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Profile: Mark Potok
Mark Potok was a participant or observer in the following events:
Alan Berg. [Source: Denver Post]Alan Berg, a Jewish, progressive talk show host for Denver’s KOA 850 AM Radio, is gunned down in his driveway as he is stepping out of his car. The murder is carried out by members of the violent white-supremacist group The Order (see Late September 1983), a splinter group of the Aryan Nations white nationalist movement. Berg, who was described as often harsh and abrasive, regularly confronted right-wing and militia members on his show. Federal investigators learn that The Order’s “hit list” includes Berg, television producer Norman Lear, a Kansas federal judge, and Morris Dees, a civil rights lawyer and co-founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). Radio producer Anath White later says that some of Berg’s last shows were particularly rancorous, involving confrontational exchanges with anti-Semitic members of the Christian Identity movement (see 1960s and After). “That got him on the list and got him moved up the list to be assassinated,” White will say. [HistoryLink, 12/6/2006; Rocky Mountain News, 5/1/2007; Denver Post, 6/18/2009]
Preparing for the Murder - Order leader Robert Jay Mathews had already sent a colleague to Denver to determine if Berg was a viable target (see May 17, 1984). The four members of the assassination team—Mathews, Bruce Pierce, David Lane, and Richard Scutari—assemble at a local Motel 6 to review their plans. Pierce, the assassin, has brought a .45 caliber Ingram MAC-10 submachine gun for the job. All four men begin to surveill Berg’s townhouse.
Gunned Down - At 9:21 p.m., Berg drives his Volkswagen Beetle into his driveway. Lane, the driver, pulls up behind him. Mathews leaps out of the car and opens the rear door for Pierce, who jumps out and runs up the driveway. Berg exits his vehicle with a bag of groceries. Pierce immediately opens fire with his submachine gun, pumping either 12 or 13 bullets into Berg’s face and body before the gun jams. (Sources claim both figures of bullet wounds in Berg as accurate.) Pierce and Mathews get back into their car, rush back to the Motel 6, gather their belongings, and leave town. Three of the four members of the “hit squad” will soon be apprehended, charged, and convicted. Pierce is sentenced to 252 years in prison, including time for non-related robberies, and will die in prison in 2010; Lane is given 150 years, and will die in prison in 2007. Neither man is prosecuted for murder, as the evidence will be determined to be inconclusive; rather, they will be charged with violating Berg’s civil rights. Scutari, accused of serving as a lookout for Pierce, and Jean Craig, accused of collecting information on Berg for the murder, will both be acquitted of culpability in the case, but will be convicted of other unrelated crimes. Mathews will not be charged due to lack of evidence of his participation; months later, he will die in a confrontation with law enforcement officials (see December 8, 1984). [Rocky Mountain News, 5/1/2007; Denver Post, 6/18/2009; Denver Post, 8/17/2010] In sentencing Pierce to prison, Judge Richard Matsch will say of the murder, “The man [Berg] was killed for who he was, what he believed in, and what he said and did, and that crime strikes at the very core of the Constitution.” [Denver Post, 8/17/2010]
Re-Enacting a Fictional Murder? - Some will come to believe that the assassins may have attempted to re-enact the fictional murder of a Jewish talk-show host depicted in The Turner Diaries (see 1978). [Rocky Mountain News, 5/1/2007; The Moderate Voice, 11/30/2007]
'Opening Shot ... of a Truly Revolutionary Radical Right' - Mark Potok of the SPLC will characterize Berg’s murder as an early event leading to the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995). “In a sense, it was one of the opening shots of a truly revolutionary radical right,” Potok will say, “perfectly willing to countenance the mass murder of American civilians for their cause.” [Denver Post, 6/18/2009] Berg’s ex-wife, Judith Berg, will travel around the country in the years after her ex-husband’s murder, speaking about what she calls the “disease and anatomy of hate,” a sickness that can infect people so strongly that they commit horrible crimes. In 2007, she will tell a reporter that Berg’s murder was a watershed event that inspired more hate-movement violence. “What happened to Alan in the grown-up world has reached into the youth culture,” she will say. “It opened the door to an acceptance of violence as a means of acting on hate.… While our backs are turned toward overseas, hate groups are having a heyday. People are very unhappy; they’re out of work and jobs are scarce. They’re ripe for joining extremist groups. We need to understand what happened to make sure it doesn’t happen again.” [Rocky Mountain News, 5/1/2007] White later says of Pierce, Lane, and their fellows: “It’s left me to wonder what makes somebody like this. I think these people didn’t have much opportunity in their lives and scapegoat. They blame others for not making it.” [Denver Post, 8/17/2010]
Entity Tags: Norman Lear, Robert Jay Mathews, Richard Scutari, Morris Dees, Richard P. Matsch, Mark Potok, Jean Margaret Craig, Judith Berg, Alan Berg, Anath White, Aryan Nations, Bruce Carroll Pierce, David Edan Lane, KOA 850 AM Radio, The Order
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
James Byrd Jr. [Source: EbonyInspired (.com)]James Byrd Jr., an African-American resident of Jasper, Texas, is murdered by three white men in what appears to be a racially motivated incident. Jasper County District Attorney Guy James Gray calls the killing “probably the most brutal I’ve ever seen” in 20 years as a prosecutor. Within hours of the attack, John William “Bill” King, Lawrence Russell Brewer, and Shawn Allen Berry are arrested and charged with murder and kidnapping. All three men have prison records and room together in a local apartment; King and Brewer are members of the white supremacist groups Aryan Nations and Confederate Knights of America, the latter an offshoot of the Ku Klux Klan. The police find racist literature in their apartment [New York Times, 6/10/1998; CNN, 7/6/1998] , including documents written by King and Brewer indicating that they intended to start a new white supremacist group of their own. [New York Times, 2/17/1999] Local Klan organizations quickly disavow any connection to the crimes. [New York Times, 6/17/1998]
Last Ride - Byrd, walking home from a bridal shower, accepts a ride from the three; by all accounts, he does not know the men. Instead of taking Byrd home, the three drive him to a wooded area, beat him, chain him by the ankles to Berry’s truck, and drag him down a rough logging road east of Jasper. The dragging tears Byrd’s body into pieces; his severed head, neck, and right arm are discovered about a mile from where the three finally dump his mangled torso. During the trial, a doctor testifies that he believes Byrd is alive and perhaps conscious until his body strikes a culvert, where his head and arm are torn from his body. Dr. Thomas Brown tells the court, “He was alive when the head, shoulder, and right arm were separated.” The local sherriff, tipped off by an anonymous phone call, finds Byrd’s remains. A trail of blood, body parts, and personal effects stretches for two miles down the road. Berry, who cooperates with police and leads them to King and Brewer, later tells investigators that Brewer sprays Byrd’s face with black paint before he and King chain him to the back of the truck. [State of Texas, 7/1/1998; CNN, 7/6/1998; CNN, 7/8/1998; CNN, 2/22/1999] Investigators find a cigarette lighter dropped at the scene, inscribed with a Klan insignia, that belongs to King. [New York Times, 6/10/1998] Experts also tie blood on the truck, and on the three men’s clothes and shoes, to Byrd. [New York Times, 2/19/1999; New York Times, 9/24/1999] Berry’s involvement surprises many area residents, who characterize him as a petty criminal who they believed was incapable of being involved in such a brutal crime. A friend says: “I never heard Shawn say anything racist. I have a lot of black friends. He has a lot of black friends. All this news has just shocked me and everyone he knows.” Friends are less surprised at the involvement of King and Brewer, both of whom they say had their racial hatred intensified during their prison terms. “The level of racism in prison is very high,” says Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center. “The truth is, you may go in completely unracist and emerge ready to kill people who don’t look like you.” [New York Times, 6/17/1998]
Funeral Draws National Attention - Dozens of civil rights leaders and national politicians join area residents at Byrd’s funeral, and call for an end to racial hatred and intolerance (see June 13, 1998).
Father Apologizes - King’s father, Ronald L. King, also a Jasper resident, releases a letter apologizing for his son’s actions. The letter reads in part: “My sympathy goes out to the Byrd family. There is no reason for a person to take the life of another, and to take it in such a manner is beyond any kind of reasoning. It hurts me deeply to know that a boy I raised and considered to be the most loved boy I knew could find it in himself to take a life. This deed cannot be undone, but I hope we can all find it in our hearts to go forward in peace and with love for all. Let us find in our hears love for our fellow man. Hate can only destroy. Again, I want to say I’m sorry.”
Clinton: Town Must 'Join Together across Racial Lines' - President Clinton calls the murder shocking and outrageous, and says the residents of Jasper “must join together across racial lines to demonstrate that an act of evil like this is not what this country is all about.… I think we’ve all been touched by it, and I can only imagine that virtually everyone who lives there is in agony at this moment.” [New York Times, 6/11/1998]
Indications of Klan Activity in Area - The mayor of Jasper, R. C. Horn, an African-American, says that the city is relatively peaceful from a racial aspect, and says the city “has a strong bind together, both black and white.” But Gary Bledsoe of the Texas chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) says the area of east Texas that contains Jasper has been a center of Klan activity for years. Bledsoe points to serious problems in the nearby town of Vidor, for years a de facto “white town,” that centered around integrating a housing project. Lou Ann Reed, a local cashier, says she deplores the killing: “I don’t think anybody should be treated that way, I don’t care what color they are. Not even an animal.” Reed, who is white, refuses to answer when asked if she has heard that some white residents might have sympathies with white supremacist groups; when asked if the killing surprised her, she says, “Nothing surprises me anymore.” Black residents tell reporters that harassment and physical abuse from whites is not uncommon, and there are areas in and around town they have learned not to frequent for fear of being attacked. [New York Times, 6/10/1998; New York Times, 6/11/1998] A New York Times editorial calls the murder a “lynching by pickup truck.” [New York Times, 6/14/1998] Both local Klan organizations and black militant organizations march in Jasper shortly after Byrd’s murder (see June 27, 1998).
Hate Crime - Texas authorities charge King, Brewer, and Berry with a variety of felonies, including murder and kidnapping; the addition of hate crime charges makes them eligible for the death penalty. During their trials, both Brewer and King are depicted as unrepentant white racists. King’s former supervisor, roofing contractor Dennis Symmack, says that though a quiet man, King harbors strongly racist views. “Bill was a quiet man, not a talker,” Symmack testifies, and recalls King expressing “an intense dislike of blacks.” Symmack says that according to King, “[B]lacks are different from whites and are taking over everything—taking over welfare.” Tattoo artist Johnny Mosley, a former inmate who served time with King, says that King asked for an array of racist tattoos—including one depicting the lynching of a black man and another reading “Aryan Pride”—in large part to intimidate other inmates and to avoid being sexually assaulted. [CNN, 7/6/1998; New York Times, 7/7/1998; New York Times, 2/19/1999; CNN, 2/22/1999; New York Times, 2/24/1999] During the trial, King claims that the crime was not racially motivated, but was impelled by Berry’s desire to buy drugs from Byrd; additionally, he claims that Berry’s abuse of steroids prompted the brutalization of their victim, and that he himself had nothing to do with assaulting Byrd. Authorities find King’s claims entirely baseless [New York Times, 11/12/1998] ; instead, prosecutors tell the court that King wanted to start his own white supremacist group, and targeted Byrd as a way to shine attention on himself and gain members. [New York Times, 2/17/1999; CNN, 2/22/1999] During his trial, Brewer attempts to blame Berry for the actual murder, an argument that the jury disregards in favor of a letter written by Brewer bragging about his role in the murder and saying: “Well, I did it. And no longer am I a virgin. It was a rush, and I’m still licking my lips for more.” [New York Times, 9/24/1999] All three are found guilty; King and Brewer are sentenced to death, and Berry receives life in prison with no chance of parole until 2039. Both King and Brewer later write racist graffiti on the walls of their jail cells. In a jailhouse letter to Brewer, King will write of his pride in the crime, and accepts the fact that he may die for it. “Regardless of the outcome of this, we have made history,” King says in the letter intercepted by jail officials. “Death before dishonor. Sieg Heil!” [New York Times, 11/18/1998; New York Times, 2/17/1999; New York Times, 2/19/1999; New York Times, 2/24/1999; New York Times, 9/24/1999] During the closing arguments of King’s trial, Gray discusses the concept of violent racism: “It’s something that’s a virus. It’s something that’s dangerous. It’s something that spreads from one person to another.” [New York Times, 2/24/1999]
Murders Sparks Hate-Crime Legislation - The murder of Byrd and a subsequent murder of a gay Colorado student, Matthew Shepard (see October 9, 1998 and After), will be a catalyst for the passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act (see October 28, 2009).
Entity Tags: Thomas Brown, William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton, Shawn Allen Berry, James Byrd, Jr, Confederate Knights of America, Gary Bledsoe, Dennis Symmack, Ronald L. King, Aryan Nations, Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, James Gray, Ku Klux Klan, Lawrence Russell Brewer, Lou Ann Reed, Mark Potok, John William (“Bill”) King, R.C. Horn
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
Around 10,000 people attend the “Center for Preparedness Expo” in Denver to prepare for the imminent “Y2K” collapse of society warned of by many white separatists and “Patriot” movement members (see October 20, 1999 and February 4, 1999). The expo has traveled the country, including a stop in Philadelphia in June. Promoter Dan Chittock says the show offers “practical information for the uncertain times we live in,” but Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center says the expo features what he calls “a queer mix of people interested in organic farming and political extremism.” Visitors can buy anything from radiation detectors, tents, and survival rations to guides on avoiding income taxes and making their own license plates to avoid paying licensing fees for their vehicles. Lectures are offered with such titles as “Trapping Techniques for Self-Reliance and Survival,” “Don’t Get Caught With Your Pantry Down,” and “Save Your Life, Be Your Own Doctor.” Three seminars are about life under martial law. Previous expos have featured speakers such as militia leader Bo Gritz, who has spoken about coming plagues, imminent food shortages, and how President Clinton has sold out America. Stephen O’Leary, a University of Southern California professor who studies beliefs about the millennium, says that the expos have become recruitment centers for anti-government, survivalist militia groups who often hold racist and anti-Semitic views. “It’s not just about preparing for an emergency or disaster,” he says. “What they’re selling is a whole world view—a program for the apocalypse.” Potok, who has attended previous expos, says “it’s not unusual to see booths for the John Birch Society (see March 10, 1961 and December 2011) and the Montana Militia next to a granola salesman.” The radical right, Potok says, is using fears of the upcoming millennium—“Y2K”—to fuel hysteria about what they say is the imminent declaration of martial law by the federal government and the eradication of constitutional liberties. Chittock calls such concerns “nonsense.” Barry Morrison of the Anti-Defamation League says of the expos: “What we’re concerned about is that some people take the position that the government is not to be trusted. Some of these exhibitors… portray people like Jews in an unfavorable light and as having undue control over their lives.” Morrison says anti-Semitic tracts espousing “Christian Identity” ideology (see 1960s and After) have appeared at previous expos. He also says Gritz’s Liberty Lobby is “the most influential anti-Semitic propaganda organization in America today.” He adds: “I’m not saying everyone [at the expos] is an extremist or subscribes to those views, but this is a vehicle that attracts that element. It’s part of the mix.” [Philadelphia Inquirer, 6/11/1999; Southern Poverty Law Center, 6/2001]
Jared Taylor. [Source: Jared Taylor]The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette publishes a profile of Jared Taylor, an academic often seen and heard on news and opinion broadcasts as a “race-relations expert,” but called by the Post-Gazette “a racist in the guise of [an] ‘expert.’” The profile follows a number of radio appearances made by Taylor on January 17, the federal holiday honoring the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.; Taylor, according to the Post-Gazette, told his audiences that King “was a philanderer, a plagiarist, and a drinker who left a legacy of division and resentment, and was unworthy of a national holiday.” Taylor heads the New Century Foundation (NCF), a Virginia-based organization that promotes the ideas that blacks are genetically less intelligent than whites, are sexually promiscuous because of hyperactive sex drives, and other pseudo-scientific ideas about blacks and other minorities. The Post-Gazette writes that “Taylor keeps company with a collection of racists, racial ‘separatists,’ and far-right extremists,” including some of the NCF board members, who have included members of the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC), the successor to the White Citizens Councils of the 1950s and ‘60s; a member of the American Friends of the British National Party (BNP), a far-right neo-Nazi political party in Britain; and an anti-immigration author who has reviewed books for a Holocaust denial journal. Taylor publishes American Renaissance magazine, which regularly publishes “academic” follies that “prove” multiculturalism is wrong. He once wrote for the magazine, “If whites permit themselves to be displaced, it is not just the high culture of the West that could disappear but such things as representative government, rule of law, and freedom of speech, which whites usually get right and everyone else usually gets wrong.” Taylor, like former Klan leader David Duke, Web site owner and former Klansman Don Black (see March 1995), and others, is among the leaders of what the Post-Gazette calls “the new tactics of white supremacy.” Taylor and his confreres eschew the crude race-baiting and calls for explicit violence for more dispassionate, pseudo-academic and media-friendly presentations that use false science and “moderate” language to push their racist views. Taylor’s staff secured a half-dozen radio spots for King’s holiday by sending out the following email to dozens of radio stations: “Not everyone celebrates the legacy of Martin Luther King. Editor of American Renaissance magazine and race-relations expert Jared Taylor would be pleased to offer your listeners a view of Dr. King that challenges conventional wisdom.” The email listed Taylor’s resume: degrees from Yale and the Institute for Political Study in Paris, business consultant in Japan, author of four books. “Jared Taylor is the cultivated, cosmopolitan face of white supremacy,” says Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center. “He is the guy who is providing the intellectual heft, in effect, to modern-day Klansmen.” Taylor denies ever being a member of the Klan, or even knowing any Klan members, but both Black and Duke have appeared at his American Renaissance conferences; Potok has a photograph of Black having a beer at Taylor’s kitchen table. Taylor routinely denies publishing racially inflammatory material in his magazine, even when confronted with the actual published material, and denies writing white supremacist material for the BNP’s monthly magazine, Spearhead, even though his work (published under his “other name,” Samuel Taylor, is readily accessible). He says that those who call him a racist merely want to avoid having a rational discussion about his ideas. However, his ties with racist organizations are easily proven. Taylor has hosted former BNP leader John Tyndall at his home in Oakton, Virginia. The NCF’s 1999 tax returns list the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC) as an organization to which the NCF is “related… through common membership, governing bodies, trustees, officers, etc.” [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 1/23/2005] The Anti-Defamation League will later write, “[Taylor] maintains ties to a variety of racist organizations, publications, and individuals, both domestic and international, and many of North America’s leading intellectual racists have written for American Renaissance or have addressed the biennial American Renaissance conferences.” [Anti-Defamation League, 2011]
Michael Lefkow and Donna Humphrey are found dead of gunshots to the head in the Lefkows’ Chicago basement. The two are the husband and mother, respectively, of Federal District Judge Joan Humphrey Lefkow, who has endured four years’ worth of death threats ever since she ordered the World Church of the Creator (WCOTC—see May 1996 and After) to abandon its name as a result of a trademark infringement lawsuit (see November 2002). Authorities are investigating whether members of the Creativity Movement, as the WCOTC is now known, are responsible for the murders. In 2004, WCOTC leader Matthew Hale was convicted of soliciting Lefkow’s murder (see April 26, 2004). Her daughter Laura Lefkow says, “I think she’s very upset with herself, maybe, for being a judge and putting her family in this danger, but there’s no way she should have known.” White supremacists celebrate the murders on their Web sites, while others theorize that Hale’s enemies murdered the two to affect his upcoming sentencing for his crimes (see April 6, 2005). Bill White, the editor of the Libertarian Socialist News, writes: “Everyone associated with the Matt Hale trial has deserved assassination for a long time. I don’t feel bad that Judge Lefkow’s family was murdered today. In fact, when I heard the story, I laughed.” Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, says, “We saw what happened the last time Matt Hale got slapped in the face by the system; the price of that was two dead and nine severely wounded.” Potok is referring to the 1999 killing spree by WCOTC member Benjamin Smith in response to Hale’s denial of a law license (see July 2-4, 1999). “Now Matt Hale is about to be sentenced, very probably, to most of his natural life to federal prison. It’s very possible that a Hale follower or sympathizer has decided to fight back.” Hale’s friend Billy Roper, who leads a group called White Revolution, disavows the murders, but draws a parallel between the Lefkow murders and the 1992 standoff at Ruby Ridge (see August 31, 1992), saying: “We can stand alongside the federal law enforcement community in saying just as they felt a deep regret and sadness over the death of Randy Weaver’s family, so we also feel a deep sense of regret and sadness over the death of Judge Lefkow’s family. If it was the case that someone was misguided and thought that they were helping Matt Hale, then it would be similar in that other people had suffered for one person’s mistake.” Hale’s mother, Evelyn Hutcheson, says her son had nothing to do with the murders: “He had nothing to do with what went on last night. My son is sitting in a hole where he’s not allowed to even speak loud enough to be audible. Common sense would tell you, if he were into having somebody kill somebody—which he is not—would he have somebody go kill the judge’s family just before he’s sentenced? Somebody has done this to make him get an enhanced sentence.” Chicago Police Department official James Molloy says: “There is much speculation about possible links between this crime and the possible involvement of hate groups. This is but one facet of our investigation. We are looking in many, many directions.” [New York Times, 3/2/2005; Chicago Tribune, 3/10/2005] Days later, the Chicago police will say that a man with no connection to Hale’s group may be responsible for the shootings (see March 10, 2005).
Entity Tags: Donna Humphrey, Bill White, Benjamin Smith, Billy Roper, Evelyn Hutcheson, James Molloy, Matthew Hale, Mark Potok, World Church of the Creator, Joan Humphrey Lefkow, Michael Lefkow, Laura Lefkow
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
Jimmy Carter speaks at Emory University. [Source: CNN]Former President Jimmy Carter says that he believes much of the opposition to President Barack Obama is fueled by racism. “When a radical fringe element of demonstrators and others begin to attack the president of the United States as an animal or as a reincarnation of Adolf Hitler or when they wave signs in the air that said we should have buried Obama with Kennedy, those kinds of things are beyond the bounds,” he tells a group of students at Emory University in Atlanta. Carter, a native Georgian, has taught at Emory since 1982. “I think people who are guilty of that kind of personal attack against Obama have been influenced to a major degree by a belief that he should not be president because he happens to be African-American. It’s a racist attitude, and my hope is and my expectation is that in the future both Democratic leaders and Republican leaders will take the initiative in condemning that kind of unprecedented attack on the president of the United States.” Carter adds: “I live in the south, and I’ve seen the south come a long way, and I’ve seen the rest of the country that shared the south’s attitude toward minority groups at that time, particularly African-Americans. And that racism inclination still exists. And I think it’s bubbled up to the surface because of the belief among many white people, not just in the south but around the country, that African-Americans are not qualified to lead this great country. It’s an abominable circumstance, and it grieves me and concerns me very deeply.” Carter said the day before that he believes the “You lie!” shout at Obama by Representative Joe Wilson (R-SC) during Obama’s address to Congress (see September 9, 2009) may have been racially motivated. Michael Steele, the chairman of the Republican National Committee and the first African-American to hold that position, disagrees. “President Carter is flat-out wrong,” he says. “This isn’t about race. It is about policy.” Instead, Steele says Democrats are just trying to divert attention from what he calls Obama’s “wildly unpopular government-run health care plan.… Playing the race card shows that Democrats are willing to deal from the bottom of the deck.” Congressman Henry Johnson (D-GA), an African-American and a fellow Georgian, predicts that racial tensions will rise throughout the nation, saying, “I guess we’ll probably have folks putting on white hoods and white uniforms again and riding through the countryside.” Comedian Bill Cosby also agrees with Carter, calling Wilson’s shout and other displays of aggression towards Obama “public display[s] of disrespect.” White House press secretary Robert Gibbs refuses to comment on Carter’s statements [CNN, 9/15/2009; Guardian, 9/16/2009] other than noting, “I don’t believe the president agrees with [Carter].” He adds: “I don’t think the president believes that people are upset because of the color of his skin. I think people are upset because on Monday we celebrate the anniversary of the Lehman Brothers collapse that caused a financial catastrophe unlike anything we’ve ever seen.” [Christian Science Monitor, 9/16/2009] Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which tracks American hate groups, says Carter is correct in his assessment: “I think what President Carter said is precisely what is going on. I am not saying that everyone involved in opposing healthcare reform is a Klansman in disguise, but it is the elephant in the room.” Potok says the SPLC is tracking a sharp rise in the number of right-wing hate groups, violent plots, and racist incidents since Obama accepted the Democratic nomination for president in 2008. [Guardian, 9/16/2009]
Representative Steve King. [Source: The Iowa Republican (.com)]Some on the political right label Andrew Joseph Stack, who killed himself and an IRS manager by crashing his private plane into an Austin, Texas, office building (see February 18, 2010), a hero. The labeling begins when Stack’s adult daughter, Samantha Bells, calls him a hero because of his antigovernment views on an ABC morning talk show. While his suicide attack was “inappropriate,” she says, “[m]aybe now people will listen.” White supremacist Web sites and forums fill up with expressions of approval and support, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). One poster on the neo-Nazi Web site Stormfront calls Stack “a true HERO!!!” While Stack had no apparent connections to white supremacist or other hate groups, the SPLC’s Mark Potok says, many of those groups’ members have become excited by Stack’s action. “A few other white supremacists suggested that lionizing Stack could be a bad thing for the radical right, but they appeared to be in a minority,” Potok observes. Ken Hunter, who lost his father Vernon Hunter in the crash, says he is alarmed by the fact that some people are portraying Stack as noble and courageous. “How can you call someone a hero who after he burns down his house, he gets into his plane… and flies it into a building to kill people?” he asks on the same ABC broadcast. “My dad, Vernon, did tours of duty in Vietnam. My dad’s a hero.” [Christian Science Monitor, 2/22/2010] The controversy intensifies when Representative Steve King (R-IA) blames the IRS for Stack’s actions. He refuses to condemn the attack, or Hunter’s murder, saying instead: “I think if we’d abolished the IRS back when I first advocated it, he wouldn’t have a target for his airplane. And I’m still for abolishing the IRS, I’ve been for it for 30 years and I’m for a national sales tax.… It’s sad the incident in Texas happened, but by the same token, it’s an agency that is unnecessary and when the day comes when that is over and we abolish the IRS, it’s going to be a happy day for America.” Asked if Stack’s grievances against the IRS were legitimate, King responds: “I don’t know if his grievances were legitimate, I’ve read part of the material. I can tell you I’ve been audited by the IRS and I’ve had the sense of ‘Why is the IRS in my kitchen? Why do they have their thumb in the middle of my back?‘… It is intrusive and we can do a better job without them entirely.” [Think Progress, 2/22/2010]
Logo of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization that tracks the activities of so-called ‘hate groups’ around the US. [Source: GuideStar]The number of extremist militia and “patriot” groups has expanded dramatically since the election of President Obama, according to a report issued by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a nonprofit organization that tracks “hate groups” and other, similar organizations. The number has expanded from 149 in 2008 to 512 in 2009—a 244 percent increase. “That is a lot of change in a short period of time,” says SPLC research director Heidi Beirich. The SPLC report says the number has “exploded in 2009 as militias and other groups steeped in wild, antigovernment conspiracy theories exploited populist anger across the country and infiltrated the mainstream.” While many of these groups do not espouse violence and are not considered a direct threat to government officials, government property, or citizens, some of them do advocate violent strikes against government organizations and/or “liberal” groups or individuals. The number dwindled during the eight years of the Bush presidency, the SPLC reports, but since the election of a black, Democratic president, along with a poorly performing economy and a female speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), as catalyzing factors, the number has increased, and continues to grow. “The country is becoming more diverse,” Beirich says. “Some people find it hard to handle.… These are extreme stressors for people.” Chip Berlet, an analyst for Political Research Associates, writes: “We are in the midst of one of the most significant right-wing populist rebellions in United States history. We see around us a series of overlapping social and political movements populated by people [who are] angry, resentful, and full of anxiety. They are raging against the machinery of the federal bureaucracy and liberal government programs and policies including health care, reform of immigration and labor laws, abortion, and gay marriage.” The SPLC tracked 42 armed and potentially violent militias in 2008; that number has grown by over 300 percent, to 127, since then. The SPLC writes: “Patriot groups have been fueled by anger over the changing demographics of the country, the soaring public debt, the troubled economy, and an array of initiatives by President Obama and the Democrats that have been branded ‘socialist’ or even ‘fascist’ by his political opponents (see August 1, 2008 and After, October 10, 2008, October 27, 2008, January 2009, March 4-6, 2009, March 17, 2009, March 25, 2009, March 29, 2009, April 1-2, 2009, April 3-7, 2009, April 9-22, 2009, May 13, 2009, May 28, 2009, July 24, 2009, Late July, 2009, August 10, 2009, August 11, 2009, August 18, 2009, September 1, 2009, September 12, 2009, September 17, 2009, November 5, 2009, January 27, 2010, May 7, 2010, May 19, 2010, May 25, 2010, July 3-4, 2010, September 13, 2010, September 18, 2010, September 21, 2010, September 29, 2010, September 29, 2010, October 3, 2010, October 14, 2010, October 26, 2010, November 16, 2010, and April 27, 2011). Report editor Mark Potok says: “This extraordinary growth is a cause for grave concern. The people associated with the Patriot movement during its 1990s heyday produced an enormous amount of violence, most dramatically the Oklahoma City bombing that left 168 people dead” (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995). Moreover, the report finds, the “patriot” movement has made common cause with the “tea party” political movement, and the two are becoming more and more entwined. The report finds, “The ‘tea parties’ and similar groups that have sprung up in recent months cannot fairly be considered extremist groups, but they are shot through with rich veins of radical ideas, conspiracy theories, and racism.” The “patriot” movement’s central ideas are being promoted by national figures, such as Fox News talk show host Glenn Beck and lawmakers such as House member Michele Bachmann (R-MN). The number of identified “racist hate groups” has not increased significantly from 2008 from 2009, the report finds, growing from 926 to 932. However, the growth rate would have been far higher if it were not for the collapse of the American National Socialist Workers Party, a key neo-Nazi network whose founder was arrested in October 2008 (see December 18, 2009). So-called “nativist extremist” groups, vigilante organizations that go beyond advocating strict immigration policy and actually confront or harass suspected immigrants, have also grown in number, from 173 in 2008 to 309 in 2009, a rise of nearly 80 percent. The SPLC reports: “These three strands of the radical right—the hate groups, the nativist extremist groups, and the Patriot organizations—are the most volatile elements on the American political landscape. Taken together, their numbers increased by more than 40 percent, rising from 1,248 groups in 2008 to 1,753 last year.” The report warns that the number and intensity of violence from these groups, and from “lone wolf” extremists perhaps triggered by these groups’ rhetoric and actions, is increasing. Since Obama took office in January 2009, six law enforcement officers have been murdered by right-wing extremists. There are large and increasing numbers of arrests of racist “skinheads” for plotting to assassinate Obama, and an increasing number of anti-government extremists have been arrested for fomenting bomb plots. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 3/2010; Southern Poverty Law Center, 3/2/2010; Detroit Free Press, 3/31/2010] A Detroit Free Press report will directly tie the Michigan Hutaree, a radical Christian group arrested for planning the murder of local police officers (see March 27-30, 2010), to the growing trend of militant activity documented in the SPLC report. Political science professor Michael Barkun, an expert on extremist religious groups, says of the Hutaree arrests: “I don’t think this is the last we’re going to see of these groups. The number of such groups has increased fairly dramatically in the last couple of years.” Beirich will note that the Hutaree were not isolated from other militias: “They were part of the broader militia movement,” she says. However, her conclusion is disputed by Michigan militia member Michael Lackomar. “They more closely fit the definition of a cult,” Lackomar will say. “They believe the world is about to end according to how it was written in the Bible, and their job is to stand up and clear the way for Jesus and fight alongside him against the forces of darkness.” While “[a] lot of people are upset at an ever-growing government that is overreaching,” Lackomar will say, most militias do not go to the Hutaree’s extremes. He will call the Hutaree’s plans to attack police officers “despicable.” [Detroit Free Press, 3/31/2010]
Entity Tags: Michael Barkun, Glenn Beck, Chip Berlet, Bush administration (43), Barack Obama, American National Socialist Workers Party, Heidi Beirich, Hutaree, Mark Potok, Michele Bachmann, Nancy Pelosi, Southern Poverty Law Center, Michael Lackomar
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
Infowars (.com) logo. [Source: The Jeenyus Corner (.com]Kurt Nimmo, writing for the right-wing conspiracy Web site Infowars (.com), calls the recent MSNBC documentary featuring the confession of convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see April 15-18, 2010) a “fairy tale.” Nimmo writes: “On the fifteenth anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing, MSNBC ran a documentary supposedly detailing Timothy McVeigh’s death row ‘confession.’ The documentary—actually a fairy tale of easily debunked government propaganda hosted by the ‘progressive’ Rachel Maddow—employs alleged tape recordings of McVeigh coupled with cheesy computer simulations intended to dredge up the government version of events and thus rekindle hysteria manufactured in the 1990s concerning the threat posed by militias and patriot groups.” Nimmo says the documentary “omits a large amount of evidence that seriously undermines the government version repeated and amplified by the corporate media (see (see 1983, January 23, 1993 - Early 1994, April 1993, October 12, 1993 - January 1994, August 1994 - March 1995, August - September 1994, September 12, 1994 and After, September 13, 1994 and After, November 1994, December 1994, February 1995, March 1995, (April 1) - April 18, 1995, April 5, 1995, April 8, 1995, and Before 9:00 A.M. April 19, 1995), and recounts a number of oddities surrounding the bombing that have not yet been explained, such as the “inexplicable” absence of FBI and BATF agents in the Murrah Building the day of the bombing (eight federal agents were killed in the blast—see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), allegations that judicial and FBI officials were warned about the bombing ahead of time, and a raft of unexplained information about other possible conspirators (see April 15, 1995, 9:00 p.m. April 17, 1995, 3:00 p.m. April 17, 1995, April 18, 1995, April 20, 1995, April 21, 1995, April 29, 1995, and June 14, 1995). Nimmo calls the documentary “crude propaganda” designed to conceal what he calls the likelihood that the bombing was a government operation designed to demonize militia and anti-government organizations. He says the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), an anti-hate organization that tracks violent anti-government organizations, is one of the organizations behind the documentary, and calls the SPLC’s Mark Potok, who appears in the documentary, the organization’s “propaganda minister.” He concludes: “The OK City bombing was a false flag attack perpetuated by the government ‘to gain a political end’ and that end was to demonize political opposition. It is an effort that continues today and will expand as the political opposition gains popular support.” [Kurt Nimmo, 4/25/2010]
Kevin Harpham. [Source: Seattle Times]Federal agents arrest ex-soldier Kevin William Harpham and charge him with planting a “backpack bomb” along the planned route of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day march in downtown Spokane, Washington (see January 17, 2011). Agents say that Harpham has ties to white supremacist groups; sources tell reporters that the FBI used DNA evidence and the purchases of electronic components to identify Harpham. He faces charges of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and possession of an unregistered explosive device, and if convicted could face life in prison. He is arrested without incident while driving near his home in rural Stevens County, northwest of Spokane and near the small town of Addy. According to information unearthed by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), an organization that monitors an array of hate groups and white supremacist organizations, in 2004 Harpham belonged to the neo-Nazi National Alliance (see 1970-1974). Former Aryan Nations leader Paul Mullet says that Harpham talked with him about joining his group in the mid-2000s, and said he had about a dozen conversations with Harpham. However, Mullet says, Harpham never joined the group. Harpham is a current member of the Vanguard News Network (VNN), a racist magazine for the National Alliance, which advocates the establishment of all-white communities. Evidence shows that Harpham has posted forum comments on VNN message boards both under his own name and apparently under the moniker “Joe Snuffy,” where he has asked about legal limits on ammunition possession and asked for help meeting local members of the American National Socialist Workers Party. In January 2011, he offered assistance to American neo-Nazi Craig Cobb, who days before the parade bombing called for his supporters to mount violent attacks (see Around January 8, 2011). SPLC director Mark Potok says, “What to me this arrest suggests is that the Martin Luther King Day attack is what it always looked like: A terror-mass murder attempt directed at black people and their sympathizers.” National Alliance chairman Erich Gliebe says Harpham is not a member of his organization, and says, “We have a zero tolerance policy regarding illegal activity and anyone committing those acts—even hinting or joking—would not be welcome in our organization.” Gliebe accuses the SPLC of trying to “smear” the National Alliance. Federal public defender Roger Peven, appointed to represent Harpham, says: “I know very little at this point. This is just the beginning of a long road.” Evidence against Harpham is scheduled to be presented to a grand jury on March 22, and if the jury indicts Harpham, he will be arraigned and a trial date set. Federal agents are in the process of searching Harpham’s trailer home; neighbors say they heard an explosion at the home, apparently set off by agents who breached Harpham’s front door. Investigators say they are not yet sure if others were involved in the attempted bombing. [Seattle Times, 3/9/2010; Spokane Spokesman-Review, 3/9/2011; TPM Muckraker, 3/10/2011] Investigators are looking into Harpham’s alleged neo-Nazi connections, they say, but as yet have not found evidence that Harpham colluded with any such groups or their members in making the bomb. They are looking at two recent neo-Nazi events held in Couer d’Alene, Idaho, 35 miles west of Spokane, to see if Harpham may have participated in the events or has connections with the participants. Tony Stewart of the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations in Coeur d’Alene says that area is a “hotbed” of neo-Nazi and white supremacist activity. FBI officials are calling Harpham’s alleged bombing attempt an act of domestic terrorism. [CNN, 3/9/2011; KLXY, 3/9/2011; TPM Muckraker, 3/10/2011]
Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation, Erich Josef Gliebe, Aryan Nations, American National Socialist Workers Party, Vanguard News Network, Tony Stewart, Roger Peven, Craig Cobb, National Alliance, Southern Poverty Law Center, Mark Potok, Kevin William Harpham, Paul Mullet
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
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