Saturday, November 21, 2009

David Duke Picks Up Where He Left Off by Leonard Zeskind

In April, 2004, after paying a $10,000 fine and serving a year in jail for mail fraud and tax evasion, David Duke picked up where he last left off. At a unity conference of white nationalists, his charisma and gift for public oratory set him apart from the other speakers. He cast adherence to the cause as the most selfless devotion to humanity, and he captured the gut anxieties of average racists like no other person of his generation. And when Duke introduced fifty-seven -year-old Sam Dickson, the acerbic attorney from Atlanta, it became obvious that both men felt they were preparing for the next generation.

Dickson revisited the white nationalist movement's underlying assumptions. "Our race needs a homeland where we can be by ourselves," he said, unpopulated by Muslims, Jews, those he called "Negroes" and other unspecified people of color. Liberals, specifically white liberals, stood in the way now. Then Dickson changed course and began listing reasons for hope in the future.

One was the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. They had lifted the lid on the "Jewish issue," he said. For the first time anti-Semites could talk openly. Racial liberalism among whites, he argued, with its "Camelot" and "hootenannies" and Peace Corps, was a thing of the past. Those people thought they were going to turn "Ghana into Norway".", he said in a quick turn of phrase, but "nobody believes it anymore." Public opinion polls may show white support for "diversity" and desegregation, he told the crowd, but polling is about "public opinion", what you are willing to tell a stranger over the phone. Actual, privately held beliefs are more evident in the way people live. And white people will "pay $300,000 for a $75,000 home, just so they can live with other white people. Deep down, he claimed with a certain glee in his voice, they all realize "black people are hopeless."

Racial egalitarianism, according to his analysis, had rested on the prospect of seemingly unlimited economic expansion during the decades following World War Two. But the good times were over. Now, he argued, "The worse the better, let the bad times roll." Other factors were also changing. Television had once given liberalism a "media monopoly" Now the Internet provided open access to ideas of every kind. The liberal monopoly had ended, he proclaimed.

The most important change he noted that day was generational. The war against Hitler had once led white people to associate what he called "normal racial values" with Nazis, and they had been America's enemy. "The World War Two generation is being gathered unto their fathers.", he declared in triumph. With their deaths, he believed, remembrance of the fight against Hitlerism would fade. The postwar period would finally and completely end. And after stating the case for a brighter whiter future, the attorney sat down to deep and grateful applause.

In his talk that day, Dickson succinctly summarized the white nationalist case (as they understood it) for the twenty-first century. After thirty years of grassroots organizing, they had learned several of the more unsavory facts about American life. A significant number of white people, for whatever reasons, continue to buy overpriced houses just so they can live in all-white neighborhoods. Survey respondents are often less than forthright, particularly when responding to sensitive questions about race-related matters. Some white people will use racial slurs and tell jokes when talking with other white people but will not use them when talking within earshot of black people. The terms of public discussion changed sharply after World War Two and the civil rights revolution, and racism and anti-Semitism were no longer considered socially acceptable. Throughout the events described in this book, white nationalists aimed at transforming this social (and racial) discourse. And to the degree already discussed, they partially succeeded. In sum, a number of white nationalist leaders had a fairly accurate sense of the future direction of a sector of the white populace. And from this group the mainstreamers of the twenty-first century will continue to develop.

At the same time, white nationalists consistently misunderstand the larger world around them. A significant number of white people remain determined to live and live happily in a multiracial, multicultural United States. And they do not regard themselves as "race traitors",. Perhaps even more significant, black people and other people of color are not the passive objects of history. They are historical subjects in their own right. African Americans in particular had changed American life at every one of its critical junctures since the advent of New World slavery. Ideological thinkers on the white-ist side of politics remain completely blind to this aspect of the twenty-first century. And from this failure, vanguardists and Aryan killers will continue to pop up, at odds with the direction of American life.

In the future prerogatives now accruing to majority status will be challenged, as black, brown and yellow faces increasingly populate the halls of economic and political power. The presidency of Barack Obama only confirms the white nationalists notion of dispossession. And in the decades to come, the next generation of activists will seek to establish a white nation-state, with definable economic, political and racial borders, out of the wreckage they hope to create ( or is created for them) of the United States. Some will kill and bomb and shoot their supposed racial enemies. Some will run for elected office and win. They will fight for local (white) control. Failing a complete victory, they will continue the cultural battle over symbols from the past and the history of the future. And they will draw on the legacy of those who resurrected white supremacy as an autonomous movement in the 1970s and brought it into the twenty-first century.


  1. The death of William Pierce and the bankruptcy of Willis Carto in 2002 marked an end point in the generational life of the white nationalist movement. An accounting of the activists and leaders across the years revealed that other leaders of the previous generation, both vanguardists and mainstreamers, had also faded into the background during the first moments of the twenty-first century. Louis Beam and Tom Metzger, for example, found their routes to semiretirement. In years past, their imprecations to violence and mayhem were made in the public square. Metzger, who had gained notoriety for his cultivation of white power skinheads, continued to operate a small-time propaganda mill. But he eventually left Southern California and moved back to Indiana. Beam became a ghostlike figure, absent the Klan-style paramilitaries and underground guerrilla armies that he had promoted. After a contentious divorce from Sheila Toohy in 1997, the woman who he had once praised for shooting it out with authorities in Mexico, Beam quietly remarried and began raising another family. He posted messages on his personal website but otherwise kept himself out of view.

    The jailed Order soldiers who had been Beam's co- defendants at Fort Smith were all but forgotten as individuals, even as the myth associated with Bob Mathew's Order continued. "There is no mail & and no assistance at all," Bruce Carroll Pierce wrote from jail. "Frankly, it hurts to see mongrel drug dealers, pimps and the ungodly receive more attention." Only David Lane remained a presence outside the walls.

    Of the militia-era personalities, Bo Gritz had shot himself, apparently in response to a divorce petition from his wife, Claudia. He survived but left his Almost Heaven community behind. Randy Weaver moved quietly back to Iowa after spending some time in Montana. Chris Temple, who had articulated the post Ruby Ridge shoot-out strategy so clearly at Estes Park, became involved in a series of muddy money schemes before going to jail in 2004 after defrauding his investors. John Trochman was reportedly expelled from his own Montana Militia by his brother.

  2. Other men who figured prominently during the previous decades kept going, even if at a reduced pace. Thom Robb continued to run his Ku Klux Klan outfit much like a family business, and his children were ready to inherit whatever mailing list and dues payers survived. Competing Klan factions rose and fell according to the length of time their leaders stayed out of jail. Pete Peters maintained his Christian Identity ministry from Colorado and continued to attract young families with children to periodic Bible camps. Nevertheless, he increasingly relied on Internet broadcast technology to get out his message, which he began referring to as "Anglo-Israelism."

    Still other organizations continued to thrive much as they had in the decade before. Kirk Lyons, the peripatetic attorney, reinvented himself as an attorney for Confederate causes large and small and became a leading figure in the Sons of Confederate Veterans. The Council of Conservative Citizens prospered after 9/11, pushing anti-immigration politics throughout the South. A.J. Barker and other luminaries from the Populist Party's past, including those from the Don Wassall faction, entered the new century ensconced in the council. Jared Taylor continued publishing 'American Renaissance' and holding conferences to promote the scientific side of white nationalism. Other intellectual enterprises such as Mark Weber's Institute for Historical Review and the new periodical titled 'The Occidental Quarterly' found their niche comfortable but not expansive. Don Black's Stormfront website, with its reflections in German, French, Serbian and other European languages, remained the preeminent forum for discussions among white nationalists, as well as a purveyor of propanganda, news and links to other sites. Thousands of activists visited the site every day, and by 2005 the site was claiming a "membership" of forty thousand plus. Sam Francis (Pat Buchanon's chief ideological mentor and speech writer) died early that year from a heart attack, and his place in the white nationalist firmament would not be easily filled.

  3. At this point, white nationalists still did not control a genuine third party apparatus, and ballot access in all the states remained an elusive goal. Without widely distributed weekly newspaper or monthly magazine to promote their cause, organizations and individuals had turned to cyberspace as their primary communications link with one another. With the Internet, one person selling a carton of music CD's could declare himself king of the white power scene. The tendency to schism, so prevalent in the past, remained unchecked.

    Never-the-less, white nationalists had exhibited both remarkable resilience and strength. Liberty Lobby( pro Jim Crow) had raised and spent approximately four million dollars year after year and distributed 150,000 copies of its tabloid every week. The Institute for Historical Review ( holocaust denial) typically spent another $250,000 as year, as did American Renaissance (focusing on 'genetic evidence' of white superiority, the 'Bell curve' etc.) The white power music industry sold CD's and poured money into a growing subculture. Christian Identity ministers bought broadcast time on AM radio, and militiameisters made money at survivalist expos and gun shows. David Duke spent another two million plus running for office in Louisiana. The movement had received free publicity for one-off leaflet drops and well-planned stunts like the Klan's border watch events. After 9/11, anti-immigrant politics shoveled money back into the movement like a coal conveyor feeding fuel into a power plan. And the accounting of funds must include the money stolen in bank robberies and spent surreptitiously on movement causes.

    Vanguardists had survived police crackdowns, multiple criminal prosecutions, civic opposition and legal challenges. They had congealed a "culture of resistance", a term usually reserved for the movements of 'the left". They created a usable past for any similar movement in the future. Mainstreamers redeemed racism and anti-Semitism, resurrecting a set of beliefs that had been otherwise discredited during the post-World War Two era. While these ideas and practices were already present within the civic culture and political mainstream, the movement gave the sentiments and prejudices of ordinary racists a seeming coherence, expressing grievances real and imagined, providing a language for the pre-rational thoughts and feelings caught in the throats of many white people.

  4. "Blood and Politics; The History of The White Nationalist Movement from the Margins to the Mainstream" by Leonard Zeskind; Farrar Straus Giroux, 2009