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White supremacist and ardent Nazi follower William Dudley Pelley, a New England native of what he calls “uncontaminated English stock,” founds the Silver Shirts, a neo-Nazi organization, in Asheville, North Carolina, the same day that Adolf Hitler ascends to power in Germany. Apparently Pelley funds the organization through the proceeds of a best-selling book, Seven Minutes in Eternity, in which he claimed to have died and gone to “the beyond” for a seven-minute period. Pelley and his followers, including Henry Lamont “Mike” Beach (see 1969), dress themselves in silver shirts emblazoned with a large cursive “L,” blue corduroy knickers, and gold stockings. Pelley considers himself a Republican, though he is not politically active in the usual sense.
Anti-Semitic, Anti-Government - His efforts attract members from pro-Nazi groups, Ku Klux Klan chapters, and others sympathetic to his anti-Semitic views. In August 1933, the American Jewish Committee (AJC) will warn: “The Silver Shirts came into existence the early part of this year. They are enrolling white Protestant Christians as members of a Christian militia, through a plan of State encampments that are reported to extend into various states of the Union, with posts in every community.” According to Silver Shirt documents obtained by the AJC, the group intends to bring about the establishment of a strictly Christian government in the US; accuses President Roosevelt of being a “dictator” and “set[ting] aside the Constitution, which they desire to restore”; intends to “save [the] United States from a state of Sovietism into which… the Jews are leading the country”; accuses Jews of being a “money power” bent on destroying the nation’s economy via their “control” of the Federal Reserve; and says that “a people who constitute only 2.5 per cent of the population [Jews] to be held down to a 2.5 per cent influence in the American government, and we propose to see that it is brought about, race prejudice or no!” The group also advocates a form of direct democracy, in which citizens mail in their votes for or against pending legislation, and proposes the reorganization of America into what it calls a “colossus corporation,” where “[e]very citizen shall be both a common and a preferred stockholder.”
Psychic Messages - Pelley claims to receive psychic messages from “the vastness of cosmos,” including two sets of documents, the “Esoteric Doctrines of the Liberation Enlightenment” and the “Liberation Scripts,” which set forth the “Christ government” he intends to establish. In a Silver Shirt newsletter, Pelley writes: “It is the order of things that those wicked and malignant spirits who have incarnated in certain sections of the Hebrew race trying to bring the downfall of the Christ Peoples, should meet a fearful fate in this closing of the Cycle of Cosmic Event. That contest is on-the-make and Hitler’s job it has been to do the advance work. But Hitler is not going to finish that work. THE FINISH OF IT COMES RIGHT HERE IN AMERICA!” Pelley writes that “the Jew” is possessed of a “nomadic character, making him an internationalist whose ultimate objectives may well mean the destruction and disappearance of the United States.” (American Jewish Committee 8/24/1933; Ian Geldard 2/19/1995; David Neiwert 6/17/2003)
Spike in Membership Will Dwindle - Pelley’s group will enjoy its largest membership of some 15,000 in 1934; four years later, the group will dwindle to around 5,000 members. (The Holocaust Chronicle 2009) Pelley will be convicted of sedition in 1942, and by the time he emerges from prison in 1950, his Silver Shirts will have long since disappeared.
'Christian Fascist' - In the early 1980s, graduate student Karen Hoppes will write extensively about Pelley. She will write of his Christian fundamentalism: “[T]he link with fundamental Christianity establishes the uniqueness of American fascism. The majority of fascist groups justified their existence by their desire to change the United States into a Christian society.… The relationship between the religious identity of these groups and their political demands can be shown by a careful survey of their rhetoric. The Christian fascist does not distinguish between the application of the terms anti-Christ, Jew, and Communist. Neither does he distinguish between Gentile and Christian.” (David Neiwert 6/17/2003)
The Posse Comitatus, an anti-Semitic, right-wing “Christian Identity” organization (see 1960s and After), is founded by retired dry-cleaning executive Henry L. Beach in Portland, Oregon, who calls his organization the Sherriff’s Posse Comitatus (SPC) or Citizen’s Law Enforcement Research Committee (CLERC). Beach has supported Nazism since the 1930s, and formerly led a neo-Nazi organization called the Silver Shirts (see January 31, 1933). The Posse Comitatus is quickly taken over by William Potter Gale, a retired Army colonel who founded a similar organization called the US Christian Posse Association in Glendale, California, and manages to roll the two groups, and a few other loosely organized entities, into one. The Posse Comitatus dedicates itself to survivalism, vigilantism, and anti-government activities; its bylaws state that no federal or state governmental entity has any legal standing, and only county and town governments are legitimate. Furthermore, the organization believes that the entire federal government is controlled by Jews, and as such has no authority over whites. Beach’s original Posse manual states, “[O]fficials of government who commit criminal acts or who violate their oath of office… shall be removed by the posse to the most populated intersection of streets in the township and, at high noon, be hung by the neck, the body remaining until sundown as an example to those who would subvert the law.” According to a 1986 advisory published by the IRS, “members associated with some of the Posse groups wear tiny gold hangmen’s nooses on their lapels.” Posse members refuse to pay taxes whenever they can get away with it, and ignore laws that they feel cannot be enforced by “the enemy.” Instead, they claim to abide by a “common law,” defined as a set of principles that they themselves create and change at will. The organization begins making inroads into the farm communities of the Northwest and Upper Midwest after federal mismanagement of agricultural policies threatens the livelihood of many area farmers; the Posse tells them, “Farmers are victims of a Jewish-controlled government and banking system, federal taxes are illegal and loans need not be repaid.” Some area farmers embrace the message, and the Posse begins heavily recruiting in Michigan. (Ian Geldard 2/19/1995; Nicole Nichols 2003)
Anti-Government, Anti-Tax Ideology - The Posse Comitatus believes that the federal and state governments are inherently illegal and have no authority whatsoever; the highest elected official of the land, it says, is the county sheriff, who can form juries and call out “posses” of citizens to enforce the law as necessary. The movement strongly opposes paying taxes, particularly to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and considers money issued by the Federal Reserve System as illegal. It says that the Constitution’s 16th Amendment, which gave Congress the right to tax citizens’ incomes, was illegally ratified and therefore unconstitutional; moreover, it says, careful examination of federal law tells it that income taxes are entirely voluntary. The Federal Reserve System is, as one Posse publication puts it, “a private monopoly which neither the people nor the states authorized in the Constitution.” The Federal Reserve’s printed money violates the Constitution. Some, but not all, Posse Comitatus members also express racist and separatist views similar to those of Christian Identity believers (see 1960s and After); these members say that the Federal Reserve is controlled by a small cabal of international Jewish bankers who intend to destroy the American economy. (Mark Pitcavage 5/6/1996; US Constitution: Sixteenth Amendment 2011; Anti-Defamation League 2011) Posse Comitatus members use the threat of violence, and sometimes actual violence, to express their anti-tax and anti-government ideologies (see 1972 and 1974).
Township Movement - The Posse spawns a directly related ideology, the “township movement,” led in part by Utah resident Walt P. Mann. Township advocates advocate setting up small sovereign communities that are answerable only to themselves. The Posse will set up a “constitutional township” on a 1,400-acre plot in Wisconsin and name it “Tigerton Dells,” posting signs that say, “Federal Agents Keep out; Survivors will be Prosecuted.” Tigerton Dells will appoint its own judges and foreign ambassadors before federal authorities seize the property (see 1984).
Movement Spreads throughout Northwest, Plains States - By 1976, an FBI report says that the Posse Comitatus movement will consist of up to 50,000 adherents throughout the Northwest and Great Plains states. The center of the movement is at Tigerton Dells; Posse members there will disrupt local government meetings and assault public officials. The farm crisis of the early 1980s will allow the Posse to begin converting angry, frightened farmers throughout the region. In 1996, the Anti-Defamation League’s Mark Pitcavage will write, “The Posse offered up targets for people to blame: the courts, the money system, the federal government, the Jews.”
Waging Legal Battles - While some Posse members offer violence to law enforcement and public officials (see February 13, 1983 and After), most of their battles with the government take place in court. Posse members most frequently use two common legal strategems: filing frivolous liens on the properties of public officials who oppose or anger them, particularly IRS agents, and flooding the courts with a barrage of legal documents, filings, motions, and appeals. The liens carry no legal weight but sometimes damage the recipients’ credit scores and interfere with the recipients’ ability to buy or sell property. The court documents, often written in arcane, archaic, and contradictory legal language, clog the court system and frustate judges and prosecutors. A related tactic is the establishment of “common law courts,” vigilante courts that often threaten public officials. (Mark Pitcavage 5/6/1996)
Inspiration to Other Groups - The Posse Comitatus’s ideology will inspire other anti-government groups, such as the Montana Freemen (see 1993-1994).
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