'You can read about neo-Nazis all the time in the New York Times,' said a sardonic acquaintance of mine the other day, 'as long as they are in Germany.' And indeed, the existence of an all-American underground composed of paranoid fascist mutants was until recently considered a fit topic only for those who are themselves labelled paranoid. When Costa-Gavras made a film on the subject about ten years ago (Betrayed, starring Debra Winger and Tom Berenger) he was laughed to scorn by the mainstream critics, who diagnosed a bad case of Euro-Marxist condescension towards the nightmare side of the American dream. There were no big funds available to law-enforcement agencies to track down the violent Right, as there would have been if the targets were Libyans or Cubans or (best of all) 'drug king-pins'. Every now and then, the American Jewish Committee or the Anti-Defamation League or Morris Dees's heroic Klanwatch outfit would issue a report, warning of the weed-like growth of ostensibly anti-tax militias who also sold Mein Kampf and inveighed against Zog, their sinister acronym for what they term the 'Zionist Occupation Government'. I must confess that I used to ignore some of these reports myself. One pamphlet, put out by the 'Aryan Nations', had run a 'wanted' list of mugshots, exposing the real powers behind Zog. My own name appeared next to that of Norman Podhoretz. Momentarily chilling as it was to feel 'wanted' by these people (let alone to be gazetted with Podhoretz), the overwhelming impression was of crankiness cut with impotent, pitiable hatred.
LRB 25 May 1995 | PDF Download