It’s pretty straightforward stuff. And, like their ideology, the skins’ method of spreading the word is simple and direct. In a typical recruitment campaign, a couple of skins might pull up outside a high school grounds and crank up the tunes of, say, Screwdriver or No Remorse. It’s riveting (though lyrically poisonous stuff — British “Oi” music — and in minutes they’ve got the kids’ attention. Most kids don’t bite. But a few, the loners, the peerless, hang around a little longer. The skins offer a haven of sorts — a sense of belonging — and a few pamphlets which the new emissaries then distribute in the schools among their friends, and racist messages are introduced into the student population the way flouride penetrates the white chalk on those TV commercials. So attractive is the power of belonging to some group, that in some cities native and Oriental kids have been lured into the cause, spreading hate messages directed partly at themselves.
Though they were seen last summer roving in groups of eight or 10, the hard-core skins and bootwomen probably number no more than a few dozen in Victoria.
And they are, arguably, more yapa-dog than Rottweiler. They will not talk to the media. They will brawl, occasionally, but they have been poorly organized and beset by their own problems and have failed to win much support. In the Victorian underground band scene, they have been more or less shut out. No local alternative bands play Oi music, and virtually all have aligned themselves against the racists.
The skinheads have become a convenient outlet for the rage of anti-racists, both in Victoria and elsewhere. Yet the threat they pose is relatively minor. They are merely, as Alan Dutton puts it “the storm troopers,” a rag-tag bunch who deflect attention from the more dangerous, though less visible, mouthpieces of the ultra-right.
Spread an original Aryan Nations map of North America out on the table and the first thing you’ll notice is a shoeprint-shaped region superimposed on the Pacific Northwest. Inside the boundary are parts of Washington, Oregon, Montana, Idaho and, above the 49th parallel, the southern half of Alberta and a chunk of B.C., from the border west to about Kamloops. The Aryan Nations “territorial imperative,” at least as its racist leader Richard Butler imagined it, was to carve up America, separating races into homelands. The Pacific Northwest would be a whites-only enclave. “We believe in the geographic separation of races to ensure a safe and positive environment for all people,” reads a leaflet distributed recently in Vancouver (and elsewhere) by the Aryan Resistance Movement (or A.R.M.), a white supremacist cousin of Aryan Nations and the K.K.K.
David Duke, the notorious former Klan grand wizard-turned-politician, “was especially enthusiastic about the prospects for White Supremacism in B.C.,” according to Stanley Barrett, author of ‘Is God a Racist?’, a careful examination of the far right in Canada. Indeed, Duke was spoted in Victoria last year attending a Pacific Opera Production of ‘Die Fledermaus,’ about the same time as a limo bearing Washington, D.C. <sic> KLAN 1 plates was seen rolling through Duncan — perhaps a coincidence.
Though the K.K.K. presence in this province has waxed and waned since the B.C. chapter was established 13 years ago, Duke would likely be pleased at the degree to which White Supremacist cells have remained and spread their message of hate.
Among the groups that are active in B.C., or have sent emissaries here in recent years:
* The British Commonwealth of Aryan Nations (headquartered in Hayden Lake, Idaho), with a B.C. chapter in Langley. Accourding to Dutton, this group’s long-term plan is to destabilize government through carefully orchestrated terrorism, ultimately seizing power for themselves.
* The related Aryan Resistance Movement of B.C. (A.R.M.), headquarted in Surry, which undertook a heavy leafleting campaign last fall at some 14 mainland high schools. Also related is the White Aryan Resistance movement, which generates money for Tom Metzger to realize his vision. This group produces the magazine “WAR,” which turned up recently on the UBC campus.
* The Christian Identity movement, a religion of sorts that unites various extremist factions.
* The White Knights of the K.K.K., which is reportedly recruiting on the Lower Mainland.
In aggregate, such far right groups are as different as body warts, yet they tend to share certain traits: they are anti-Semitic, anti-black, anti-socialist, anti-foreign aid, anti-gay (Tony McAleer and others have talked openly about killing homosexuals). They are “scientific racists” (who believe white people are genetically superior) and, more often, “theological racists” (who believe the white race is ordained by God to rule). They stand united in the call for white power.
You’ve probably never seen a K.K.K. cross-burning, and perhaps you never will, at least in Victoria. White supremacist groups are less overtly militant than they once were, emphasizing publicly, as Church of the Creator Ben Klassen put it: “We don’t hate anyone; we just like white people.” Their leaders are better dressed, better organized, and, in the main, better educated than before. They openly refer to themselves as “racists,” the way connoisseurs of jazz might call themselves “purists.”
Like their skinhead foot soldiers, ultra-right groups seek converts among the disenfranchised, the confused and the angry — blue-collar types denied jobs by the recession and affirmative action hiring policies, and looking for someone to pin the blame on. “Our racial heritage is our most precious possession,” proclaims a leaflet from the Surrey-based A.R.M. “There’s still time to thawrt the planned destruction of white culture.”