For most Americans, the current roller coaster ride known as election 2000 has been an emotionally draining, yet somehow intriguing exercise in the democratic process. But for those who comprise the racist right, the current talk of recounts, new elections, and lawsuits is being used as an opportunity to spread their message of hate and paranoia--a reality that could have serious ramifications for America's 5.7 million Jews.
Long before the first ballot was cast on November 7, neo-Nazis, Christian Identity adherents, and other white-supremacist organizations were using the nomination of Joseph Lieberman as Al Gore's running mate to whip their followers into an anti-Semitic frenzy. One conspiracy theory after another describing how the Jewish controllers would do whatever was necessary to get Lieberman into the White House made its way through the rank and file of racists organizations.
For example, in a message to the members of the American Nazi Party in the weeks prior to the election, Tom Metzger, founder of the White Aryan Resistance, wrote, "The lusting for power and total control by the Jew knows no limits and I can only pray that when the Jewish masters find a way to remove Gore (if elected) and install the first Jewish president--that Lieberman and his controllers will institute every oppression that their twisted imaginations can invent and aim them directly and solely at WHITE MEN!"
Matt Hale, the leader of the World Church of the Creator (WCOTC), disseminated similar messages. He told his followers that "I am very happy that the Jew Joseph Lieberman has been chosen by Al Gore as his running mate, for it brings the pervasive Jewish influence of the federal government out in the open so that people can see what we anti-Semites are talking about."
It's difficult to gauge exactly what effect such words may have on those who hear and believe them. And assigning cause and effect is even more difficult at this particular time because the appearance of this racist election rhetoric has coincided with the rise in violence in the Middle East which is generating its own wave of anti-Semitism. What we do know is that after declining for several consecutive years, anti-Semitic incidents increased significantly in October, 2000. In fact, last month has been called the worst period of anti-Semitic violence in the past 50 years. We saw numerous attacks on Jews. We saw synagogues firebombed, graveyards desecrated and Jewish owned property vandalized in many parts of the US and Europe.
What often gets lost in the discussion of radical anti-Semitism such as that embraced by the WCOTC, Aryan Nations, National Alliance, Liberty Lobby, skin heads and various neo-Nazis groups, is the fact that the people espousing these hateful views sincerely believe them to be true. For many, racism is the very core of their spiritual and political beliefs. This is important to remember because as we have learned throughout history from the gas chambers to the Oklahoma City bombing, when someone believes something strongly enough--no matter how illogical or vile--they are capable of rationalizing any action to further their cause.
With that in mind, consider the implications of what is currently being said in anti-Semite circles regarding the post-election process. For example, "If what we fear comes to pass and the Jews have stolen this election, we must not let OUR Congress, OUR representatives, confirm this Jewish FRAUD as "truth" and the "will of the people". Never forget the following months, they may indeed make or break the White Race. If we do not go, and we let our brothers and sisters die alone on the liberal battlefield, we will die with them disgraced and dishonored. You have been given the opportunity to lead your race into VICTORY--Those who you leave behind to fight this war will honor you who have given yourself, your families, your children, and your race a fighting chance. Don't fail us now, NEVER surrender!"
A quick sampling from racist chat rooms on the Internet turned up countless anti-Semitic theories on this election including: The Jews have taken over the recounting process; Jews with duel citizenship living in Israel are backdating absentee ballots and shipping them to Florida; and the election or Gore/Lieberman is inevitable and represents the final chapter in the Protocols. Racist leaders all across America are currently inundating their followers with this type of conspiratorial thinking coupled with a call to action.
Sure, we've heard this all before, but that doesn't mean that nothing is different this time around. I am not trying to be an alarmist, but we should not be naïve regarding the potential for violence this election hoopla represents. I have spent a good deal of time over the past decade hanging out with people in racist organizations. It was the subject of my first book. One thing I have learned over the years is that nothing has the potential to turn rhetoric into violent action like the appearance that a paranoid conspiracy theory has, in deed, been proven true.
Consider that for years, leaders of the racist right foretold of a day when the federal government would go after people and kill them in their homes simply because they were gun owners. This supposed suspension of the Second Amendment was, of course, all part of the great Jewish plot. Like nearly all such paranoid thinking, this conspiracy seemed laughable until current events in the form of Ruby Ridge and Waco unfolded and empowered this theory with the illusion of reality. As a result of interpreting these real events through the filter of conspiracy, Ruby Ridge led to the creation of an organized antigovernment movement which has been responsible for hundreds of acts of violence, and Waco eventually transformed Tim McVeigh from a dispenser of rhetoric into a mass murderer. There is a lesson here.
Ever since the day Al Gore named Joe Lieberman as his running mate, leaders of the racist right have been spinning their predictions and theories of how the Jews would do whatever was necessary to guarantee that Lieberman gets elected and ushers in the new world order. Once again, real life current events in the form of a close election followed by accusations of vote fraud, recounts, rerecounts and lawsuits are being run through the conspiracy filter and misinterpreted as proof that the racist election predictions are coming true.
As crazy as this paranoid world view sounds, it is a serious matter. Psychologist will tell you that, when embraced as reality, a conspiracy theory can be a powerful and dangerous motivator, one that has the ability to turn an anti-Semite into a violent martyr for his cause. While it is impossible to predict the future, it is not impossible to understand how and why some events have more potential than others to act as triggers for anti-Semitic violence. Our current election drama is such an event, and we should all be vigilant as we watch for possible signs of trouble as a result..
Joel Dyer of Boulder, Colo., is the author of three books. He is also a writer and regular commentator on The Editors, a current-affairs television series. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.