Military Veterans and the White Separatist Underground’s Cult of Violence
The recent murders at two Jewish institutions in Kansas City—apparently committed by former Nazi and Klansman Frazier Glenn Miller—unfortunately come as little surprise, as it was at least the third such incident in the United States in the last five years alone. In 2012, Nazi skinhead Michael Wade Page murdered six people at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, and in 2009 Holocaust denier James Von Brunn murdered a guard at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C.
All three perpetrators fit a very specific pattern: military veterans; involved in White nationalist politics for years; felt (apparently) their lives were at an end; decided to go out and murder unsuspecting civilians at the very public institutions which their politics had always targeted.
Miller is 73 and has emphysema. Von Brunn was 88 and died soon after the shooting. Wade was only 40, but committed suicide rather than surrender at the murder scene.
Unfortunately, this trend looks like it will continue into the future. Each of these men were products of a political environment that praised violence and glorified death. And so it seems safe to assume that as long as the violence-driven White separatist and White supremacist political underground remains, at least some of their activists can be expected to end their lives in such a manner in the future.
Frazier Glenn Miller
The ideology of White supremacy that Miller embraced has historically been intertwined with the use of institutional violence, from the genocide of Native Americans and American slavery to the lynchings of African-Americans. The Ku Klux Klan, often aided by local police, resisted the Civil Rights Movement with intimidation and murder. But even after the battle to defend segregation was lost and most Southern police agencies distanced themselves from the Klan, White separatist and supremacist groups have continued the open use of violence—only now without institutional backing—against religious, racial, and sexual minorities.
In recent decades, White nationalists moved from being pro-government, patriotic Americans—in the 1940s, one could support Jim Crow segregation at home and still fight the Nazis abroad—to being anti-system, right-wing revolutionaries. Bolstered by the Nazi skinhead subculture that exploded in the 1980s, this change from pro- to anti-system helped foster an ongoing culture of extreme violence. For such a small political movement, its members commit a fantastic number of violent criminal acts, which have included political assassinations, murders in public and domestic settings, and bombings which seek to inflict mass casualties. All of this is a microcosm of the violence praised by the historic fascist movement and its philosophical valorization of the “act”—as well as its practice of “total war” and racial genocide.
Miller played a central role in this shift towards revolutionary Far Right militancy. Originally a member of the White nationalist National States Rights Party, he later joined the neo-Nazi National Socialist Party of America, with whom he took part in the Greensboro Massacre of five left-wing, anti-racist protestors. He then formed the Carolina Ku Klux Klan, which morphed into the White Patriot Party (WPP), described by Leonard Zeskind as a “hybrid organization [which] grafted uniformed paramilitarism and Naziesque ideology onto its roots as a white-robed Klan group.”* This was part of what is called the “Nazification of the Klan,” when Nazi and Klan groups overcame historical divisions and grew closer in ideology and collaboration.
Miller has described himself as “ultra Right plus a million miles.” His party’s platform was “Southern independence. The creation of an all-White nation within the one million square miles of mother Dixie. We have no hope for Jew York City or San Fran-cissy-co and other areas that are dominated by Jews, perverts, and communists and non-White-minorities and rectum-loving queens.” The group’s prerecorded phone messages included “the simulated voice of a black man being lynched.” This approach proved quite popular: by 1985, Miller claimed the WPP had 2,500 members, and they held public marches with hundreds of members dressed in camouflage uniforms and black berets. In 1984, Miller ran for North Carolina governor and received 5,000 votes.**
A member of the U.S. Army’s Special Forces, Miller retired from the military in 1979, but used his military background to recruit soldiers and accumulate an arsenal that included anti-tank rockets. He received $200,000 from the underground White nationalist terror group The Order (Brüder Schweigen), and was involved in a plot to kill Morris Dees of the Southern Poverty Law Center. (Meanwhile, former members of the WPP were arrested in a triple murder in a gay bookstore in 1987.)
That same year, Miller was arrested, fled underground, and issued a “Declaration of War” against the federal government. Caught shortly thereafter with a cache of weapons, he flipped, testifying against his fellow White nationalists in the Fort Smith sedition trial. Released after serving three years in prison, he kept a relatively low profile until recently, as he had been shunned by his former colleagues as a snitch. But apparently his political views had not changed. After his arrest in Kansas City, Miller yelled “Heil Hitler!” at a television crew from the back of a police car. Although we don’t know his motives yet, he seems to have surrendered peacefully and knows he’ll probably serve the rest of his life in prison.
James Von Brunn
A Navy veteran, Von Brunn had links to antisemitic groups going back to the 1970s, and was connected to various figures in the White nationalist movement. In 1981, he brought a shotgun into a Federal Reserve meeting, hoping to kidnap board members and read a televised speech; he served eight years in jail for the crime, though he blamed the “negro jury” and “Jew judge” for the sentence. Telling his ex-wife he was planning to go out “with his boots on,” in June of 2009 Von Brunn went to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., and murdered a guard. Wounded at the scene, Von Brunn died of natural causes six months later.
Michael Wade Page
Page served in the Army in the 1990s before being discharged for “patterns of misconduct” (alcoholism). He was somewhat unusual in that he apparently became involved in Nazi skinhead activities not as a teenager, but rather when he was almost 30. A “patched-in” member of the Hammerskins—an international racist skinhead organization whose reputation for violence is notable even among skinheads—he played in racist bands before life turned sour as the 40 year old as he lost his job, his girlfriend left him, and his house was foreclosed on.
In 2012, he opened fire at a Sikh temple and murdered six unarmed worshippers before he shot himself in the head after he was wounded by a police officer during a gun battle.
And there are many others who fit the profile a little less precisely. For example, former Marine J.T. Ready was an anti-immigrant activist who formed two armed vigilante border patrol groups in Arizona. A recent member of the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement, in 2012 he murdered four people in what was apparently a domestic dispute and then killed himself.
The military background of each of these men is unsettling, as it provides weapons training and sometimes combat experience. Veterans are known to suffer from high rates of domestic violence, suicide, and mental health problems. But veterans come in all political stripes, and it’s the simmering violence in the White separatist and supremacist milieu that’s clearly the spark.
Action Over Thought – More To Come
The Nazi and Klan political environments cultivate a cult of the warrior, often draped in Viking imagery which praises soldiers who go to Valhalla. It promotes action over thought, and a deeply patriarchal mindset that attacks Jews and non-Europeans and accuses them of weakness, disease, and of diluting a strong White identity.
Having spent years immersed in these narratives, and facing the end of their lives, some longtime militant Far Right activists are choosing violent ends—even if their supposed warrior deaths turn out to be cowardly assassinations. They seek soft targets and murder unsuspecting—and usually unarmed—civilians.
Unfortunately, there seems to be no shortage of Millers, Von Brunns, and Pages. In recent years, the White separatist violence of past decades has simmered down. Klan groups are declining, as the less-explicitly-bigoted Patriot movement is in ascendance. The skinhead culture has lost its youthful cache, and most of the prominent Nazi skinhead groups have collapsed. But the ultra-violent culture these men thrived in during their prime still retains its mental hold on thousands of aging, troubled men. We should brace ourselves for more of them to take the same path out when they decide their lives are at an end.
However, one thing that could be done to lessen these scenarios would be to support the work of “transitioning out” programs, which help neo-Nazi and similar activists escape the political scene they often are trapped in. Those wishing to exit are often threatened by their colleagues, and need help removing White supremacist tattoos, finding jobs, moving themselves and their families to safe locations, and establishing new social networks. The lack of availability of these programs often leads disenchanted militant Far Rightists back into their established social and political networks, which—in the cases looked at here—can have tragic results for both themselves, their families, and their victims. Groups like One People’s Project (onepeoplesproject.com) and Life After Hate (lifeafterhate.org) are open to help those wishing to exit these politics and start new lives.
* Leonard Zeskind, Blood and Politics (New York : Farrar Straus Giroux, 2009), 131.
** Cited in James Ridgeway, Blood in the Face, second edition (New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press, 1995), 118–19.
SPLC has published several phone calls between the head of their Intelligence Project, Heidi Beirich, and Frazier Glenn Miller. You can see all of them here.