within the Klan circle. There are Klan groups that actually believe that hate and violence is not the answer and that love should guide their actions. While I can’t argue with that underlining premise, I do have to question their branding, in the same manner I would a Vegan group that held a weekly pig and penguin BBQ in support of animal rights. You also have groups that refuse to associate with Neo Nazi organizations, in the belief that there position is anti-american and against what the Klan stands for – southern rights and being sad about slavery ending.  To sum it all up, for an organizations focused on dressing up like ghosts and lighting religious iconography on fire, there is a lot of drama going on.

Finally, the Klan are also a bunch of fucking fantasy nerds.  I invite you to follow this link and tell me that some of these names and positions wouldn’t be better suited in a D&D manual than in the register for America’s oldest hate group.  In that same regard, the Klan has never caught on among the younger crowd of american racists. I guess kids these days no longer believe that cosplaying a bunch of civil war ghosts is the best way to reach their political and societal goals. The Klan of today only has a few thousand members spread across the country, and as noted in my article here, their different factions spend a lot of time fighting over the few people who like their racism with a touch of Scooby Doo villain spookiness.

Neo Nazis and Skinheads

Neo Nazis and Skinheads are not synonymous in the sense that they have different origins, but have become intertwined in their American aspects. Neo-Nazis have existed throughout the world since the fall of the Third Reich. They have promoted Nazi antisemitic and racial principles. They have championed the Holocaust Denial movement.  They are different from the Klan in the sense that their hate is more universally directed. They believe in the inferiority of non white races in a global context. However, they are still a bunch of nerdy cosplayers.

Skinheads originated as part of the Punk movement in the UK and originally had nothing to due with white supremacist ideals. However, for multiple reasons the culture began adopting Nazi iconography and dogma. However, it remained very much centered around music. The Skinhead style of racism and culture was brought over from the UK to the United States in the late 70s and early 80s where it retained its White Supremacist aspect. While some people still argue that the movement is really just a legitimate punk style that has been taken over by racists; much like the Swastika was once a Tibetan symbol for good luck…its just not anymore. If you’re upset, you can blame Hitler. I’m sure you’ve heard that this guy ruined a lot of shit for a lot of people.

Neo-Nazis and Skinheads are mostly fringe groups. Violence was associated with them, but it was more random. They were organized in the sense that they might be able to get all there members to an even or a rally or a concert.   However, larger pan-racist organizations would eventually play a part in recruiting these people for other purposes.

White Separatists

I don’t really feel the need to go into the differences between White Supremacists and White Nationalists as these are more examples of a belief system than they are a distinct group. Honestly, individuals in all of the above categories could also fit into one of these belief systems as well. However, one subsection of these beliefs, the White Separatists, I believe has enough boundaries on it to be a cognizable group, even if they don’t have a leader or organizational structures. White separatists are mostly people who live in very small bubbles of society. They believe that not only are the other races out to get them, but those same races have seized control of not just our Government, but the world Government. Some believe that the United Nations will one day send troops into the United States and take over the country. Some believe that Jews have already taken over the world and are running things via a shadow organization. Some believe that the people in power have all been taken over by a race of lizard men, that can be identified by flashes in their eyes when people take photos (or as we non-believers call them, red eye and lens flairs).  Some of these people say they don’t even wish to harm or dominate the other races and religions (unlike white nationalists and white supremacists) they just want to have them live somewhere else.  Other racist groups have picked up on some of the above beliefs, particularly the Jews running everything, that one is a classic.  What really separates this group from the others is a belief that the Government running the Country has been invaded and is out to get them.

Two of the most important events in regards to this movements are the Waco massacre and the Ruby Ridge siege.  The 1993 Waco massacre is the most well known and involved cult leader David Koresh’s stand off with the federal Government that involved the death of several federal agents and the destruction of his compound and the deaths of dozens of his followers.  While a religious Cult isn’t exactly on the same page as most of these groups (Same book though. Definitely the same book) they saw the Waco Massacre in the same light as the below.

The Ruby Ridge siege was a 1992 incident in ultra-rural Idaho.  Randy Weaver and his family were subjects/witnesses in a Federal ATF investigation. When he didn’t appear for Court a warrant was issued for his arrest. Since the U.S. Marshals new he was a man who loved his guns and hated his Government meddling, they sent an armed squad to serve the warrant. A confrontation occurred that resulted in the death of a U.S. Marshall and Randy Weaver’s 14 year old son. What followed was an 11 day siege of Randy Weaver’s family home. On one side was Randy Weaver, his family and friends. On the other side were a couple hundred Federal officers with military gear, including armored vehicles. During the Siege Randy Weaver’s wife was killed by sniper fire. The siege ended and both Randy Weaver and his friend stood trial for the death of the U.S. Marshall.

White Separatists view these incidents as evidence that the Government is willing to annihilate anyone who does not want to live their lives the way that they do. This can mean living your life of the grid or with a desire to remove other races from the boundaries of this country. To be fair, non-white separatist anti-government conspiracy theorists also take the same meaning from these incidents, and I don’t want to lump them together. I would rather just have them both under the larger banner of things stupid people believe.

Organized Hate Groups

Over the last 30 years the most threatening face of organized hate in the United States have been larger pan-racist organization. The most prominent of which was the National Alliance, founded by William Pierce. I’ve already talked a lot about this organization and its downfall here.  To sum it up, Pierce was originally a member of the Youth Wing of George Wallace’s 1968 Presidential campaign. Fun history fact, formation from the remnants of defunct more main stream political campaign or organization is a common trend among hate groups both within the United States and other countries. The ramifications of this for the post Trump world should go without saying.

Pierce was very charismatic in the racist community and wrote extremely popular manifestos and even novels.  His most known work is the Turner Diaries, the delightful story of Jews taking over the United States, using African Americans as their thugs, taking everyone’s guns, and forcing average people to fight back and beat up delicatessen owners. I’ve actually read this book, and while I must admit that I am not its target audience, I feel it reads like generic internet fan fiction with the Mary Sue character being disenfranchised white people.

To all you internet fan fiction writers, I am not trying to insult you. Your work is profoundly better than the of racism and white nationalists, unless you write adult themed My Little Pony fan fiction, in which case, I’m sorry, but the Turner Diaries has a few legs up on you. Don’t get mad at me, just write better and not about horses fucking.

Pierce’s national alliance took in anyone who supported his beliefs. He got the young Skinheads and Neo-Nazis through publishing records in their music scene. He got older members by appearing to be a more organized and respectable hate group. Membership dues and record sales went to getting more members, which lead to more dues and so on and so on until the National Alliance became a scary powerful organization. The national alliance never committed acts of terrorism in America, they just got their material in front of people, and if they decided to act on it, that was their decision. There is a long list of acts of domestic terrorism that were committed by people with ties to the National Alliance, including the Oklahoma City bombing.

Other groups followed this basic pan-racist, financial focused, indirect terrorism and non-cosplaying structure (although, as always, cosplaying comes in eventually with hate groups, search Klanta Klaus; and then be mad that you did). David Duke’s iteration of the National Association for the Advancement of White People, the World Church of the Creator and to a lesser extent, Aryan Nation, were all less successful versions of this. However, none of them were as able to turn their group into a multi million dollar business as Pierce. Then Pierce died and absolute pants shitting wackiness ensued.

Alt-Right

This is probably going to be my shortest section because, quite honestly, I understand this group the least.

There was an old radio program called X-1 that ran science fiction stories. I used to listen to it on the KNX drama hour, which played old radio shows ever night in Los Angeles, when I was 10 or 11. My favorite episode involved a bunch of scientists who learned that a cosmic event was going to destroy the earth in a matter of days. The scientists determined that while they could not save the human race, they could at least give it a chance to live again. They shrunk a group of people to atomic size, where time would pass significantly slower, and sat and observed as a new different human civilization created itself from the void of their atomic world (the Simpsons actually parodied this in a Tree House of Horror episode).

I believe this is very similar to the genesis of the alt-right movement. Groups of people who held certain beliefs found each other on internet forums and message boards and began talking. While there was no initial structure of beliefs, after time, there began to be cognizable rules, doctrines and ideals associated with this group. It didn’t even have a name, but a new organization had created itself from the void of the internet. And then some dick bag blogger or journalist decided to name it and all fucking hell broke loose.

The organization is not split into factions, although it is leaderless. Many different people have grabbed the reigns, but they do not fully control the group, nor does the group see themselves as controlled by anyone. Trump has obviously been the most successful at this, but he is not the face of the group. This is a little scary because almost all of these groups collapse when their public face is disgraced or knocked of their  pedestal.  In contrast, I think the Alt-Right would survive the downfall of any of its current public faces, including Trump.

After the Alt-Right became a cognizable organization, other people joined in and began calling themselves members of the Alt-Right (e.g. Far Right Republicans, Christian Conservatives, Alliance of Racist Uncles). However, at its core are a group of people who formed a political belief  out of a patchwork of posts, blog articles and memes and who have never had, nor truly want, accountability for their actions. The new comers, even if they share similar beliefs, I feel don’t really understand the organization that they’ve joined.

So What Does this all Mean?

I don’t know man, you tell me.

Okay, Jesus Christ,  I’ll give it a shot.

As you can see above, until the modern era, hate groups have been mostly filled by three kinds of people. People who want to promote their beliefs, but don’t want to show their faces doing it, people who live in a closed society that support or at least tolerate their beliefs and people who have subsumed their identity into the movement to the extent they no longer care what other people think.  I think it should go without saying that the first group is the largest and the third is the most scary. The second, is not as large as many would think. Hate groups have always been secretive organizations. Even in eras where their views were more wildly accepted, and where they wielded the most power, their membership lists were secret. People might be hate filled sacks of shit, but sometime even they don’t want to be associated with a Hate Filled Sack of Shit fan club.

So where do people like the Berkeley Top Dog vendor and WSU Republican leader at the Charlottesville rally fit in to all this. Well, SURPRISE, they actually fit into a fourth category, the Dumb Ass. These are people who no longer want to anonymously state things on message boards, but were neither ready to have this movement subsume their identity nor living in a place where their political beliefs would be widely accepted. To say it as nicely as possible, “they did not think this thing through.” They’ve been fired and likely labelled as outcasts in much of their local community.  They may become heroes online, but online heroism don’t pay the bills, for most people, or make you feel safe when you walk home at night.

These are the people that need to be targeted by the left.

What I mean by this is that when you see pictures on the internet that identify the members of current and future hate rallies, don’t target the people wearing hoods and swastika armbands. They have always existed and will continue to exist. They are in the second and third category and you really can’t do any damage to them by outing them. Instead, target the people who have decided to get off the internet and associate with these organizations. These are  people who have been fuming online or in local groups and have decided to dip their toe into the waters of taking public positions and accountability for their beliefs. If you want to hurt the power of these organizations, make sure that when these people pull their toe back, all they find is a stub. I’m not saying use Piranhas, but more metaphorical Piranhas…unless you have access to a supply of Piranhas in which case we can talk later.

Is this going to change how these two people see things?  Probably not. Those two people I mentioned above are probably going to be so ostracized that their only source of comfort will be their follow Alt-Right members and this will drive them deeper into the fold of the White Supremacist movement. However, it may prevent 10, 100, 1,000 or 10,000 other people from showing their faces in public.  These people will still exist, but their domain of control will be limited to the anonymous digital realm. If you don’t feel that this is a viable strategy I would invite you to look at the Charlottesville rally. How many people showed up?  A couple thousand White Supremacists? There were probably enough other people in the liberal stronghold of Charlottesville who aligned themselves more with the White Supremacist marchers than the counter protesters to double their numbers if they had come out. There were probably enough people within a 30 minute drive to have multiplied their numbers fifty times. Yet, they didn’t come out.

There is something preventing them.

Fear of exposure doesn’t stop everyone, but even when there is no one actively unmasking them, its enough to prevent someone transitioning form the above first category to the second or third. Imagine what happens if you have people actively ensuring that if you attempt this you will be publicly outed.

Well, imaginary voice counters, what about the hundreds of thousands of people who show up for Trump rallies. They aren’t afraid of public ridicule. Well that’s because they are acting under the guise of a larger movement. As stated above, right wing republicans have flocked to the banner of the alt-right without being prepared to adopt or really understand the full scope of the ideas it incorporates. Now that the Tea Party has shit the bed, it’s the new hip organization to join. Some might not change their stance if they did, but others might think twice before throwing their lot in with this group.  Right now, to the new members of the organization,  the people who are rallying and actively promoting violence against other genders, races or religions, are just the silly racist uncle of the party. “We wish we didn’t have to invite him to Thanksgiving, but he’s part of the family.”

As to that, it would be best to try to separate the right wing Republics from the Alt Right movement by making them unable to fully distance themselves from the blow back of events like Charlottesville. For starters, I would stop using the term Alt-Right all together. I can tell you that this article is the last time I’m going to use it. Simply refer to them as White Supremacists. Not even in a derogatory way, simply as a statement of fact. The sky is blue, the grass is green, and White Supremacists are people in organization whose members march into liberal cities to promote violence and hate. They might try to fight back in the same way that people remind you that Band Aids are a brand name, and that the real product is called Adhesive Strips.  “If Band Aids fall off when they get wet, pull some hair out of your leg or march down a liberal neighborhoods with torches, you can’t blame adhesive strips for that. Even though we’re on the same shelf at the grocery store, we aren’t the same product.” In the response, just say, “shut the fuck up Adhesive Strips! Band Aids won that particular marketing exercise, so if you have sticky tape over soft cotton and delightful cartoon characters on the opposite side, I’m going to call you a god damn Band Aid.” Remember, people don’t want to be outed as racists, especially if they don’t actually view themselves as such.

Will this work? Maybe. I don’t know. We live in interesting times. I see no problem throwing a bunch of stuff at the wall until something sticks.

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