Archived Opinion

Hate by any name is still hate

Back in the day, say the late 1980s through about 2000, the Southern Poverty Law Center’s hate map featured Western North Carolina prominently. In fact, along with a few states such as Idaho and Montana, in many ways this section of North Carolina was the group’s hate map.

I found our notoriety depressing. I’m proud to have grown up in this area, but I certainly wasn’t proud about what some of my neighbors were up to: hate mongering, intimidation and nutty-over-the-edge political shenanigans.

Such as, a shadowy White supremacist printing press in western Swain County, with the post office in Bryson City reportedly (unknowingly, mind you) serving as a hub for the sending forth of hate-spewing books on the “intellectual” reasons why Whites are superior to other races. I’m not sure there was ever much news coverage on that fellow, who has since gone to meet his maker. He wrote under a pseudonym I no longer remember.

In the Otto community of neighboring Macon County, Ben Klassen stayed busy penning other contributions for the we-hate-anyone-different literary world.

Klassen wrote five books. Members of the neo-Nazi The Creativity Movement still use Klassen’s The White Man’s Bible as their main text, and adhere to his calls for RaHoWa, or Racial Holy War. Klassen originally dubbed his group the Church of the Creator. Members had to change the name in 2003 because of a trademark dispute. There’s something humorous about that, but The Creativity Movement is so violent and over the edge nutsoid, I can’t summon even a faint attempt at a joke.

Klassen, a former Republican state representative in Florida and early inventor of the can opener, didn’t just write about hate, he taught it — at the School for Gifted White Boys outside of Franklin. He killed himself in 1993 with an overdose of sleeping pills. Not out of guilt, mind you, but apparently because he was severely depressed following his wife’s death.

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In the mid-1990s, after Klassen mercifully and permanently went away, common-law courts became all the rage. This wasn’t so much about hate as evading taxes, in my humble opinion. Plenty of WNC residents who’d probably rather I didn’t mention their names in print happily jumped on the bandwagon, declaring themselves “sovereign citizens” and refusing to give the government its annual due.

Members held pseudo-courts (Waynesville and Franklin were hotspots), and placed various government authorities on “trial.” These fine men and women pushed for a return to gold as the main currency (still a hot topic among some right-wingers), and filled up local register of deeds offices with pages and pages of their “court transcripts.” Complete, thoughtfully, with members’ thumbprints as proof of identities. Which no doubt came in handy when the FBI got interested, as ultimately occurred after Peter Kay Stern, another fine Macon County resident who styled himself chief justice of a common-law court, was charged with threatening real U.S. judicial authorities.

The so-called patriot movement kept going strong until Eric Robert Rudolph took the fun out of wearing camouflage and saying ugly, threatening things aloud about the federal government. Rudolph lived in the far northwestern corner of Macon County. Which, I’m sorry to say because I’m very fond of Macon County, keeps popping up in this account. I truly can’t figure out why, but Macon County gets more nuts per capita than anywhere else in WNC.

Mentioning WNC’s very own convicted serial bomber triggers remembrances of Nord Davis in Cherokee County (Nord lived just a few miles away from Macon County. I figure his car must have run out of gas near Andrews when he was moving to this region). Davis was a longtime anti-government and Christian Identity member, which is a particularly virulent strain of hate. Davis was leader of the 130-acre North Point Team compound and possibly had ties to Rudolph.

Regardless of whether they really knew one another, Davis is dead now and Rudolph is enjoying the rest of his life in a federal jail cell. Just down the hall, in fact, from unabomber Ted Kaczynski. (Both Rudolph and Kaczynski were represented by lawyer Judy Clarke, who has been tapped to represent Jared Laughner — he of the Arizona-shootings, kooky crazy-eyes mug-shot fame. Clarke, in it’s-a-small-world-after-all note, was born in Asheville and attended T.C. Roberson High School)

Mark Potok, who heads the watch on extremists for the Southern Poverty Law Center, agreed “things have quieted down” in our neck of the woods since Rudolph bombed the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, Ga., and two abortion clinics.

A lot of the militia activity, Potok said in a recent conversation, appears to have moved over the border into neighboring South Carolina.

But there is still some activity in WNC, at least among the so-called “patriot” groups. Waynesville, it seems, has its very own N.C. Citizen Militia. Don’t you feel safer in Haywood County knowing this fact? Interestingly enough, learning about an armed pseudo militia in Waynesville has exactly the opposite effect on me. Probably because I’m suspicious I’m the very sort of person they are “protecting” themselves from.

Efforts to contact the group and ask what they are up to weren’t successful. But it looks like the same old junk to me, just, this time, not based in Macon County … though I’m sure some link to Franklin will surface soon.

From the N.C. Citizen Militia webpage:

“While government continues its decades long effort to diminish and otherwise disavow the role and identity of the unorganized militia, (and continues to abdicate their Constitutional responsibility to support it), in fact the authority, duty and responsibility of armed citizens as the unorganized militia has never changed. The ultimate responsibility of maintaining a free nation has always and must remain in the hands of America’s citizens.”

Fortunately, the N.C. Citizen Militia states it disavows violence and aggression, and is a self-described “defense-oriented organization,” whatever that means.

The overall language sure sounds familiar, though — like a tune we’ve heard in WNC too many times before.

(Quintin Ellison can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..)

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