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The American extreme right exists in the shadows. In Europe far-right parties like the Vlaams Blok in Belgium, Le Front National in France, the Freedom Party in Austria, the BNP in England, as well as other groups in other nations, routinely capture a substantial minority of the vote in local and national elections. In America, this is not the case. The resurgence of the far right in Europe has been based on issues that are either absent from the American political agenda or already monopolized by the Republican Party, such as race, immigration, rising crime, the dilution of national identity at the hands of EU federalism, and the breakdown of traditional families. The parliamentary model of European democracies, with their plethora of parties, also helps these extreme right parties, whereas their American counterparts are powerless. There is little prospect of any third party gaining significant strength, and the Republican Party (although content to nod and wink at racism as the need arises, particularly in the South) is not going to abandon its twin pillars of religious fundamentalism and corporate interests for racial demagoguery.
With little hope of electoral gains the variety of extreme right movements discussed in this book (survivalist militias, militant white nationalism, Posse Comitatus anti-tax and conspiracy theorist groups, the heretical Christian Identity movement) labor away at the margins, prophesising forlornly about the forthcoming race war, spreading anti-Semitic propaganda and feuding internally. With growing electoral success the European groups have somewhat moderated their message, in particular by shying away from Holocaust denial and airing anti-Semitic conspiracy theories such as those contained in the infamous Tsarist forgery The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, in order to achieve greater success through concentrating on the most populist, effective themes. Without these sort of wider political concerns the American extreme right functions as a breeding ground for stranger and stranger ideologies and conspiracy theories.
This book is something of a time capsule, in that it reflects very much the worries of the pre-9/11 world. Originally written in 1987 with a new preface written in 1995 in response to the Oklahoma City bombing, it's a very interesting reminder of the time before Islamic militancy reared its head against America. This was a time when a series of events (the Waco siege, the Randy Weaver shootout, the rise of the militia movement, and, of course, the Oklahoma City bombing) seemed to show that the most serious threat to America's security would be homegrown, from the fringes of America's right wing. As things turned out, it was nothing of the kind, so reading this book now one cannot help but be struck by the tone of hysteria that occassionally surfaces in the course of the text, alluding to this impending threat, this growing force.
Now, of course, things are very different. Not only has the Islamist threat far superceded that of the extreme right in the minds of Americans, but the far right itself is quite diminished from what it once was. The militia movement has shrunk considerably from its mid-90's heyday, several of the key leaders of the Neo-Nazi movement (like Richard Butler of the Aryan Nations and William Pierce of the National Alliance) have passed away leaving their organizations in a state of disrepair, the Klan is the merest shadow of its former self, Christian Identity has shrunk considerably, and everywhere across America the main issues for the white nationalist movement, its main rallying cries, have been moving in what they would see as the wrong direction. 'Miscegenation' (aka mixed-race relationships) has never been more accepted, immigration throughout the 1990's and into this decade has continued at an avalanche volume, California has lost its white majority, and everywhere the forces of multiculturalism run rampant while the cause of White Separatism lies punch-drunk on the floor. Above all, the obsessive anti-Semitism that characterizes the extreme right, perhaps the single theme that unites all the different strands of American racist ideology, has never been more out of step with the wider right wing of American politics, which has moved to an iron-clad support of Israel.
Despite it seeming a bit out of date, and a bit hyperbolic in its overestimation of the threat posed by the racist right, this is generally a pretty interesting read. The first chapter is an overview of the different strands of the American extreme right, their origins and their ideologies. The second chapter, perhaps the most interesting, discusses the neo-nazi terrorist group The Order, the most dangerous racist terror group of the post Civil Rights era. It concentrates on their perpetration of some of the most meticulously planned and lucrative armored car robberies in American history, their plans to use the proceeds of these heists to establish an Aryan homeland in the Pacific Northwest, and their assassination of (Jewish) Denver talk radio host Alan Berg, an event that inspired the Oliver Stone film Talk Radio.
The third chapter looks at the Christian Identity movement, a heretical variant of Christianity that attempts to get around the age-old problem of the anti-Semite: how can you effectively attack Jews as the enemy of Christian civiliazation when Christ Himself was a Jew? Their solution is that the true ten Lost Tribes of Israel, who disappeared from scripture after being captured by the Assyrians, are in fact the peoples of western and northern Europe, such as the French, the English, the Germans, the Finns, etc., while the people who are traditionally known as the Jews were the tribe of Judah who threw their lot in with Satan during the Babylonian Captivity. As Biblical interpretations go, it's certainly one of the more far out ones. The central abiding principle of Identity Christianity is that the the post-Babylonian Jews are responsible for all the evils to befall the Aryan world. The Roman persecution of the Christians? A Jewish conspiracy. The Black Plague? A Jewish conspiracy. Bolshevism? A Jewish conspiracy. The Federal Reserve Board? A Jewish conspiracy (don't ask me, I don't understand the problem with the Federal Reserve Board either). Race mixing? A Jewish conspiracy. Basically, in this hate theology, anything you dislike can be laid at the door of the dreaded Jew. The Aryan Nations described them as, "the natural enemy of our Aryan (White) Race. This is attested by scripture and all secular history. The Jew is like a destroying virus that attacks our racial body to destroy our Aryan culture and the purity of our Race."
The fourth chapter looks at the Posse Comitatus, a movement based on a strange sycretic moral code that holds that to pay income tax would be to acknowledge the Jewish-controlled state (known as the Zionist Occupational Government), and that the international financial system has been a fraud since the gold standard was abandoned, and, finally, that the US Constitution guarantees that no man should have to answer to any authority higher than county sheriff. This is a loosely-formed ideological persuasion whose adherents have, at various points, participated in massive tax frauds, extensive subterrenean barter systems to avoid the overground economy, jailhouse-lawyer style lien-filing blitzes, and even the assasination of representatives from various levels of government. Chapter five looks at various bizarre Survival Right compound groups, people living in communities a bit like the hippy communes of the 1960's but with lots of guns and lots of anti-Semitism and lots of crazy ideas (well, that part is not so different from the hippies).
Chapter six is about the 'lone wolf' phenomenon, men not officially allied with any group who act on their own against what they see as 'the system'. Men like David Lewis Rice, who butchered the Goldmark family in Seattle on Christmas Eve in 1985 on the mistaken belief that Charles Goldmark, the father and husband, was the head Communist Jew conspirator in the Pacific Northwest, a man ready to give the signal to a North Korean army massing over the border to invade. The Goldmarks were Protestants. Or David and Doris Young who bombed a school in Cokeville, Wyoming, in 1986. The character sketches built up in this chapter, of the lone wolf as natural loner, alienated from society, turning deadly with exposure to Survivalist and White Supremacist ideologies, foreshadows the most famous Lone Wolf of all, a man who embodied all these traits, even though he committed his great crime after the book was originally published. I am referring to, of course, the mastermind of the Oklahoma City Bombing, Timothy McVeigh, a loner and Gulf War veteran who drifted into the world of the survival right before attacking the Federal building in Oklahoma in an operation directly inspired by William Pierce's genocidal wet dream of a novel The Turner Diaries.
The two final chapters look at the distribution of political propaganda and survivalist tracts show how in their way members of the extreme right, like other niche operators, have always worked at the cutting edge of communications technology, from mailing lists to ham radio to primitive Usenet services to today's panoply of internet-based distribution mediums.
In conclusion, I'd have to say that this was quite good book to read for background on the American far right, but that it was let down a bit by its datedness (hardly the author's fault, but it is impossible to read anything without knowledge of the events of proceeding years) as well as a certain amount of exaggerating of the scope of the threat generated by this collection of charlatan, bigots, loners and, yes, psychopaths. The Oklahoma City bombing is, to date, the only instance where the blood-curdlingly apocalyptic rhetoric of decades of American extreme rightism has been put into practice, and there has been nothing of the sort since, and certainly nothing to be compared with what the global Islamic terror movement seems to be able to conjure up on a regular basis. A far better book on the far right, for those interested in the subject, is Nick Ryan's Homeland: Into a World of Hate.