Big Noise's excellent report on right-wing extremism in America
They seemed like very cool folks, but when they told me they were working on a doc about white supremacy in the U.S. and its ties to the Tea Party movement and the anti-immigrant movement in the southwest, I can't say I knew what to expect. At the time, I was very impressed with their ability to gain access to the neo-Nazi Oi Fest that went down in Tonopah this past October.
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After watching their just released doc White Power U.S.A., which debuted recently on the satellite news network Al Jazeera English, I'd have to doff my chapeau in their general direction, if I wore a chapeau. Making it look easy, they have seamlessly tied together in one neat 24 minute package the challenge facing a Barack Obama-led nation over the issues of race and immigration. All this, with sometimes breathtaking photography of the Arizona desert.
Mesa neo-Nazi J.T. Ready makes a star appearance (of course), and insists that the filmmakers interview him out at Highway 88 (retarded!). Rowley and Soohen also show some past footage of J.T. down near the border with minuteman and U.S. Senate candidate Chris Simcox, as J.T. plays with weapons. They mention J.T.'s an ex-Marine, but I wish they'd also mentioned that the Ernst Rohm of the East Valley was twice court-martialed and booted from the military. But hey, you can't have everything.
Puente Movement activist Sal Reza is interviewed in Arivaca, in eyeshot of the house where minutewoman Shawna Forde allegedly participated in the murder of a father and his nine year-old girl during a vicious home invasion robbery. And of course, there's plenty of footage from the November Nazi rally, featuring twerps such as NSM fuhrer Jeff Schoep and geezer brownshirt Clifford Harrington. Hey, Cliff, Hail Satan! (Heh, inside joke.)
But my favorite parts included interviews with two of my faves: Political Research Associates' Chip Berlet, an investigative journalist who has taken on both extreme right-wing and left-wing wackos, including 9/11 "troofers"; and Leonard Zeskind , author of Blood and Politics: The History of the White Nationalist Movement from the Margins to the Mainstream, a monumental, eloquent overview of three decades of hate in America. I actually finished reading Zeskind's book not too long ago, so watching him analyze the links between far-right extremism, the anti-immigration movement and the anti-Obama-ites was doubly fascinating for me.
"There's a sense of white dispossession among a certain strata of the white population," notes Zeskind in the documentary. "They feel like this used to be their country, they ran it, and now they don't. And they want their country back."
That is, actually, an observation many white supremacists, separatists, nationalists and Tea Baggers would agree with. Hell, Glenn Beck might even agree with it, given his remarks on Fox that Obama has a "deep-seated hatred for white people," and is a "racist."
In any case, check out the video. It's well-worth repeated viewings.
Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.