Understanding the Wisconsin Terror Attack

Wade Michael Page

While we learn more hourly about the recent shooting spree targeting Sikhs in Wisconsin, to properly understand the crime, one must understand White power today. This hate-based system of beliefs is no longer about cross burnings and white robes.  Unfortunately, the media appears ill equipped, if not unable, to talk about White supremacists.

According to reports from the Southern Poverty Law Center, shooter Wade Michael Page has a long association with White power.  In 2000, he allegedly made purchases from the National Alliance, a once prominent White supremacist groups. He also appears in pictures in front of a Nazi flag. 

Several websites have shown pictures of Page’s left bicep revealing a “Celtic cross” with the number 14 on top of it.  Both are common White power symbols: the former with connections to the Ku Klux Klan, while the latter references the “14 Words,” a key phrase coined by David Lane, a founding member of the Aryan inspired terrorist group the Order: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for White Children.”  It represents the core of contemporary White nationalist ideology, emphasizing the importance of the White race protecting its future, one they believe to be imperiled by multiculturalism, immigration, integration, homosexuality, and globalization.  The focus on the family and the protection of children underscores the entanglements of race, gender, and sexuality in the White power subculture today.

Page was a member of multiple hate rock group named End Apathy and Definitive Hate. Their album Violent Victory contains a picture of a white hand, tattoo with the letters “HFFH” (“Hammerskins Forever, Forever Hammerskins”) punching a Black male in the face.  According to its website, the Hammerskins is “a leaderless group of men and women who have adopted the White Power Skinhead lifestyle...the Hammerskin brotherhood is way of achieving goals which we have all set for ourselves...summed up with one phrase consisting of 14 words.

Many observers would label End Apathy as "hate rock," an umbrella term that covers a range of hard rock, punk, and metal styles that espouse racist, homophobic and White nationalists ideologies.  Hate rock is a cornerstone of White supremacist subculture, as indicated by the appearance of “End Apathy” at a racist music festival called Independent Artist Uprise in Baltimore, which featured well known acts like Blue Eyed Devils and Max Resist.  Page’s description of the band underscore many central tenets of hate rock :

[Obama's] presidency, along with the intensification of globalization and worsening economics, has sparked a rise in skinhead, neo-Nazi, and other White supremacists groups in the United States and around the world.

"End Apathy began in 2005...to figure out what it would take to actually accomplish positive results in society and what is holding us back. A lot of what I realized at the time was that if we could figure out how to end peoples apathetic ways it would be the start towards moving forward...But I didn’t want to just point the finger at what other people should do, but also I was willing to point out some of my faults on how I was holding myself back. And that is how I wrote the song ‘Self Destruct’."

On the group’s MySpace page (White supremacists have been active in social media spaces and online in general for over a decade), Page contrasted it with pop music: “The music is a sad commentary on our sick society and the problems that prevent true progress.”  Concluding that Whites are blind and asleep, an assessment that reflects a deeper White nationalist belief that Whites are “zombies” who need to wake up to their perilous situation. Clearly, Page hoped his music would be a catalyst for this racist revolution.

While many took comfort in the election of Barack Obama, his presidency, along with the intensification of globalization and worsening economics, has sparked a rise in skinhead, neo-Nazi, and other White supremacists groups in the United States and around the world.  According to a report from the SPLC, which has tracked such groups for more than a quarter-century, while more than 1,000 hate groups were identified in 2011, up from roughly 600 in 2000, militia and patriot groups numbered 1,274, up more than 450 from the year before.

As the media uses words like "deranged" to describe Page, they divert attention away from how much he embodies White power today--its racism, its anger, its subculture, its networks.  To date, the coverage we have seen has missed the fact that he exemplifies an operational strategy.  Like Timothy McVeigh, he is a lone wolf.  He blends into society around him and then activates to commit an act of extreme hate and violence.

C. Richard King is a professor of Critical Culture, Gender, and Race Studies at Washington State University in Pullman.  He is author/editor of several books, including Team Spirits: TheNative American Mascot Controversy and Postcolonial America. David J. Leonard is Associate Professor in the Department of Critical Culture, Gender and Race Studies at Washington State University, Pullman. He is author of After Artest: