restricted access 95 The American Neo-Nazi Movement Today
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95 The American Neo-Nazi Movement Today ELINOR LANGER In writing about a subject that carries with it the automatic weight of its association with Nazi Germany, I find myself ... suspended between caution and alarm. Especially about a movement as underreported as this one, you do not write, in the first place, merely to observe "This too will pass away"; you write to sound an alert. At the same time, you know that the tests of time are different and that historians of another generation will consider the evidence and say either that it was all simply part of another "Brown Scare" in which people, as usual, lost their heads, and some their civil liberties, or that a dangerous movement was on the rise and that we failed to discern it early enough and help stamp it out. I do not know where along that spectrum the truth of the neo-Nazi movement lies. I do know that it is among us, that it is violent and mean, and that it is time to open up the subject for further investigation and discussion so that out of a broader base of information and a variety of perspectives there can possibly be fashioned a sound response. In using the term neo-Nazi, I am referring roughly to an array of groups and individuals , including: • Nazis: old-line groups principally descended from the American Nazi Party founded by George Lincoln Rockwell in 1959, whose members still appear in uniform, as well as other small Nazi-identified parties and groupings whose members usually do not. • The skinheads: youth gangs in various cities with names like Youth of Hitler and the Confederate Hammerskinssome, like San Francisco's American Front, openly connected with [Tom] Metzger's WAR [White Aryan Resistance], and some not; skinheads are the fastestgrowing wing of the movement today. • The Ku Klux Klan: no longer the centralized Klan of previous eras, but three separate and rival Klan federations and innumerable splinter groups; it is a government-infiltrated and at times government-manipulated Klan, a shadow of its former self, many of whose units are, however, "Nazified" in that they cooperate freely with the Nazi groups (something that was unthinkable in the past, when the Klan's patriotism and the Nazis' Germanophilism invariably clashed) and share many of the same ideas. • The Posse Comitatus: a decentralized, antistate and largely rural movement, which also appears as the Christian Patriots or American Freemen Association, whose adherents believe, Research for this essay, originally published in The Nation, was supported, in part, by grants from the Fund for Investigative Journalism and the Dick Coldensohn Fund. Copyright © 1990 by Elinor Langer. Reprinted by permission of Georges Borchardt, Inc., for the author. Copyrighted Material 574 Elinor Langer among other things, that all government should be rooted at the county level and that cooperating with any higher authority, including the I.R.S. or, indeed, even the state Department of Motor Vehicles, is wrong. • The Christian Identity movement: an Aryan-inspired religious denomination descended from a nineteenth-century movement known as Anglo-Israelism or British Israelism, which holds that the "chosen people" of the Bible are white Anglo-Saxons, that Jews are descended from Satan and that all nonwhites are "pre-Adamic" "mud people," a lower species than whites; it is a religious movement that, as in the case of Idaho's Aryan Nations-Church of Jesus Christ, Christian (as opposed to Jesus Christ, Jew), is often indistinguishable from a political one. The Nature of the Movement In the phrase "neo-Nazi movement" both the terms "neo-Nazi" and "movement" require further discussion, and they have to be argued together. ... Klanwatch Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center (S.P.L.c.) in Montgomery, Alabama ... uses the overall heading "white supremacist" and reserves "neo-Nazi" for the groups that had their genesis with Rockwell. The term "white supremacist" is also used by another major monitoring organization, the Center for Democratic Renewal in Atlanta. The problem with this usage, it seems to me, is not that it is wrong but that it does not go far enough, retaining an old-fashioned, unduly Southern and narrowly political flavor that fails to reflect the modern racialism that comes to us directly from the Nazi era and that I think is the essential characteristic these groups share. The neo-Nazi label does have varying degrees of applicability . James Farrands, Imperial Wizard of The Invisible Empire, Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, with whom I...