The neo-Confederate group League of the South announced last week that it is forming a force called the Southern Defense Force to combat the “leftist menace to our historic Christian civilization.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hatewatch blog, which monitors and exposes the activities of the American radical right, reports that League of the South President Michael Hill announced the formation of the new vigilante “defense force” in a military-styled order titled “Directive 02022017” on Feb. 3:
[T]he League of the South is calling for all able-bodied, traditionalist Southern men to join our organization’s Southern Defense Force for the purpose of helping our State and local magistrates across Dixie combat this growing leftist menace to our historic Christian civilization. As private citizens in a private organization, we will stand ready to protect our own families and friends, our property, and our liberty from leftist chaos. Moreover, we will be ready to assist our local and State authorities in keeping the peace should they find it necessary to “deputize” private citizens for that purpose.
That doesn’t sound ominous at all. What is the “growing leftist menace” to historic Christian civilization that it is referring to? What leftist chaos are they protecting their families, friends, property and liberty from? And saying that they are ready to be deputized by law enforcement? The same law enforcement that has already been weaponized against black and brown bodies?
Hatewatch says that plans to militarize the league are not new and that in 2014, the group began developing and training a paramilitary unit called the “Indomitables.” The unit was to help advance a second secession, but that effort died out fairly quickly.
The promise of increased LOS militancy has led to faltering membership in the group, and according to Hatewatch, since Dylann Roof’s massacre of nine black people at Charleston, S.C.’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in 2015, there has been a string of high-profile departures from the group.
Still, none of that has stopped Hill from acting as a military commander, albeit one who has not been able to maintain a clear chain of command or restrain some of the more impulsive league members. Hatewatch reports that at last year’s LOS national conference, some younger members broke away for an unsanctioned protest of an LGBT Pride parade in Montgomery, Ala., and shouted “God hates fags” at demonstrators.
Hill’s militancy also comes as President Trump signs a litany of executive orders to make good on campaign promises on mass immigration and Islamic extremism. Hill wagered hard on a former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s victory in the 2016 election and has since struggled with the realization that Trump’s rhetoric has sapped support in the Deep South for causes historically championed by the League.
Hill’s announcement closes by directing recruits to contact the League using a web form reserved for normal members. “Are you ready to be a man among men?” Hill asks. “Join the League and its Southern Defense Force today!”
The phrase “man among men” is a reference to propaganda posters for the Rhodesian Army during the Rhodesian Bush War, a civil war from 1964-79 in the unrecognized country of Rhodesia that remains a popular reference for white nationalists. The conflict inspired Dylann Roof, who named his blog “The Last Rhodesian” and posed for pictures on social media with the Confederate Battle Flag while wearing a jacket patched with a Rhodesian flag.
Hatewatch says that Hill has echoed the Rhodesian mythos in social media posts and on the LOS website, and he has likened the loss of white dominance and authority in that war to white genocide.
As Hatewatch notes, Hill is just one voice out of many in an escalating violent rhetoric that is spreading across the South and the United States, and the formation of the Southern Defense Force “represents a desperate promise of armed resistance from an aging radical on the fringe of a movement he once dominated.”
These groups are going to continue to form, and our president and his administration are giving them just the voice and platform they need to have a “reason” to “fight.” The hyperbolic nature of our president’s speeches and the media bubble that his followers exist in continue to give them the #AlternativeFacts they need to believe that whiteness is under attack and needs to be protected.
Meanwhile, black and brown people just want to survive.
Read more at the SPLC Hatewatch blog.