Until his death in November 2020 at the age of 82, Tom Metzger had a long record of advocating for racist violence and terrorism. He was a former California grand dragon of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan (KKKK) who, in the mid-1980s, founded White Aryan Resistance (WAR), one of the leading racist groups of that period, and was the publisher of a gutturally racist tabloid.
About Tom Metzger
Metzger, a neo-Nazi, was one of the early pioneers of using cable television to promote his message. WAR was bankrupted by a 1990 Southern Poverty Law Center civil lawsuit over the murder of Mulugeta Seraw, a Black college student and father. In the 1980s, Metzger served as a kind of ideologue and godfather figure for the racist skinhead scene. He was one of the first white-power leaders to recognize the significance of hate music and concerts as tools and forums for recruiting young persons into the white-power movement.
Metzger served 46 days of a six-month sentence in 1992 in Los Angeles County for unlawful assembly after attending a cross burning in 1983. He was released early to attend to his dying wife. He and his son, John, were jailed for five days in Toronto, Ontario, in 1992 for violating Canada's immigration laws by entering the country “to promote race hatred.” In 2009, Metzger’s home was searched in connection with the arrest of two brothers accused of carrying out a mail bomb attack in Arizona that injured the city of Scottsdale’s diversity director.
In His Own Words
“The right wing is dead. The Marxists are dead. It’s a white revolution.”
– 1989 speech at “Aryan Woodstock” white power concert
“We will put blood on the streets like you’ve never seen. And advocate more violence than both world wars put together.”
– 1990 WAR telephone answering service message
“My total concern is with the survival of the white European people in North America.”
– 2002 MSNBC interview
“We have to infiltrate! Infiltrate the military! Infiltrate your local governments! Infiltrate your school board! Infiltrate law enforcement!”
– 2004 speech to skinheads at a hate-rock festival
“Jews are supreme masters of manipulation and deceit. They run and distort our foreign policy because lazy and corrupt non-Jew leaders had previously found them valuable as grifters.”
– Undated commentary on Metzger's website
An Indiana native, Thomas Linton Metzger joined the U.S. Army as a young man, then moved to Los Angeles when his tour of duty ended in the early 1960s. He became interested in the far right and joined the John Birch Society, but he quit the anticommunist organization because it didn’t share his antisemitic zeal. In the ensuing years, Metzger joined and quit the violently anticommunist Minutemen paramilitary group, supported the unsuccessful presidential bids of libertarian Barry Goldwater and segregationist George Wallace, publicly opposed the Vietnam War, formed an organization called the White Brotherhood and finally joined the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in 1975. KKKK leader David Duke eventually promoted Metzger to grand dragon, or state leader, of California.
Up until this time, Metzger had been running a television repair business in relative obscurity in the San Diego County town of Fallbrook, known for its avocado groves and for being the retirement home of baseball hall-of-famer Duke Snider. That changed in 1979, when he and other armed Klansmen began patrolling the U.S.-Mexican border near Tijuana for illegal aliens. Called Klan Border Watch, the patrols were little more than a publicity stunt, and they received major press coverage. Around the same time, Metzger became an ordained minister of the Christian Identity theology. Adherents typically believe that Jews are the “seed of Satan,” people of color are soulless “mud people” and the Bible is the history of the white race.
Metzger and Duke had a falling out, and in 1980 Metzger split his state organization away from the KKKK to form the California Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. He led several dozen Klansmen armed with bats, chains and nightsticks in a clash with anti-Klan demonstrators in the city of Oceanside, a melee that left several people injured. Also in 1980, Metzger decided to run for U.S. Congress in the Democratic primary in a conservative district. He stunned many people when he won with more than 33,000 votes, or 37% of the total. He was disavowed by the Democratic Party, however, and then was trounced by the Republican incumbent in the general election. But the election made Metzger into a formidable figure on the racist right.
After that loss, Metzger left his own Klan group and formed the White American Political Association to promote “pro-white” political candidates. In 1982, he ran in the Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate in California and lost badly. A year later, he changed the name of the group to White Aryan Resistance, or WAR. The loose-knit organization had no membership initiation or rosters, and no uniforms.
Soon, Metzger was hosting a local access cable television show called “Race and Reason” that at one time aired in 62 cities in 21 states. (Local access cable stations were required to allow local programming, something Metzger and many other racial activists took advantage of during the 1980s and 1990s.) And WAR began publishing a monthly newspaper that proclaimed itself “the most racist newspaper on earth.” Featuring scurrilous and crudely drawn cartoons, antisemitic and racist articles, and information on where to purchase such items as white-power music and racist books, the WAR tabloid became a key Metzger tool in organizing racist skinheads to become the “shock troops” of the coming revolution. Indeed, the newspaper ran display ads for Skrewdriver, the influential British white power band revered by skinheads. “I was the first in the country to recognize skinheads and befriend them,” Metzger boasted in a 2004 interview. Other Metzger tools were a telephone hotline to disseminate the latest racist information and an electronic bulletin board by which racist skinheads and others could more easily communicate with each other.
Additionally, Metzger expressed an appreciation for black racists who, like him, were anti-Semitic and wanted to keep the races separate. He donated $100 to the Nation of Islam in 1985 after Louis Farrakhan, the Nation’s vitriolic leader, gave an antisemitic speech that Metzger attended. That same year, Metzger and 200 white supremacists convened in Michigan to pledge their support for the Nation of Islam.
In 1988, Metzger and his son, John, organized the first-ever hate music festival, Aryan Fest. Racist skinheads of all stripes traveled to Oklahoma for the event. The father and son also appeared on an infamous episode of Geraldo Rivera’s daytime talk show that ended in a televised melee, with Rivera’s nose broken by a thrown chair.
But, most tragically, 1988 was the year that a Metzger protégé, Dave Mazzella, went to Portland, Oregon, to organize a skinhead group called East Side White Pride (ESWP). Mazzella was vice president of the Aryan Youth Movement, WAR’s youth unit. Mazzella carried an introductory letter from Metzger and arranged for ESWP members to speak to him by phone.
Three weeks after Mazzella’s arrival in Portland, ESWP skinhead Ken Mieske and two others beat to death an Ethiopian college student and father named Mulugeta Seraw. The killers, Metzger said later, had done their “civic duty.” After Mieske and two other ESWP skins pleaded guilty to murder, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League sued the Metzgers and WAR on behalf of Seraw’s family. Using the doctrine of vicarious liability, plaintiffs’ attorneys argued that the Metzgers should be found liable for intentionally inciting the skinheads to engage in violent confrontations with persons of color. A jury agreed, returning a record $12.5 million verdict against the Metzgers and WAR. Tom Metzger was personally responsible for $5 million of that sum.
Metzger lost his house, truck and tools (although $45,000 was returned to him after his house was sold, under provisions of California's Homestead Act). He was required to make monthly payments to Seraw’s estate for 20 years. The verdict crippled Metzger's organization, which became little more than a vehicle for his violent, racist ideas and propaganda. But Metzger remained active, albeit much less influential, in the white supremacist movement. He was able to continue running his WAR phone hotline and the publishing of white supremacist pamphlets. Twice in the 1990s, he traveled to Japan – first on his own, and then again with his son – to push their separatist views there. He also was sued in 1991 by 20th Century Fox’s license and merchandising corporation for using the Bart Simpson character on “Nazi Bart” T-shirts. As part of the settlement, Metzger agreed to stop selling shirts using Bart’s image.
In 2006, after a long period of cheering the racist right from the sidelines, Metzger left Fallbrook, California, and returned to his hometown of Warsaw, Indiana, the “Orthopedic Manufacturing Capital of the World.” Metzger began operating a website, resist.com, along with a telephone hotline. He also offered a quarterly online version of his newspaper, called The Insurgent. His website advised at one time that he was available for lectures and interviews.
In 2009, Metzger got caught up in a federal indictment involving two longtime white supremacists, Dennis Mahon and his twin brother, Daniel. The Mahons were arrested after an Arizona federal grand jury indicted them for allegedly conspiring to damage and destroy buildings and property, stemming from a 2004 mail bomb explosion in Scottsdale’s Office of Diversity and Dialogue. Director Don Logan needed extensive surgery on his hands and arms. His secretary suffered injuries to her face and eyes. A third employee was treated at the site.
The Mahons were acting “to promote racial discord on behalf of” Metzger’s WAR, according to the indictment. That is presumably why, on the same day the Mahons were being arrested, ATF agents served a search warrant on Metzger’s home in Warsaw. On his 24-hour hotline, Metzger said three computers and an address book were among the items taken. He acknowledged knowing the Mahons since the early 1980s. (Dennis Mahon had been WAR's Oklahoma coordinator for some years.) “They’re friends of mine,” he said. Metzger was not arrested during the raid of his home, and there were no signs he was in trouble.
On February 24, 2012, a jury convicted Dennis Mahon of three felonies, including conspiracy, distribution of information about explosives, and using explosives to attack a building. He was sentenced to 40 years in prison. Daniel Mahon was acquitted on a single conspiracy count. Court documents filed in three states showed that ATF investigators strongly suspected that Metzger provided Dennis Mahon with explosive-making instructions, knowing they would be used in the commission of a crime of violence. In affidavits, the investigators noted the similarity between the plans used to build the mail bomb and those described in books sold by Metzger on his website. They also pointed to phone calls and emails between Metzger and the Mahons, and to Metzger’s habit of promoting violence on his Internet radio show. In one affidavit, ATF special qgent Tristan Moreland said that he “believes Metzger is actively recruiting and training other persons to commit crimes on behalf of the white supremacist and antigovernment movements.”
Metzger denied to SPLC’s Intelligence Report that he had ever built a bomb, instructed anyone on how to build a bomb or knew of Dennis Mahon’s involvement in the Scottsdale attack. “I don’t know what they would build a case on,” he said. “I’ve been the target of various investigations going back to the 1970s. Unless they come with an arrest warrant, I don’t pay attention to what the feds are doing.”
Metzger became an atheist. After his civil trial loss in Portland, he advocated that white supremacists adopt a “leaderless resistance” strategy – that is, that they engage in criminal actions and/or terrorism only individually or in small cells to avoid detection by law enforcement. “Membership organizations are fraught with leaks and agents,” Metzger explained on his website. “Each WAR associate serves the idea that what’s good for the White European Race is the highest virtue. Whatever is bad for the White European Race is the ultimate Evil.”
Still, in the years that followed, while Metzger’s presence in the movement continued to wane, the violent, terroristic ideation he helped propagandize endured.
He continued to run a website associated with WAR up until his death, which was announced on his website in November 2020. According to a note added to the homepage, Metzger died on Nov. 4, 2020, in Hemet, California. No cause of death was listed on his website, though a spokesperson for the Department of Health in the area told The New York Times Metzger had died as a result of Parkinson’s disease.