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Welcome to Hatewatch!

Welcome to Hatewatch, the Southern Poverty Law Center’s new blog. The writers and editors of the SPLC’s Intelligence Report, an investigative magazine covering the American radical right, will be using this space to share tantalizing tidbits and serious commentary about the world of hate. We thought we’d launch by showing parts of a remarkable, never-before-seen videotape that was critically important to our work battling hate groups. Our obtaining and publicizing of the contents of this video contributed to the downfall of the National Alliance, a key neo-Nazi group. We hope that telling this story will shed light on the work we try to do here.

This is how it happened.

Five years ago today, America’s most important hatemonger met his demise. William Pierce, the former university physics professor who founded the National Alliance in 1974, died on July 23, 2002, just weeks after being diagnosed with cancer. His unexpected death raised the question of whether the Alliance, which then had more than 1,400 members and was bringing in almost $1 million a year, could survive the loss of its wily and charismatic founder.

As white supremacists and others watched with interest, the post-Pierce Alliance took its first, halting steps, appointing a former boxer named Erich Gliebe to replace its departed leader. It was then, a few weeks after Pierce’s death, that the SPLC obtained the video mentioned earlier. It had been shot during a secret “leadership conference” held on Alliance grounds in West Virginia on April 20 of that year — Adolf Hitler’s birthday, naturally. And what it contained was explosive.

Here’s the context. The Alliance by the time of Pierce’s death had become the most important hate group in America. Its members were responsible for a litany of criminal violence. It regularly held rallies and other events, and was capable of distributing 100,000 leaflets across the nation in just a few days. It promoted race hate and even genocide in its general propaganda and, especially, in The Turner Diaries, the race war novel written by Pierce that Timothy McVeigh used as a blueprint for the deadly 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. And it was solvent, bringing in hundreds of thousands of dollars through Resistance Records, the white power music label that Pierce and Gliebe had built into a racist powerhouse.

The videotape contained a secret — a dirty little secret that wasn’t widely known in the white supremacist world. It turned out that Pierce detested the very people who supported the Alliance most heavily: the customers of Resistance Records, neo-Nazi skinheads and others who relied on Resistance to fill out their racist music libraries. In the tape, Pierce describes such people, members of other hate groups, as “freaks and weaklings,” human “defectives,” “poison” that the Alliance had to keep at bay. It was the kind of talk that Pierce meant to keep forever in house. Take a look.

In the Intelligence Report, we wrote about the speech in detail. In the beginning, Gliebe hotly denied our story, saying it was all part of an “SPLC disinformation effort.” But, of course, it wasn’t. What’s more, the videotape showed clearly that Gliebe’s attitude toward non-Alliance racists was identical to Pierce’s.

We followed up our report on the videotape by revealing how Alliance leaders, saying that they were producing a 2004 calendar that would highlight ideal “Aryan” women, had actually hired strippers from an all-nude bar to pose. At the same time, we revealed that strippers had been invited to the latest Alliance leadership conference. The report, suggesting that members’ dues money was really being spent by Alliance leaders on strippers, was devastating. Coupled with Gliebe’s lack of management skills, the combined internal scandals revealed by the Intelligence Report led to a series of splits and the eventual implosion of the National Alliance (further details are available here,here and here). Today, the group has fewer than 150 members, no money, and virtually no influence.

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