Temple gunman specialised in songs of hate
HIS MUSIC, Wade Michael Page once said, was about “how the value of human life has been degraded by tyranny”.
But on Sunday, Page, a US army veteran and rock singer whose bands specialised in the lyrics of hate, shot dead six people and wounded three others when he opened fire with a 9mm semiautomatic handgun in a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, before himself being shot to death.
To some who track the movements of white supremacist groups, the violence was not a total surprise. Page (40) had long been among the hundreds of names on the radar of organisations monitored by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) because of his ties to the white supremacist movement and his role as the leader of a white-power band called End Apathy.
Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the SPLC, said Page had come to the centre’s attention a decade ago because of his affiliation with rock bands known for lyrics that push far past the boundaries of tolerance.
“The music that comes from these bands is incredibly violent, and it talks about murdering Jews, black people, gay people and a whole host of other enemies,” Potok said.
He added that in 2000, Page had tried to buy unspecified goods from the National Alliance, which Potok described as a neo-Nazi organisation and that at the time was one of the country’s best organised and best financed hate groups.
Although little known among music fans, a steady subculture of racist and anti-Semitic rock bands has existed on the margins of punk and heavy metal in Europe and the US since at least the 1970s.
Hate groups sometimes use some of the bands and their record labels for fundraising and recruiting, according to the law centre and the Anti-Defamation League.
In an interview posted on the website of the record company Label56, Page mentioned going to Hammerfest, an annual white-supremacist festival well known to civil rights advocates. He also said he played in various neo-Nazi bands, including Blue Eyed Devils, whose song White Victory includes the lines: “Now I’ll fight for my race and nation/Sieg Heil!”
The company removed the interview from its site on Monday.
Analysts for the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the US department of homeland security routinely monitor violent extremist websites of all kinds, including those attracting white supremacists, according to former officials of both agencies. But the department’s work on the topic has been criticised. In 2009, conservatives in Congress strongly objected to a department report titled Rightwing Extremism, which speculated that the economic recession and the election of an African-American president could increase the threat from white supremacists.
Janet Napolitano, the homeland security secretary, withdrew the report and apologised for what she called its flaws.
Daryl Johnson, the homeland security analyst who was the primary author of the report, said last year that, after the furore, the number of analysts assigned to track non-Islamic militancy had been reduced sharply.
Homeland security officials denied his assertion and said the department monitored violent extremism of every kind, without regard to its religious or political bent.
JM Berger, an author and analyst on counterterrorism who runs the Intelwire website, said Page “clearly had a history with the white supremacist movement”. A song called Welcome to the South by Definite Hate, another band that Page played in and that Berger found online, refers to “our race war” and asks: “What has happened to America/That was once so white and free?”
Berger said the lyrics and album art of Definite Hate echo the views and vocabulary of the Hammerskins, or Hammerskin Nation, a white supremacist group founded in Dallas in 1988.
According to the Site Monitoring Service, which follows white supremacist trends, Page had an extensive presence on Hammerskin and other white nationalist websites, including Stormfront, where he favoured the names of his bands as user names and “frequently included white supremacist symbolism” in his postings.
He concluded one posting with “88”, a number frequently used by neo-Nazis and skinheads to mean “Heil, Hitler”, according to Site (H is the eighth letter of the alphabet).
He also used “14”, the number of words in the rallying slogan of the white supremacist movement. – (New York Times service)