America's leading neo-Nazi group is struggling to hold its organization together and to patch up relations with other hate groups in the wake of the removal of a key official who had served as a bridge to the rest of the radical right.
Leading officials of the 1,500-member National Alliance have fanned out across the country to meet with members who might have grown disaffected. They have reached out to at least two other major neo-Nazi organizations in a bid to repair damage caused by extremely harsh comments made by Alliance leaders about other groups. And they appear to have tried to quell a heated exchange that broke out between the Alliance's new chairman and the man he fired in September.
The Alliance, a 28-year-old organization based near Mill Point, W. Va., had already been shaken to its core by the July death of its founder and leader, William Pierce. Within days, however, a secret "board of directors" selected a new chairman, Cleveland unit leader Erich Gliebe, and things appeared to stabilize.
But then, on Sept. 17, Gliebe fired the Alliance's popular deputy membership coordinator, Billy Roper, and booted him unceremoniously out of the group. That, coupled with revelations contained in an Intelligence Report article that was released on the same day, set off a firestorm of controversy and angry exchanges.
The Intelligence Report story, written before the firing, outlined the tension between Gliebe and Roper and suggested that Roper could soon be ejected. But more importantly, it detailed Pierce's last speech to his followers, given at a secret "leadership conference" last spring.
Both Pierce and Gliebe were quoted as they harshly attacked other hate groups, with Pierce calling their members "freaks and weaklings." Pierce specifically mocked the Aryan Nations and the World Church of the Creator (WCOTC), the two other major neo-Nazi groups in America.
The results were explosive. There was widespread talk of a boycott of Resistance Records, the white power music label owned by the Alliance that brings in much of its million-plus annual income.
Racist Skinheads, who make up much of and other groups, posted furious reactions in chat rooms on the Internet. A key member of Blood & Honour, a British neo-Nazi group, asked other members and supporters "not to have anything more to do with NA"
"The NA can't live without other groups and non-NA members," a member said. "No other group attacks other groups ... therefore we must attack them in return!"
The Outrage Spreads
The debate even raged in an electronic forum on the Web page for Resistance, which has been led for almost three years by Gliebe.
"Let me ask you something," one correspondent wrote. "Do you think Resistance would be here whatsoever if a bunch of skinhead youth weren't buying Resistance merchandise??? Exactly who the hell do you think the music, clothing, etc., is being marketed to here? ... Skinheads do not alienate themselves. You elitist cluster f**cks alienate us. For some reason you seem to think because either you dress better, hold a higher class status, or hold a college doctorate, that you are better than us."
A member of the Keystone State Skinheads pitched in. "WHO ... ARE YOU TO QUESTION ME????? WE'RE THE ONES ON THE FRONT LINE NOT YOU ASSHOLE, YOU SUIT AND TIE FUCKS COME IN AFTER THE DIRTY WORK IS DONE. SO FUCK YOU ASSHOLE, YOU ACT WORSE THAN A JEW!!!"
"I would like to know where Resistance would be without Skinheads buying all the music and zines," a third correspondent wrote. "How do you think we buy all these T-shirts and CDs? ... I guess you thought our thuggish selves were beating up old ladies in the park ... to get our quick fix of a Resistance CD."
Henceforth, the writer added, "I will ... be supporting more skinhead labels, put out by skinheads and not [people] laughing at how the dumb are buying their stuff."
The conflict between Roper and Gliebe also spilled out into the public arena, threatening a major split between supporters of each man. It was well known that Roper favored a policy of working with other organizations, including the very ones attacked by Gliebe and Pierce, while Gliebe remained loyal to Pierce's vision of the Alliance as an "elite" party that should stick to itself. There was also rancor between them over the leadership post, which Roper had hoped to land for himself.
When he finally fired Roper, Gliebe initially limited himself to a statement issued by David Pringle, the man he named to replace Roper.
Pringle said Roper was "abrasive," had made "some very unfortunate, very wrong decisions," was "blinded" by ambition and "couldn't park his ego long enough to let Erich Gliebe unite us."
Mano a Mano
But Roper's firing and the release of the Intelligence Report article, which was posted within hours to numerous neo-Nazi Web sites, caused an almost instantaneous uproar.
Byron Calvert, a former Alliance staffer and a friend of Roper's, spoke for many when he wrote that the Alliance "has every right to run itself however it likes ... [but] their ability to continue to CDs to the same Skinheads they refer to as 'freaks and weaklings' and 'drunken Sieg Heilers' is going to require some interesting damage control efforts."
Roper, meanwhile, said that at the urging of "hundreds of White Nationalists," he was starting his own group, White Revolution, which would act as an umbrella group under which other organizations could work together (see A Group is Born).
His "mission statement" was carefully crafted to avoid attacking the Alliance. But within days, Roper added language that implicitly mocked the Alliance, saying his group would be a "meritocracy" that would not be run by a "Secret Squirrel Society."
Now, Gliebe fired back. Through Pringle, he posted a seven-point "indictment" that detailed Roper's alleged misdeeds. In it, Gliebe accused Roper of "betrayed confidences, secret attacks on other National Alliance members, and personal empire building."
He insinuated that Roper might have leaked information to the Intelligence Report and claimed the Report's article contained "defamatory material" about Roper's enemies that was intended to create a schism.
Roper denied it all, and also took a few swings himself. He attacked an Alliance office staffer who has a non-white wife and mixed-race child. And he played up how Gliebe had installed "spyware" on Roper's Alliance computer, as Gliebe himself had admitted, in order to monitor Roper before the firing.
Then, on Sept. 24, Gliebe went further, now essentially denying everything contained in the Report's story — "a solution of two or three grains of truth dissolved in gallons of fraudulent misinformation, faulty 'intelligence' work, and outright lies."
As to the quotes, "no such comments were made by Dr. Pierce or by me." The entire affair, Gliebe insisted, was a failed "disinformation effort" by the Report.
'A Sneak and a Liar'
It was a remarkable performance. Despite the fact that key Alliance members had heard Gliebe and Pierce speak at the conference last April, Gliebe was willing to lie outright to his membership and the world at large.
He was not backed up by many. Victor Gerhard, former attorney for the Alliance, wrote that everyone he spoke to confirmed the accuracy of the quotes. Ben Vinyard, a staffer who was fired due to his closeness to Roper, wrote that it was "with sadness" that he had to confirm that the reported Gliebe comments about Skinheads being morons "were accurate and were the source of many complaints."
Byron Calvert, noting that Pierce and the Alliance already had a reputation for sneering at Skinheads, ridiculed Gliebe and reported that the Alliance had been banned from Hammerskin concerts.
"Being banned from HammerFest is the mother of all wakeup calls, and I can't recall if that has ever been done to anyone before," Calvert wrote on his Web site in early October. "This is not a Hammerskin vs. Alliance thing, it is a reflection of the sentiments of every single non-Alliance group in the country.
"At this point, to continue to deny what we know you have done and said is only going to make it worse for you. Nobody respects a sneak and a liar. To continue to blame your current misfortune on Billy Roper and the SPLC [Southern Poverty Law Center] is unhelpful to your case.... [S]everal of my Alliance friends ... have indicated that they know some drastic changes in leadership must be made if the NA.. is to stop the hemorrhaging of members, customers and support."
'Zero Tolerance' for WCOTC
Many Alliance members, too, were enraged. Although most kept their reactions private after Roper's firing, some had not always been so discreet. Chris Quimby, an Arkansas member who heard about the Pierce and Gliebe speeches days after they were given last spring, was typical. Writing in late April, Quimby attacked Gliebe and another Alliance principal for their "anti-skinhead crusades."
"If it wasn't for the fact that I see the big picture and realize that one day we low life scum of the earth skinheads will be the ones running the show, I would have quit the National Alliance a long time ago," Quimby wrote in a furious E-mail.
"I think the two of you are two faced hypocrites. I would like nothing better than to see the both of you gone from Resistance staff. If I continue to hear the anti skinhead crap coming from your mouths I will make it my business to make sure no skinheads buy Resistance products or attend [live music] shows sponsored by Resistance. I am getting sick and tired of being insulted and alienated by the likes of you."
The response to Quimby — all of this long before the current controversy — was instructive.
"Whether we insult, hurt feelings or step on some toes, like for instance the 'movement' types, isn't even a consideration," wrote David Pringle, the Alaska unit leader who would emerge as Gliebe's front man four months later.
"We have a few things in common with those people, but that is it," Pringle added in his April 30 posting to an Alliance E-list. "I personally don't want to be thought of as a part of WCOTC or NSM [National Socialist Movement] or the KKK, they are good for absorbing the defects and freaks but that is about it."
Pringle was clearly parroting the words of Pierce, who had publicly mocked such "defective" people as "freaks and weaklings" just days earlier. Pierce had also told his followers that the Alliance had "zero tolerance for people who like to dress up in uniforms and shout '14-88' [neo-Nazi codes for racist slogans] and give Roman salutes before the cameras" — a reference to WCOTC, NSM, and others.
"We need many more people now, but we need winners, not losers," Pierce told his audience. "We're not trying to build a bigger street gang than the other side. We can never win with a street gang, no matter how big it becomes."
Making Up is Hard to Do
By early October, Gliebe realized that pronouncements from on high were insufficient. His "indictment" of Roper was taken down from the Resistance Web site — an apparent indication of an effort to cool down the situation.
He announced plans to personally address the Georgia Alliance unit in Dahlonega, led by long-time Roper ally Chester Doles. (Ironically, Pierce had publicly scolded Doles at the April leadership conference for setting up a "unity meeting" with other groups. "I was able to squelch it," Pierce said, adding that he had Doles "uninvite" the groups.)
Gliebe also began to reach out to other hate groups.
Matt Hale, the WCOTC's national leader and a man who had eulogized Pierce, said that he had been approached by two key Alliance officials in the aftermath of the brouhaha.
"A couple of their officials have called me and have told me that they want good relations with the church," he said.
"They've assured me that they have no ill will toward us whatever, and in fact one of the individuals called me and said that those quotations were not correct, that he was there, that Dr. Pierce didn't say these things," Hale said. "That's what I'm told by them, and I have no particular reason to disbelieve that."
In any event, Hale said, "Let's embrace all white people and embrace everybody in the white racial movement and shake hands and be respectful and not have an attitude that says, 'Well, if you're not in my group then you're a freak or a misfit' or whatever the terminology was. That terminology, if it was said, really disserved the National Alliance, and really disserved Dr. Pierce."
As it happens, Pierce not only used that terminology in April, but specifically mocked WCOTC "with their white berets and their seig heils and so forth." He was referring to the apparel worn by WCOTC's "security force," the White Berets.
Even August Kreis, leader of one of the two tiny factions struggling to control the remnants of the neo-Nazi Aryan Nations, was contacted.
"We're not taking sides. As far as whatever comments that William Pierce made, he's dead," he said with a laugh.
Kreis said he was close to Roper, but predicted that the crisis would pass. Still, he noted that his organization and Skinhead followers bought their music from Panzerfaust, another racist music label run by Anthony Pierpont. "It's a choice. He promotes Aryan Nations, he works with us. We don't work with Resistance."
Back from the Brink?
Now, both Gliebe and Pringle are working hard to contain the damage. After meeting with members in the Chicago area, Pringle announced plans to pay a visit to one unit (six members or more) or "proto-unit" every month. Gliebe paid a visit to the Phoenix unit, and announced plans to speak to the group in Sacramento as well.
And, on Oct. 5, he made the promised visit to Doles' Georgia unit.
Clearly, Gliebe saw winning over Doles, a former Klansman whose views are closer to those of Roper than Pierce, as important. While there, he awarded Doles a gold pin of a "Life Rune" — the symbol of the Alliance — which is considered one of the group's highest honors. (Only Gliebe and a "very few" others had ever been awarded this pin, according to an Alliance bulletin.)
Despite that, Gliebe's speech to the Georgia unit — where 100-plus people had come to hear Pierce speak last March — was a major disappointment. Despite sending letters exhorting Alliance members, former members, and even those who had merely bought Alliance books to attend "this important meeting," the new Alliance boss drew a paltry 21 listeners.
Four days later, Gliebe made yet another conciliatory gesture to Doles, naming him as one of just seven authorized spokesmen for the National Alliance.
Whether or not other groups work with Resistance Records and the Alliance in the future remains to be seen. For his part, Calvert suggests that "simply calling everybody in the Rolodex and trying to do long distance damage control won't cut it this time."
Still, at press time, there was no definitive evidence the Alliance was in danger of collapse, although it certainly had absorbed a serious body blow.
One thing, however, was clear: Chastened leaders of the National Alliance have a new fondness for silence that is reflected in a proposed "unofficial" Code of Conduct.
"It is my duty to keep my body fit, my mind sharp and my mouth shut," it says. "It is my duty to never ... disobey an order from a superior." And finally: "It is my duty to die before bringing dishonor to ... the National Alliance."