Part Two of an Interview with Former White Supremacist,
Tony McAleer, on Class & Academia
While I was attending university, I met Tony at a meeting of the Atlantic Jewish Council, in which he gave a presentation about white supremacy. Tony McAleer is a former white supremacist Neo-Nazi who became deeply involved in the White Aryan Resistance as a recruiter and leader. However, he turned his life around and co-founded A Cure for Hate, a non-profit organization intent on deradicalization. Part one of my interview with Tony, discussing how he grew up to become a white supremacist neo-Nazi, has already been published. In my follow up, this second part will discuss the role of class and ideologies within the white supremacist movements.
Having been brought up by a relatively normal family in a wealthy Vancouver suburb and having attended private Catholic school throughout his youth, Tony was a seemingly typical teenage adolescent on his way towards a good path for successful and productive adult life. However, as discussed in greater depth in part one of my interview with Tony, he fell into a bad crowd of skinheads during his teenage years, which gradually evolved to him joining a Canadian white nationalist movement called White Aryan Resistance or R.A.R. for short.
This is contrary to the cultural notion that white nationalists are usually illiterate country bumpkins, rednecks. Therefore, a well-educated, cultured young man from a relatively affluent area with a liberal political disposition doesn’t exactly fit the mould. However, Tony quickly dissuaded me of this notion as both dangerous and naively condescending. So, when I asked Tony, “do you think regardless of class you can be pulled into these things [neo-Nazi movements],” he replied, “I think it’s regardless of class, and I think if you go back and look at the lessons from Nazi Germany. It absolutely transcends class. And I think it’s a very dangerous thing to dismiss it as a bunch of ignorant red necks. And sure, there is a population that is not well educated and is rural. But the Richard Spencer’s [a prominent American white supremacist] of this world come from wealthy families, and while it may not be in equal proportion, they’re [rich people] not an equal proportion of society anyways. But the thing to pay attention to is that revolutions have always been run by the middle class.”
Continuing this train of thought regarding class, I questioned Tony about the significance of people like Ernst Zundel, David Irving, and Fred Leuchter to white supremacist movements.
Ernst Zundel was a German Neo-Nazi author who lived in Canada between 1958-2000, writing Holocaust denial conspiracy theories, including “The Hitler We Loved and Why” and “Did Six Million Really Die?” He was eventually jailed for these actions under the charges of “likely to incite hatred against an identifiable group.” His application for Canadian citizenship was also declined twice, first in 1966 and later in 1994, on the grounds that he was a national security threat associated with known violent extremists, including Richard Butler, head of the Aryan Nation. Then in 2005, during his incarceration, he was deported back to Germany.
David Irving is a well know British pseudo-historian and holocaust denier who writes about World War Two and Nazi politics. His books such as “Destruction of Dresden” and “Hitler’s War” are revisionist writings meant to reframe Germany and Hitler during World War Two as sympathetic figures by downplaying, or outright denying, Nazi war crimes while simultaneously embellishing Allied war crimes such as the bombing of civilians.
Neo-Nazi Fred Leuchter was an execution equipment technician employed by the U.S. federal government to improve its methods of capital punishment. Using his occupational expertise, he authored the so-called “Leuchter Report,” in which he alleges that no gas chambers were utilized in Auschwitz-Birkenau to exterminate Jews, Roma, and other undesirables.
Tony and I discussed these individuals because they are academics, not skinhead street thugs; so, they occupy a very different space in the white nationalist movement, which is much more palatable due to the lack of violence, yet just as dangerous and more insidious in nature because they provide a veil of legitimacy to their hateful ideology by hiding behind academia.
Whilst Tony and I discussed what sort of leadership element these ‘academics’ play within Neo-Nazi movements; I asked, “Is there an element to which they create a leadership class and create the knowledge and academic credits to draw in those who are uninformed, spreading misinformation and conspiracy theories, who don’t have the intellectual capacity or curiosity to find out that they are wrong.” Tony replied, “I think that all radical political movements have those characteristics; it’s not unique, you know, ISIS employed the same tactics.” I agreed, “Yeah, you get an Imam or someone from the religious class who is educated in the Quran; they misuse its teachings and warp things, and then draw in young impressionable peoples….” Tony interjected, “To do the dirty work,” he said.
So, I surmised, “there is a sense of class within it [radical groups], but you don’t think, as you mentioned before, you don’t have to be rich or poor to join these hateful ideologies, but perhaps being rich or poor, educated, or non-educated, determines what facet of the group you end up taking part in?” Tony agreed but added the qualifier that there are many different roles people can play within the movement but that there is also vertical growth, something Tony experienced personally. Tony started as a street thug, but as one of the most well-educated and well-read amongst many poorly educated skinheads, he quickly switched occupations. According to Tony, he went from fighting with his fist to fighting with his words, saying, “when people wanted to argue about immigration with a group of skinheads. You know, if there was a really tough guy who wanted to fight us, I knew exactly who in the group to go say, “this guy wants to go.” When someone wanted to engage intellectually, I was that person.” Tony would later lead the W.A.R. into the internet age by creating websites and radio broadcasts to bombard people with misinformation and conspiracy theories, providing a service to the movement somewhat akin to academics like David Irving.
In part three of my Interview with former Neo-Nazi Tony McAleer, we discuss rejection and redemption, analyzing the role of shame in hateful ideology and strategies around deradicalization.