America has a tiny fringe of far-right "skinhead" and "militia" fanatics who hate blacks, gays, Jews, Muslims, Asians, multiculturalism, gun control, mixed marriage and many progressive, tolerant aspects of modern life.
Sometimes it's easy to shrug off these armed white supremacists as an obscure handful of kooks -- but the hideous life of Joseph Paul Franklin, who killed a reported 22 people for racist vengeance, shows how dangerous they can be.
West Virginia is entwined in the Franklin nightmare, as follows:
For decades, the late William Pierce operated the neo-Nazi National Alliance from Pocahontas County, endlessly preaching hatred of minorities and liberals who accept them. Pierce wrote a crude novel titled The Turner Diaries lauding violent attacks against the government -- which was prized by Timothy McVeigh, who blew up the Oklahoma City federal building in 1995, killing 168.
Pierce wrote a second novel, Hunter, praising a fictional sniper who roams America killing blacks, mixed-race couples, Jews and liberal politicians. The book was dedicated to Franklin, who lived such a life.
During a brief period from 1977 to 1980, Franklin supposedly committed 22 race-based murders, including two in West Virginia. He confessed that he picked up two young women hitchhikers on their way to a hippie-style Rainbow Family gathering in Monongahela National Forest in 1980. When one of them mentioned her black boyfriend, Franklin said he shot them both to death with a .44-caliber Ruger pistol and dumped their bodies in the mountains.
A West Virginia man originally was convicted of the "Rainbow murders," but after Franklin confessed, a second trial was held and the first suspect was cleared. West Virginia taxpayers gave him $2 million for wrongful imprisonment.
Franklin admitted that he shot and paralyzed Hustler publisher Larry Flynt because his magazine showed interracial sex. And he wounded Urban League President Vernon Jordan Jr. after seeing him with white women. On and on the racist attacks went.
The race-driven killer was convicted of four different murders, including a sniper attack on Jews outside a synagogue. Missouri executed him for that crime Wednesday -- even though paralyzed Hustler publisher Flynt had asked that his life be spared, because executions are uncivilized.
Next time you think that armed racists are merely a ludicrous fringe, remember Franklin's ghastly record.