How to Not Become a Neo-Nazi

Neo-Nazi Bill WhiteI have to admit to a certain fascination with neo-Nazis and the like. A lot of them are just angry men who find comradery in their shared anger and hatred. But where does that come from? I mean, I’ve known a lot of violent assholes. And every couple of days some guy goes on a shooting spree. What would make someone grab onto what is about the purest example of evil we have and say, “I’m for that!” I mean, I’ve known young people who dabbled in what they thought was Satanism by reading old books on witchcraft. They just thought they were being naughty. If any adult identifies as a witch, what she means is that she thinks trees and herbal remedies are cool—it is nothing dark, much less evil.

Certainly, the neo-Nazis and the Klansmen depend upon racism. But the whole society is racist in its own way and most people at least try to hide their racism if not actively fight it. So again, we are back to the fundamental question: why do people want to be public assholes? Is it as simple as them wanting attention? I tend to think so. But that isn’t to say that they don’t completely accept all the vile thinking that goes along with the persona.

Bill White

Yesterday, the Southern Policy Law Center reported, Neo-Nazi Bill White Indicted for Internet Threats—Again! Mr. White has been indicted so many times, it is hard to keep track. And to me, he seems just like any number of other loud-mouths. But that’s what these people always seem like until they start acting on their rhetoric. There is, after all, a process. Unless one is actually dealing with arguments, rhetoric just has to get more and more extreme. But there is an end to that. Eventually, that rhetoric must lead to action. Or the people must just drop the whole matter, as I suspect is the more common path.

White’s path is, shall we say, unusual. Wikipedia reports his various political moves over the years:

From 1997 to 1998, White claimed involvement with the Maoist Revolutionary Communist Party’s Refuse and Resist, Coalition against Police Brutality, and the Trotskyist International Socialist Organization (ISO). White worked as a columnist for the Russian website Pravda Online, which took its name from the now-defunct newspaper of the Soviet Communist Party. In 2000, White joined Ross Perot’s Reform Party and the campaign to elect Pat Buchanan, then running for President of the United States on a Reform Party ticket.

It does have a certain consistency: authoritarianism. And once you reach Pat Buchanan, a neo-Nazism we will go! But it is interesting that it wasn’t until he got in with the “white power” crowd that he started making threats and generally being a real concern to the peace of our society.

Now let me just make a comment about leftist movements in the United States. It isn’t like they are lily white. In the 1960s, there were certainly leftists who wanted to start a revolution. Bombs were made; people died. And there will always be people on the extremes doing crazy things for their own crazy reasons. But the left learned valuable lessons from the 1960s that it has never forgotten. You just don’t get the kind of violent rhetoric from the left that you get from the right. The left seems to understand that violent rhetoric leads to violence while the right continues to pretend there is no connection.

I wouldn’t call Bill White a member of the political right in this country, although that is most certainly where he came from. I don’t think people like him have real political agendas anyway. “The Jews are greedy and lie” is not really a political statement. But clearly, he’s a searcher. And as such, he’s an example of our society not providing people with constructive ways of finding meaning. Regardless of whether White makes good on his threats and spends the rest of his life in prison, or reforms and becomes an advocate against racism, he has become “someone” in our society.

Finding Positive Meaning

Most of the people in the United States are “nobody.” In the old days of unions, people had that to identify themselves: they were members of a collection of workers who were making the country a better place. Remember “Union Strong”? There are lots of ways for people to feel valued, but work is one of the most important. But for most people, work has become nothing more than a paycheck. Being part of a union was being part of something. Despite the “We Are Walmart” ads, the workers there know that they are not Walmart. And the moment Walmart gives them their most recent paycheck, their connection with the company is over until their next hour of work.

Increasingly, I see the decline of unionization as a much bigger problem than just economics. The decline of unions in America is part of a larger problem where people don’t see where they fit into society and they certainly don’t see how it is they matter. So it is not a surprise that a man like Bill White, who has clearly spent much of his life looking for his place, has turned from one radical group to another, only to land in a world where his most vile and hateful tendencies have made him a star of sorts.

Our Cultural Cancer

As a society, we can deal with the Bill Whites of the world. We can put them in prison. Or we can at least keep tabs on them enough to stop them from physically hurting anyone. But he’s symptomatic of a larger and more difficult problem. How will our people find their places in our society where they can make things better? Part of that answer is increasing unionization and decreasing income inequality. But fundamentally, it is about our society abandoning its obsession with wealth as the ultimate gauge of a person’s value. I don’t think this problem can be cured. But it can be treated; it can be less harmful. Currently, it is metastasizing and will destroy our society if we don’t treat it.

The Bill Whites of the nation are just the most obvious symptoms.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

3 thoughts on “How to Not Become a Neo-Nazi

  1. I think it’s the "if they persecute me, I must be on to something" mentality. I don’t know any Nazis currently (I don’t live in Michelle Bachmann’s district), but I knew some skinheads who worked at the convenience store I did in Portland way back when.

    They’d come across some writing and some pithy lore about how the world worked which, for whatever psychological reason, resonated with them. (These were pretty much your HS dropout, never-had-a-chance types.) When they tried sharing this glorious revelation with others, others recoiled. And somehow, the revulsion of others didn’t trigger a re-examination of the beliefs; it indicated to these men that their beliefs must be Too True for brainwashed masses to accept. From there it wasn’t far getting to wearing the clothes, sporting the tattoos, etc. That these symbols freaked people out was part of the appeal.

    Which comes back to what you wrote about feeling valued. Sad as it is, for these poor young white men it was easier to find a Nazi group that told them they were intelligent and worthwhile than it was to find a left-leaning one (this was, oh, 1992 or so.) Nowadays the easiest thing to find of all would be a fundamentalist church community.

    Fun, meaningless story. One night, the most vociferous skinhead came down with a horrible tooth infection. He sat in the corner moaning all shift. An off-duty nurse from the nearby hospital came in, heard the moans, and fixed the poor boy up with some alum and OTC remedies. The nurse was Black; it really bugged the guy for weeks afterwards.

    Back to your point; that’s exactly why unions, and Occupy, and ACORN, and whatever are so virulently attacked by the right. Not because they have any power to affect profits. Because they give poor people a way to feel validated by something other than Fox or Falwell. And we just can’t have that. Even an unfocused movement like early Occupy is a threat, if it encourages people to think of themselves as deserving equal participation in decision-making. Leave it to Falwell; leave it to O’Reilly. Because he’s Looking Out For You.

  2. @JMF – Yes, this is I believe, the main reason businesses don’t like unions. They can deal with higher labor costs. What they don’t want is an equal opponent. Management is organized, they don’t want labor to be. It has little to do with negotiations. 500 workers know that they are an important part of the company; 1 worker knows he is nothing.

    My experiences with left leaning groups is that they were not very welcoming. I always got the impression that they mistrusted me. But I get that feeling from all groups, so it is probably just me. I’ve come to the conclusion that if I am going to make a difference, it has to be in a different way. That’s why I’m going to be on the highways next November with signs that read, "Vote Tomorrow You Idiots!"

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