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The militia movement may have lost its steam

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By BILL MAXWELL, Times Columnist

© St. Petersburg Times
published June 23, 2002


If the Organization fails in its task now, everything will be lost -- our history, our heritage, all the blood and sacrifices and upward striving of countless thousands of years, writes Earl Turner, the fictitious narrator of the novel The Turner Diaries. "The enemy we are fighting fully intends to destroy the racial basis of our existence.

"No excuse for our failure will have any meaning, for there will be only a swarming horde of indifferent, mulatto zombies to hear it. There will be no White men to remember us -- either to blame us for our weakness or to forgive us for our folly. If we fail, God's great Experiment will come to an end, and this planet will once again, as it did millions of years ago, move through the ether devoid of higher man."

According to the FBI and organizations, such as the Southern Poverty Law Center, that watch the activities of hate groups, the above words were an essential part of the propaganda that drove the militia movement and the likes of Timothy McVeigh, the madman who bombed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995. The FBI said The Turner Diaries was "the bible of the racist right."

From the middle 1980s to the federal assault on the armed Branch Dividians in Waco, Texas in 1993, the militia movement gained strength and became a real worry for federal and state officials and civil rights groups that follow the subject. We even had a handful of U.S. Congressmen who supported the movement a few years ago.

Indeed, William L. Pierce, aka Andrew Macdonald, author of The Turner Diaries, was king among militia racists. For him and his followers, America's major enemies were African-Americans, Hispanics and Jews.

And the Organization that Turner refers to -- militia groups -- had a moral duty to save the nation for "White men."

In 2002, why has Earl Turner's hateful rhetoric lost its broad appeal to once-disaffected white men? Where are the McVeighs? Whatever happened to the militia movement?

If the horror of Oklahoma City slowed the militia movement's momentum, the attacks on the World Trade Center last September and the aftermath of the tragedy may have thrown the movement into full retreat.

The cruel irony for militia diehards is that the very sentiment to which they claimed to hold a monopoly -- patriotism -- may ultimately be the cause of their demise. The "swarming hordes" and "mulatto zombies" -- black, Hispanic and Jewish citizens -- are no longer the enemy. In the wake of Sept. 11, America has become more like one family than ever before, and more of us have become more patriotic than ever before.

This trend is bad news for the old hate-driven "patriot" groups, such as the Michigan Militia Corps-Wolverines in Alanson, Mich. Norm Olson, a longtime aide to the Corps-Wolverines, one of the groups that thrived in the early 1990s, told USA Today: "Now, we don't seem to have an objective or target. It's almost as if there is total loss of faith that we can make any kind of difference. There is general lethargy; people are giving up hope."

The Montgomery, Ala.-based law center reports that the militia movement has been in decline since its zenith in 1996, when it boasted nearly 900 groups. The movement blossomed because of fears that the Clinton adminstration was out to drastically cut citizen gun ownership and because of a belief that blacks were usurping the rights and livelihoods of white males.

According to the law center, hate-group numbers fell by nearly 20 percent in 2001, mainly after Sept. 11. They lost their raison detre: opposition to government. The real kick in the teeth for militias came when they volunteered to help the U.S. government defend the nation against our foreign enemies and were unceremoniously rejected by federal officials.

Their philosophy and commitment had been thrown back in their faces. The rejection stings. Listen to Gordon Dean, the Michigan Militia Commander: "If the militia did not offer its services in support of America's security now, it would renege from its stated purpose for being: We have vowed to defend America with our lives if necessary."

Why, then, are blacks, Hispanics and Jews no longer the enemy of the Organization? The truth is that they never were. Blacks, Hispanics and Jews as the enemy was a figment of the militia movement's fertile imagination. Theirs was a philosophy based on self-delusion and fiction, the same fiction and misguided zealotry found in The Turner Diaries, the very stuff that inspired McVeigh.

At the core the militia's philosophy is racial, ethnic and religious divisiveness among American citizens. The single, convenient object of this hatred is the government. Fortunately, the last several months have sobered some militiamen. For example, this is what Jim McKinzey, a lieutenant in the Missouri 51st Militia, told USA Today: "You ... look at what happened on Sept. 11 and understand that there are other enemies out there than Uncle Sam."

Others have learned that Uncle Sam never was the enemy.

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