40 to Watch: Leaders of the Radical Right

What does the radical right look like after a year of reverses? The future may lie in the personalities still peopling the fringe
Yusuf Shabazz, 41 | SAVANNAH, Ga.

 

Long before he began calling himself Yusuf Shabazz, Lorenzo Jackson was taking in some of the tenets of early black nationalism from his family. His grandfather was a follower of Marcus Garvey and his mother took the young Jackson to lectures and rallies of the black supremacist Nation of Islam.

While still in high school, Shabazz told the Savannah Morning News, he started a fight that evolved into a campus riot after a white student wouldn't move his feet from Shabazz's chair. Later, while at the Savannah State College studying civil engineering, he joined the Nation of Islam and changed his name.

(Savannah (Ga.) Morning News)

At 22, Yusuf Shabazz entered politics with an unsuccessful run for a local county commission seat and, in 1990, he opened the Shabazz Fish Restaurant in his home town. He also started publishing two newspapers, Freedom's Journal and the Statesboro Sun. Shabazz would try again for the county commission in 1995, when he made it to a runoff but failed to win the seat.

Shabazz got to know Khalid Abdul Muhammad, then the fiery second in command of the Nation of Islam, inviting him to Savannah for several lectures. When Muhammad left the Nation to take over the reins of the anti-white, anti-Semitic New Black Panther Party around 1997, Shabazz followed him. By 2001, shortly after the death of Muhammad, he had organized a major chapter of the Panthers in Savannah, and he was soon the Georgia state coordinator for the group as well.

Yusuf Shabazz travels frequently in his organizing work. In October 2002, for instance, he came to Montgomery, Ala., to protest police brutality and set a local chapter in motion (although this chapter never materialized). "If they take our lives, we begin to take their lives. A life for a life," Shabazz told the crowd. Although he has claimed not to be anti-white but merely pro-black, his words gave the lie to that. "There are no good crackers," he said.

Back in Savannah, Shabazz was a central figure in a controversy over a monument to African-American history. Angry that the artist selected was white, Shabazz and his Panther chapter funded a "Black Holocaust Monument" that was erected in an abandoned lot in a tough part of town.

Depicting a shackled black man, the memorial finished last December was made of papier-mâché and toppled in July. Police said the memorial may have been brought down by rain, but the Panthers suspected otherwise.


Edgar J. Steele, 58 | SAGLE, Idaho

 

Edgar Steele was a little-known lawyer with some unconventional ideas in the northern reaches of Idaho until he took the case that would make him something of a celebrity on the radical right — defending the neo-Nazi Aryan Nations and its leader against a 2000 lawsuit brought by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).

After he lost the case — which he described as an attack on free speech — Steele abandoned any effort to appear mainstream, now publicly singling out "the Jews" as being behind all that ails America.

Steele graduated from college in 1967 and then served four years in the Coast Guard, rising to command a radio-navigation station in the East China Sea. Shortly afterward, he earned a master's degree in business at the University of California at Berkeley, and worked at several corporations. But Steele soon decided to change professions and graduated from UCLA with a law degree in 1982, going to work for two years at a San Francisco firm but then setting up shop as a sole practitioner.

Today, Edgar Steele describes a Jewish lawyer who once worked for him and supposedly tried to steal his clients as a principal "trigger" for his realization that Jews are "predatory." But that attitude was not public when he took the Aryan Nations case, which the SPLC had filed on behalf of a woman and her son terrorized by Aryan security guards.

At around that time, Steele began writing essays suggesting, among other things, that the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing involved a government conspiracy.

In a late 2000 interview published in Resistance, a neo-Nazi magazine, Steele suggested that the FBI stacked the deck against the Aryan Nations by purposely failing to find an important witness. In an essay entitled "The Conspiracy Grows Ever Larger" published two years later, Steele accused the judge in the Aryan Nations case of unfairly refusing to allow him to present evidence, suggesting that it was an example of how "[j]udges and lawyers actively use existing rules and laws, or simply make it up as they go along, in furthering the leftist agenda, particularly when it comes to keeping the spotlight off things they don't want you to know."

Still, as late as September 2001, he was writing on his conspiracypenpal.com Web site that "the vast majority of American Jews are fine people," some of whom were his "friends." But an Oct. 7, 2002, essay, "It's the Jews, Stupid!!!" put an end to any question about his virulent anti-Semitism.

In 2002, Steele filed an amicus brief for the anti-black hate group Council of Conservative Citizens in a case that sought to invalidate a Virginia law outlawing cross burning. More recently, he gave a June 2003 speech to a conference of the Holocaust-denying magazine The Barnes Review.

And on July 12, taking on one more enemy, he posted the latest of scores of essays on his Web site — the first of a multi-part series, "In Defense of Racism," that attacks blacks for their alleged intellectual inferiority.


Elisha H. Strom, 28 | EARLYSVILLE, Va.

 

Elisha Strom is about as close to a feminist as you can get on the American radical right. She has engaged in running battles with some leading neo-Nazis and others over their use of salacious images of women, and has managed to enrage many male members of the group her husband helps lead, the neo-Nazi National Alliance*.

Strom apparently joined the revolutionary right early this millennium, when she became the second wife of Kevin Alfred Strom, who was a key deputy to Alliance founder and leader William Pierce. Though the couple did not live on the Alliance's compound in West Virginia, they visited often from their Earlysville, Va., home, and Pierce is known to have developed a dislike for Elisha Strom's assertive ways.

Up until their marriage, Kevin Strom's personal Web site had carried a gallery of alluring photos of young girls, many of them scantily dressed, and running to shots of a teenage Brooke Shields atop a horse. That changed after the wedding, and today his site carries a gallery of far less alluring classical art, although it includes many nude paintings.

After Pierce died in July 2002, Kevin Strom was named to replace him as host of the Alliance's shortwave "American Dissident Voices" broadcast. In that post, he has been attacked by many racists as effeminate and weak (see Against the Wall). But neither those attacks nor the criticisms leveled at her personally have caused Elisha Strom to desist.

Today, she has her own Web site (elishastrom.com) that celebrates Renaissance art and classical European composers along with the raising of "elite white children" and her "favorite man of all," Kevin Strom.

She also runs the angrywhitefemale.com Web site. And she has engaged in running battles with two key Internet racists, Bill White (see The Gossip) of overthrow.com and Alex Linder (see Potty Humor and the Revolution) of Vanguard News Network (VNN).

When Linder, an Alliance member known for his misogyny, attacked her recently, Elisha Strom responded coolly: "Very much looking forward to meeting you again, Linder. My really awesome 'Fuck VNN' t-shirt is already packed."


Samuel Jared Taylor, 51 | OAKTON, Va.

 

In his personal bearing and tone, Jared Taylor projects himself as a courtly presenter of ideas that most would describe as crudely white supremacist — a kind of modern-day version of the refined but racist colonialist of old.

And indeed, that is the stock-in-trade preferred by Taylor, who carefully avoids epithets, writes in language that approximates that of academia, and generally seeks to put a rational and well-argued face on anti-black racism.

Taylor is a Yale graduate who worked for 17 years in Japan, is fluent in that language, and greatly admires his former hosts. The reason for that admiration is instructive — the Japanese, Taylor told British journalist Nick Ryan, "think with their blood, not their passport."

Taylor entered the active racist scene in 1990, when he began publishing American Renaissance, a magazine that focuses on alleged links between race and intelligence, and on eugenics, the now discredited "science" of breeding better humans.

"Never in the history of the world has a dominant people thrown open the gates to strangers, and poured its wealth out to aliens," Taylor wrote in his magazine, under the pseudonym Thomas Jackson, in 1991. "All healthy people prefer the company of their own kind." Blacks, Taylor writes, are "crime-prone," "dissipated," "pathological" and "deviant."

Taylor, whose 1992 Paved With Good Intentions: The Failure of Race Relations in Contemporary America makes similar points in a book format, went one further in 1993, speaking at a conference of the racist Council of Conservative Citizens. (Today, Taylor's New Century Foundation, which publishes American Renaissance, is intimately related to the council through "common membership, governing bodies, trustees and officers," according to the foundation's tax forms.)

In the late 1990s, he came out with The Color of Crime, a booklet that tries to use crime statistics so as to "prove" that blacks are far more criminally prone than whites. That racist booklet is now a staple of white supremacists like former Klansman David Duke.

One thing that separates Taylor from much of the radical right, however, is his lack of anti-Semitism; he told MSNBC-TV interviewer Phil Donahue in 2003 that Jews "are fine by me" and "look white to me." That view may be related to his wife, who some in the movement have said is Jewish.

Evelyn Rich became well known because of her 1985 and 1986 interviews of Duke, conducted as part of her dissertation research, and was perceived by many as an anti-racist. (The recorded interviews, in Tulane University's archives, were used by anti-Duke forces to make radio ads attacking Duke during his run for Louisiana governor in 1991.) As a result, Taylor's long term cohabitation with Rich has shocked many of those who know about it.

Today, Jared Taylor's conferences are well-attended, suit-and-tie affairs that reflect his international reach. In 2002, speakers included Nick Griffin, leader of the neofascist British National Party, and Bruno Gollnisch, who was then second in command of Jean Marie Le Pen's immigrant-bashing National Front in France.


Harold C. Turner, 41 | NORTH BERGEN, N.J.

 

Just when some thought that the modern white supremacist movement had adopted the calmer language of scientific racism, along came Hal Turner. A belligerent, foul-mouthed talk show host, Turner is the maestro of radio hate — a man who rants about a "Portable Nigger Lyncher" machine, "faggots," "savage Negro beasts," "bull-dyke lesbians" and "lazy-ass Latinos ... slithering across the border." And that is just the beginning.

According to a profile in his local newspaper, The (Bergen County, N.J.) Record, Turner was born in Jersey City and raised in Ridgefield Park. He served a 10-month stint in the Marines, was honorably discharged, and went to work as a driver and sales manager for a moving company. Later, he sold commercial property.

Turner got involved in politics as well, serving as a Republican committeeman in Hudson County, the North Jersey coordinator for white nationalist Pat Buchanan's 1992 presidential campaign, and manager of the 1997 gubernatorial campaign of Libertarian Murray Sabrin.

As early as 1994, he was defending racism, holding a rally for New York radio talk show host Bob Grant, who had been fired from his show for making racist comments about blacks. In the late 1990s, Turner often called in to local radio shows as "Hal from North Bergen," telling their hosts things like, "The problem with police brutality is that cops don't use it enough."

In 2000, Turner sought the local Republican nomination for Congress, and was enraged when GOP leaders instead supported Theresa de Leon, a dark-skinned Hispanic who was the chief financial officer for New York's Legal Aid Society and the mother of 10 children. It was at this moment that Turner had a reported "epiphany," deciding the system was rigged against white men and abandoning all ties to the mainstream.

Not long after, he started up "The Hal Turner Show," renting time on shortwave radio maverick Allan Weiner's WBCQ, located in Monticello, Maine.

Building up a substantial audience and paying for the five-nights-a-week, two-hour show with advertising and donations, he became a favorite of many on the radical right, including several in the neo-Nazi National Alliance. After neo-Nazi World Church of the Creator* leader Matt Hale was arrested in late 2002 for allegedly soliciting the murder of a federal judge, Turner openly supported Hale.

"I don't think killing a federal judge in these circumstances would be wrong," he said, referring to the judge's ruling against Hale's group in a copyright dispute over its name. "It may be illegal, but it wouldn't be wrong."

Early in 2003, Turner told The Record, federal agents from the Secret Service and the U.S. Marshals Service questioned him about statements made on the air. Also in early 2003, Turner joined a neo-Nazi rally held in front of the Southern Poverty Law Center. In June, he was at the Aryan Nations World Congress in Idaho, where rainy weather prevented his planned outdoor on-site broadcasts.

In recent months, however, Turner has repeatedly told his listeners he was gravely ill and begged for donations to pay his creditors. But he has never said what his disease was, and his many skeptics have noted that his "illness" seems to worsen when bills come due at month's end.