Michael Hill is addicted to public activism
The president of the neo-Confederate League of the South announced last month that the League was quitting its campaign of public rallies and abandoning its failed alliance with the neo-Nazis of the Nationalist Front (NF). Less than a month later, however, the aging Hill abandoned the new policy and announced the League’s upcoming rally on Sept. 29, 2018, in Elizabethton, Tennessee, a rally that has now been canceled.
Michael Hill announced the decision to quit public rallies through a proxy, the League’s “PR Chief” Brad Griffin, who writes under the pen name Hunter Wallace on his blog Occidental Dissent.
Griffin indicated his excitement with the development through multiple blog posts.
As Hatewatch has previously documented, Griffin’s vision for the League continues to be at odds with the ambitions of Hill, a former university history professor who seems hopelessly addicted to the thrill of public activism and brawling with counter-protesters.
Hill’s announcement on Griffin’s blog represented the culmination of a slow rollout of several changes trotted out by Hill and other League officials over a period of months, responding to internal criticisms that were growing louder. One of the key grievances centered around the League’s continued insistence on pre-announcing its rallies, which gave community organizers opposed to the League’s messaging and its goal of “making the south once again White Man’s land” time to organize counter-demonstrations.
Griffin was enthusiastic about the break with the NF and the decision to move to organizing “flash demos,” where the League would pop up in an isolated Southern town, distribute literature and depart before counter-demonstrators, journalists or law enforcement could arrive.
Griffin lauded Hill’s decision, focusing in particular on Hill’s stated intention to back off hosting pre-announced public rallies, which Griffin has come to loathe after touting them in early 2016. In his piece announcing the League withdrawal from the NF, Griffin states that the decision was “long overdue”:
I’m tired of going to publicly announced rallies with people like this. I am tired of looking at these people, thinking to myself this person obviously has major issues, setting my concerns aside in the name of White solidarity and then watching these liabilities go on to embarrass us in the national media. Above all else, I am tired of watching the good people who I do like and care about and who I have known for years being driven away from our movement in disgust by a handful of turds.
Griffin’s aversion to association with neo-Nazis and Klansmen at public rallies comes just over a year after he debuted the “Hard Right” moniker on Occidental Dissent as a way of deflecting criticism from Andrew Anglin of the neo-Nazi blog the Daily Stormer in what came to be known as the “ Great Optics War of 2018.”
The “Great Optics War” raged in the immediate aftermath of the disastrous “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in Aug. 2017 and intense media scrutiny focused on the “White Nationalism 1.0” paramilitary aesthetic deliberately cultivated by the League and its Nationalist Front ilk.
Griffin and the League’s position at the time was that the League would win the optics debate by “ appealing to angry, alienated, disaffected people,” by hosting public rallies in small Southern towns. That these small towns would bear enormous security costs due to the tense and often violent nature of these protests after the events in Charlottesville was part of a “lawfare” strategy that Griffin, Hill and the League believed was just deserts for towns that had drawn their ire by “ succumbing ” to multiculturalism.
Griffin broke with the strategy after two particularly embarrassing League outings, one a planned dual rally in Shelbyville and Murfreesboro, Tennessee, in October 2017 and a National Socialist Movement rally in Newnan, Georgia, in April 2018.
Both events saw small coteries of Nationalist Front demonstrators, decked out in boots, cargo pants and an array of extremist flags, facing down larger bodies of counter-demonstrators.
Within a month of the League’s departure from the NF and its announcement that they would no longer host pre-announced public demonstrations, Hill was back to his old tricks. On an episode of “Stormfront Action,” Hill teased out the “secret” location of the Tennessee rally to his co-hosts, who were able to guess the location of the event. Hill confirmed by the end of that broadcast that the group intended to rally at the Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park. He has since canceled that venue because state park authorities demanded the group pay security costs, and the League was unwilling to do so. Though it remains likely the demonstration will still take place, Hill has yet to reveal a new location.
Hill also indicated that the Tennessee League of the South would be present in Johnson City, Tennessee, on Sept. 15 to protest a local pride demonstration. They did show up, but in small numbers; a handful (no more than six) shouted anti-LGBT slurs at parade-goers for a few hours.
Photo illustration by SPLC