New York Times Op-Ed
16 November 1993
And Now, The Hate Show
By Leonard Zeskind
Increasing numbers of white supremacists are forsaking paramilitary encampments and cow pasture cross burnings to build a larger, more mainstream constituency. Some leaders of the extreme right have taken the technological leap tp satellite television.
On Oct. 9, Pete Peters, founder of the La Porte Church of Christ in Ft. Collins, Colo., launched “Truth for Our Times,” shown weekly on the Keystone Inspirational Network. A week later, he was followed by Ernst Zundel, a Canadian Holocaust denier.
Although there are no figures on the number of viewers Mr. Peters may be reaching, more than 14 million Americans have satellite receivers. His show is also on 65 local cable stations from Philadelphia to Sacramento.
The first program included attacks on homosexuals and gun registration. Mr. Peters pulled out a rifle and cocked it, remaking, “There is no sense having one of these if it’s not loaded.” Recently he touted a pamphlet he wrote criticizing child immunization as a plot to “harm and destroy the children of God’s people.” Th pamphlet quotes widely from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, an anti-Semitic czarist forgery. On Saturday he said: “There is going to be the death penalty for homosexuals…It’s just a matter of who is going to die and how many.”
Mr. Peters is a leader in the Christian Identity movement, which claims that Northern European whites are the racial descendants of the Biblical people of Israel. He says that Jews are behind a Satanic conspiracy, that racial integration is a sin and that Armageddon will occur in the new promised land, America.
Christian Identity is a theological glue that binds together strands of the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis and so-called Christian patriots. There are about 25,000 hard-core adherents to the white supremacist movement, and 150,000 more who attend meetings, buy literature or contribute money.
Many people still consider white supremacists a violent fringe phenomenon. The former Klansman David Duke’s campaigns for the Senate and governorship of Louisiana show that that is no longer the case,, as does Mr. Peters’s use of satellite TV.
Mr. Peters’s shift to the mainstream has paid off. In 1988, he was instrumental in defeating a ballot measure that would have prohibited discrimination against homosexuals in Ft. Collins. The vote foreshadowed last year’s approval of an anti-gay rights amendment to Colorado’s State Constitution.
Mr. Peters is emblematic of the dual character of the white supremacist movement: it is a violent subculture and a vanguard political cause. Lately, he has brought the two sides closer. In 1989, he was booed off the stage at a rally in Tennessee organized by Louis Beam, a leader of the Aryan Nations. At that time, Mr. Beam’s bloodthirsty vitriol contrasted with Mr. Peters’s less violent appeal. But a year ago, Mr. Beam was an honored guest at a conference organized by Mr. Peters in support of a Christian Identity believer, Randy Weaver, who was acquitted of killing a Federal marshal in Idaho.
Mr. Peters succeeds by harping on themes popular with conservative Christians. If violent white supremacists are to be kept outside the conservative tent, the Republican Party must lead in repudiating bigotry. Rather than appeal to the worst in us, as Patrick Buchanan did in co-opting David Duke’s supporters in 1992, conservatives must drive white supremacists from the political marketplace with appeals to the best in us.