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The Hard Edge of Hatred | The Nation

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The Hard Edge of Hatred

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American white supremacist groups have a long and ugly history of using anxieties over immigration as a recruitment tool. It's happening again--with a vengeance. As nativist sentiments have hardened and spread, white-supremacist and neo-Nazi groups have stepped up their recruitment efforts--and it's working. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has documented a sharp rise in the number of such groups nationally, and Mark Potok, editor of the SPLC's Intelligence Report, says the growth is directly related to these groups' new emphasis on immigration. "The furor over immigration policies is a critical factor in the 33 percent increase in hate groups between 2000 and 2005," says Potok, and "this growth is fed by publicity stunts, belligerent attitudes and actions, and piggybacking on public fears about immigrants."

Stanislav Vysotsky provided research assistance for this
article.

About the Author

Chip Berlet
Chip Berlet has spent over twenty-five years studying prejudice, demonization, scapegoating, demagoguery, conspiracism...

For example, on May 6, the National Knights of the Ku Klux Klan held an anti-immigration rally in Russellville, Alabama, that drew some 300 supporters, including some hard-core neo-Nazis. Robed Klansmen lit a 22-foot-high cross, the SPLC reported, and yelled, "Let's get rid of the Mexicans!" White-supremacist and neo-Nazi groups are also aggressively leafleting neighborhoods in the American heartland, hunting for recruits at rallies staged by more mainstream anti-immigration groups, and holding anti-immigration rallies of their own.

The synergy between mainstream anti-immigration groups and hardcore white supremacists is founded on a common belief in a form of racial nationalism (unconscious, in the case of some mainstreamers) that assumes European settlers comprise a "native-born" population that constitutes the "real" America. Organized white supremacist groups, however, talk about the survival of the white race in explicit terms.

Neo-Nazis, for example, add an obsession with the myth of an "Aryan Race." They see immigrants of color not just destroying American culture, as the mainstreamers do, but also openly describe dark-skinned immigrants as racially inferior and a form of biological pollution or disease that needs to be expelled or eradicated. "If you tolerate multiracialism," warns National Vanguard leader Kevin Alfred Strom, "then your children will suffer and die."

Like others on the hard edge of the new nativism, Strom is highly critical of mainstream anti-immigration types who, he believes, know that "Mexican immigration threatens the survival of the White race and White civilization," but who hide behind cowardly platitudes like "overcrowding," "assimilation," and "the failure of new immigrants to learn English." Strom's National Vanguard, along with the National Socialist Movement, Volksfront, and similar neo-nazi groups, has eclipsed the KKK in the role of preserving the bloodline of the "white race" in the United States.

The new neo-Nazi movement even has networking groups such as Stormfront.org, a site which promotes activism and cooperation among members of a variety of neo-Nazi groups as well as white supremacists not affiliated with a specific organization.

The poster sisters for the anti-immigrant Aryan revival are blonde and blue-eyed Lynx and Lamb Gaede, fraternal twins who perform at white-supremacist rallies as the musical group Prussian Blue. At age 11 they rallied in matching "Stop Immigration" T-shirts. Now, at 14, they are the little darlings of the neo-Nazi anti-immigrant Kulturkampf. They told an interviewer for Vice Magazine that the most important social issue facing the white race was "[n]ot having enough white babies born to replace ourselves and generally not having good-quality white people being born." One catchy song they sing is called "Aryan Man Awake."

The Prussian Blue Internet home page links to the National Vanguard website. That website carries several well-designed anti-immigrant flyers that supporters can download, reproduce on home printers or at local copy shops, and distribute. The flyers from National Vanguard and a similar group from which they split, National Alliance, are far more visually striking and well-written than most grassroots neo-Nazi literature, and at first glance appear to have no connection to a white supremacist group. In Arizona this July, "JennyP" told her allies on the National Vanguard networking forum hosted by the Stormfront website that their unit had just finished distributing 16,000 of these flyers.

According to an Arizona National Vanguard leader, "approximately 100,000 have been distributed in the past two years in Arizona," mostly in the Phoenix area. "Not everybody who is receptive contacts us," he says. "Some people will just start visiting our website and listening to our radio broadcasts," he says. "Some will become active supporters of our cause; others will become passive supporters."Anti-immigrant flyers from National Vanguard also have been reported in California, Florida, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Mexico, and North Carolina; anti-racist activists suspect flyers are appearing in dozens of states.

Stormfront also hosts discussions on how white supremacists can hand out flyers from more mainstream anti-immigrant groups such as Americans for Legal Immigration Political Action Committee (ALIPAC). Participants said they had already downloaded and distributed the ALIPAC literature: "Nice Flyer," commented "Iceman88," "I bet you'd have zero complaints from the cops or news media." "Exactly," responded "Kenny," "there's no sign of what the jew media would call 'racist'."

National Vanguard and National Alliance are not the only neo-nazis who have learned to tone down their public rhetoric to seek recruits from a broader base and appear more "mainstream." Sounding uncannily like a blue-collar populist politician from the first half of the 20th century, the leader of the National Socialist Movement told an Indiana audience in 2003 that immigrants were "dragging down the economy and stealing jobs...making a lot of Americans feel like second class citizens."

NSM may now be the largest neo-Nazi group in the US with over 50 units in some 30 states. Founded in 1974, NSM has a paramilitary structure and conducts armed training sessions for whites, according to the Anti-Defamation League. NSM already had a mission that fit the new nativist outbreak: It is "dedicated to the preservation of our Proud Aryan Heritage."

More KKK chapters have started appearing in the past few years, reports Potok, and many of them are highlighting immigration as an issue. Devin Burghart at the Center for New Community, another watchdog group, points out that the contemporary idea for a vigilante-style anti-immigrant "border patrol" was first hatched in the 1970s by KKK leaders. Now this tactic appears to have broader appeal. Chris Simcox ran a vigilante-style militia, then reinvented the group as the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps (MCDC), softening the image and the rhetoric in the process. When neo-Nazis said they would help recruit for the MCDC, Simcox publicly declared they were unwelcome.

At the same time, some neo-Nazi groups are toning down their rhetoric to capitalize on mainstream anti-immigration sentiments in Middle America. Others are sending their violent rhetoric through mainstream channels.

Last March, SPLC reported that New Jersey radio host Hal Turner was challenging neo-nazis to up the ante: . "I advocate using extreme violence against illegal aliens. Clean your guns. Have plenty of ammunition. Find out where the largest gathering of illegal aliens will be near you....then do what has to be done....All of you who think there's a peaceful solution to these invaders are wrong. We're going to have to start killing these people." One neonazi who agreed posted this on a web forum: "The bad news is many whites will die [but it] will be grand [and if] you have a good defense line and lots of ammo the carnage will be orgasmic."

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