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Monday, June 18, 2018

Two weeks after the deadly shootings at the Jewish Community Center and the Shalom Center in the Kansas City suburb of Overland Park, Kansas, the arrest of a well-known white nationalist has raised new and difficult questions.  Three people are now dead; one of them was 15 years old.  The alleged shooter, who has been best known as Frazier Glenn Miller, is a national socialist—a confirmed neo-Nazi. He shouted “Heil Hitler” at the time of his arrest. None of the dead were Jewish, however. Unless Miller falls fatally ill to a major disease, or succeeds in killing himself, we can expect him to go to trial and then, hopefully, be convicted. This story does not end there, however.

Already, there have been multiple repercussions. The recently elected mayor of the small Missouri town of Marionville, Dan Clevenger, near where Miller had most recently lived, raised his voice as a friend of Miller’s and proffered his own anti-Semitic comments as proof. In response, the town council—angry at the attention paid their community of 2,200—voted 4 to 1 to impeach the mayor.  Clevenger resigned the next day.

The attention paid to Miller has sharpened public perceptions of racism, anti-Semitism and bigotry in a manner that would have been otherwise impossible. And as other recent stories and opinion pieces about the racism and bigotry of Nevada government freeloader Clive Bundy demonstrates, quietly abiding bigotry until a headlight shines on it is a fairly widespread phenomenon.

Further, Miller’s past deals with prosecutors, and his role as a key witness in a 1988 federal seditious conspiracy trial and in a state murder trial are being forcefully re-examined. Both instances are discussed in my 2009 book, Blood and Politics: The History of the White Nationalist Movement from the Margins to the Mainstream, and frankly, I am very glad to see this new discussion of old topics opened up again.

To understand these developments, we must begin with events that began in North Carolina about three decades ago. In 1980, Glenn Miller, a 20-year veteran of the U.S. Army and a member of the National Socialist Party of America, turned to organize the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.  That organization became the White Patriot Party in 1985. The new organization kept his Klan’s venomous attitudes towards black people and people of color. It also looked at the world through the prism of anti-Semitism — the belief that Jews were evil incarnate and ran the world to the supposed detriment of the “white man.” Activists typically wore camouflage uniforms, regularly engaged in paramilitary-style training, and some illegally acquired weapons from nearby military bases.

The Klan group and then the White Patriot Party marched and marched across North Carolina, sometimes appearing in more than one small town on a single Saturday. These marches were carefully coordinated affairs, with row upon uniformed row of men and women in uniform and carrying Confederate battle flags. These spectacles attracted new members and by 1986 Miller’s White Patriot Party had over 1,000 members in North Carolina alone. Some reports indicated that 150 members had once been Special Forces soldiers.

While Miller was busy marching his troops in public, an underground army of Aryan warriors known as The Order had formed in the Pacific Northwest, and drew new members from the Midwest and South. It killed at least three people, robbed banks and armored cars, and then distributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to white supremacist leaders across the country.  Miller arranged for one of the key Order members to hide in North Carolina and received, by most accounts, $200,000 in robbery money for use with his White Patriot Party. Some accounts place Miller as a member of The Order. By the first month of 1985, however, The Order’s warriors were either killed or rounded up by law enforcement officials. At the end of 1985, in a trial in Seattle, most had been either turned over by the cops or convicted on RICO charges or other federal crimes.

Miller and the White Patriot Party remained free, however, until July 1986, when they were convicted of violating a consent decree and running a paramilitary organization with intent to cause civil unrest. Miller subsequently went underground. But the members remained active, either as cadres in the newly formed Southern National Front—which carried on a bit of the marching tradition—or as underground guerrillas in a war against everybody

On January 17, 1987, in Shelby, an adult bookstore often patronized by gay men in the area had been the site of a brutal, murderous crime. A number of men with guns entered, told the four patrons and one shopkeeper to lie face down, and then shot them all in the back of the head before burning the store down. Miraculously, two men crawled out and survived, although were badly maimed. Eventually, the investigation turned to former White Patriot Party cadres.

Meanwhile, from the underground, Miller issued a “Declaration of War” dated April 6, 1987, and was arrested shortly after in Missouri, on April 30.

In a December 15, 1987 letter to Federal Judge Earl Britt, Glenn Miller wrote of former White Patriot Party members Douglas Sheets and Robert Jackson: “both had committed the premeditated murders of 3 men in Shelby, N.C. and the attempted murder of two others, and that Douglas Sheets was a cocaine addict and pusher, and Robert Jackson was little more than a common thief.”

Miller finished the paragraph to the judge with a bit of self-deprecation that came to be Miller’s false-face calling card in captivity. “My wife is right, I’m a very poor judge of character.” On other occasions Miller would claim he was not very good with guns or explosives, despite his military service.  Another time he claimed that calling for a race war was simply a ploy to try and get the government to give him his organization back.  And so on and on; duplicity added to lies added to whatever ideas Miller could cook up.