Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Right-Wing Extremism Expert Leonard Zeskind Analyzes the Movement That Nurtures Shooters Like Von Brunn and Roeder


I would say there is an increase in interest in the white nationalist movement now, but not necessarily an upsurge in violence that is out of the ordinary. It's something that is always there ...

-- Leonard Zeskind, author, Blood and Politics: The History of the White Nationalist Movement from the Margins to the Mainstream

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BuzzFlash is deeply concerned, yet eager to understand what's behind the recent killings at a Kansas reproductive health clinic and a Washington, D.C. Holocaust museum. Both prime suspects, Scott Roeder and James von Brunn, have had long and active relationships with radical right-wing groups such as the Freemen, Liberty Lobby and the National Alliance. Today we called up a person who has studied extremist groups and the shooters they spawn for decades -- author and anti-racism activist Leonard Zeskind.

Leonard Zeskind

In his heavily researched and much lauded book, Blood and Politics: The History of the White Nationalist Movement from the Margins to the Mainstream, Zeskind describes two extremist factions among the white supremacist, neo-Nazi, Holocaust-denier and anti-Semitic groups. The mainstreamists, he says, are like David Duke -- they seek a political base and larger numbers. The vanguardists are more interested in going out on their own -- acting on their beliefs in direct, targeted ways.

But as Zeskind told Bill Berkowitz recently: "… these are not a string of disconnected organizations sharing only a common set of hatreds. Rather, this is a single movement, with a common set of leaders and interlocking memberships that hold a complete and sometimes sophisticated ideology. Further, the white nationalist movement today is organized around the notion that the power of whites to control government and social policy has already been overthrown by people of color and Jews, rather unlike the Klan of the 1960s which sought to defend a system of racial apartheid in the South."

Zeskind talked with BuzzFlash about the relationship between the leaders and the shooters who make up a clearly dangerous radical movement. He suggests how America should see them, and how to respond.

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BuzzFlash: You've said, "This is a single movement ... with a common set of leaders and interlocking memberships ..." Who and what are some of them?

Leonard Zeskind: There's been a leadership shift ... during the period covered by most of my book, it would have been two camps. There's Willis Carto's Liberty Lobby, anti-Semites and Holocaust deniers. Von Brunn worked for him for a while in the Seventies. William Luther Pierce, former physics professor and author of The Turner Diaries, was founder of the National Alliance. But today there's a shift going on. I think that individual leaders are less important than they may have been several years ago.

The axis of groups includes the Council of Conservative Citizens, the lineal descendants of the old White Citizens' Councils, and American Renaissance, the Council's think tank arm, a player in the pseudo-scientific racism world. The Council was involved in the Confederate flag phenomenon.

David Duke now spends most of his time in Europe, and was arrested recently in Prague for Holocaust denial, which is against the law there.

The skinhead music scene factionalized along similar lines to factions in the United Kingdom, with one faction being the Hammerskins. There are many, many more organizations than just the central axis players.


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