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1) Gather ‘round, everyone, while I replay for you the tale of the Aryan Nations. This will be another ungodly long thread, but I promise: When we’re done, the “liberals are the real Nazis” fulminations of @DineshDSouza will thereafter just give you a big ol’ belly laugh.
2) The Aryan Nations was officially named the Church of Jesus Christ-Christian, which had its origins in 1940s Southern California and an ex-Methodist pastor named Wesley Swift. His ministry, based in Lancaster, founded the movement known as Christian Identity.
3) Identity essentially preaches that white people are the “true children of Israel,” blessed by God, and that Jews are actually satanically-descended pretenders to the title. Nonwhites, they believe, are soulless “mud people,” the functional equivalent of animals.
4) Swift had several close followers and associates, including Gerald L.K. Smith, a former leader in the fascist Silver Shirts, and William Potter Gale, who advocated for “Christian soldiers” and went on to found the Posse Comitatus movement.
5) One of Swift’s and Gale’s followers named Keith Gilbert, was arrested in 1965 with the makings for a bomb he intended to place under the stage at the Los Angeles Palladium when Martin Luther King Jr. spoke there. He spent 12 years in San Quentin.

6) When Swift died in 1970, an aeronautics engineer named Richard Butler took over the reins, and soon decided to move the church out of California. He chose northern Idaho for a very specific reason.
7) This was a period when white-supremacist groups had been pushed so far to the fringes that many of them began cooperating and co-organizing with each other for survival. This included the Ku Klux Klan, William Pierce’s National Alliance, the Posse, and others.
8) The leaders of these factions, particularly the Michigan Klan leader Robert Miles, came up then with the first iteration of the white-nationalist ethnostate. He wanted to create just such a state in the Pacific Northwest. This plan was called “the Northwest Imperative.”
9) Essentially the idea was to create an all-white homeland in the four northwestern states (Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana), chosen largely because there were so few minorities there already. The imperative called for all dedicated white supremacists to move there.
10) This clip, BTW, is from the 1991 documentary “Blood in the Face,” which I recommend to anyone interested in seeing how white supremacists organized in this period. A young Michael Moore is the chief interviewer.

11) Miles passed away in 1992, but his legacy lives on in many ways, especially among the young alt-right crowd.

12) It was Richard Butler who decided to put this plan into action. In the mid-1970s, he purchased a parcel of land in the Idaho Panhandle near Hayden Lake and in 1976 moved the Church of Jesus Christ-Christian there. They called the compound the Aryan Nations.
13) In short order, Butler began organizing an annual gathering of all kinds of white-supremacist groups in Hayden Lake called the World Congress of Aryan Nations. Klansmen, National Alliance, skinheads and haters from all across America attended.
14) As it happened, I was at the time the 21-year-old editor of the little newspaper 20 miles north of Hayden in Sandpoint, the Daily Bee. At the time, the publisher and I sat down and made what we thought was the astute decision not to cover the Aryan Nations.
15) The thinking was that they only wanted free publicity and we weren’t going to give it to them. It was a huge mistake. Within the next few years, the Panhandle became host to tons of criminals moving in, who then began committing hate crimes.
16) One of these thugs was none other than Keith Gilbert, who moved to nearby Post Falls after getting out of prison. Gilbert owned a Volkswagen Thing he festooned with swastikas, and was notorious not just for threatening kids but also for handing out these fliers.
17) Yes, those same targets make an appearance in “BlackkKlansman.” They were in fact very popular with the Nazi/Klan set.
18) This criminality reached its apex in 1984, after one of the angry young transplants who attended AN gatherings regularly – a man named Robert Mathews, who had moved to Metaline Falls, WA, from Arizona – organized an action group he called “The Order”.
19) I used to get letters to the editor from Robbie Mathews at the Daily Bee. They were memorable because he wrote them in all caps. Also they were thick with racism and antisemitism. I talked to him once to explain why we wouldn’t run them.
20) The Order eventually included about 15 men in the group, but the main action group was comprised of about six men, including Mathews. Over the course of the year, they robbed about 25 banks and armored cars, including a record $3.8 million haul in Ukiah, CA.
21) Their most infamous crime, though, was the June 1984 assassination of radio talk show host Alan Berg in the driveway of his Denver home. A couple of fictionalized films have been made about this incident. The killing was both revenge and propaganda.
22) Mathews and his gang were all brought to ground in short order by the FBI. Most of them were arrested. Mathews was cornered in a house on Whidbey Island, WA, and refused to come out. The FBI lobbed a flare in, the house caught on fire, and it burned down around him.
23) I covered one of the World Aryan Congresses in 1983, and of course we journalists in the region had multiple dealings with a variety of members of the AN over the years in the Panhandle. We interviewed many of the ordinary footsoldiers as well as their leaders.
24) There was nothing even remotely “leftist” about any of these folks in their political orientation. Indeed, much of their ideology seemed to me to be actually predicated on a deep, visceral loathing of all things leftist or liberal.
25) It was starkly clear that the term “right-wing extremist” – while, unhappily, a somewhat malleable and unclear generic phrase – really does apply to neo-Nazis. Every belief they hold, every position they take, is essentially a right-wing position taken to its most extreme.
26) Civil rights: Not only do they, like most conservatives, oppose civil-rights advances for nonwhites (including voting rights, affirmative action, equal protection, etc.) but they actively work to prevent them obtaining those rights through violence.
27) LGBT rights: Not only do they, like most conservatives, oppose gay rights generally, they actually believe that homosexuality is a sin whose punishment is death, and they are prepared to deliver that sentence.
28) Similarly, they not only oppose Communism and socialism generally, as conservatives, but they believe that such people should be rounded up, incarcerated, and either deported or executed summarily. They’re happy to cut out the process too.
29) Education: They not only oppose federal involvement in the education system, they oppose public schooling altogether and favor instead either private home schooling or a system of church schools.
30) Immigration: They not only oppose immigration generally, they demand all nonwhite immigration cease, and that all nonwhite immigrants already in the USA be deported. This used to be an extreme position, at least at the time. Nowadays not so much.
31) Women’s rights: Not only do they resist equal rights for women, as conservatives generally do, these extremists actively oppose it and demand that women submit themselves to the rule of men as weaker inferiors. They’re profound misogynists.
32) They not only oppose the expansion of the power of the federal government, as conservatives do, but actually believe the government is illegitimate, controlled by Jews, and is acting unconstitutionally by enforcing civil rights or even owning public lands.
33) As the examples above suggest, these instances of right-wing extremism are very much alive today, and in some cases (immigration particularly) what used to be a far-right position has moved into the mainstream, thanks to Donald Trump.

34) Probably the best sociological study of this culture was James A. Aho’s 1991 book, “The Politics of Righteousness,” which showed how self-described “Christian Patriots” were people who took conservative values to their illogical extremes.

35) After The Order’s rampage, law enforcement pretty much descended on the Aryan Nations and largely kept their criminality intact, though not entirely. In 1987 “The Order II” went on a very short crime spree that included bombing the home of Rev. Bill Wassmuth.
36) On May 12, 1990, a trio of “Aryans” drove together to Seattle in a van stocked with pipe-bomb parts, a .12-gauge shotgun, a .38-caliber revolver, a stun gun, knives and a pile of hate literature, planning to bomb a gay bar called Neighbours. Arrested.

37) In 1992, the family of Randy Weaver, who all attended AN services, came under siege at their home on Ruby Ridge, about 40 miles north of Hayden, from federal authorities when Weaver evaded arrest on gun charges.

38) Their teen son was killed in an exchange with a federal marshal, and Vicki Weaver was killed by an FBI sniper. The incident, of course, became an infamous cause celebre for the radical right and an origin point for the militia movement of the ‘90s.
39) In 1999, an Aryan devotee named Buford Furrow – he had dated Debbie Mathews, Robbie’s widow – opened fire on a Jewish community center in Los Angeles full of schoolchildren, fled, then shot a Filipino postal worker, killing him.

40) By the mid-1990s, Butler’s annual congresses and downtown parades had progressively dwindled to almost nothingness. He also had become quite elderly by that point.
41) The end came when, in 1998, a Native American woman and her teen son accidentally drove up the AN driveway, and were severely beaten when they tried to run away. An ensuing lawsuit, filed by the SPLC, wound up bankrupting Butler and the Aryan Nations.

42) I was present in 2001 when a judge awarded the woman and her son the deed to the Aryan Nations compound. Butler was there but had little to say other than denouncing the black-robed judge.

43) I drove out that afternoon to take some final shots.
44) It was all torn down a few weeks later, after the snow had cleared. The church was burned to the ground as an exercise for local firemen. (Photo by Bill Morlin.)
45) Butler died in 2004, but his acolytes never went away. One of them briefly tried to revive the Aryan Nations in 2010, but it failed miserably.

46) Still, they’re living out there to this day in the Idaho woods, though in tiny numbers.
47) The AN’s impact lingers on in many other ways. Certainly it affected Idaho and its politics forever. My friend and colleague Bill Morlin explored that in some depth here. (Bill, you should know, was the first reporter to type the words “Ruby Ridge.”)

48) It also played a formative role in the militia/Patriot movement that remains with us today in the form of Oath Keepers, III Percenters, Alex Jones’ Infowars, and the whole universe of right-wing conspiracism I call “Alt-America.”
49) Much of the militia ideology that bubbled up in the 1990s was a modification of Posse Comitatus ideology, holding that the federal government was out of control and unconstitutional. It remains with us today in the form of the Bundys and others.
50) More than anything, its legacy has been revived by the rise of the alt-right and the return of white nationalism on the American political scene. Much of its extremism has been mainstreamed.
51) The “14 Words” – the white nationalist catchphrase popular with the online alt-right set – were written in prison by David Lane, one of the members of The Order.
52) The white nationalists who chanted “Blood and Soil!” and carried tiki torches in Charlottesville were its legatees.
53) For our current President*, these are some “very fine people.”

54) Indeed, these same marchers wore red MAGA hats and chanted “Hail Trump!”

55) Yet, hilariously enough, Dinesh “No You’re The Real Racist” D’Souza has tried to claim that these marchers are, in fact, actually liberals who are just battling far-left antifascists due to a rivalry or something.

56) Of course, we’re all grateful to @KevinMKruse for his yeoman’s service in exposing @DineshDSouza for the historical fraud that he is, particularly his attempted erasure of the Southern Strategy.

57) This is all, however, part of D’Souza’s larger erasure, namely: American fascists. Because there is known, established, undeniable and factual history there. Every single one of them was on the right in their politics. They all self-identified as conservative.
58) This includes the only proto-fascists D’Souza acknowledges in his appropriately titled _The Big Lie_, namely, the Ku Klux Klan, which he identifies as purely a creature of the Democratic Party. He fails to mention these were _conservative_ Democrats.

59) Here is a pamphlet explaining the ideals of the Klan in the 1920s. As you can see, it explicitly embraces conservative values.
60) Along similar lines, here’s a pamphlet for the White Citizens Councils that were known as the “suit-and-tie Klan” in the 1950s and ‘60s. “We are certainly not ashamed of our traditions, our conservative beliefs, nor our segregated way of life,” it declared.
61) That’s how it’s always been. Anyone who has ever reported on these movements has understood this. Trying to claim that American fascists have actually been leftists all along is more than just profoundly afactual. Its twisting of reality obscures evil.
62) This is especially the case in the age of the #MAGAbomber, when increasingly the violent fantasies of radical-right extremists are being voiced, and inevitably realized in real life.

63) The legacy of these early racists lives on. Robbie Mathews was inspired by, among others, William Pierce and his vision of race war, a blueprint for domestic terrorism titled "The Turner Diaries."
64) Today's alt-righters still read the book. And they still fantasize about the "Day of the Rope," the day that they get to string up all the "race traitors" -- that is, normal, non-racist liberals.
65) The racist right has long awaited this day.

They believe they can win this time by riding a wave of fear.

But they lost before. People stood up to them. They put them in jail and sent them to the far margins of decent society, where they belong.

They will lose again.

@threadreaderapp unroll please
BTW, this is me with Sen. Frank Church. He was fishing buddies with my old boss at the Bee, Pete Thompson, so I got to spend a few days on Pete's boat on Lake Pend Oreille chatting with Frank and fishing for Kamloops. As you can imagine, I learned a lot.
63-a) I should also note that Pierce wrote another blueprint -- this one, for lone-wolf terrorists, titled 'Hunter.' It was based on the career of Joseph Paul Franklin, the man who shot both Larry Flynt (1978) and Vernon Jordan (1980).

15-a) I meant to mention here that, as I go on to explain in "Death on the Fourth of July" (this is an excerpt), this culminated in Idaho passing one of the nation's first hate-crime laws, in 1982. Gilbert helped by threatening the legislators.

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