Frustration and anger are rising in America’s neo-Nazi scene, which is willing to resort to violence, and the number of followers in radical right-wing groups is growing. Yet the general public is ignoring the danger from the right; they continue to see a greater threat in al-Qaida. This could prove to be a fatal error -- a number of radicals are ready for extreme measures.
In the last weeks of his life, the thoughts of Wade Michael Page must have darkened. In the middle of June, the 40-year-old neo-Nazi separated from his girlfriend Misty and left their shared apartment in Milwaukee. From the middle of July on, he no longer went to work in a welding plant.
Two weeks later, he bought a Springfield XDM handgun and three magazines with 19 rounds each. The owner of the store later told the American media that Page didn’t seem at all suspicious: He hadn’t been blathering and didn’t smell of alcohol. At the beginning of August, Page then appeared in the Sikh temple of Oak Creek, Wisconsin, and shot six innocent people and then himself.
Page probably only directed his hate toward the peaceful Indian immigrants because they were dark-skinned, but the possible triggers for the deed (Relationship stress? Depression? Shooting spree?) are unclear and may never be determined. Nevertheless, Page’s case confirms that a right-wing radical “lone wolf” can be extremely dangerous, and the government can barely detect one in time.
Powerless Against Notorious Skinheads
Frustration and anger are rising in America’s neo-Nazi scene, as is the number of followers and groups, but it is a confusing milieu. The police are powerless against even notorious skinheads like Page, who had openly condemned all minorities for many years. And although more violence has been perpetrated on American soil in the past ten years by right-wing extremists than by Islamists, the public is still more concerned about foreign enemies like al-Qaida than about the activities of their native white radicals.
Page was known to observers of the scene for more than a decade. Criminal expert Pete Simi from the University of Nebraska had even been meeting with him since 2001 for a longitudinal study. Page had just been discharged from the army and sought to be near right-wing radical musicians in California. He talked about a Jewish world conspiracy, persecution by blacks and discrimination against whites.
“He felt whites were essentially on the verge of extinction. That is the core element of a kind of white supremacist world view,” explained Professor Simi this week on PBS. “White supremacist” is a collective term for different movements like skinheads, neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klan members and Christian extremists; they all consider the white race to be not only superior, but also endangered. For Page, this ideology was his only home. For years, he moved across the country on his motorcycle and played in various skinhead bands.
A Number of Radicals Are Ready for Extreme Measures
Music is important to the scene. It agitates against Jews, blacks and gays, and in doing so, it creates a feeling of community. The messages are extremely aggressive. “In particular, because they see that whites are on the verge of extinction, they feel that violence to a certain extent, to a large extent, is justifiable. You can view — even unprovoked predatory violence can be viewed as a form of self-defense by whites to try and essentially save the race,” Simi explains. However, the message is often ambiguous: Many call for violence, but distance themselves when it happens. In right-wing extremist Internet forums like stormfront.org, by no means is there complete agreement about Page’s bloody deed. Some find that such a rampage damages the common cause.
Several radicals, however, are ready for extreme measures. As recently as the spring, 10 members of American Front, a militia-style skinhead organization, were arrested because they had planned an attack on [Jews, minorities and immigrants] on May 1. The Front had stockpiled a large number of weapons and trained regularly for the “race war.”
According to court documents, the property of Marcus Faella, the alleged leader, was set up like a paramilitary training ground: with barbed wire, pit bulls, trenches, stocks of ammunition and provisions. Apparently, Faella was also experimenting with chemicals. He dreamed of an “Aryan camp” in which they would live together and hoped to get more recruits from the publicity generated by the act of terror. The planned attack on a left-wing demonstration failed because the police had infiltrated the group with an informant.
The numbers concerning terrorism in the U.S. do not correspond to the public’s perception. While al-Qaida is considered the greatest threat since Sept. 11, most of the terrorist attacks in the past ten years have originated from either right-wing extremists or groups that are not primarily racist, but reject the government or state and are ideologically far right.
According to a study by the New America Foundation, not only do most terror cases emanate from these two factions, but the most dangerous ones - that is, those in which explosives or chemical weapons are in play - do also. In 2003, militiaman William Krar was arrested in Texas; he had built a bomb with cyanide and stockpiled conventional explosives and hundreds of thousands of rounds of ammunition.
Rage About Obama’s Election Victory
The feeling of being losers once and for all since black President Obama took office and the economic crisis began could prompt white extremists to take extreme measures. At the same time, experts on terrorism criticize the government for having withdrawn too many resources from tracking neo-Nazis.
The FBI defends itself with a reference to quite different hurdles: Skinheads like Page can spread as much hate in their music or websites as they want because this right is guaranteed by the constitution. Unlike in Germany, hate speech is not a punishable offense. Investigators cannot compile a record until an extremist threatens a particular person with violence or prepares for acts of violence against a concrete target.
In the case of lone wolf Page, no one had realized this until he entered the temple with his new pistol. He needed no training camp for preparation and no accomplices. In the weapon stores of the country, an arsenal for racist mass murders is available at any time.
Edited by Laurence Bouvard