Thursday, June 30, 2005

How NOT To Make An Argument

Margaret Kimberly

Speaking of the Nation of Islam, there has recently been a lot of back-and-forth bickering between the Anti-Defamation League and various African-American “leaders” over Louis Farrakhan’s Millions More movement (see the May entry of this blog for details). First Abe Foxman, director of the ADL, issued a press release urging prominent African-Americans to reconsider their support for the march. Russell Simmons responded with a completely irrational essay, claiming that Foxman’s request will only increase anti-Semitism in the U.S. Then Margaret Kimberly of the Chicago defender chimed in with an article that is a textbook perfect example of how not to construct an argument. She doesn’t bother to stick up for Farrakhan, only referring to him as being “flawed’. Instead, she attacks Foxman for his supposed moral failings, such as his friendly gestures towards the new pope and his involvement with the Marc Rich pardon. Her argument seems to be “He’s an even bigger scumbag than Farrakhan!” Interesting tactic. The ADL responded with a letter restating Farrakhan’s anti-Semitism. I don’t know why they bother. The people involved with this march will not allow themselves to be swayed by something so irrelevant as facts.

Monday, June 27, 2005

The Nation of Islam Gets Sensitive

Get a load of this article, which criticizes the New Orleans police dept. for recently hiring the Nation of Islam’s security chief to provide “sensitivity training” for its officers. I think little more need be said about this, except that it reinforces the said fact that the NOI is considered to be a mainstream, respectable organization by a disturbingly high number of African-Americans.

Friday, June 24, 2005

PETA’s Public Relations Nightmare Continues

Removing the Bodies

While admitting that the dumping of animal’s bodies into trash dumpsters is “hideous”, PETA is still defending Adria Joy Hinkle and Andrew Benjamin Cook, two of its employees who have been charged with animal cruelty in North Carolina (see below). The organization claims that the animals were humanely euthanized, and that the charges will eventually be dropped. Giving that the animals were killed in the back of a van by two persons who are not veterinarians, that may not turn out to be that case. The animal shelters involved are also miffed, claiming that they were told by PETA that the animals they turned over would be put up for adoption, and only euthanized as a last resort. This seems confirm a lot of the allegations I’ve heard over the years regarding PETA’s lack of ethical standards and their general creepiness.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Former KKK Leader Found Guilty

On June 21st, Edgar Ray Killen was convicted on three counts of manslaughter in the deaths of three civil rights workers in 1964. He is the first person to be held criminally responsible for the murders. Some have criticized the verdict as being to light, considering that these murders certainly seemed to be premeditated, cold-blooded killings. Whether or not that is the case, it will make little difference for Mr. Killen. At age 80, whatever sentence he receives will most likely be a life term.
Update: On June 23rd, he was sentenced to 60 years.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Anarchists For Jesus

In the course of my recent explorations of extremism on the web I came across this site, which is maintained by a group of Anarchist Christians. They intersperse polemics against the state and capitalism with relevant passages from scripture. While one might be tempted to dismiss this as an elaborate joke, they seem to be completely on the level. They are certainly putting forward a unique viewpoint, and it would be interesting to see if more traditional anarchist groups would be willing to accept anti-state radicals who operate from a Christian perspective.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

The Wheels of Justice Turn Very Slowly

Edgar Ray Killen

As most of you have probably already heard, an 80-year-old ex-Klansman by the name of Edgar Ray Killen is being tried in Mississippi for the murders of civil rights martyrs Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner and James Chaney. If convicted, he would be the first person to be found guilty of the killings. The whole thing has turned into a bit of a media circus, with current Klan members showing up to express their support for Killen, and civil rights activists doing the same to criticize him. The case is no doubt a valid one, and may give some peace to the surviving relatives of the slain. At the same time, the trial must be seen as mostly symbolic, as it’s hard to imagine that this elderly man still poses any sort of threat to the community.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

The Atlanta Child Murders Pt. 2

In an interesting twist to the renewed investigation into the Atlanta Child Murders (see below), the FBI has announced that it plans to appeal a judge’s ruling that instructed it to hand over wiretap tapes of Klan leader’s conversations made at the time of the murders to investigators. It’s difficult to understand why the Bureau would oppose the release, as any investigations that were being conducted at the time should have been wrapped up long ago by now. It is exactly this kind of government stonewalling that gives the conspiracy theorists ammunition. Of course, there is the admittedly slight possibility that the government is trying to block the release of the tapes because they do in fact contain information relevant to the investigation. In which case the conspiracy people will have the last laugh…

Friday, June 17, 2005

PETA Members Charged With Animal Cruelty

Two PETA members have been arrested in North Carolina on animal cruelty charges. Apparently, they were picking up animals from local shelters, killing them, then dumping their bodies in a trash bin behind a shopping center. This will certainly be bad publicity for an animal rights group like PETA, but it is a little known fact that the group has supported the euthanasia of stray animals for years. On an episode of their cable show “Bullsh*t!”, Penn and Teller claimed that animals are killed in large numbers at the group’s headquarters in Norfolk, Virginia. This all seems somehow odd for an organization whose stated goal is to create a society in which animals are treated as equals to humans.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Extremism Goes Mainstream

Trying to get a jump on the 2008 election, an American conservative has written an unauthorized bio on Hillary Clinton which claims (among other things) that her pregnancy with Chelsea was the result of a rape committed by Bill. Bizarre claims like these are common in extreme right-wing circles (another popular one holds that Hillary is secretly a lesbian). What is a bit more disturbing in this case is the support the book is receiving from such supposedly mainstream conservative institutions as Drudge Report and the National Review. It’s a shame that American conservatives feel such an all-pervasive need to maintain their own power that they are willing to promote the baseless accusations of fringe reactionaries.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

The Atlanta Child Murders

Wayne Williams

Between 1979 and 1981, at least 29 black children in Atlanta fell victim to a mysterious serial killer (or killers). Eventually, an African-American man by the name of Wayne Williams was convicted of several of the murders, and the killings stopped. The evidence against Williams has always been considered rather flimsy, and several researchers who have examined the case believe he was railroaded. The more conspiracy-minded researchers have suggested that the murders were in fact carried out by members of the Ku Klux Klan, who intended to use the killings as a means to spark a race war. The new Dekalb county sheriff has reopened the case, and has pledged to look into KKK involvement in the killings.
So is there anything to this? Probably not. When dealing with criminal justice matters, it is best to rely on Occum’s Razor: The simplest explanation is usually the right one. It is more plausible to think that these murders were the work of a single madman (or perhaps a more than one), rather than the result of a dark racist conspiracy. I also tend to think that given the intelligence level of the average Klansman, it is unlikely that a group of them would be able to keep such a tremendous secret to themselves for so many years. But the new investigation is certainly a positive step, and may help to reveal if Williams was truly responsible for all of the murders, or for that matter any of them.

Friday, June 10, 2005

The Man Who Would Be King

With Richard Butler and William Pierce dead and Matt Hale serving a long prison term, David Duke is without a doubt the most well-known and influential white supremacist in America. Duke recently held a meeting in New Orleans to which he invited representatives of America’s major white power groups. At the meeting, he tried to establish himself as a uniter within the movement, and push a plan of increasing racial awareness in the U.S. through the use of the democratic process. This of course means turning down the violent rhetoric and dropping some of the more radical social plans Duke once advocated. Duke might have more luck with this than one might first think, as many white Americans have shown themselves to be partial to racist candidates, so long as said candidates conceal their policies behind a veneer of mainstream conservatism.
Shaun Walker, leader of what’s left of the National Alliance, has published an essay reassuring his members that the group will remain true to it’s ideological principals, and not join Duke’s move towards serious participation in the democratic process. Instead, it will attempt to convert white Americans to the racist cause by using violent revolutionary rhetoric, and suggest that the man they should most emulate is…Adolph Hitler. Good luck with that, guys.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

The Coming of the Apocalypse

During a recent search of extremist sites, I came across this surprisingly well-reasoned article on the apocalyptic beliefs of many persons on the political fringe. Every extreme ideology has it’s own variant: the race war, the second coming of Christ, the proletariat revolution, the collapse of industrial civilization, etc. Take away the inevitability of these cataclysms, and many radical political ideologies become obvious flights of fantasy rather than accurate assessments of the current state of the world.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

This May Be A First! An Extremist Website I Don’t Mock!

I recently came across the Icarus Project website, which is run by a group of anarchists who are copping with various mental disorders, primarily bipolar (also called manic-depression). It’s a very well researched site, with lots of good suggestion on alternative treatments and a lively discussion board. Considering that persons in extremist groups often carry a lot of emotional trauma with them, this site provides a valuable service. It’s encouraging to see a group of anarchists doing something useful with their time rather than engaging in the nihilistic violence which has often recently been the hallmark of that ideology.

The Big Question

One obvious question arises when one studies extremists groups for any length of time: Why would any person voluntarily join a group with such irrational belief systems and at the same time risk social isolation as a result? This essay, which I wrote a couple of years back, attempts to address that question. The answers I discovered might surprise you.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Beating a Dead Horse

The World Church of the Creator (WCOTC), a Nazi-inspired sect once led by the media-savvy law student Matt Hale, has been ordered to pay $450,000 in legal fees to another religious group. That group had sued the WCOTC, claiming that they had infringed on their similar, copyrighted name. The money may be difficult to collect, as the WCOTC has for all intents and purposes ceased to exist as an organization. In this case, it seems that the purpose of the lawsuit was not just to destroy the targeted organization, but also to derail any effort to restart it. This of course raises the ethical and legal questions surrounding the use of civil suits to bankrupt politically unpopular groups, but I think I’ll save that issue for another column.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

The Danger of Holding Strong Viewpoints

Here’s an interesting article on a Klan member in Arkansas who lost his job as a prison guard due to his political activities. I’ll leave aside the ethical and legal questions involved in firing a person strictly on the basis of their political beliefs (although one should keep in mind that a prison guard should expect to be held to a higher security standard than the average worker). I would instead point out that if you’re involved in any sort of politically dodgy activities, it would probably be best to go to great lengths to insure your employer does not find out about them.