Wisconsin Congressman Undercuts Threat of Domestic Terrorists as the Radical Right Lionizes Its Own

Far across the radical right –– a movement of violence and terror that demands martyrs –– violent domestic terrorists are being lionized. But a Wisconsin congressman insists on minimizing the threat from the radical right. 

Last week, Wisconsin Republican U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy went on CNN to defend President Trump’s Muslim ban and, surprising many, seemed to dismiss the very concept of non-Islamic, domestic terrorism.

Appearing on CNNs “New Day” program, Duffy claimed the Jan. 29 shooting deaths of six Muslims in a Quebec City, Canada mosque was a “one off.” Somewhat baffled, host Alisyn Camerota pushed back, providing Duffy with examples of “white terrorists” such as Dylann Roof and Timothy McVeigh, asking, “Why do you think that, when it’s a white terrorist, it’s an isolated incident?”

Duffy responded:

So you give me two examples, right,” Duffy replied. “If you want to compare this one person in the last 10 years that you can give an example ... Oklahoma City bombing was 20 years ago. … And that's different than the whole movement that has taken place through ISIS, that's inspired attacks.

Duffy’s claim that historic acts of domestic terrorism like McVeigh’s and Roof’s do not rival the carnage and fear wrought by Islamic extremists is not only dangerous, it’s patently false.

Even more glaring in Duffy’s claim is its casual glossing over notable examples such as the mass shooting at a Sikh temple when neo-Nazi racist skinhead Wade Michael Page left six people dead on Aug. 5, 2012, in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, the state that Duffy represents.

In fact, domestic terrorists on the radical right account for a far greater number of deaths since Sept. 11, 2001, than Islamic extremists, despite what Duffy would have us believe. And even today, far across the radical right –– a movement of violence and terror that demands martyrs ––some are lionizing those violent actors.

Michael Hill, left, and Shaun Winkler

Consider the following posts about Roof that Shaun Winkler, a long-time Klansman and Christian Identity adherent in Mississippi, made on the Russia-based VKontakte (VK).

In October 2016, he posted, “This young man is a hero of our people.” And in response to the recent founding of a small Neo-Nazi group calling itself White Power Movement, Winkler posted:

FINALLY ... A truly dedicated National Socialist organization that is not scared to scream white power and MEAN IT!! The White Power Movement is not afraid to salute true warriors if our race such as all the members of The Order and most recently brother Dylann Roof whom bravely shot down a handful if savage niggers in effort to create a better future for our people.”

Steve “Bowers” Nastasi, who leads the group White Power Movement, responded to Winkler with high praise. “GREAT POST..88,” closing with the numeric abbreviation for “Heil Hitler.”

While Winkler’s praise of Roof, though not uncommon in charged corners of the radical right, made some Klansmen nervous, he doubled down:

I'm now denounced by various klans [sic] for commending a young hero by the name of Dylann Roof. I salute this young man for his heroic actions against the beast of the field that are called niggers. There are now 9 less nigger savages for the rest of us to be subjected to...and yet the modern movement has sympathy for the savages and chant against Roof continuously.

Such racist vitriol did not emerge suddenly and new.

Winkler was involved with Richard Butler’s Aryan Nations and spent time on its compound in Idaho. In 2001, Butler appointed Winkler as leader of Aryan Nation’s youth corps, a position that empowered him to identify and recruit vulnerable white youths like Roof. From there, he has spent years involved with other groups including the International Keystone Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. (He even sports a tattooed homage to the group.) He was also recently a state leader with the National Socialist Movement.

On another VK thread, Winkler called Butler his “mentor and racist grandfather [he] never had.”

Winkler’s and Nastasi’s posts often display the hateful compulsions that led Roof to offer the following explanation for his actions during the sentencing phase of his trial: “I think it's safe to say nobody in their mind wants to go into a church and kill people [….] In my (FBI confession) tape I told them I had to. But it's not true: I didn't have to. No one made me. What I meant was: I felt like I had to do it. I still feel like I have to do it."

For example, on Jan. 3, 2017, Nastasi returned to VK to offer his own thoughts regarding hate group leaders who he deems not hateful enough. “Any ‘movement’ whose ‘leaders,’” he writes, “compete with each other to see which one of them can hug the most niggers is DISGUSTING [sic] and must be purged with bloodshed.”

He continued later that evening. “We are starting to see more MILITANT KLANS forming in America. … I salute these new leaders and urge them never to let those skunks of the New Klan defeat them. … [F]uck them race mixing, anti-Nazi pieces of shit. HAIL VIRGIL GRIFFIN AND LOUIS BEAM!

A long time movement member like Nastasi hailing Louis Beam, the former Klansman who advocated a new brand of domestic terrorism in his lifetime, may not be surprising. But it is alarming.

Beam’s infamous essay, “Leaderless Resistance,” argued against large organizations and in favor of actions carried out by independently operating individuals or small cells of up to six men, pointing out that even if such a small cell were infiltrated, nothing more than that cell, at most, would be destroyed.

Roof was the type of individual that Beam aimed to activate –– the same type of individual another white supremacist figurehead, William Pierce of the National Alliance, sought to activate with the publishing of his second novel, Hunter. Pierce based and dedicated Hunter on and to racist, anti-Semitic serial killer Joseph Paul Franklin.

Pierce’s first novel is The Turner Diaries, which dramatized a terror cell structure akin to the premise of Beam’s essay described above. Timothy McVeigh used to sell both of Pierce’s novels at gun shows. Pages from that book were discovered in McVeigh’s car when he was arrested.

Those pages and that debris of the bomb-wrecked Alfred P. Murrah federal building comprise lengths of the thread, the threats and lives lost, that tie far-right violence and terrorism from the 1990s, and long before, to the present. They arise from a “whole movement,” to borrow Rep. Sean Duffy’s words, with a long history of inspiring and being inspired by hate and brutality.

And that thread runs through yet another post made by Shaun Winkler.

On VK last October, Winkler wrote, “It’s so time for a racial cleansing in this country. Our people must stop with trying to be the kinder friendlier [sic] white nationalist [sic] and focus only on direct militant action against the enemy.”