23 November 2014

The Ku Klux Klan


by Leigh Lundin

For those who think the Ku Klux Klan is a relic of the past, I tell you it’s not. For example…

The Klan is alive and thriving in Florida. They are, in fact, growing. Occasionally the KKK make the news here as they quietly reconstruct their power base, even recruiting cops (one a deputy police chief) and courting politicians.

According to my tenant, a regular Baker Street Irregular, he claims to know of two Klan meeting places. I’m not sure if that implies two Klan factions or simply two KKK-friendly bars, but both white and black separatists operate in the area. Indeed, both thrive throughout the Sunshine State.

Only California reports more hate groups than Florida. But lack of breadth doesn’t mean a lack of depth. Klan and neo-Nazis dominate the militias ‘patrolling’ the southern border of the United States. White supremacists calculate Americans will be willing to overlook their extremist views as they sabre-rattle on the Mexican border, sometimes clashing with federal agents.

And then there's Missouri.

In many ways, Missouri never quite ended the Civil War. From the days of Border Ruffians and Bushwhackers, Missouri has a long and sordid history of neighbor-against-neighbor violence culminating in Quantrill's Raiders and the bandit and killer, Jesse James. Eventually, the Ku Klux Klan moved in and never left. Missouri’s history has more than a little to do with events in Ferguson.

Anon Again

In February 2011, I wrote about the group Anonymous that uncovered illegal activity amongst Bank of America, the major security firm HBGary, and a large Washington law firm, Hunton & Williams. At that time, I wrote:
“Anonymous appears to the outside world as a loose confederation of ‘hactivists’, activists comprised of computer hackers and crackers. Members claim ages of 16 through 66 and encourage an aura of anarchy, although a closer look offers a different story. They’ve waded into frays in China, Libya, and Yemen to help political dissidents. When not only extremists attacked WikiLeaks but corporations piled on as well, Anonymous sided with WikiLeaks by going after their attackers.”
Some have accused Anonymous of being nihilists or anarchists. No, I don’t think so. Coming from a hi-tech background with a low tolerance of bullies and violations of civil liberties, I understand the need for a merry band of (sensible) Robin Hoods. My background is similar both in advanced technology and belief in civil liberties, but I channel my wounded sense of justice into writing articles like this. While the public faces behind the Guy Fawkes masks appear in their twenties, underground reports suggest the inner core of Anonymous are in their fifties and sixties, technologists determined not to let Goliaths use their skills as a weapon against the weak, the impoverished, the unrepresented.
“As for Anonymous, I’m going out on a limb with an unpopular opinion and suggest the bandits perform a useful function, not only combatting tyranny in China, Lybia, Myanmar, and Yemen, but also in a free society. Can they screw up? Of course, and if they go too far, they’ll pay the price. They goose the body politic when it becomes too fat and complacent. They may not obey the law, but they follow a code. If we listen very, very closely, we can hear a tiny ping of conscience.”

The WWW v The KKK

In case you haven’t heard, the KKK focused its simmering rage on Ferguson, saying it intended to use 'lethal force' to keep residents in line and threatened a female reporter. That didn't sit well with Anonymous.

One week ago, Anonymous breached the servers of the Missouri Klan and hijacked their Twitter account, @KuKluxKlanUSA. They put up their own splash page and, on other sites, posted audio and video of their conquests, which were rapidly taken down by facebook and YouTube. Savor the irony: Social networks allow the Klan to post, but attacks upon the Klan are considered violations of ToS– terms of service. This video, posted under an alternate account, may or may not be working by the time you read this.


But wait… there’s more irony to come. The Klan set up a second account, @YourKKKcentral where it issued threats “to call the FBI!” Anonymous immediately seized control of that account too.

Anonymous operation #OpKKK didn’t stop there. They dug into the Klan’s secret membership database where they’ve been unmasking the quiet cowards who’ve hidden behind the robes. Nothing like shining a light to scatter the rats.

Exit

I’m not sure I’ve matured, but I have mellowed. Confronting white supremacists– telling them they’re stupid, they’re ignorant, they’re morally twisted– may make their opposition feel better, but it’s also an exercise in futility. It changes no one’s mind.

But Germany may be showing us a solution. An organization called Exit offers neo-Nazis a way out, a way of leaving their organization and receiving support in the mainstream world. One town, plagued by neo-Nazi’s annual march through its main street, now uses the demonstration to raise money for Exit.

More power to them!

16 comments:

Louis A. Willis said...

I knew I should have kept the news article I read the other day that reported the KKK is trying to recruit Black members. I see it now: a Black spy in a white hood and robe.

More power to Anonymous. We need more tech savvy folks who “goose the body politic.”

Leigh Lundin said...

Louis, I think you're right. I believe I read something about some affiliate of the KKK opening the door to blacks. I don't recall the logic though. Why can't they call themselves the Beaver Club or something like that?

Thanks, Louis. We'll be seeing you next week!

Anonymous said...

I like the idea of Exit. I had not heard of that. But I also applaud the spirit and means that Anonymous uses to stand up for the rights of oppressed peoples in a world with less and less privacy for anyone but the powerful. Sometimes the people in groups like the KKK do not want to change and have only the intent to eradicate anyone who disagrees with them. Their power abuses can only be stopped by people with alternative but equally strong kinds of power, who are not afraid to use it. Go Anonymous!

Dale Andrews said...

Some institutional background concerning the KKK's actions in St. Louis are discussed in an article I posted over a year ago:

http://www.sleuthsayers.org/2012/06/cross-talk.html

Missouri (my home state) has always been a sort of strange place. Most of the KKK's presence has historically been in the southern section of the state. And, as Leigh alludes, the Civil War in southern Missouri -- particularly in Shannon County (otherwise beautiful country) went on for something like 10 years longer than it did anywhere else in the country. Some of this was touched on in another article I posted some time back,

http://www.sleuthsayers.org/2013/06/jesse-james-and-meramec-caverns-another_18.html

But my hometown of St. Louis can't (as is now apparent) be absolved of blame in these areas. Tellingly, the last recorded lynching in St. Louis was in 1961, which (for us oldsters) just isn't all that long ago.

Leigh Lundin said...

Anonymous, today, there's a sweet irony replying to someone named Anonymous!

You've captured what I strove to describe, that often a Robin Hood can be useful in a society, helping to keep it on track and healthy.

C.S.Poulsen said...

Sigh. Humanity one step forward, three steps backward, and so it goes. There must be an island somewhere in the world that can be designated as Hate Island" where all haters can live hating the world together. However, that's not an original idea of mine. I hear there is such a place in the after life.

Elizabeth said...

In the 1970s one of my cousins, who lived in Maryland, was an officer of the local chapter of the KKK. He would never admit it, but I saw a big stack of Klan membership applications at his house & why else would he have those?

Although I don't feel guilty, I'm embarrassed to even think too much about this unpleasant chapter of family history!

Leigh Lundin said...

Dale, your article unfortunately slipped my mind until I saw your comment. I’ve now included links to both, thank you.

As I recall, a Southern-sympathizing newspaper owner was largely responsible for recrafting the James’ legend, recasting Jesse as a folk hero, undeserving as he was. Again, thanks for the reminder.

Claire, your last sentence made me chuckle. I agree– I don’t understand hate mongers or those who’d clasp it to their bosom. It’s a terrify, evil emotion.

Elizabeth, all of us have embarrassing relatives– look at some of the US presidents! You may have story material there. Thank you for sharing that with us!

Eve Fisher said...

Well, for over four decades the capital of the Aryan Nations was Richard Butler's compound in Hayden Lake, Idaho. For most of that time, the FBI and most "normal" law enforcement pretty much wrote off the northern panhandle of Idaho as Aryan Nations territory. What finally sort of brought them down was the Southern Poverty Law Center's winning a $6.3 million lawsuit (on behalf of a lady named Victoria Keenan and her son - they were driving near the compound, their car backfired, the boys came out and beat the living crap out of them). Bankrupted the Aryan Nations - the power of the lawsuit is another way to bring them down.

Robert Lopresti said...

I have no idea why the KKK would open to Blacks (or do anything else, really), but their emphasis has shifted on occasion. When I was growing up in NJ my father, a very conservative Roman Catholic would point out the places where the Klan decades before had held anti-immigrant, anti-Catholic rallies.

Leigh Lundin said...

Good for the SPLC, Eve! I think there's a hate-radio host who was bankrupted after he inspired neo-Nazis to beat someone, to death, if I recall.

Rob, the Klan seems to be against everyone but them good ol' boys. But then political factions like the Know-Nothings were also anti-Catholic, anti-Irish, anti-German.

Robert Lopresti said...

My favorite Kurt Vonnegut novel is Mother Night and there are minor characters who are, if I recall correctly, an aging American Nazi and his chauffeur, a Black seperatist. When the narrator asks how they can possibly get along they explain that that they are in full agreement that things have to change and heads are going to roll...

Melodie Campbell said...

It seems with every post here, I learn something. North of the border, we (or at least some of us) think of KKK as a disturbing/puzzling thing that ended in the 60s. I have had my eyes opened today.

Leigh Lundin said...

Rob, if I recall, the American Party in the latter 60s was a coalition of white ultra-right conservatives and black radicals. They joined forces to oppose their common enemy, the mainstream parties.

Melodie, about the same time, the Klan started moving into the Midwest trying to recruit. They seemed to be doing well in my home county in Indiana, persuading locals they were the 'new' Klan with new ideas. Then they torched the barn of a local black family, which turned out to be a huge mistake since that family was particularly popular. The Klan hitched up their skirts and fled town.

Over the past 20-some years, David Duke and others on the fringe kept the KKK fires stoked. With the death of William F Buckley, Jr who kept the radical right in check and the election of a black president, the far right has exploded and begun flexing their muscles.

A Broad Abroad said...

I bet many think of the KKK as a thing of the past. It takes an article like this to remind us of their insidious festering in the shadows.

Zapiro said...

From the cartoonist Zapiro