Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Archaeology of a smear, part 1: the World Church of the Creator

Dr. Dawg notes that it seems that every-one is talking about neo-nazis today. Here's my contribution.

You may never have heard of the World Church of the Creator (WCOTC), which was founded by Ben Klassen, the author of the White Man's Bible (cover to the left). If you have heard of it, you will know that the WCOTC has a long history of racist violence that reached its peak on the July 4th weekend, 1999, when one of its adherents — whom the WCOTC calls 'creators' — Benjamin Nathaniel Smith went on a three-day killing spree in Indiana and Illinois, targeting blacks, orthodox Jews, and Asians. He killed two and wounded nine before committing suicide.

That rampage took place two days after WCOTC "pontifex maximus", Matthew Hale (pictured to the right), had been denied a license to practice law in Illinois on the grounds that he lacked the "requisite moral character" to be a lawyer: his open advocacy of racial hate and racist violence rendered him unsuitable. (Snark about lawyers if you must, but they do have some standards.)

In the aftermath of the spree, Hale admitted that the decision about his law license had probably been behind Smith's attack (here). He also admitted teaching hatred, but justified it on the grounds "If you love something, you must be willing to hate that which threatens it." The white race, according to Hale, is threatened by "mud races". By the end of the year, Hale had named Smith "Creator of the Year" because "he brought more media attention to the Church than any other Creator". He encouraged other adherents "to view Brother Smith's activism as an example to follow" (here).

Some members apparently took this exhortation seriously. In July 2002, two WCOTC-adherents were convicted of plotting to blow up black and Jewish landmarks in Boston. In late 2002, following a court ruling against him in a trademark infringement case, death threats started to circulate on white supremacists sites such as stormfront, and in Jan. 2003, Hale himself was recorded conspiring to murder her with an FBI informant and arrested, tried, and convicted. (He is currently serving a 40 year sentence.) This is all part of a long history of racist violence that the group had shown:
    One member was convicted of killing a black sailor returning from the Persian Gulf war in 1991 in Florida. Two members pleaded guilty to the 1997 beating of a black man and his son in Miami, and last year, also in Florida, four members pleaded guilty to robbing and pistol-whipping a video store owner they believed to be Jewish. Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center said members of the group had also been linked to a plot to bomb a large Los Angeles African Methodist Episcopal church in 1993 and to the bombing of an office of the N.A.A.C.P. in Tacoma, Wash., that year. [source]
You can read more about the group's history of violence here, here, here, here. The violence, unsurprisingly, brought the movement wide exposure, and in the week after Smith's rampage there were profiles in the New York Times, Time Magazine, CNN, and elsewhere. Sometimes (as here) this made the public wary of the group. The exposure also helped attract sympathizers, however, and the following years saw new members and new chapters (here), including in Canada.

To be continued…