By Joe Bageant
Americans are addicted to spectacle, especially those involving absurdity, sex, violence and the icons of violence. Which makes America's tiny "Nazi Party" fringe a magnet for TV cameras anywhere it shows up in public. We like our bad guys so blatantly labeled a four-year-old can read them.
The formal name of the largest Nazi organization in America is the American National Socialist Workers Party (ANSWP). Of course having the word "socialist" in its name plays so neatly into the corporate government of America's hands, one wonders just who is funding ANSWP's glossy magazine, or National Commander Bill White's dozens of radio broadcasts and appearances around the country. Then too, ANSWP marchers carrying signs reading "What Would Hitler Do?" almost too conveniently fit the bill in a nation where anti-hate is a big and hyperbolic business.
For instance, according to the famous Morris Dees, whose Southern Poverty Law Center pulls in some $40 million a year mainly from the hate crime industry, my home state of Virginia has 31 organized hate groups. Now as much as I have criticized Republican Virginia in print as one of the stupidest and cruelest damned places in America, and though the ANSWP commander Bill White lives in Roanoke, Virginia, even I don't believe there are anywhere near 31 organized hate groups here, and certainly none that are beating people in some unseen alley. Hell, ANSWP by its own count, presently has 227 members nationwide, and picks up maybe 30 more virtual members monthly via the Internet. Not too many people get beaten up in alleys by Internet Nazi wannabes who think Swastika bling is cool looking stuff.
But when it comes to beating folks up, this country has nearly a million people legally authorized to beat, kidnap at gunpoint (arrest) and kill if deemed necessary, a large portion of which exercise the first two of these rights thousands of times daily. At last count in 2002 America had 14,254 law enforcement agencies employing 675,734 sworn officers and 294,854 civilians. With the "war on terror," heaven only knows how many have been added.
Public protest usually provides a glimpse into this force, and every year we see more smuggled videotapes that somehow seldom make the news. Jumpy footage of ordinary folks beaten with wooden clubs, shocked with Tasers, and riddled with rubber bullets, even while on their knees praying. Elderly protesters of Miami's free trade zone were Maced in the face and dragged across the ground in handcuffs and a female reporter testified she was forced to strip before male cops. People who bother to find and watch these videos on the Internet keep saying the same thing over and over again: "This is not America." Unfortunately, it is.
But the larger point is that much of the hate crime industry, like the holocaust industry and the jingoistic American popular history book, history TV and magazine industry (until recently, I was senior editor for America's top military history magazine) provide commercial distraction from the most important issues being decided today, the ones educated liberals care about, such as globalization, class in America, corporate ownership of government, and whether or not America will (or already has) become a police state, not to mention a rogue nation.
As the son of a laboring god, born lowest of the working class and typical of tens of millions in this nation, I can tell you this: Four-fifths of the American Nazi's platform is attractive to white working Americans (the other 20%, anti-Semitism and racist, come with the package and conveniently offer someone to blame). American Nazis promote bringing all foreign jobs back to America, the nationalization of Wal-Mart, reestablishing small farms and the supremacy of working class whites. Be thankful working class Americans are not yet exposed to it in significant numbers. But as push comes to shove, and working mooks discover that the bottom has completely dropped out of all their presumed security and civil liberties, they will be ripe for the kind of change not being offered by either major party in this country.
Meanwhile, the American Socialist Worker's Party leadership is very savvy, and strictly advises local leadership to avoid the media, except when it serves their own purposes, such as forcing the American Civil liberties Union to defend Nazi rights to demonstrate -- thereby defending their legitimacy -- as it did in Orlando, Florida; Lansing, Michigan; Toledo, Ohio and other locales. Wave the bullfighter's cape and draw public attention when it will further the cause. Otherwise, keep a very low profile. (With that in mind, we may wonder if the official membership numbers listed are understated so as not to draw attention).
Whatever the case, let's not let the bull fighter's cape of media spectacle distract us, as the bulls of liberal freedom. Those in Nazi brown smirk while thousands authorized to wear Kevlar vests and smack down ordinary liberals in defense of mislabeled socialists. Socialism knows neither color nor race. The best thing we can do is ignore the Nazi brown and pay very close attention to those in Kevlar black, because we are already their acknowledged target.
Nazi Brown & Kevlar Black
A Photo Essay by AL CRESPO, Words by JOE BAGEANT
ColdType has produced a powerful presentation in PDF format of photos by Al Crespo and the essay above by Joe Bageant. It's free and well worth a look. Click here.