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Magpie is a former journalist, attempted historian [No, you can't ask how her thesis is going], and full-time corvid of the lesbian persuasion. She keeps herself in birdseed by writing those bad computer manuals that you toss out without bothering to read them. She also blogs too much when she's not on deadline, both here and at Pacific Views.

Magpie roosts in Portland, Oregon, where she annoys her housemates (as well as her cats Medea, Whiskers, and Jane Doe) by attempting to play Irish music on the fiddle and concertina.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Not the usual Irish music story.

The Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Project keeps tabs on hate groups and extremist activities throughout the US. Sadly, they're kept pretty busy, with over 700 groups currently being tracked.

One of the creepiest things they're currently seeing is how the neo-Nazi National Alliance is using the traditional music and culture of Ireland and other European countries to suck people into organized racist groups.

Peter Haworth could hardly believe it. Here he was, with his bandmates in Molly's Revenge, setting up last February to play traditional Celtic music to some 75 people gathered at "Euro-Fest 2003." He was fine-tuning the sound equipment when his wife rushed up with the news.

"She said, 'Do you know who they are?'" the folk musician recalled.

Haworth will never forget the scene that his wife, who had been setting up a table nearby to sell Molly's Revenge CDs, described. "You should have seen what they were selling there!" he said. "They had Mein Kampf and little baby blankets in blue and white with little swastikas all over them. It was horrible."

That wasn't all. Around the famous folk band was a virtual Nazifest. Women in knee-length skirts and Bavarian bustiers sold copies of ABC: Aryan Beginnings for Children, along with Talk Back, a publication of the White Student Alliance. At a nearby table, photos were on sale of two beautiful young blonde girls giving the Nazi salute. A fellow with a black T-shirt bearing a swastika strolled by; near him, another man's shirt urged "David Duke for Senate."

Over at the table of the neo-Nazi National Alliance, women's thongs with the Alliance symbol embroidered on the front, available in green, pink, yellow, white and red, were moving briskly.

The members of Molly's Revenge could certainly be forgiven for their ignorance. Nothing in the advertising for the event had suggested that it was being staged by people who believe that Jews and "race traitors" need killing. The venue was perfectly respectable Clunie Hall, in a city park. The National Alliance official who hired the band told Haworth the event was being put on by "a group of friends" into ethnic music.

"Maybe we could have left, but what would they have done?" the musician asked later. "We were scared. We had a signed contract to play. And you have to understand, one of our band members is Jewish. We were worried."

Around the country, white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups are staging events like the "Euro-Fest 2003" put on by the Sacramento unit of the Alliance, the group that first popularized the strategy in the late 1990s. Neo-Confederate groups have sent speakers and propagandists to events like the Scottish Highland Games, some 200 of which are held each year. Even thuggish Skinhead organizations like the Hammerskins are staging events that are meant to emphasize "Aryan" culture.

Although each group's strategy is different, the general idea is to draw in ethnic whites by celebrating various strands of European culture — from Celtic bands to Irish singers to Lithuanian cloggers — and, ultimately, to recruit them.

Are these tactics successful? The Intelligence Project can't say for sure, but they are obviously nervous that they might be:

It is not clear how effective the strategy of using "culture" to approach and entice ethnic whites is for the radical right. But what does seem clear is that up until recently, extremist recruiting tactics have targeted rebellious youths and people who already hold relatively similar views. Rarely has a strategy come to the fore that aims directly at everyday, working white people.... [If] Alliance workers have been able to sign up almost 10% of those who attend — then the technique must be judged a success.

Plainly, other groups have taken an interest. A number of neo-Confederates, including one-time League of the South director Grady McWhiney, have taken their own message — that the American South is fundamentally an "Anglo-Celtic" land — to the Scottish Highland Games that are popular around the United States.

That very unsophisticated and thuggish groups like the South Florida Aryan Alliance are trying to emulate the technique shows that to many, it appears to have great promise. Just this June, talk of a summer 2004 European heritage rally in Washington began.

| | Posted by Magpie at 10:23 PM | Get permalink

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