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Post-Charlottesville, white nationalists double down on flash demonstrations over public rallies

“We have got a flash rally coming up,” Michael Hill, president of the racist neo-Confederate hate group League of the South, announced last week on the white nationalist podcast Stormfront Action.

Hill gave no details except to say the demonstration would take place this weekend, asking LOS members and allies interested in participating to get in touch, so Hill can “fill you in step by step on what this flash operation consists of, if we think you’re trustworthy.”

This tactic by white nationalist organizations — opting for unpublicized, unpermitted demonstrations over public rallies that draw hundreds of counter-protesters — is increasingly common since the disastrous shows of force that caused endless division among racist groups in 2017.

The deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville in August 2017 and a subsequent “White Lives Matter” demonstration that drew hundreds of racists to Shelbyville, Tennessee, in late October divided the movement. Debates over “optics” — whether swastikas, Confederate flags and paramilitary uniforms were appropriate — and the consequential exposure of the attendees’ identities (often due to “doxxing,” in internet vernacular), along with the potential for violence, stifled the potential for further massive gatherings, as was evident by the embarrassingly sparse attendance at Jason Kessler’s “Unite the Right 2” rally in Washington, D.C., earlier this month.

As leaders of the disparate white nationalist and racist “alt-right” groups reflected on mistakes made when they attempted united shows of force, small demonstrations and passive propagandizing like banner drops and flyer distribution became the extreme right’s favored tactics.

While the movement continues to fracture — the League of the South just announced its secession from the loose association of racist groups known as the Nationalist Front — organizations including LOS, Identity Evropa, Patriot Front and Daily Stormer Book Club chapters have focused on brand-building in the form of unannounced flash mob-style demonstrations.

Even as Richard Spencer led a few dozen white nationalists on an unadvertised tiki torch-lit march in Charlottesville less than two months after Unite the Right, thought leaders on the racist right were considering the ineffectiveness of large, publicized and permitted events.

“Pandering to normies is a waste of time this early in the game,” wrote League of the South PR Chief Brad Griffin, aka Hunter Wallace, on his Occidental Dissent blog not long after Unite the Right. “We need to be recruiting true believers, which is to say, a hardcore cultural vanguard with unshakable beliefs. … What kind of optics and tactics appeal to this hypothetical angry, alienated, disaffected audience?”

But just weeks after Griffin penned those words, he and the League of the South were instrumental in the “White Lives Matter” rally held in Shelbyville, Tennessee, which exposed more fissures in the movement. Again, optics were the issue, as racists from the Ku Klux Klan, the National Socialist Movement and the now-defunct Traditionalist Worker Party joined others of their ilk decked out in KKK patches, swastikas and other Nazi insignia.

“Today’s #WhiteLivesMatter protest was cringe. Self indulgent extremism is pure anti-propaganda. It’s unmarketable and a serious dead end,” Identity Evropa founder Nathan Damigo posted on Twitter.

White nationalist Nicholas Fuentes echoed Damigo’s sentiment: “If you can’t see why the optics of today’s TN rally are problematic for our goals, you are not prepared to be a part of a serious movement,” Fuentes tweeted.

“I can say with 100% honesty that if the Shelbyville marchers had simply worn regular clothing, I would not have felt the need to say anything,” wrote neo-Nazi Andrew Anglin on his Daily Stormer website. “It was not about personalities or ideologies, it was explicitly about costumes. … Based on the datasets I am looking at, I think that it is very unlikely right now that costumes are going to lead to a movement involving millions of people.”

“Overall, the goal of the public rallies is unclear, and it is also not clear that they are accomplishing anything,” Anglin continued. “Gaining media attention is fine. But that can be done with much smaller events, which involve virtually no risk and cost nothing. Flashmobs do not result in arrests, they do not result in street fights. They do result in the same amount of media attention, generally. Orders of magnitude more per-manhour more media attention.”

Robert Warren Ray, a contributor to the Daily Stormer known as Azzmador, took Anglin’s words to heart and led members of the Daily Stormer Book Club along with members of the neo-Nazi group Patriot Front to crash an anarchist book fair in Houston last fall. Patriot Front stormed the University of Texas at Austin weeks afterward in another unpublicized torchlight demonstration. “This is a great way to do these demos,” Azzmador wrote on the Daily Stormer. “Get in, do your thing, obey the law, and get out. Flash mob is a good way to go.”

White nationalist group Identity Evropa, which has been openly critical of its fellow racist organizations’ tactics, subscribes to the flash mob model, usually accompanied by slogan-bearing banners and a megaphone. Patriot Front has continued to hold flash demonstrations throughout the past year as well, gathering at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., in February and at the United States Navy Memorial in D.C. in June.

A couple dozen League of the South members showed up for a flash demonstration on the Edmund Pettus bridge in Selma, Alabama, in late June for a photo op. “The bridge is an iconic ‘civil rights’ memorial,” League president Michael Hill wrote on the group’s website. “We occupied the bridge in order to 1) demonstrate that we can and will show up unexpectedly anywhere and at any time and 2) for the photographic propaganda value of such an occupation.”

Whether the League of the South can corral a similar number of racist demonstrators for this weekend’s flash mob is yet to be seen, but it’s sure to be a less embarrassing showing than the couple dozen or so who showed up for the permitted and publicized Unite the Right 2 rally held in Washington, D.C., earlier this month, as Hill acknowledged.

This event was a failure, and there’s no reason to pretend otherwise. Yes, it once again showed the true nature of Antifa, Black Lives Matter, and the rest of the new Red Terror’s street thugs. But as far as good publicity for the ‘Right,’ it was a disaster.

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