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Rural Outpost

The overwhelming support experienced by Donald Trump in rural red strongholds across the southeast during the 2016 election has forced League of the South (LOS) president Michael Hill to face the realization that Trump’s campaign rhetoric has eroded support for his historic platform beneath him. Meanwhile, the League has been bleeding young, educated members to “Alt-Right” white nationalism.

In response, Hill has announced the formation of another paramilitary outfit. An examination of some of Hill’s recent miscalculations, particularly the placement of the LOS “nationals” building in a rural Alabama backwater, provides some context as to why doubling down on this strategy seems unlikely to produce different results.

The League of the South lists its “office” at a Killen, Alabama PO Box, near Hill’s current home. The “Alabama LS cultural center and headquarters” is located over 200 miles away, along Highway 231 in Wetumpka, Alabama.

Some might assume the site of the “nationals building” was chosen for its historical significance. A mere half-hour drive down the road is the Alabama state capitol, where Jefferson Davis was inaugurated as the first president of the Confederate States of America (CSA), presently marked by a blue, six-pointed star. A stone’s throw away is a historical marker commemorating from where the telegraph ordering the shelling of Fort Sumter was sent.

Such a location, near the heart of the CSA, would surely resonate with those seeking to bring about a second southern secession. Hill’s true motive for the location, however, appears to be based much less on symbolic association with the CSA or kinship with rural WASPS than a prudent real estate decision.

Business records for the LOS headquarters list the property as the physical address for the William Lowndes Yancey chapter of the League of the South. Chairman Mike Whorton, a longtime LOS member and associate of Hill’s operates a real estate practice down the road. Whorton and the Yancey Chapter frequently host “jamborees” at the site, which has two signs — fixed wooden and digital — displaying advertisements for the League.

The building itself is a tan affair with a gable roof, set back from Highway 231 on a small plot of property. Astride the main entrance are two flagpoles sporting the Confederate Battle Flag (CBF) and the Alabama State Flag. Interestingly enough, Hill and the Yancey chapter have elected not to fly the “Southern Nationalist” banner adopted by the League and other neo-Confederates in recent years.

Once a year, the structure boasts an event of a decidedly more militant tone than Whorton’s alcohol-free “jamborees”. Every July, LOS members from across the South congregate at the site for their “national conference,” an opportunity to listen to speeches from League members and to protest “Southern Demographic Displacement” and “Jihad In Dixie” at the remote intersection of Highways 231 and 14.

Eyewitness accounts from years past paint a bland picture of the social scene at LOS nationals. Outside of the conference, members generally socialize in motel rooms and parking lots, eschewing Wetumpka’s limited selection of bars, chain restaurants and the local Native American casino (for reasons that should be obvious).

As Hatewatch has previously reported, a group of younger LOS members broke from the 2016 Nationals conference to host a splinter protest at an LGBTQ Pride Parade on the steps of the Alabama capitol. While Hill and the Old Guard of the League retreated to the air conditioned nationals building to warble “Dixie”, Hill’s younger membership apparently sought out more exciting entertainment.

Youth In Revolt

Prior to the construction of its “national headquarters” the League held conferences throughout the south. Michael Cushman, the League’s former South Carolina chairman, described his role in planning League events in a post on his new Southern Future blog titled “The SPLC, LS & me.”

“I put a lot of time, effort and money into promoting the League several years ago. And my approach got us a ton of exposure in the media. I led numerous public demonstrations and was happy to do so.  I sought to make us a mainstream political vehicle for the Southern people, our faith and values.”

Cushman left the League after butting heads with Hill over militant rhetoric in the wake of the Charleston shooting. It appears that Hill’s inclination toward rural retreats also played a role. Cushman recently emerged from a self-imposed activism hiatus to attend and speak at the inaugural “Atlanta Forum,” an event organized by the neo-Confederate splinter faction of Mike Enoch’s The Right Stuff (TRS).

Another Southern Nationalist expat turned “Alt-Right” mouthpiece, Brad Griffin, also spoke at the event. In a post outlining future plans for public events, Griffin, writing on his blog Occidental Dissent under then pen-name Hunter Wallace, stated:

“Greg Johnson is going to be hosting a series of private, invitation-only meetings in the Northwest. I’m planning to do the same thing here in the Southeast. Every other month we will host an Alt-South meeting somewhere in order to expand our network. It will be like the League of the South’s various protests, but without the street action.”

Griffin was for a time a staunch advocate of the League’s strategy of staging public protests. While he has not updated the “Events/Activism” tab on Occidental Dissent since August of 2013, Griffin wrote on “The Logic of Street Demonstrations” in March of 2014 and participated in LOS protests as recently as 2016. Rifts between Griffin and Hill were visible at the time of that protest at LOS Nationals and have only become more pronounced. Since the 2016 election, Griffin has denigrated Hill for disagreeing with him over the usefulness of Trump’s candidacy. No longer limiting himself to Occidental Dissent, Griffin has begun writing under his pen name for Richard Spencer’s new Alt-Right blog.

Griffin’s willingness to buck rank within the League and join forces with effete urbanite Spencer makes sense, given that Griffin has himself benefitted socially from venturing outside of his home in Alabama’s rural black belt. It was at the Council of Conservative Citizen’s (CofCC’s) 2013 Conference in Winston-Salem, NC that Griffin met his wife-to-be, Renee Baum, daughter of CofCC co-founder Gordon Baum.

A Rural Solution to Urban Strife

Realizing that his organization has lost appeal among the youth, Hill has announced the formation of a Southern Defense Force (SDF). With the SDF, Hill is recycling the threat of paramilitary action by the League, previously used under the guise of the “Indomitables”.

Hill’s stated intent for the “Southern Defense Force” (SDF) is to combat “the leftist army … Antifa (Anti-Fascists), Black Lives Matter (BLM), and other assorted radical organizations.”

Hill nests his justification for the SDF in the larger narrative of a mass conspiracy of left-wing violence, largely in response to growing tensions and protests surrounding the inauguration of President Trump and his wave of anti-Muslim executive orders.

Hill correctly identifies the major flashpoints as occurring in “major urban areas and college/university campuses.”

What comes next is a bit of a stretch.

“It’s only a matter of time until they move … into smaller cities and towns, the suburbs, and ever [sic] some rural areas.”

Hill’s posturing belies the fact that the 2016 election revealed a substantial gulf between liberal metropolitan areas and the vast swathes of less populated land between that went to Trump. Given this demographic distribution, it seems highly unlikely that there is a significant body of Soros-funded, left-wing extremists in Wetumpka, Alabama capable of mustering a violent street gang.

The League has announced its July 2017 “Nationals Conference” to be held once again at its remote “cultural center and headquarters”. While the aging membership reclines on folding chairs inside an air-conditioned room, black-clad members of the SDF (formerly “Indomitables”) will patrol the grounds, ever alert for Antifas among the pine trees.

The League’s “nationals building” presently stands as a monument not to Hill’s vision of a new South, but to the mistaken calculation that led him to locate the physical and symbolic heart of his organization in a remote locale and to close his ears to the fresh ideas of younger members.

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