sheep's clothing: Not the usual Irish music story
By MARK POTOK*
Around the United
States, Nazi groups are staging 'European' festivals in a bid to draw
ethnic whites into the movement
Wearing horns meant to evoke
pre-Christian Nordic culture,
these women and their children
were among those who attended
a "European-American Cultural
CA (25 November, 2003) -- The Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence
Project keeps tabs on hate groups and extremist activities throughout
the US. Sadly, they're kept pretty busy, with over 700 groups currently
of the creepiest things they're currently seeing is how the neo-Nazi National
Alliance is using the traditional music and culture of Ireland and other
European countries to suck people into organized racist groups.
Haworth could hardly believe it. Here he was, with his bandmates in Molly's
Revenge, setting up last February to play traditional Celtic music to
some 75 people gathered at "Euro-Fest 2003." He was fine-tuning
the sound equipment when his wife rushed up with the news.
said, 'Do you know who they are?'" the folk musician recalled.
will never forget the scene that his wife, who had been setting up a table
nearby to sell Molly's Revenge CDs, described. "You should have seen
what they were selling there!" he said. "They had Mein Kampf
and little baby blankets in blue and white with little swastikas all over
them. It was horrible."
wasn't all. Around the famous folk band was a virtual Nazifest. Women
in knee-length skirts and Bavarian bustiers sold copies of ABC: Aryan
Beginnings for Children, along with Talk Back, a publication of the White
Student Alliance. At a nearby table, photos were on sale of two beautiful
young blonde girls giving the Nazi salute. A fellow with a black T-shirt
bearing a swastika strolled by; near him, another man's shirt urged "David
Duke for Senate."
at the table of the neo-Nazi National Alliance, women's thongs with the
Alliance symbol embroidered on the front, available in green, pink, yellow,
white and red, were moving briskly.
members of Molly's Revenge could certainly be forgiven for their ignorance.
Nothing in the advertising for the event had suggested that it was being
staged by people who believe that Jews and "race traitors" need
killing. The venue was perfectly respectable Clunie Hall, in a city park.
The National Alliance official who hired the band told Haworth the event
was being put on by "a group of friends" into ethnic music.
we could have left, but what would they have done?" the musician
asked later. "We were scared. We had a signed contract to play. And
you have to understand, one of our band members is Jewish. We were worried."
the country, white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups are staging events
like the "Euro-Fest 2003" put on by the Sacramento unit of the
Alliance, the group that first popularized the strategy in the late 1990s.
Neo-Confederate groups have sent speakers and propagandists to events
like the Scottish Highland Games, some 200 of which are held each year.
Even thuggish Skinhead organizations like the Hammerskins are staging
events that are meant to emphasize "Aryan" culture.
each group's strategy is different, the general idea is to draw in ethnic
whites by celebrating various strands of European culture -- from Celtic
bands to Irish singers to Lithuanian cloggers -- and, ultimately, to recruit
idea of reaching out to ethnic whites without explicitly pushing neo-Nazism
-- the wolves-in-sheep's-clothing strategy -- was pioneered by Erich Gliebe,
the National Alliance official who took over America's leading neo-Nazi
group after its founder, William Pierce, died last summer. After successfully
getting ethnic clubs in his native Cleveland to host a number of controversial
speeches, Gliebe hit on the idea of organizing what he calls the European-American
in 1997, Gliebe began to hold European-American Cultural Fests in Cleveland,
where he had long been the Alliance's local unit leader. The venues he
chose included several ethnic clubs and a VFW post. Typically, the events
featured Irish, German, Polish, Slovak and other ethnic dancers or musicians,
often followed by speeches emphasizing European history without specifically
1999, for instance, Gliebe's front organization threw a "European
Festival" at a club called The German Central, in Parma, outside
of Cleveland. (The club, as it happens, hosted meetings of the pro-Nazi
German-American Bund in the 1930s. The Bund was outlawed after the American
entry into World War II in 1941.)
a cost of $35 per couple ($8 for children), the festival was to feature
performances by the Central Saxon Cultural Organization; the Kashtan Ukrainian
Dancers; the Lucina Slovak Folk Ensemble; the Murphy Irish Dancers; and
the 87th Cleveland Pipes & Drums. Dancing music for all was provided
by the Stan Mejac Orchestra.
great value of this type of activity," Pierce wrote his members in
a 1998 newsletter, "is that it brings the Alliance into contact with
ethnically conscious non-members in an atmosphere especially conducive
to building understanding."
attended several of Gliebe's festivals, and approved of them wholeheartedly
-- so much so that it seems clear that they almost certainly helped assure
that Gliebe would be chosen to replace Pierce after he died last July
23. In fact, the Alliance staged at least five festivals in the Cleveland
area, in 1997, 1998, 1999, 2001 and, most recently, 2002. Between 200
and 300 people attended each event. More recently, others in the Alliance
have emulated Gliebe -- two times in Sacramento (in 2002 and this February)
and at a St. Louis event last Nov. 9.
a 2000 interview with the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Pierce expanded on his
reasoning. The festivals, he explained, "are an effort to help people
develop a sense of ethnic consciousness, ethnic identity. Cleveland is
a good area for that because there are a lot of relatively unassimilated
ethnic communities still there."
he said, was the aim. "I circulate among the crowd. If we recruit
20 or 30 people out of 300 or 350 people coming to one of these, then
it's been very successful. We don't push them. There's no arm-twisting
at these events."
hard to say if the cultural festivals are as successful as Pierce suggested.
Certainly, at the recent Sacramento event, the signs of neo-Nazism were
far more visible than in most Alliance-sponsored festivals, and organizers
-- probably as a result -- did not seem very successful in getting people
to sign up. But there is little question that the Alliance's clean-cut
cadres sometimes do manage to win local support.
people are afraid of the National Alliance for the point they are bringing
out," Johanna Roth, publisher of the ethnic Ohio monthly Germania,
told the Plain Dealer after attending her third European-American Cultural
Festival in 1999. "My personal opinion is that European people should
in Sacramento last Feb. 8, the city's Second Annual Euro-Fest was put
together by the Alliance's local unit leader, Drahomir Stojkovic.
the event under the auspices of the 'Inter Cultural Group,'" an Alliance
newsletter reported later, "the Unit reached out to men and women
who were, to some degree at least, conscious of their European ancestry
... We were in for a wonderful evening filled with education, entertainment,
European delicacies, and a variety of vendors."
paying $35 in advance ($45 on the day of the event), visitors began arriving
late in the afternoon, waiting outside as strains of Celtic music from
Molly's Revenge drifted out into the parking lot. Once inside, they found
the hall lined with tables carrying an array of neo-Nazi merchandise (see
also Hate for Sale).
up at the dais was Peter Morell, a remarkably dull guest speaker who held
forth on the highlights of Anglo-Saxon civilization -- Rembrandt's paintings,
great aquaducts, the Wright brothers, computers, George Washington, and
Henry Ford (the automaker, an inveterate anti-Semite, drew the loudest
are the thinkers and doers of the world," Morell said.
was Jim Silva, who offered a scattered presentation on the Norse Sagas,
another point of pride for many white supremacists. Following him, and
billed as the highlight of the evening, was a former Croatian diplomat
whose topic was "Europe Under Attack: From the Early Islamic Onslaught
to Communist Disaster." Tomislav Sunic began by telling the audience
about his childhood in Croatia, his visit to Amsterdam as a young man,
smoking pot and listening to the Grateful Dead. After that, he said, he
went on to get his Ph.D. in political science in America.
central theme was that Europe has been repeatedly invaded by "alien"
peoples and that whites have become a minority in Western Europe. He railed
on about non-white immigrants, ending with the Turkish workers who have
moved to Germany. "The Turks," he said, "are enslaving
white people in Germany."
Alliance leader Stojkovic said as Sunic ended. "I am really moved."
Haworth and the other members of Molly's Revenge, meanwhile, had sneaked
out to get a bite to eat. "While we were away, they had some 'European
philosopher' who was speaking," Haworth told the Intelligence Report.
"Thank God we weren't there, because we heard his last few minutes,
and it was frightening."
participants broke for dinner, the evening continued along the same lines.
A movement-affiliated folk singer, Eric Owens, sang folk music, but several
in the audience held their hands over their ears for the performance.
At one point, kids tripped a fire alarm, but Owens appeared oblivious,
playing on without a care.
was a raffle of donated items -- grand prize, a medieval sword won by
an Alliance member -- and a Q&A with Sunic. The white supremacist
"Sigrdrifa Dancers" performed. Alliance member April Gaede had
her two blonde-haired twins, Lynx and Lamb, perform several folk songs
including the very popular "Road to Valhalla."
sense of kinship and camaraderie was alive and vibrant," Alliance
member Ryan Hagen wrote in the Alliance's internal newsletter later. "I
don't think there was a person in that hall that did not feel the bond
of common blood."
Haworth saw it a little differently. "Luckily, we were told we wouldn't
be able to play the second set of tunes because they were out of time.
I said, 'All right,' and he paid me our money in cash. And we got the
hell out of there!"
every event built along the lines of Gliebe's cultural festivals is really
intended to bring whites of all stripes into the movement. Such was the
case with the 2nd Annual Folk Fest, an event put on last March in West
Palm Beach, Fla., by neo-Nazi Steven Watt, a principal of the tiny South
Florida Aryan Alliance. Aiding Watt was Alex Hassinger, editor of Nordland,
formerly Aryan Loyalist Magazine.
come-on was straightforward enough: "Celebrate your rich European
heritage with us!" the organizers wrote several E-groups. "We
will feature European music, food and drink." Included, along with
a playground and crayons for the kids, would be a "hammer-lifting
competition" and a live bagpiper, they promised.
it was hardly a family-friendly recruiting event.
up to the Osceola Pavilion of West Palm Beach's Okeehelee State Park,
the first thing a visitor noticed were the police cruisers and photographers
circling the site. Flags representing some 50 European countries fluttered
in the breeze -- along with Confederate battle flags, flags, a banner
bearing the insignia of the neofascist German NPD party, and another saying
"Friends of Germany."
crowd was fairly frightening. Neo-Nazi Skinheads and others from the South
Florida Aryan Alliance, the World Church of the Creator, the Orion Knights
of the Ku Klux Klan and the Imperial Klans of America attended -- about
40 large, tough-looking men, accompanied by a handful of women who huddled
together with half a dozen kids at a picnic table.
one point, when a news photographer tried to approach, he was surrounded
by menacing Skinheads, and Watt seized his flash unit. Only when the photographer
complained to police was Watt forced to return it.
little later, a young man named Jason, from Daytona Beach, gave an extremely
aggressive, red-faced speech, shouting about the importance of Darwin,
being strong, killing off the weak, and taking on the Jews immediately.
At the end, he led a series of Nazi salutes in which the crowd enthusiastically
sale in the pavilion was an array of hard-line materials: books by former
Klansman David Duke and Richard Kelly Hoskins, an ideologue of the virulently
anti-Semitic Christian Identity theology; s of violent white power music;
copies of a White Aryan Resistance newsletter; and issues of Thule: A
Prisoner's Journal, with profits going to imprisoned members of the terrorist
group The Order.
was clear that outsiders were not welcome. But that is not to say that
the event served no purpose -- on the contrary, for some it was an affirming
moment in a movement that has not had much to boast about recently. Several
people discussed the sorry state of white supremacy in the United States,
but said they had been pulled back into the movement by the promise of
"family events" like this one. One person expressed dismay at
the drunkenness and disorganization of earlier meetings.
participants paid homage to William Pierce, saying the late Alliance leader
had been a great man with important ideas about celebrating European culture
in a family-friendly way. But they were far less sure about Erich Gliebe,
who has been widely criticized from within the Alliance and the movement
several speakers talked about celebrating "white" culture. And
a man who identified himself as Steve Geller proposed organizing several
cultural groups -- German-American, Celtic-American and Scandinavian-American,
among others -- that would each create their own folk festivals. Somehow,
these groups would be knit into what Geller termed the "Congress
of a Celtic Land."
Steven Watt, it was all an unmitigated success: "The event was a
family event and seeing the smiling faces of the children as they played
in the playground next door just helped bring home why we are fighting
the fight we are -- in order to give them a good White world when it is
their time to pick up the torch."
Culture Wars It is not clear how effective the strategy of using "culture"
to approach and entice ethnic whites is for the radical right. But what
does seem clear is that up until recently, extremist recruiting tactics
have targeted rebellious youths and people who already hold relatively
similar views. Rarely has a strategy come to the fore that aims directly
at everyday, working white people.
and Gliebe's cultural festivals try to do that work. And if Pierce was
even close to correct in his estimates -- if Alliance workers have been
able to sign up almost 10% of those who attend -- then the technique must
be judged a success.
other groups have taken an interest. A number of neo-Confederates, including
one-time League of the South director Grady McWhiney, have taken their
own message -- that the American South is fundamentally an "Anglo-Celtic"
land -- to the Scottish Highland Games that are popular around the United
very unsophisticated and thuggish groups like the South Florida Aryan
Alliance are trying to emulate the technique shows that to many, it appears
to have great promise. Just this June, talk of a summer 2004 European
heritage rally in Washington began.
to Peter Haworth, it all remains something of a mystery. "The whole
thing was extremely uncomfortable and scary," he recalled. "I
never could understand exactly why they wanted a Celtic band. I guess
it's because we're white."
Potok is editor of the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Report
a quarterly magazine of the Center's Intelligence Project (originally
called Klanwatch) which monitors what he calls "a wide spectrum"
of extremist activity and white supremicist and hate groups in the USA.
Stephen Stuebner, a free-lance writer based in Idaho, contributed to this
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