By now, most MediaMouse readers have probably heard that James Von Brunn shot and killed security guard at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. It was the third shooting connected to the white supremacist movement in the past three months.
Not too long after the shooting, news came out that Von Brunn is actually a well-known white supremacist who has been active in the racist movement for years. According to Democracy Now, Von Brunn worked for Noontide Press, which later became a part of the Institute for Historical Review–a leading holocaust denial organization. Back in the 1980s, Von Brunn staged an attack on the U.S. Federal Reserve, claiming that it is a part of an international Jewish conspiracy. Von Brunn served six-and-a-half years in prison for that crime. When he emerged from prison, he became involved in the racist movement once again. According to The Washington Post, Von Brunn was interested in the potential of the Internet and supported himself by selling racist propaganda. In 1999, Von Brunn wrote a book titled Kill the Best Gentiles that ranted about the impending destruction of the white race.
West Michigan Ties to the Shooting: From the Racist Movement to the Ron Paul Movement
Although Von Brunn was from Maryland, he has ties to West Michigan. His website–HolyWesternEmpire.org–was (it is now down) operated by a West Michigan man by the name of Steve Reimink. Reimink lives in West Olive and allegedly took control of the website–which contains some of Von Brunn’s anti-Semetic writings–in the year 2000. . The domain’s email registration was email@example.com. The “1488” is a reference to common neo-nazi numerology, with 14 referring to David Lane’s so-called “14 Words” motto (“We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children”) and the “88” being numerical shorthand for “Heil, Hitler.” The Grand Rapids Press looked into the West Michigan connections a bit, as did WOOD TV. They don’t uncover anything too interesting and generally don’t put the connection into the context of the larger white supremacist movement.
Interestingly, some blogs have been reporting that Reimink’s girlfriend is involved with Ron Paul’s Campaign for Liberty as an Ottawa County organizer. Her phone number is the same as what is listed in the registration for Von Brunn’s website. This wouldn’t be the first time that connections between Ron Paul’s organizations (Campaign for Liberty and his presidential campaign) were tied to white supremacy. Last year, MediaMouse.org reported that a Ku Klux Klan member from Michigan was a coordinator for Paul’s presidential campaign.
A Reminder of Why Anti-Fascist Organizing is Needed
Sadly, it isn’t much of a surprise that Von Brunn has ties to West Michigan–the state has a long history of connections to the racist movement. Michigan is home to prominent white supremacists including John Tanton (one of the key funders of the anti-immigration movement) and James Wickstrom. In addition, there are numerous racist groups active in the state and there have been several white supremacist events in the state.
While this is sad and outraging, at the same time, it’s a sobering reminder of why it is key to pursue anti-racist and anti-fascist organizing. All too often, much of the left–particularly the more mainstream portions–have written off white supremacists as fringe whackos who don’t need to be taken seriously. They’ll frequently make arguments that organized racists make fools out of themselves (thus neutralizing themselves, according to the line of arguing), that they don’t have any following, and that as reprehensible as their rhetoric may be, it is protected by the constitution and should just be ignored. Aside from being statements being made from a considerable amount of privilege, I don’t think they are true. When white supremacists are ignored, they make gains–whether that be by increasing their literature distribution, entering the electoral realm, or attempting to recruit teenagers–all of which have been used in Michigan.
I’m not sure that strong anti-fascist organizing could have stopped this shooting–or other similar “lone wolf” acts by white supremacists–but it can make it a whole lot harder for white supremacists to organize. Folks like Von Brunn operate within the organized racist movement and the smaller that movement, the less support they will have. Moreover, the more that anti-fascists confront the racist movement, the less traction the fewer inroads they will be able to make. It’s critically important that the racist movement be confronted at every turn, otherwise–as has been shown repeatedly in the past–they will continue to garner followers.