Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Getting Personal

Glenn Greenwald, a lawyer specializing in first amendment cases, recently penned an insightful article on his blog bemoaning the increasingly common tactic among right-wingers of publishing the names, phone numbers, and addresses of their perceived enemies online. He notes that even if these postings do not result in physical harm to the intended targets, they have a chilling effect on political speech in general:

“It has happened in the past that those who were the target of these sorts of demonization campaigns that included publication of their home address were attacked and even killed. But these intimidation tactics work even when nothing happens. Indeed, these groups often publish the enemy's home address along with some cursory caveat that they are not encouraging violence. The real objective is the same one shared by all terrorists -- to place the person in paralyzing fear. The goal is to force the individual, as they lay in bed at night, to be preoccupied with worry that there is some deranged individual who read one of the websites identifying them as the enemy and which provided their address and who believes that they can strike some blow for their Just Cause by visiting their home and harming or killing them. The fear that they are vulnerable in their own home lurks so prominently and relentlessly in a person's mind that it can be as effective as a physical attack in punishing someone or intimidating them.”

Greenwald singles out in particular the website StopTheACLU.org, which has published the names and personal information of persons who have signed on as plaintiffs in ACLU cases involving church/state issues. According to Greenwald, in one case a Jewish family involved in a lawsuit involving the promotion of Christianity in local schools was forced to move from their hometown due to threats they received after StopTheACLU.org published their identities. Unfortunately, Greenwald is incorrect in believing that these sort of unsavory tactics are the exclusive purview of the right. Leftist sites such as One People’s Project regularly publicize the personal information of anyone they perceive as being too right wing. And the website KnowThyNeighbor.org has published the names and addresses of every person in the states of Florida and Massachusetts who signed petitions to get anti-gay marriage amendments on the ballot. And just in case you think these postings result in no real harm, there have been several reported cases in Massachusetts of persons being harassed by gay activists after their names appeared on the Know Thy Neighbor website.

The fact that both left and right wing ideologs have adopted this tactic of intimidation is a disturbing sign of the personalization of political debate in the United States. As the right and left continue their campaigns of demonization against each other, they have forgotten that a person’s political opinions have very little to do with their value as a human being. I recall that Bill Marr once noted that he was dismayed that when he met his liberal icons like Jerry Brown and Gloria Steinem and found them to be rather obnoxious. He mentioned that in contrast David Duke and Pat Buchanan both seemed genuinely friendly. A person’s inherent decency seems to be unrelated to their beliefs, be they right or left wing. This is not to say that we should not speak out against dangerous political attitudes (as you have no doubt noticed that I regularly do). But sometimes we need to take a step back and realize that even those whose attitudes we despise are people too, and perhaps not deserving of threats or violence.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

The National Socialist Movement Makes A Deal With The Devil

Cliff Herrington

Remember this column from a couple of months back in which I suggested that The National Socialist Movement (NSM) was the new white power group to watch in the U.S.? Well, never mind. The group looks to have suffered a major blow this week as the result of scandal that is being refered to in white supremacist circles as “Satan Gate”. The trouble started when it came to light that NSM member Andrea Herrington (wife of NSM co-founder and chairman Cliff Herrington) is the High Priestess of the Joy of Satan Ministry. Even worse, the satanic sect and the NSM branch in Tulsa, OK share the same P.O. Box. The Joy of Satan seems to be kind of a creepy group even by Satanist standards: There are allegations of borderline pedophilic activities within the group’s “Teens for Satan” program, and other Satanists are quite critical of the Joy of Satan’s obvious Nazi leanings.

In response to this revelation, Bill White, the group’s most prominent member, resigned (or was expelled, depending on who you ask). Predictably, White’s gossip-oriented website is now filled with scurrilous accusations aimed at his former comrades in the NSM. Michael Blevins, the NSM’s media leasion, also quit. Then rejoined. Then quit again. All within a 48 hour period. He now claims that he is out for good and will found a new neo-Nazi organization, possibly with Bill White’s help. The new group, according to Blevins, will have much snazzer uniforms. As for the NSM, you know times are getting tough when the group has to post a promenent notice on their website declaring “The NSM is not a Satanic Organization”. Well, that’s a releif.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Neo-Nazis Go To War

The Southern Poverty Law Center has published a somewhat interesting report on white power people serving in the United States military. It seems that recruiters are having a difficult time filling their quotas given the unpopular war in Iraq. In response, they’ve lowered their standards, allowing persons with minor criminal records to enlist as well as upping the maximum age for joining. In some cases, they’ve also been looking the other way on people with racist tattoos or those who have clear affiliations with white supremacist groups (government regulations stipulate that persons who are members of extremist political groups may not serve in the armed forces). A few white power organizations have encouraged their members to join in the hope that they will receive training that will be useful in the coming race war. Given the actions of decorated Gulf War veteran Timothy McVeigh, this may in fact be a problem worth looking into.

P.S. Speaking of neo-Nazis, for a quick laugh check out this article on a recent hate crime in California. It’s good to see that the white power people are still recruiting the best the white race has to offer.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Jack Chick: The Man, The Myth, The Legend

When I was a young man just starting to explore the darker fringes of American politics, I had the good luck to stumble onto the works of Jack Chick. Chick is the author of hundreds of Protestant evangelical tracts (small comic books) notable for their melodramatic tone and bizarre conspiracy theories. Chick Publications had a deal at the time where you could send in seven dollars and they would mail you a single copy of every Chick tract in print (which was then was around fifty titles). On of my most treasured possessions in my library of fringe publications is my shoebox full of Chick tracts. I can’t even estimate how many hours I’ve spent hunched over one, laughing hysterically all the while. So I was quite thrilled to recently discover that Chick operates a website which allows users to see full versions of all of his current tracts, as well as many that are now out of print. Some of my personal favorites are listed below:

(It should probably be noted that Jack Chick doesn’t really qualify as a political extremist, at least not in the way I use the term on this site. He’s more concerned with saving individual souls than with instituting a theocratic regime in the U.S. However, his monolithic conspiracy theories and extreme Protestant fundamentalism put him close enough to the theocrats to warrant his inclusion here.)

This Was Your Life-This is the classic Chick tract. It lays out his views on sin and salvation, the basic themes that reoccur in all of his writings.

The Beast-The anti-Christ comes to earth and leads humanity down a path of wickedness. Apparently, some people get to become vampires and werewolves too, which is pretty cool.

The Death Cookie-An example of Chick’s extreme anti-Catholicism.

The Last Generation-Another classic. The “New Age Healers”, a group of pagan thugs, help the U.N. to institute a satanic one-world government.

Angels?-Shows how Christian rock is just another tool of the devil. I always wanted write a song whose main chorus was lifted from this tract: “We’re going to rock, rock, rock with the rock!”

Dark Dungeons-You know, I played Dungeons and Dragons as a kid. I can’t for the life of me remember ever being inducted into a pagan cult as a result.

The Gay Blade-Self-explanatory. I just want to add that I think the two queens on the fourth panel are hot.

The Hunter-Explains how Satan controls the illegal drug trade. I’ve seen a lot of people on drugs in my time. But I have never seen a person stare off into space for hours at a time while screaming “Yaaaaaaaahhh!”

Chick himself is a mysterious and reclusive figure. He’s currently about eighty years old, and has not granted an interview since 1975. The only known photo of him is from his high school yearbook. It’s possible that after he is gone, his company will close shop, as America’s Christian fanatics look for more sophisticated ways to spread their gospel. Ironically, those who may keep Chick’s memory alive for future generations are the sarcastic non-believers who now collect Chick tracts for their kitsch value. Chick, I’m sure, would not be pleased.