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The Last Word: Hatewatch’s 1st Annual Smackdown Awards

It’s been a heck of a year in the world of hate. As usual, white supremacists and sundry others on the radical right have shot, bludgeoned and maimed their way into police blotters and newspapers across the land. They’ve cursed, defamed and insulted the usual laundry list of their enemies. But for Hatewatch aficionados, that’s all par for the course. After all, just about anyone can do something really ugly or violent if they set their mind to it. That’s why the Hatewatch 1st Annual Year-End Smackdown Awards Committee had such a very tough time. Sifting through huge piles of ne’er-do-well candidates, intrepid committee members sought to go beyond the merely quotidian and reach for the truly extraordinary. Here, with apologies to Keith Olbermann, is our Hatewatch countdown for the very worst of 2007:

10. Grossest Pervert Award
The hands-down winner here is Kevin Alfred Strom, the founder of the neo-Nazi National Vanguard group based in Virginia who saw charges of enticing a 10-year-old girl for sex dropped, only to have the judge announce to the world that there was “overwhelming evidence that [Strom] was sexually drawn to this child.” That, along with Strom’s wife’s testimony about finding her man naked and aroused in front of a computer screen peopled by young girls, isn’t a very hopeful prelude to Strom’s second trial, coming up in February, on possession of child porn charges. Top gross-out moment so far: The revelation that Strom had written a sonnet about marrying the 10-year-old, to be sung to the tune of “Here We Come A-Wassailing.”

The competition in this category, it should be pointed out, was fierce. Warren Jeffs, the polygamous leader of a racist Mormon offshoot sect, was convicted on two counts of rape as an accomplice for forcing a 14-year-old girl to marry her 19-year-old cousin. Tony Alamo, leader of an anti-Catholic and anti-gay cult, was accused of taking child brides. And David Lane, 69, a white supremacist movement icon in prison for his role in a 1984 assassination, had this to say about the blonde, 14-year-old Gaede girls who make up the neo-Nazi Prussian Blue singing duo: “When the girls were little, they were like daughters or something. Now that they are grown women, and being a natural male, it’s… well, you know what I’m trying to say.” Yes, sadly, we do.

9. Most Gullible Broadcaster Award
Who can forget Bill O’Reilly, host of Fox News’ “The O’Reilly Factor,” and his June 21 segment, “Violent Lesbian Gangs a Growing Problem”? In this piece of addled fiction, O’Reilly and “Fox News crime analyst” Rod Wheeler contended that “a national underground network” of lesbian gangs, armed with pink pistols, was “terrorizing America,” in part by raping middle school girls with sex toys purchased on the Internet. As it turned out, the report was entirely false, as the Intelligence Report revealed. The next day, Wheeler issued a statement saying that he had only “inadvertently stated” that the lesbians carried pink pistols, that he hadn’t meant to say there were 150 lesbian gangs in the Washington, D.C., area, that he hadn’t meant to say there was a “national epidemic” of lesbian gangs, and that he hadn’t meant to defame the Pink Pistols, a lesbian gun-rights group. Glad we got that straight!

8. Most Obnoxious Extremist Award
Although there was considerable support for the candidacy of Fred Phelps, the website proprietor who likes to picket the funerals of soldiers, Virginia neo-Nazi Bill White won in a squeaker. The former left-wing anarchist and one-time correspondent for the Russian Communist Party’s Pravda newspaper spent the year issuing racist insults, not-so-veiled threats and attacks on reporters. He posted the home addresses of a long list of his enemies — from a Miami Herald columnist to journalists from his hometown newspaper to the editor of this blog — but also defamed large numbers of fellow racists. The rabid dog in White may have come out most clearly in his call to white supremacists to crash the wedding of the niece of a newspaper official to “annoy this Jew-loving piece of shit.”

7. Weirdest Political Alliance Award
The honors here go to Kirkpatrick Sale, director of the New York-based Middlebury Institute, dedicated to secessionism. Known for decades as a left-wing intellectual, Sale last year buddied up to the white supremacist League of the South (LOS) — a group that opposes racial intermarriage, defends segregation, and calls for a return to “European cultural hegemony” in the South — to the point of actually co-sponsoring the Oct. 3-4 Second North American Secessionist Convention in Tennessee with the LOS. Now, the left-right love affair promoted by Sale has turned positively torrid, with a “North-South Secession Summit” planned for January. Attending will be top officials of the Middlebury Institute, LOS, the Southern National Congress, and the Second Vermont Republic, to seek “the peaceful dissolution” of the United States.

6. Stupidest Conspiracy Theory Award
You know it can’t be good when the John Birch Society, the rabidly anti-Communist group that called President Eisenhower a commie, teams up with Jerome Corsi, the man who orchestrated the Swift-boating of John Kerry. Corsi and the JBS are the prime promoters of a nativist conspiracy theory that claims Mexico, Canada and the United States are secretly planning a merger that would result in something called the “North American Union” (NAU). They insist that a 2005 tri-national agreement called the Security and Prosperity Partnership — a series of working groups to study cooperation in transportation, energy, aviation and the environment — is the leading edge of the conspiracy that may, in Corsi’s words, end in “an executive branch coup d’etat.” This would be merely an exercise in the ridiculous were it not for the fact that public figures from CNN anchor Lou Dobbs to U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.) to nativist leader Jim Gilchrist keep plugging it. Thanks to them and their ilk, the houses of representatives of 18 states have now passed resolutions opposing the much-feared NAU — an entity that does not exist and has never been planned.

5. Most Annoying Snot-Nosed College Kid Award
Kyle Bristow was irritating enough way back in 2006, when the soon-to-be leader of Young Americans for Freedom at Michigan State University posted his 13-point agenda, including elimination from student government of virtually every non-white, non-heterosexual and non-Christian group. He ratcheted it up with a “Straight Power” demonstration featuring “End F-------” and “Go Back in the Closet” signs. From there, Bristow and his MSU-YAF degenerated into “Catch an Illegal Immigrant Day” contests, a “Koran Desecration” competition, and even, last September, an attack on a new Latino studies doctoral program under this headline: “MSU Offers Doctorate in Savagery.” Bristow went on to invite such speakers to MSU as Nick Griffin, head of the racist British National Party and a long-time Holocaust denier. All of this was bad enough on its own. Truly appalling, however, were the accolades Bristow received from mainstream politicians including Michigan GOP boss Saul Anuzis, who, shortly after the Southern Poverty Law Center named MSU-YAF a hate group, had this to say: “This [Bristow] is exactly the kind of young kid we want out there.” Good call, Saul!

4. Unlikeliest White Supremacist Award
Our old nemesis, H.K. Edgerton, was in our hometown of Montgomery, Ala., back in November, and it reminded all of us just how nutty he really is. Edgerton, faithful readers of the Intelligence Report will remember, is a lonely black man in the overwhelmingly white — and white supremacist — neo-Confederate movement. As he made clear in an interview with Hatewatch, H.K. hasn’t dropped any of his strange ideas about slavery, the Civil War, the Ku Klux Klan and related topics. A sampling: Before the slaves were freed, “Black folks and white folks were family. …White people and slaves saw each other on the streets and they tipped their hats to each other.” Slaves “were given a new pair of pants and a new pair of shoes every day” and “had the same medical facilities that the white man had.” The Klan was “just protecting the people — all the people, black and white.” If you really believe that, H.K., we suggest you skip straight down this list to award No. 1 and join up.

3. Weakest Relationship With Reality Award
The Southern Poverty Law Center last year engaged in a sort of epic battle with Lou Dobbs, the CNN host who has probably done more to defame immigrants than any other public figure in contemporary America. The struggle was epitomized by a debate over Dobbs’ claim that the United States had experienced a surge of 7,000 new cases of leprosy in a recent three-year period, due at least in part to immigrants. In a seemingly endless series of debates, interviews and on his own show, Dobbs stuck to his guns, despite crystal-clear government statistics that pegged the number of new cases for the years in question at 398. The whole sorry affair was dramatized best in a comment Dobbs made to Lesley Stahl of CBS’ “60 Minutes,” which first pointed out Dobbs’ error in a profile of the broadcaster that aired last May. Said Dobbs: “If we reported it, it’s a fact.” Stahl asked how Dobbs could guarantee that. “Because I’m the managing editor, and that’s how we do business.” Ah, NOW we understand.

2. Creepiest Psychotherapist Award
Richard Cohen won this one by acclamation, but it didn’t become official until we convinced our own CEO — Richard Cohen — that we weren’t talking about him. The Cohen in question describes himself as “ex-gay” and conducts controversial “healing touch” therapy that involves men striving to rid themselves of their homosexuality cradling and rocking other men in their arms. This technique was demonstrated by the licensed psychotherapist on Paula Zahn’s CNN show, an appearance that also included Cohen’s excited demonstration of “bioenergetics,” which involves beating on chairs with tennis rackets while shouting, “Mom, why did you do this to me?” The CNN appearance was almost universally described as a disaster, and Cohen’s name promptly disappeared from several “ex-gay” websites.

1. Most Surprising ‘Hate’ Group Award
For the better part of 142 years, the Ku Klux Klan has been the most infamous racist group in America, leading a campaign of terror that involved murders, lynchings, rapes, castrations, bombings, church arsons, and any number of other horrors. But now comes the Alabama Christian Klan, “The Voice of the New Civil Rights Era,” with a Web page that currently features an approving photo of Birmingham’s black mayor and a banner announcing an upcoming Klan rally in rather unusual (for the Klan) terms: “Birmingham At a Crossroads: Can We Come Together?” This is followed by the announcement of a “diligent campaign” to get other Klan groups to abandon their racism and shun any “acts of disrespect to any community.” The man behind the group, Trussville, Ala., resident Ken Mier, already has taken credit for the decision by another Klan group to cancel a rally last November, saying in an E-mail to Hatewatch that he considered this “a victory for the Christian residence [sic] of Alabama.” Way to go, Ken!

And with that, we wrap up the year here at Hatewatch. We’ll be taking the next two weeks off, but you can expect to see us again the week of Jan. 7, followed by a whole year of lively posts skewering the American radical right. Stick around long enough, and it’ll be time for the Hatewatch 2nd Annual Year-End Smackdown Awards — an event we’ll soon start storing up goodies for. In the meantime, happy holidays!

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