Nationalist Socialist Movement Building a Juggernaut
The National Socialist Movement, once a forgotten bit player on the fringe of the American Radical Right, is building a juggernaut.
MAUMEE, Ohio -- At a drab motel on the outskirts of Toledo, the Nazis got ready for the big rally. Inside their $45-a-night rooms, they busily shined their tall black boots, pressed their crisp brown storm trooper uniforms, and pinned Iron Cross tacks to their clip-on ties. With Velcro, they affixed their official National Socialist Movement armbands, described in the NSM clothing catalog as "blood-red with white circle and black swastika, hand-sewn by the women of the National Socialist Movement, comes with a certificate of authenticity. $14.88."
Outside the Knight's Inn lobby, 32-year-old "Commander" Jeff Schoep, the national leader of the NSM, talked in low tones with Bill White, the neo-Nazi outfit's media front man and a slumlord financier from Roanoke, Va. Nearby, Hal Turner, a racist New Jersey radio host who publicly advocates the murder of blacks, Jews, and federal judges, nervously puffed a cigar. It was Dec. 10. Nearly two months had passed since a planned NSM march through a rough Toledo neighborhood sparked rioting that made international news. The unrest occurred after Toledo police officers hustled the neo-Nazis to safety to save them from a furious mob whose members then re-directed their anger toward the police. The Nazis had escaped without a scratch and then declared total victory as television screens across five continents showed hundreds of black youths overturning cars, looting stores, setting fire to buildings and battling with police.
"The Negro beasts proved our point for us," said Schoep.
Indeed, the NSM couldn't have paid for better publicity. Every article and broadcast named the National Socialist Movement and many quoted White decrying black street crime. The widespread coverage boosted the status of a 30-year-old hate group whose power was already surging. At the time of the Toledo riot, the NSM had just added four new units, or local chapters, in three new states.
By February, the total had risen to 59 units in 32 states as the NSM continued to salvage and reassemble the shards of America's shattered neo-Nazi movement. Its leaders are building a new hate machine fueled on bloodthirsty rhetoric, publicity stunts and big-tent recruiting.
Building a Juggernaut
For nearly three decades after it was founded in 1974, the NSM was overshadowed by the National Alliance and Aryan Nations, American's longtime leading neo-Nazi organizations, and later by the World Church of the Creator. But while those groups have largely imploded in recent years following the deaths or imprisonment of their leaders, the NSM has thrived. From a forgotten bit player on the neo-Nazi scene, it has grown into the largest and most active neo-Nazi organization in the country. In addition to starting 26 new local chapters in just over six months, the NSM recently launched its own white power music label and distribution business, NSM88 Records, and set up 88PAC ("88" is movement shorthand for "Heil Hitler"), a political action committee that's registered with the Federal Election Commission to raise money for "pro-White" politicians, including NSM candidates for president and vice-president in 2008.
In the post-National Alliance era, the NSM has also rapidly achieved a higher profile than neo-Nazi upstarts White Revolution and National Vanguard. It's done this by ramping up the frequency and aggression of its theatrical street actions and by extending a standing invitation to "all white nationalists" to join or at least to share the stage at NSM rallies. Whereas other neo-Nazi groups have cloaked themselves in intellectual pretensions, screened their members and operated in the shadows, the NSM is open to practically anyone willing to dress up in a Nazi costume and march in public screaming "nigger."
"Since [last] June -- and particularly since October -- various white organizations, from Klan klaverns [local chapters] to Aryan Nations congregations to National Vanguard, National Alliance and White Revolution, units have simply been transferring their allegiance to the NSM," White boasted in January. "Many of them admire our activism. Many of them like the fact that we are legally confronting Jews and blacks in the streets."
White is a crafty promoter who, along with white power shock talk radio maven Hal Turner, has proven to be quite good at generating a buzz within white supremacist circles and getting attention from the mainstream media. White is also a frequent liar who enjoys spreading outright falsehoods and half-truths about competing hate groups, their leaders and members on his rumor-mill Web site. But when it comes to the expansion of the NSM, his braggadocio is based in fact. The group of about 60 white supremacists that gathered outside the Knight's Inn for the NSM's Dec. 10 rally in Toledo was almost evenly divided between uniformed neo-Nazis and members of various other groups, including the World Church of the Creator, National Vanguard, and several Skinhead gangs. The youngest racist there was a 15-year-old member of the NSM Viking Youth Corps. "I kinda hope we get into it with the niggers. I'm ready to fight if I have to," the boy said. "We're here to stand up for our rights and to show the Jews that we're not afraid of all the niggers they have mind-controlled."
A caravan of slush- and grime-coated hatchbacks, pickups, and minivans with license plates from seven states pulled into the parking lot. "If anyone has a firearm, please leave it in your room. And if anyone needs to use the bathroom, go now," White called out. "It's almost show time."
Publicity and Propaganda
The National Socialist Movement inherited its Third Reich fetish directly from the American Nazi Party, which was founded by George Lincoln Rockwell in 1959. After Rockwell was murdered in 1967, two of his chief lieutenants, Robert Brannen and Cliff Herrington, formed the National Socialist American Workers Freedom Movement in St. Paul, Minn. Herrington assumed sole leadership of the group in 1983 after Brannen's health failed. Over the next decade, the group achieved little, managing only to open a handful of chapters outside Minnesota.
Then, in 1993, Herrington and one other member of his tiny group attended a Minnesota state legislative committee meeting in full Nazi dress to protest a proposed gay-rights ordinance. A pair of anti-gay rights protesters clutching Bibles and quoting Leviticus might have been ignored by the local media. But a couple of neo-Nazis sporting swastika armbands and hailing Hitler made the evening news and the next day's front page. Capitalizing on that success, Herrington and his small but suited band of Nazis began vigorously exercising their First Amendment rights. They quickly became the most infamous public nuisance in the Twin Cities.
The year after his debut at the legislature, Herrington handed over leadership of the group to Jeff Schoep, who was then 21. Schoep had been a member since at least his late teens and Herrington, who remains active with NSM today, believed that Schoep was more capable of attracting a new generation of American neo-Nazis.
Schoep renamed the group National Socialist Movement and declared his intention to form a "United Patriot Front" by reaching out to members of the Ku Klux Klan and racist Skinhead gangs. In fact, Schoep created a special NSM Skinhead Division and began offering discounted memberships to Skinheads for just $35 a year (regular NSM dues are $120).
With the exception of a few grizzled veterans of the Rockwell era, including "Chairman" Herrington and "Colonel Wild Bill" Hoff, the membership of the NSM is generally younger than other neo-Nazi groups in the U.S., and its tactics and image since the beginning have been far more crudely aggressive. At a summer 2002 rally in Topeka, Kansas, when 21 NSM members faced off with hundreds of anti-Nazi demonstrators, Schoep waved a noose. More recently, on Martin Luther King Day 2006, members of NSM's three Ohio units protested outside a King memorial ceremony in Troy, Ohio. "They had a long-winded prayer about that filthy nigger and I kept interrupting them with loud comments about Church's Fried Chicken and how the collard greens was gettin' cold," reported NSM Ohio leader "SS" Mann Mark Martin, who recently defected to NSM from White Revolution. "Ahhh... I love free speech."