The last time we heard from Matthew Heimbach, head of the white nationalist Traditionalist Youth Network, he was one step away from saying goodbye to racist activism. His pastor at a Christian Orthodox church in Indiana had asked him to be silent on his racist views and spend time being the contemplative steward of his own soul.
But Southern nationalism dies hard, it seems.
Last weekend, Heimbach attended the League of the South’s (LOS) national conference at its headquarters in Wetumpka, Ala. While there, he was photographed standing on the roadside, holding a sign that read, “Immigration Hurts Southern Workers: League of the South,” and holding another (this time inside) that read, “We Will Not Be Silent So You Can Be Comfortable.”
So much for silence and contemplation!
When contacted by Hatewatch on Wednesday for comment, Heimbach said he was still adhering to his “sabbatical” from racist activism, and that he was trying to focus on his faith –– a claim he has made for months since being baptized at an Orthodox Christian church. But, he promised, he is back in the League, paying dues, and convinced that the LOS message is right.
“If you look at the entire South, the South is not entirely southern now,” Heimbach told Hatewatch. “We live in a modern context and we face modern problems unique to this time. And there’s a modern solution. The solution that the League has been advocating is secession.”
For the past two years, in fact, the League has been focusing on getting its message out to a younger, more extreme audience. In May, the group put up a billboard that read simply, “SECEDE,” though it was later taken down due to complaints. And the theme of this year’s conference was “Hitting the Streets: Taking the Southern Nationalist Message to the Public.” But still, it’s a bit ironic that the League would take him back now.
Last October, after associating with hardline racist groups like the Aryan Terror Brigade and the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement, president Michael Hill booted Heimbach from the group and disinvited his followers to an event in Tennessee.
“Matthew Heimbach, a former member of The League of the South, has apparently decided to cast his lot with Nazis and others who do not represent the traditional South, the Southern Nationalist Movement, and The League of the South,” Hill wrote on the Facebook page for the Murfeesboro event. “Neither he nor his friends will be welcome at our demonstrations.”
Heimbach told Hatewatch at the time that Hill’s views on southern nationalism were antiquated at best, and reactionary at worst. “That form of Southern nationalism from a generation ago is a teenager who wants to get in their dad’s face. But when their dad gets out of his chair and reaches for his belt, he goes running into his room. It’s ridiculous. It’s reactionary,” he said.
But even then Heimbach probably figured the LOS would take him back.
With the group shifting its focus away from the sterile study of Southern nationalism to on-the-ground street theater and activism, it will need people like Heimbach –– even if he once kept company with Nazis.