Revisiting Blood in the Face in the Wake of the Overland Park Shootings

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Frazier Glenn Miller, Jr. (AKA Frazier Glenn Cross, Jr.) will likely be hit with federal hate crime charges in addition to murder for the shootings at the Jewish Community Center in the Overland Park suburb of Kansas City:

Frazier Glenn Miller Jr., 73, of Aurora, Mo., also known as Frazier Glenn Cross, could be charged as soon as today in Johnson County District Court, where he probably will face murder counts. District Attorney Steve Howe said information about charges could be released this morning.
Miller has made statements to investigators, but authorities would not reveal those comments Monday. The southwest Missouri man long has been known for deeply anti-Semitic and racist statements. He was a Ku Klux Klan grand dragon at one time and founded the White Patriot Party in the 1980s.

I thought the shooter's name sounded familiar, but I couldn't place it until they showed some clips of his WPP days. That's when I knew where I'd seen him: in a 1991 documentary about white supremacists called Blood in the Face. I rewatched it earlier this week (it's available for streaming on Amazon), and was struck by how the filmmakers really didn't take Frazier (or other white power figures in the movie) very seriously, and how big a mistake that might have been.

Context is important. In 1991, America had emerged as the clear victor of the Cold War and was still one glorious, Pearl Jam-filled decade away from 9-11. We'd conducted a nice, perfunctory military campaign against Iraq, the wars in Croatia and Bosnia has yet to really get rolling, and white power groups like the KKK and The Order -- though still in existence -- seemed almost quaint. Surely this new age of enlightenment (The Ren & Stimpy Show and Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego both debuted that year) meant such hate groups were on the outs, yes?

To be fair, I don't think this was the intent of James Ridgeway, investigative journalist and author of the book the film is based on, which he also co-directed (the title comes from National Alliance founder William Pierce's assertion that only white people can show shame: "blood in the face"). In fact, he's since updated that work to include references to the Oklahoma City bombing and the rise of the militia movement. However, while watching the film it's hard not to get the sense Ridgeway's co-directors Anne Bohlen and Kevin Rafferty (Rafferty directed another of my favorite docs, The Atomic Cafe) were trying to emphasize the buffoonery while playing down the menace. This story continues on the next page.

The movie opens at a sort of summit meeting for far right/extremist groups in Michigan. The opening shot settles on the Quonset hut where speeches will be given. Above it, a sign reads "Hall of the Giants."

In and of itself, no big deal, but Rafferty lingers on it just long enough to give you a hint of the approach he's about to take.

A parade of speakers follow. Some are recognizable: host Bob Miles is sort of the elder statesman of the Christian Identity movement, and Don Black is a former KKK Grand DragonWizard or whatever they call themselves, and the founder of Stormfront. Others less so: I liked the woman simply identified with "Ann" on her name tag who spoke haltingly of eliminating "race traitors."

To the filmmakers' credit, all they really had to do was point and shoot. CI minister Jack Moher is an especially good subject, leading off by defining "the opposition:"

ZOG: the Zionist Occupied Government and their shabazz goy stooges.

["Shabazz Goy Stooges" is the name of my hardcore klezmer band.]

Moher goes on like this, picking up later on with a comparative analysis of minority "breeding rates" consisting of statistics you can literally see him making up as he goes along.

Spurious stats play a huge role in the white power movement, by the way. Things are different now, when everyone with a 3G connection can use Google to call these people on their bullshit, but in 1991 you just had to sit there and gape when some unnamed chucklehead told you telegony was real, or a guy in a hood insisted "the only people on welfare are niggers and Mexicans."

There's also a section devoted to American Nazi Party founder George Lincoln Rockwell (no stranger to made-up statistics himself, he claimed 80 percent of Jews were traitors), possibly the least mourned victim of assassination since Lee Harvey Oswald.

And then it gets weird. Armageddon, we're told, will be fought in the United States. 11 divisions of Vietnamese soldiers are hidden somewhere in the U.S., while 11.5 million illegal Mexicans are bringing Soviet Jews into the country to serve as kommisars. 300,000 illegal immigrants have also sneaked in to the country with backpack nuclear bombs. And to top it off, our own military is aware of the existence of "35,000 Viet Cong operating in the wilds of British Columbia" in addition to 30,000 North Koreans in Baja, California and a similar number of Mongolians(!) in the Yucatan Peninsula.

This story continues on the next page.

This is all laid out while Rafferty et al. have scored the entire segment to Holst's "Mars," because the bat-shittedness of these claims isn't laughable enough.

Miller (billed as Glenn Miller, which would have confused my Big Band-loving grandfather) shows up briefly, towards the end. He appears to be a guest of honor, a status accorded by his founding of the WPP and criminal record (I guess word had yet to filter out among the supremacist community about how he'd dropped a dime on his fellow hatemongers). He closes by announcing his run for Senate in North Carolina (I'm not sure when the movie was shot, but the only NC Senate run I could find was from 1986. Miller earned 3.17 percent of the vote).

As I've said, at the time it was easy to blow off these guys, most of whom were old white dudes (Miles, Richard Butler, Moher, and Pierce have all since died). But scattered among bon mots like calling Jerry Falwell a Jew and file photos of new Louisiana Congressman David Duke wearing Klan robes and carrying a sign saying "Gas the Chicago 7" are more ominous portents.

Miles reminds the assembled crowd, "If you're going to do the time, don't regret the crime," words which no doubt rang true to individuals like Timothy McVeigh. Miles goes on the describe how the working class will form the core of the white power movement. Granted, back in 1991, this is what we were shown:

But isn't this even more applicable today? With our continuing economic struggles, those forced to work multiple jobs and live paycheck to paycheck could easily become resentful to the point of violent action. Action which likely wouldn't be aimed at the government or the banks, but rather at populations blamed for white people's troubles.

Miller's crimes could be viewed as the natural endgame of a life lived in hate, a lashing out at perceived irrelevance in his own community, an attempt to silence fellow white supremacists who continue to label him an FBI informant, or a combination of all of these. One thing's certain: the election of the nation's first black President didn't spell the end of racism in America. In reality, it stoked those fires even higher, apparently validating the insane paranoia of those who believe ZOG and their "shabazz goy stooges" are out to destroy their way of life.

"We've sown the seeds," Bob Miles says. How many more will we see sprout before this madness ends?

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