Report calls Hillsboro-based National Alliance irrelevant
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Since William Luther Pierce died 10 years ago, on July 23, 2002, his National Alliance has collapsed from being one of the nation's largest, most influential right-wing hate groups into increasing irrelevancy.
Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Ala., is releasing Shipwreck, an analysis of the group's recent history, Monday. His article is published in the group's Intelligence Report, which he edits.
"The Alliance has been transformed from the nation's radical-right powerhouse into a tiny band of small-time propagandists, criminal thugs and attention-seeking losers," Potok writes.
Pierce, founder of the National Alliance, lived in Hillsboro in Pocahontas County on a compound larger than 300 acres, from which he ran his nationwide organization. The Alliance distributed neo-Nazi messages through books, music recordings, radio broadcasts and the Internet.
Resistance Records was the National Alliance's main source of income when Pierce died. Membership dues and the income from selling records were bringing the group nearly $1 million a year.
Pierce's books, written under the name Andrew Macdonald, include "The Turner Diaries" and "Hunter." Both promote extreme anti-Semitism and racism, glorifying the killing of "inferior" Jews and non-white people.
White people who voluntarily associate with black people away from their jobs, Pierce adds, also deserve to be killed.
Pierce gained national publicity when Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City federal courthouse bomber, revealed "The Turner Diaries" had inspired him.
The April 19, 1995, Oklahoma City bombing killed 168, including 19 children under than 6 years old. The bombing also injured more than 680 and damaged or destroyed 324 additional buildings within 16 blocks of the courthouse.
"The Turner Diaries," published in 1978, includes a bombing scene eerily similar to what happened in Oklahoma City.
"In more than a dozen ways, the Oklahoma City bombing was depicted in 'The Turner Diaries,'" Potok said during a telephone interview last week. "It was patterned precisely after the bombing of the FBI headquarters building in 'The Turner Diaries.'
"I have covered the National Alliance for 15 years, since I came here [to the SPLC] in 1997. Ten years ago, it was the most sophisticated, best-financed hate group in America. It was a very big deal.
"When Pierce died, we started to follow in great detail what was happening to the group and its travails."
Before he founded the National Alliance, Pierce earned a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Colorado, and later taught physics at Oregon State University.
Collapse of the National Alliance
Eric Gliebe, Pierce's handpicked successor, took over when Pierce died.
Potok attributes the collapse of the National Alliance to Gliebe's "mismanagement of the organization and his lack of charisma. Today, Gliebe is despised by the radical right and most of Pierce's former members."
In his Shipwreck essay, Potok points out that the Alliance currently "has a membership of fewer than 75 people, has not published a magazine in recent memory and is in desperate need of funds."
Shortly after Pierce died, The Intelligence Report published excerpts from a speech Pierce delivered on April 20 that year, the last speech before his death.
In that speech, Potok's new article reports, "Pierce mocked the white power movement, saying there was no such thing, and denigrated members of the neo-Nazi groups as 'hobbyists, freaks and weaklings.'"
During the interview, Potok said, "When we published details of that secret speech, a couple of months after Pierce's death, we caused havoc in the National Alliance. No one in the movement understood the level of contempt in which Pierce held them.
"We understood we would probably cause a great deal of damage to Pierce. The effect was quite explosive. One effect was a major boycott of Resistance Records -- the main income earner for the National Alliance at the time Pierce died.
"That choked off a lot of financing for the National Alliance. A lot of skinheads went to other smaller white supremacist labels for their music," Potok said.
Gliebe also ran into problems.
The Intelligence Report also revealed Gliebe's calendar of supposed Aryan beauties was actually replete with photos of women from a stripper bar frequented by Gliebe and his one-time deputy."
Increased dangers from today's hate groups
What happened to the National Alliance, Potok believes, symbolizes what has happened to the radical right as a whole.
When Pierce died in 2001, three groups dominated the movement: the National Alliance, World Church of the Creator and Aryan Nations.
"These groups have all collapsed," Potok said.
"Aryan Nations, based in Hayden Lake, Idaho, was founded by Richard Butler in the 1970s as a white Christian separatist organization. Butler died in 2004."
The World Church of the Creator was founded in Riverton, Wyo., in 1973. Lawyer Matt Hale became the group's leader in 1996.
Then, in January 2003, Hale was arrested for soliciting an undercover FBI agent to kill federal judge Joan Lefkow. Hale alleged Lefkow discriminated against him in a civil suit because her husband was Jewish. In April 2005, Hale was sentenced to 40 years in prison.
"Only tiny remnants are left of each of those three groups. They are not even a pale shadow of their former selves," Potok said. "Today, we have more groups and more people involved in the movement as a whole. But there is no dominant group.
"We have a very large number of disorganized, poorly led groups. That makes things even more dangerous.
"Strong leaders tend to hold their members back. They tend to produce less violence. But some individuals say they get tired of waiting," Potok said.
Kevin Harpham was arrested by federal agents last year, Potok's article points out.
In January 2011, Harpham "planted a deadly anti-personnel bomb laced with rat poison on the route to be taken by about 1,000 Martin Luther King Jr. Day marchers in Spokane."
The bomb was discovered, and dismantled, before it exploded. Gliebe vigorously denied Harpham was involved with the National Alliance.
"But after Harpham pleaded guilty, drawing a 32-year prison term, prosecutors entered Harpham's Alliance membership card into evidence as part of a sentencing memorandum," Potok wrote.
Joseph Paul Franklin attempted to shoot Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt in 1978 and civil rights activist Vernon Jordan in 1980. Never convicted of attempted murder in either case, Franklin later admitted he wanted to kill them both.
Franklin later confessed to eight murders, typically of black men dating white women. Franklin, who received six life sentences and one death sentence, is in jail.
Pierce dedicated "Hunter," published in 1989, to Franklin, "who saw his duty as a white man and did what a responsible son of his race must do ... without regard for the person consequences."
Shipwreck documents similar activities by several other people associated with the National Alliance.
But today, Potok argues, the Alliance "is nothing like the tightly organized entity that William Pierce founded in 1970 and built into a real power."
During his interview, Potok predicted, "Groups are smaller and more poorly organized today. But we are looking at a more dangerous situation today than 10 years ago. We could have another story as big as Oklahoma City."
Potok's new article can be found at: www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-report.
Reach Paul J. Nyden at email@example.com or 304-348-5164.