Thursday, March 24, 2005

The Red Lake shooting and rightwing extremism

When I first heard of the now-infamous Ward Churchill, I suggested that he might actually be closer to far-right in his politics than left, although it pleased our drooling-at-the-mouth superpatriots to lump him in with everyone who doesn't cheer for everything done in Bush's War in Iraq as "left."

The horrible Red Lake, Minnesota school shooting has opened a brief glimpse and one of the many dark and dreary corners of the violent extremist right in the United States. David Neiwert and his Orcinus blog are good sources on incidents like this, because that is one of his journalistic specialties. Neiwert also posts at the American Street blog. (As does the very literate and perceptive Hesiod now, having given up his own blog after the election last November.) I'm really disappointed in the new design at American Street, though, because they no longer use William Faulkner in their logo.

In The Succubus (03/23/05), Neiwert talks about far-right appeals to Native Americans. A succubus, by the way, is a term from medieval European Christian superstitution, referring to a female demon who seduces men in their beds at night. (Darn, don't you hate it when that happens?) An incubus is the male version.

It was not a particular surprise to Neiwert that the Indian kid who was involved in that shooting was attacted by Nazi ideology:

Some Indian leaders who have caught wind of these activities have undertaken high-profile efforts to combat recruitment by extremist organizations within the tribes, partly because the far right's virulent anti-government beliefs struck a chord with some Indians. Some adherents of the white-supremacist Christian Identity movement are known to argue that Indians are Aryans, while others voice admiration for Native Americans who insist on marrying only within their tribal nations. Such notions of "racial purity" obviously were all the common ground a kid like Jeff Weise needed.

There is also a real fascination on the far right with Native American tribal sovereignty and how it might relate to their shopworn theories about "sovereign citizenship, which was a staple of the Posse Comitatus and Montana Freemen, as well as numerous militias. Tribal sovereignty, in essence, offers the far right whole new horizons in kookery. In recent years, this has mutated into such far-right scams as the Little Shell Pembina Band.

Ethnic-nationalist movements of other kinds are subject to the same kind of political temptations. And it's not just a matter of "politics make strange bedfellows." Ethnic-nationalist thinking often morphs into ideas about racial purity and autocratic leadership. A classic example is the American black-separatist leader Marcus Garvey (1887-1940), who wound up during the Second World War writing polemics in favor of militarist Japan, because they were people of color defying the colonial order of white nations. At home, he praised the Ku Klux Klan for their doctrines of racial purity.

During the 1930s, American sympathizers of Hitler's Nazi movement, like the American Nazi Party and the German-American Bund, had high praise for American Indians. There's a famous clip of a German-Amercan Bund rally in Madison Square Garden that's often used in documentaries that touch on radical-right movements in those days. On stage, they have a large banner of George Washington and another of an Indian in native costume.

The reasoning behind this had to do with Nazi ideologies about racial heritage and a romanticized admiration of so-called "primitive" virtues. Nazis saw the Indians as the original Americans and therefore symbolic of the primitive virtues. It certainly did not mean that the Nazis cared about Indian issues or that Native Americans played any significant role in the far-right movements of the 1930s.

In his well-known book on the American far right, Under Cover (1943), investigative journalist John Roy Carlson (who worked for Fortune magazine), recounted his meeting with a radical rightwing name Ernest Hollings in 1942 (not to be confused with the later Senator from South Carolina). Carlson wrote:

Hollings also predicted a victory for National Socialism [Nazism], after which would arrive a millennium of peace, life eternal, the liberation of American Indians, etc., etc. It was taken verbatim from the Nazi dream bag. Hollings had read it so many times that he came to believe the prophecy to be his own. (my emphasis)

Neiwert also argues the mainstream press tends to focus on the mental-heath aspects of cases - "troubled" youth - and neglects the important role that extremist ideology can play in inspiring incidents like the Red Lake shooting. He writes, using the metaphor of the succubus for the appeal of the violent rightwing:

There are many kinds of evils, but there is a truly unique and awful quality to the evil produced by naked racial and religious bigotry. People in Red Lake, Minnesota, can tell you all about it.

What the strange saga of Jeff Weise [the Red Lake shooter]
reveals is one of the more remarkable qualities of that evil: Even when consigned to the fringes and shadows, it retains a kind of vampiric half-life that has an ability to not only survive but adapt, finding fresh clawholds wherever it can, and then fester and grow -- almost inevitably exploding in violence. ...

As Lenny Zeskind says, these haters never really go away. They're like demonic versions of the Energizer Bunny: Combined, they become part of the Succubus, which just keeps on going and going and sucking the life and souls of whatever hapless victims it encounters.

And chief among these are people like Jeff Weise: vulnerable, angry, unstable. Ready to explode.

1 comment:

sanforized6 said...

Right on, Bruce! You seemed to hit the hot spots and covered it well. It certainly will happen again, be it an indian kid, or some "demonized" kids like we had here at Columbine. rich