Why Alcoholism Is the Convenient Scapegoat in the “Jewish Center Killer” Story
Frazier Glenn Miller is a nationally known figure in the white supremacist movement. When he killed three people in an antisemitic hate crime, his motive seemed pretty clear—until his movement and the media agreed to blame the bottle instead.
On the afternoon of Sunday, April 13, the eve of Passover, a news story broke about three fatal shootings outside two Jewish-related facilities in Overland Park, Kansas, and the subsequent arrest of a man identified as Frazier Glenn Miller, who yelled “Heil Hitler!” as the police car sped him away.
Miller, 73, was not a lone wolf out of nowhere. He has been a nationally known fixture of the white-supremacist movement for decades. Once associated with a group of domestic terrorists called The Order, after a decade or so out of prison and the public eye he seemed in recent years to have settled down, even campaigning in 2010 for a Missouri senatorial seat. Despite garnering a mere handful of votes, Miller had been able to spread his bilious theories of “Jew control” across the mediasphere—in campaign commercials, web TV shows and, most notably, on Howard Stern’s highly rated Sirius show.
Jokingly dubbing him “the only honest politician,” Stern treated him as a harmless buffoon with a “good gift for gab,” allowing him opportunities to plug websites, including his own, Whty.org, and the white supremacist forum Vanguard News Network (VNN.com), which he described as “the place me and my fellow segregationists hang at.”
Why had this clownish old racist suddenly done something so atrocious as to go gunning for Jews on a Sunday afternoon? What made him “snap”?
“He is known as an affable man, pretty much like anyone else, except for his views that Jews deserve extermination,” The New York Times reported. “What gnaws at those who have studied Miller and followed his views and actions over the years is one simple question: Why now?” a McClatchy story asked.
One answer was quick to emerge: alcohol. “Jewish Center Shooting Suspect Went Insane [From Alcohol],” announced ABC.com two days after the killings.
Plenty of people lined up to attest to Miller’s penchant for drink. Although their credibility is hard to ascertain (most are anonymous posters on white-supremacist websites), it’s not unreasonable to assume that Miller was a drinker. His nephew told a North Carolina paper that it was possible he “had gotten drunk” the day of the crime. On the other hand, claims that he suffered from alcohol-related dementia seem extreme. If any any toxicology tests were done following his arrest, the results remain sealed.
But whether or not Miller was an alcoholic is not the point. What matters, what a mountain of evidence proves, is that Miller was a world-class hater.
Alcohol is the red herring in this tale. Pinning a career racist’s apparently abrupt turn to mass murder on alcoholism or dementia does, however, serve the different-but-overlapping purposes of both the mainstream media and the white-supremacist movement. For the racists, it’s an easy way to distance themselves from Miller without having to lose any sleep about how the murders relate to their similarly espoused beliefs. For the media, it’s an easy way to avoid a sticky wicket or two that would result from looking too deeply into the organizations and alliances that make up the nation’s white-supremacist movement.
Leading movement figures have ties not only to Tea Party groups but to politicians like Tom Tancredo, the far-right Colorado congressman who is campaigning to be his state’s governor. Focusing attention on this shadowy network would trigger an immediate outcry of “liberal bias” from the right. This accusation has been remarkably effective at striking fear into the mainstream media over the past two decades—a period that coincides with the growth of this once-fringe movement.
Reports like the AP’s “Kansas Shooting Suspect Had No Record of Violence” were true only in the strictest sense: Miller was never convicted of a violent felony. But his bio reveals a man whose life has crackled with violence. He served as a Green Beret sergeant in Vietnam before being discharged from the peacetime army in 1979 for racist pamphleteering. Already married and a father, he wasted no time forging a path toward “racial idealist” glory. According to The New York Times, that same year he took part in the notorious Greensboro Massacre in North Carolina, in which Klan members gunned down five protesters associated with the Communist Worker’s Party.
Miller then went about setting up his vision of a Klan-inspired militia, the White Patriot Party (WPP), which grew to be 5,000 strong. Located initially in South Carolina, it attracted other sympathetic Southern vets, along with enough funding to keep them outfitted and equipped.
Using evidence gleaned by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), an anti-hate advocacy group that hacked into the WPP computer system, Miller was charged with planning to assassinate SPLC’s boss, civil rights attorney Morris Dees. The dispute was resolved, but in 1987 Miller was arrested on weapons charges, along with leaders of The Order, a white supremacist revolutionary group active in the early 1980s. The Order financed its bombings and other domestic terrorism by robbing armored cars. When their tactics escalated to assassination, their first victim was Alan Berg, the confrontational, liberal host of a popular Denver talk-radio show. (Miller’s self-published autobiography, A White Man Speaks Out, contains a chapter about hiding one of the murderers.)
During the lead-up to the trial, Miller snitched on The Order’s hierarchy, making him persona non grata among most fellow “white nationalists.” Entering the witness protection program, he was relocated with his family to Iowa under the name Cross and provided with a steady stipend. He began spending a lot of time online in white supremacist forums like Vanguard News Network (VNN), where he became a star, logging over 12,000 posts under the user handle “Rounder.”
VNN is a fetid cyber swamp of racist rhetoric and generalized rage at the growing diversity of America. A steady drumbeat of hate is kept up via “Holohoax” videos, lovingly described violent scenarios against gays, and references to the shadowy “Zionist Occupation Government” (ZOG) and its conspiracy to wipe out the white race.
VNN is also where the alcoholism rap originated. The realization that VNN’s own “Rounder” was “the Jewish Center killer” initially met with members’ support. But as it became clear that none of the victims—two adults and one teenager—were actually Jews, the mood on Vanguard turned sour. “Pussy-Bund Trooper” wrote: “If he killed a single White person then he is a fucking scumbag. If they were kikes, then he gets a round of applause.” Some members rejected violence as self-defeating, while others were disgusted at his all-around inept execution of the crime.
So began a search for answers that led to alcoholism. “Joe Smith” posted that he found out from Miller’s wife “that Miller was drunk at a casino and disappeared last night.” Cross-posting from his own racist blog, Occidental Dissent, Brad Griffin wrote that when he learned the suspect had yelled “Heil Hitler” in the squad car, he knew it was Miller, because he’d known “Glenn for 10 years now [and] he’s been known to do that when he gets drunk and excited.”
From then on, the demon-rum narrative gathered steam as cyber-Nazis by the dozens weighed in. Miller was, in the words of the chorus, “a 73 year old man with an alcohol problem,” a “bitter drunk” whose “murder spree was so ill conceived and ineptly executed that it [was] triggered by an alcoholic binge.” Sounding like counsel for defense, James K. Jones pulled all the “pertinent factors” together, writing, “Miller is advanced in years, quite possibly of diminished capacity, diagnosed with a terminal issue, facing financial woes and supposedly intoxicated at the time of the event. Was it just a case of a tired old man full of drink popping off?”
But it was a post by Don Black, cyber-fuhrer of the highest-trafficked “white nationalist” forum, Stormfront, which gave the alcoholism story nationwide traction. Black, most famous for having led a failed coup-attempt on the democratically elected government of Dominica, posted that he had worked with Miller in the 1980s and noticed, even then, that he was an “alcohol driven blowhard.”
It requires only an elementary knowledge of psychology to understand why so many fascists and their fellow travelers hiding in cyberspace would pick up on the booze-made-him-do-it angle. Excessive alcohol intake creates disinhibition in its users and, unlike marijuana and other drugs, is known to sometimes spark violence under stress. But the real appeal of the alcohol-driven narrative is that it allows racists to ignore the true culprit, the one within themselves—their hate-filled ideology, which manufactures scapegoats to satisfy their acute sense of insecurity and inferiority.
Some mainstream media outlets picked up Black’s booze-did-it theory with little critique. Identifying the former Nazi leader and Klansman as a founder of the “White Pride” website Stormfront, ABC.com quoted him as saying that the cause of Miller’s outburst was, “probably because of alcohol…his brain is rotted.” Similarly, he told the Daily Beast, “[The killings are] so insane from every level, so I suspect the alcohol’s been eating away at him for a long time.” Pleased with the Daily Beast article—“White Nationalists Reject Kansas City Suspect Frazier Glenn Miller”—a VNN user posted it and deemed it “useful.”
ABC reported yesterday that in an FBI report of an interview with Miller after his 1987 arrest, he was recounted as saying that “having spent eight days in jail and having the opportunity to dry out from excessive alcohol consumption, he has learned to develop tolerance. He stated emphatically that he would never hurt anybody.” The report does not make clear whether the agency confirmed that Miller had been drunk.
VNN’s webmaster is preppy, Pomona College–educated Alex Linder, who openly espouses his fervent belief that Jews should be “exterminated,” now, in America—was Miller’s partner in a publishing endeavor called the “Aryan Alternative” newspaper. Some observers say he’s responsible for directing Miller away from his Southern Christian-Identity Klan roots towards a philosophy Linder calls “New Right,” a concoction of neo-paganism, anti-southern Christianity, far-right-libertarianism and, most pointedly, an obsession with wiping Jews off the earth.
Despite Linder’s philosophy, he was deemed respectable enough to appear in the 2005 Minutemen Project, a laudatory documentary about the all-volunteer, private border patrols. Also featured are Tom Tancredo and Kevin MacDonald, a professor of psychology at California State University/Long Beach who blames Jews for a “breeding program” to conquer other “races.” In 2012, the highly respected conservative think-tank Heritage Foundation fully endorsed this racist rabble, even backing their integration into the state militia system.
Dan Clevenger, the Tea Party–supported mayor of Marionville, Missouri, was a local friend of Miller. After the Kansas City murders were announced, Clevenger admitted to sharing some of his buddy’s anti-Semitic ideas, especially as they relate to alleged Jewish control of the economy. By Monday, he had been forced to resign.
For its Miller-related post, Whitereference.blogspot, pulled a string of testimonials together from racist poo-bahs to certify that Miller was a snitch, a drunk and a discredit to the fine white race. These voices included ex-White Aryan Resistance leader Tom Metzger and Rocky Suhadya, the chairman of the American Nazi Party (ANP), an old comrade of Miller in the WPP. Putting his own two cents in, the anonymous blogger wrote that cold-blooded murder sprees will never compete with Tea Party tactics when it comes to undermining the government. “If you have an issue with ZOG, don’t go after ZOGlings. Handle it the way Cliven Bundy and his supporters did in Nevada. Shooting up Holocaust museums, interracial couples, and Jewish community centers is wasteful, destructive, and immoral.”
Bundy is the Nevada rancher who staged an armed standoff two weeks ago with the US government over his refusal to pay millions of dollars in taxes for use of federal rangeland grazing, because “he doesn’t acknowledge the federal government”—and was lionized for it by Fox News, Sen. Rand Paul and other conservative notables. On Friday night, 1,500 of his supporters, many of whom are openly armed militia members, including the extremist anti-government Oath Keepers, honored him at a party where they wore “Domestic Terrorist” name tags.
The New York Times reported yesterday that Bundy made a Klansman-like speech to his supporters on Sunday about “the Negro.” “I’ve often wondered,” he said, in part, “are [African-Americans] better off as slaves, picking cotton.” There were no reports of any disagreement from his supporters. Following the Times report, however, some of his new famous fans were rushing to publicly condemn his remarks.
Last week, a flurry of neo-con pundits including Rush Limbaugh, Ronald Radosh and Daniel Pipes, saw fit to pin the blame of the Overland Park massacre squarely on the shoulders of a liberal American Jew, reporter Max Blumenthal whose latest book, Goliath, has been highly critical of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. The proof? A recent post by “Rounder” citing the work of “Jew journalist Max Blumenthal” to make the case that white people, like Jews, should be given their own homeland.
Blaming Blumenthal and even Media Matters, the media watchdog, for the shootings, Limbaugh said that “[Miller] found his way to things that these people had written, and he was inspired. That’s why he took action against the three Jewish people in Kansas City.”
Blumenthal, who before reporting on Israel covered hate-mongering on the US right, tells Substance.com, “The neo-cons and Zionists don’t care about Nazis, they want them to proliferate because their anti-Semitism justifies Israel. So their real target is me and anti-racists, and in an anti-Semitic smear they’re blaming a Jew for what Nazis did. It’s a perfect window into their mentality.” By contrast, the self-proclaimed white supremacists’ blaming alcohol seems almost quaint.
Frazier Glenn Miller is currently being held on $10 million bond. He made his first court appearance on April 15 in a wheelchair. Pleading poverty, he has been given a court-appointed public attorney and was arraigned on one count of capital murder and another of first-degree murder.
According to an SPLC study, since its inception in 1995 Stormfront forum members have been responsible for 100 murders. This figure would be in keeping with a 2009 Department of Homeland Security (DHS) report singling out right-wing extremism as representing more of a terrorist threat than Islamic fundamentalism. But that report was quickly shredded because it was seen, in the face of an insurgent Tea Party, as a partisan attack on Republicans. Given that he has stood at the intersection between several hate groups past and present, if it weren’t for the politicization of domestic intelligence, Glenn Miller would likely have fit the profile of a potential terrorist, and probably have been more closely watched.
“The fact is that [since the outcry over that report] little attention is paid by federal law enforcement to white supremacism,” said Heidi Beirich, director of SPLC’s Intelligence. “I was a little shocked when someone told me local law enforcement had never even heard of him.”
As for the mainstream media, examining the interlocking facets of disparate but reinforcing segments of the white-power elite and their relationship to political violence—in a bid to peel away the levels of hypocrisy—is a thankless task, unfit for a 24/7 news cycle that churns out new bad guys daily. It’s also guaranteed to stir up the hornet’s nest of the conservative mediasphere. Better to focus on Miller as a lone wolf, a bad apple, a washed-up redneck with an unquenchable thirst for Jack Daniel’s who, after a bad night at the casino, just went snap! Blame it on the bottle.
Matt Harvey is an award-winning freelance journalist whose writing has appeared in Black Book, the New York Post and the New York Press, among other publications. His previous piece for Substance.com was about trying to kick heroin and methadone by taking Suboxone.
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