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The Mainstream Appeal of Yahweh ben Yahweh

Seventeen years ago this month, a grotesque exercise in political pandering and refusal to see the obvious reached its nadir as then-Miami Mayor Xavier Suarez, urged on by other leaders, declared Oct. 7, 1990, "Yahweh ben Yahweh Day."

Seventeen years ago this month, a grotesque exercise in political pandering and refusal to see the obvious reached its nadir as then-Miami Mayor Xavier Suarez, urged on by other leaders, declared Oct. 7, 1990, "Yahweh ben Yahweh Day."

It didn't matter that followers of the man whose original name was Hulon Mitchell Jr. had already been linked to the firebombing of a street of houses and the terroristic takeover of a South Florida housing complex. No account was taken of a major criminal investigation publicly known to have been opened a year earlier. Reports filtering out of Mitchell's group of black supremacist ideology, incredible violence, and the molestation of girls as young as 10, had no effect either.

But within weeks, Suarez and the black and white leaders who also pushed to honor Mitchell's Nation of Yahweh group — politicians thrilled that the self-described "prince of peace" seemed to be bringing order to their racially troubled city — were severely embarrassed. Mitchell and 15 of his followers were arrested on federal racketeering charges tied to the murders of 14 people. Many of the victims were whites whose ears had been hacked off and brought to Mitchell as war trophies.

The story of Yahweh ben Yahweh and his short love affair with the political establishment of South Florida might have served as a cautionary tale, a warning to those in the political mainstream to be careful about legitimizing extremism.

But the sad fact is that it didn't.

Scattered throughout this issue of the Intelligence Report are numerous reminders of how radical-right ideas and personalities continue to make their way from the political margins to the mainstream. Too often, they are aided by self-interested politicians and pundits who ignore well-known evidence of the extremism of those they embrace. Consider just a few examples:

  • James Edwards' Tennessee radio show, called "The Political Cesspool," has become the nation's most important promoter of neo-Nazis, Klan associates, Holocaust deniers and other white nationalists. But that didn't stop Memphis City Councilman E.C. Jones from presenting Edwards with a certificate that honored his "outstanding contributions to the community," just as it didn't give then-CNN host Paula Zahn second thoughts about putting him on her show three times this spring with barely any reference to his politics.

  • Keith Rush, a longtime right-wing radio talk show host, has for decades supported neo-Nazi and former Klan leader David Duke. In June, Rush was elected to the Louisiana Republican State Central Committee, governing body of the state GOP. Rush's close ties to Duke were ignored by the political class, only coming to public light in liberal political blogs after the vote.

  • Since early this year, neo-Nazi groups have circulated claims that a young couple murdered in Knoxville, Tenn., were sexually mutilated and the victims of a black-on-white hate crime that, they insist, the media has conspired to cover up. In fact, as police have repeatedly stated, there was no racial aspect to the crime and no mutilation occurred. But country singer Charlie Daniels publicly claimed that one victim was castrated and the other had her breasts cut off while still alive. Syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin joined in in May, when, guest-hosting the Fox News Channel's "The O'Reilly Factor," she suggested that the crime was motivated by race hate, spoke of "unconfirmed reports" of mutilation, and claimed that the female victim's body was found in five separate bags — all utter falsehoods promoted by hate groups.

None of these cases approaches the severity of the Nation of Yahweh (which, as a story in this issue reports, is again on the march following the recent death of its founder). But the injection of racist ideology into the political mainstream that they represent matters greatly. As prominent white nationalist Bob Whitaker wrote of James Edwards and his radio show: "The Political Cesspool is one of the first major steps toward making our perfectly legitimate and generally felt concerns — the ones that are presently denounced as heresy, racism and hate — the mainstream."

Information is the key to fighting back. When Keith Rush runs for a key state post in the Republican leadership, his links to David Duke — and Duke's outright neo-Nazism — need to be pointed out. When Michelle Malkin aids and abets a false narrative — that the politically correct establishment is downplaying black-on-white hate crime — she needs to be called out. When Mayor Suarez was about to honor the frightening criminal who wound up going to prison for more than 11 years, someone needed to let the Miami leader and his advisers know what was going on.

The alternative is a national political dialogue based not on our common interests and goals as a nation, but one infected by racism, hatred and conflict.