The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on May 18, 1995 · Page 8
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 8

Salina, Kansas
Issue Date:
Thursday, May 18, 1995
Page 8
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A8 Thursday.May 18,1995 The Salina Journal Rebel voices: Extremism's face wears many guises, most of them ordinary; a history prof talks of war ^ FROM PAGE Al schools her children. What this suggests is not only that antigovernment extremism represents a vast subculture, but that it comes in many guises, and usually not jungle fatigues. Its typical camouflage is the ordinary . appearance and occupations of most far-right adherents. This 1 makes extremism easy to miss, or at least to dismiss. On the other hand, no one ever misses groups such as the Ku Klux Klan. Soon after the flag - march in South Carolina, I watched a rally by the Knights of - the KKK. The "grand dragon" for . the "realm of Kentucky" led 10 others down the street, with twice that number of police and TV cameras looking on. The KKK was , peaceful, polite and rather pitiful. A Klanswoman in furry earmuffs handed me a jelly doughnut and . said: "We've got a special on this month. If you and your wife both • join, it's $25, same as for one." . Starched shirts, strident opinions In March, there was another '. right-wing rally 10 miles down the road. This time the Klan didn't come, but the scene was far more . menacing, with several skinheads in the crowd and speakers who spewed venom at the state and its . presumed agents among liberal . and minority groups. Michael Hill, a professor who teaches history part time at the University of Al.' abama, told several hundred , cheering onlookers: "In remembering Randy . Weaver in Idaho and the Branch , Davidians in Waco, we must un', derstand one thing above all else. Our enemies are willing to kill us. It is open season on anyone who has the audacity to question the dictates of an all-powerful federal government or the illicit rights bestowed on a compliant and deadly underclass that now fulfills a role ." similar to that of Hitler's brown' shirted street thugs in the 1930s." Such thinking seems eerily reso- ' nant in the wake of the Oklahoma 'bombing; if the state and its brownshirts are after you, better to strike first. And if the source of ' the nation's law is tyrannical, then lawlessness is justified. Yet this speech and others even more inflammatory didn't make the nightly news. Innocuous names One reason: Hill wore a tie instead of a hood and took the podium as head of the blandly named Southern League. Contacted recently by telephone, he condemned the Oklahoma bombing, but conceded that remarks like his could incite violence: "I can't predict how someone who is a bit deranged may take what I say. Indi- 1 viduals are responsible for their own actions." Other far-right groups have adopted equally innocuous names: the Historic Preservation Association (a fanatical foe of civil-rights ' groups) or the Institute of Historical Review (a publisher of articles ' denying the Holocaust). The South Carolina flag rally was headed by the Council of Conservative Citizens, which sounds like a get-out- the-vote club. Yet recent issues of one of its publications, the Citizens Informer, include stories on the following: a government-aided conspiracy to create a black-ruled "Republic of New Africa" in the South; the rape and murder of a white woman by "Malcolm X followers;" and an editorial blasting political correctness as "deca- -dence and dishonesty used to destroy Christian American society, white leadership and the U.S. Constitution." • The Informer and similar pa- 'pers have a familiar ring, particularly in the South. While they rail against taxes and state tyranny, .much of what passes for "antigovernment" or "states-rights" sentiment is actually racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism, wrapped up in fashionable anti-Washington rhetoric. It is also given a fresh and respectable patina by its pre sentation in slick newsletters, radio broadcasts, audio and videotapes, and, inevitably, computer bulletin boards. This newfound public-relations and technological savvy allows Booth's kin wants to see who's in grave By The Associated Press BALTIMORE - Relatives of John Wilkes Booth asked a judge Wednesday to allow experts to open his grave to determine if a stranger lies there instead. "I don't believe he's in the grave I never have," Lisa Booth said. Most accounts say soldiers tracked Booth to a Virginia farm 12 days after he shot President Lincoln in 1865, then shot him in the neck as he tried to escape a burning barn. But rumors abounded that the actor-assassin escaped and that the body in the plot wasn't his. once-isolated individuals, who may previously have preached only to a few friends and neighbors, to reach a wide audience — including other, formerly isolated people. "The Internet and desktop publishing help groups like ours circumvent the mainstream media and get the truth out," says the Southern League's Hill, who produces his group's newsletter at his home in Alabama. He adds that ubiquitous talk-radio shows, though more moderate in tone, amplify the message of his groups and others by giving "the average person a chance to hear their views articulated." The end result is an alternative gush of information and opinion upon which thousands now feed, yet which remains virtually unseen and unheard by the rest of the nation. Hence, the mainstream press reports Waco as a shootout between lawmen and lawless cultists; the far-right reports instead a slaughter of innocents by Big Brother. In fact, mainstream-media reports affirm rather than undermine far-right opinion, in much the way that many East Bloc citizens reflexively believed the opposite of what they read in the state-controlled press. Driving me through Mississippi one spring night, a newspaper distributor with a college degree in English literature explained why he had started his own underground newspaper and radio broadcasts from his home. "Once you've abandoned the conventional world, you can't go back," he said. "I don't want to sound as though I've drifted into the Twilight Zone, but you see things in a new way. I feel like I'm in 'Invasion of the Body Snatchers,' fighting people who do things that have been programmed into them by Hollywood or Madison Avenue or some college professor. They think I'm crazy, but I think it's the other way around." The largely subterranean buzz created by the far-right bush telegraph also can embolden adherents by creating an illusion that they possess strength far beyond their numbers. Fringe groups also can network more easily than ever before, particularly since their messages often overlap and buttress each other. They advertise in each others' papers, turn up at each others' rallies and swap mailing lists and Rolodexes. Touch the vast web of extremist ideology at any point and it's easy to become entangled in dozens of groups — particularly if you are paranoid to begin with. The night of the South Carolina flag rally, I visited the beret-clad demonstrator, Walt, at his trailer park outside Columbia. While Walt stir-fried vegetables (he distrusts federally inspected meat), he invited me to riffle through a carefully organized bank of pigeonholes stuffed with far-right literature. The material was filed according to enemies. One publication, in a pigeonhole devoted to Jews, was headlined: "Did Six Million Really Die?" In another file, on blacks, a flier proclaimed: "Earth's Most Endangered Species: The White Race." A slot devoted to foreigners included a tabloid called "The Truth At Last: News Suppressed by the Daily Press." Its lead story claimed the nation was being overrun by immigrants, some of whom eat insects and dogs. Other files focused on gun-control advocates and gays. Walt, a TV technician in small-town South Carolina, seemed to be on the mailing list of every hate group in America. For several hours, I tried to untangle the knotted logic that bound his world-view. As he saw it, there was a natural tie between his dislike of blacks, his distrust of the tax-and-spend state — or "the snake" as he called it — that aids minorities, his suspicions about the Vatican (the state church against which Protestants rebelled), and his gradual realization of the "real people" running the nation. He once suspected communist infiltrators, but after the Soviet Union's collapse he came to blame another bogy. "America's under the influence of a foreign power: Israel," he said. "The Jewish media is controlling the country and playing the two races off each other to aggrandize their power." He would even become a fan of the Nation of Islam leader, Louis Farrakhan, who not only hates Jews, in Walt's view, but also advocates separation of the races. He confided, too, that he liked Michael Jackson — "He's not black. He's an android" — and bought the music of the rap group 2 Live Crew, which a South Carolina politician had threatened to ban on the grounds of obscenity. "Anything the state's against, I'm for," Walt explained. The same logic animated his passion for the rebel flag, which he hadn't cared about until state legislators attacked it. While the "Patriot" movement in the North models itself on the Minutemen of Lexington and Concord, likeminded Southerners hearken back to the Confederacy, which they see as having struck a farsighted if failed blow against omnipotent central government. As Walt talked, he frequently cited various items in his library. He also found proof of his views each day at the small factory where he worked repairing TV converters. His boss, he said, was a "guilty liberal" who promoted TOMORROW LIGHTS DOWN COMES STARTS TOMORROW TRoiracCo **** Touching, Funny Unforgettable" "Romance, Comedy And Billy Crystal AsAnN.B.A, Ref.ASureHit!" 'A Hilarious Look At The Twists And Turns Of Modern Marriage." - Mike McKay, WBTV, CHARLOTTE blacks and made Walt clean bathrooms. He also was part of a conspiracy to ship jobs overseas and keep wages low at home. "Every time there's a recession, employers think they can push you around," he said. A 49-year-old, with a high-school education and modest technical training, Walt found himself earning $5.45 an hour, driving a Toyota with 200,000 miles on it, and living alone in a run-down trailer. But he said he had found a new attitude over the past few years since studying right-wing ideologies. "Before, I knew something was wrong but I didn't know what. I blamed myself," he said. "Now I understand why the world 4s the way it is." Economic distress and the search for scapegoats don't fully explain radical right-wing politics. But it's probably no accident that extremism has found fertile ground in struggling farm and factory towns in the Midwest, as well as among well-armed white males in the rural South and West who regard their status as under siege. This sense of disenfranchisement is so profound, and the politics it has helped spawn so paranoid, that it may be naive to think that Draconian legal measures or horror over the Oklahoma bombing will tame extremists. At his trailer park, Walt set aside a salad and a book called "The Dispossessed Majority" to explain his views on the Oklahoma blast. "At first I thought, 'Shoot, yeah, the government needed a dose of its own medicine after what it did at Waco.' " But he quickly began to suspect that the bombers were "government agents or dupes. The state set these guys up so they could crack down on paramilitaries. " Not that Walt agrees with the militias. "They don't go far enough," he said. "They see government as the enemy, but they don't look at why that's so. It's Negroes, immigrants and especially Jews who are behind it all." Walt also doubted that fanatical foes of the federal government will "slack off" in the wake of the blast. "At this point I don't think I'd do it (blow up a building)," he said. "But if the government starts coming down hard on people because of their political views, then you'll see people like me fighting back." (i ll.: 5-year-old has loaded gun in school By Th» Associated Pr»ss LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A kindergartener found a .38 revolver loaded with hollowpoint bullets in his father's pickup, took it to school and stored it with his crayons. It was discovered Monday after the 5-year-old and his classmates drew pictures of what they were going to do over the summer, said North Main Elementary School Principal Robert Turner. A staff member couldn't make out what the boy had drawn. "He said, 'I have the gun here, I'll show you,"' Turner said. ... The gun was loaded with ;hol- lowpoint bullets that explode; on impact and its trigger guard had been filed away, making it easier to grasp the trigger. "The hollowpoint shells could put a hole in you the size of a saucer," Turner said. The boy had taken the gun from his father's pickup truck. He was suspended through /the end of the school year — next week. Maximum Taste. Minimum Price. Gramta Max's Lunch and Diflner Specials Specialty entrees with more taste,., for less money... !> and always made fres! Everyday, Grandma cooks up two of her favorite secret recipes, , w ^each at a special price. And Grandma Max's never skimps. Only the best ingredients will do...crisp fresh vegetables, the choicest cuts of meat, our special sauces are made from scratch, and everything is peeled, sliced, mashed and chopped right in our kitchen. At Grandma Max's we're cookin' it up fresh for vou. 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