Editor’s Note: Here’s the full text of my speech, Southern Nationalism and The Media, which I delivered at the 2014 League of the South National Conference.
The speech was an analysis of the media coverage the League has received over the past two years and shows how the League’s relationship with the media has begun to change.
The title of this speech is Southern Nationalism and the Media.
Because this is my third League of the South national conference, I thought a great place to start researching this topic would be to take a look back and analyze all the media coverage the League has received from the day I first walked through this door in June 2012 until the day I was asked to speak at this podium in June 2014, which is exactly two years. These two years can be divided into a year in which didn’t do any activism and a year in which we did almost nothing but activism.
My goal was to find out if our street activism had any impact on the nature and the amount of publicity the League has received from the traditional mainstream media. I’ve searched through and everything I could find on the internet. I may have missed a few articles that have fallen through the cracks, but I believe that the summary I am about to present here is fairly accurate.
2012-2013: A Year of Inactivity
From the 2012 to the 2013 national conferences, there were a few blog posts about the League by Warren Throckmorton, an evangelical professor of psychology at Grove City College in Pennsylvania, who is obsessed with Michael Peroutka and his involvement in the League of the South. Ed Sebesta, or “Crawfish” as he is known around here, continued to write about the League as he has done for many years now. There were also several blog posts about the League by the “Civil War” bloggers such as Kevin Levin, Professor Brooks Simpson, Andy Hall, and Corey Meyer.
Mark Potok at the SPLC wrote one article about the League called “League of the South Chief: Whites are Naturally ‘Superior.’” This was the SPLC’s response to a seminal article written by Dr. Hill called “Our Survival As a People” which explained the League’s shift toward ethnonationalism. The SPLC followed up on Potok’s article by including another version of it under the title “League of the South President: Whites Endowed With Divine ‘Superiority” in the Fall 2012 edition of their Intelligence Report.
Every year the SPLC sends out its annual list of “hate groups” to the media. In North Carolina, WECT NBC 6 contacted our North Carolina state chairman at the time, Bernard Thuersam, who disputed the “hate group” label and responded by saying that the SPLC hates “anyone who has conservative views or traditional views.” Shortly thereafter, VICE contacted our Tennessee state chairman, David Jones, to find out what a “hate group” like the League of the South thinks of Jennifer Lawrence, the Hollywood actress who stars in “The Hunger Games” movies.
From the 2012 to the 2013 conferences, the League was frequently mentioned by the media in association with two of its most prominent members, Matthew Heimbach and Michael Peroutka, but was rarely sought out for comment in its own right. The Baltimore City Paper, the Human Rights Campaign, Professor Throckmorton and others attacked Michael Peroutka while the ADL, SPLC, The Daily Beast and others wrote articles attacking Matt Heimbach. Thom Hartmann, a progressive radio show host on Russia Today, interviewed both Michael Cushman and Matt Heimbach about the secession petitions.
The secession petitions that followed in the wake of the 2012 presidential election provided the League with its best publicity during this period. Russia Today recorded an excellent segment about secession with Bernard Thuersam, Mike Tuggle, and Harold Crews of the North Carolina League of the South:
Time magazine contacted and interviewed Michael Cushman about the secession petitions in an article called, “Obama’s Re-Election Inspires Southern Secessionists”:
“The election results were really great for our cause,” says Michael Cushman, 36, an advocate of secession and founder of the Southern Nationalist Network. “I think it was better that Obama won because it has revived a lot interest in secession in the South because he is very unpopular here.”
In spite of this favorable break, the general picture of Southern Nationalism in the media in the 2012 to 2013 period is one of apathy and inactivity. The League never made the news during this period and our opinion was rarely solicited by the media. We were talked about in the media only when we were sought out by reporters, when the SPLC had something to say about us, when liberals were playing the association game with some public figure, or when one of our members made the news on their own.
SNN and Occidental Dissent spent much of the 2012 to 2013 period reviewing books about the origins of Southern culture in Caribbean slave plantations. In hindsight, our minds were elsewhere. The League was absent from public controversies like the theft of the Nathan Bedford Forrest bust in Selma and the renaming of Confederate memorial parks by the Memphis City Council. Truth be told, we weren’t making much of an effort to get our message out through the mainstream media.
2013-2014: Hitting The Streets
In hindsight, we can see how much of a difference activism makes in the amount of media coverage the League has received. There were no public demonstrations between the 2012 and 2013 national conferences, but from the 2013 to the 2014 national conferences the League held nine demonstrations in seven states and Washington, DC, as well as several smaller rallies in Florida.
Let’s start with our opposition: from 2012 to 2013, the SPLC attacked the League twice on the Hatewatch blog and in their Intelligence Report (the latter was a rehashed version of the same article), but from 2013 to 2014 the SPLC attacked us 12 to 13 times in Hatewatch and the Intelligence Report. Imagine2050, which is kind of a wannabee SPLC group, attacked the League three times. The ADL also attacked the League three times this year, not just an individual member like Matthew Heimbach.
#1. Starke, FL – June 29, 2013
From the 2013 to the 2014 national conference, the League of the South generated 16 distinct waves of local, state, and national publicity from the media. The first of these waves began a week after the 2013 national conference when the Florida League of the South organized a small protest in Starke, FL.
The occasion of the Starke protest was a New Jersey-based group called American Atheists which won a legal fight in a US district court that allowed them to erect a monument to atheism on the grounds of the Bradford County Courthouse.
The Florida League’s Starke protest generated an AP story which was picked up by The Huffington Post, ABC News, FOX News, UPI, Newsmax, The Miami Herald, and The Tampa Bay Times. Glenn Beck’s The Blaze, Jacksonville’s Florida Times Union, and The Orlando Sentinel produced three separate articles. Michael Tubbs, the Florida League of the South chairman, was quoted in the AP article:
“We reject outsiders coming to Florida — especially from outside what we refer to as the Bible Belt — and trying to remake us in their own image,” said Michael Tubbs, state chairman of the Florida League of the South. “We do feel like it’s a stick in the eye to the Christian people of Florida to have these outsiders come down here with their money and their leadership and promote their outside values here.”
The Gainesville Sun produced another article on the Starke demonstration which also quoted Florida chairman Michael Tubbs:
“It’s a steady chipping away of our heritage, one piece at a time,” he said.
The Ten Commandments monument, in his eyes, is suitable for the courthouse. “Our western Christian civilization is already based on the Ten Commandments,” he said. “That is the most appropriate symbol for this courtyard that we could put here.”
Neither the 2012 or 2013 League of the South national conferences received any publicity from the media. Also, there was no plan of action coming out of the 2013 national conference to engage in street activism. Instead, it was the Starke protest against the atheists in Florida and Matt Heimbach’s May Day protest against the communists in DC which spurred along the League’s gradual shift toward activism.
#2. Castrating Jack Hunter, The American Avenger – July 9, 2013
On July 9, 2013, a neocon website called The Washington Free Beacon published a story about Sen. Rand Paul’s aide Jack Hunter called, “Rebel Yell: Rand Paul aide has history of neo-Confederate sympathies, inflammatory statements.” During the interesting phase of his career as a blogger and radio show host, Jack Hunter was a well known personality on the Dissident Right before he ran off to “Take Back America” with the Tea Party following the 2010 midterm elections.
After Jack Hunter’s involvement with the League of the South in the 1990s came to light, it set off a firestorm in the leftwing media: Reason, The Huffington Post, Politico, Media Matters, Salon, The Washington Post, The Daily Beast, The Daily Caller and numerous other media outlets all contributed to this round of playing the associations game. The SPLC published three articles about the scandal.
By the time it was over, Rand Paul had thrown the American Avenger under the bus, and Hunter had published a groveling public apology in Politico called “Confessions of a Rightwing Shock Jock” in which he repudiated all his former populist political beliefs. Jack Hunter can be found these days echoing Rand Paul on the need to fight “racism” by restoring voting rights to black convicted felons.
#3. Sonny Thomas asks, “Are you offended?” – July 12, 2013
While Jack Hunter’s association with the League was making national headlines, a CofCC member in Ohio named Sonny Thomas made his own small media wave when he unfurled a Confederate Battle Flag at a school board meeting in Springfield, Ohio. Thomas defended the League and asked his audience, “Are you offended?” As a result of this little stunt, three stories about the League were published in the media in The Huffington Post, Yahoo News, and The Daily Caller.
#4. Uvalda/Vidalia, GA Demonstrations – August 24, 2013
The League targeted Mayor Paul Bridges of Uvalda, GA in the first of the Southern Demographic Displacement rallies on August 24, 2013. The Uvalda and Vidalia demonstrations were covered by state and local media in The Atlanta Journal Constitution, The Montgomery Monitor, and Vidalia’s The Advance. The SPLC and ADL each wrote two articles that attacked the League and Chief Lewis Smith over the Uvalda demonstrations. A Hispanic paper based in Savannah called “La Voz Latina” also covered the Uvalda demonstration.
#5. Murfreesboro/Shelbyville, TN Demonstrations – October 12, 2013
After Uvalda and Vidalia, the League took on the issue of refugee resettlement and moved on to demonstrations in Murfreesboro and Shelbyville, TN. The liberal snark website “Wonkette” was the first to bite and attacked the League in three facile articles in September. This was followed by two nasty editorials in The Shelbyville Times Gazette: “Just call it what it is: Racism,” which was just some liberal boilerplate about MLK’s Dream, and “Some who matter — and some who don’t,” in which the League was labeled “the worst of America – and the South.”
The Tennessean and Daily News Journal wrote two skewed articles about our Middle Tennessee demonstrations. These articles were syndicated statewide in other newspapers like the Marion Star and Jackson Sun. Middle Tennessee Public Radio, WMOT, and the MTSU Sidelines also covered the Murfreesboro rally with the MTSU students providing the most objective coverage of the League.
“We’ve been dumped with, by the government, a bunch of refugees,” said Hill, who lives in Killen, Ala. “There’s the controversy with the (Murfreesboro) mosque, and there’s the controversy with Tyson foods (in Bedford County) hiring a lot of illegals. And we’re here to protest that, to show the people who have been here for generations of families that there’s somebody here who supports them and opposes the demographic and cultural changes that will come when you dump a completely new population into an area.” …
Michael Cushman, chairman for League of the South in South Carolina, organized the rally and said the group was not against “foreigners, Iraqis or Somalis.”
“Somalis have a country and that’s Somalia. That’s their homeland. We have ours, and that’s the South,” he said. “We’d like to see a free South.”
Among our enemies, the SPLC and Imagine2050 each wrote an article about Murfreesboro. VDARE and American Renaissance, two of our allies, published two great articles about how Southern Nationalism was “growing up.” Finally, Dr. Michael Hill was interviewed on The Political Cesspool by James Edwards.
#6. State Sen. Frank Niceley and the Southern National Congress
On Halloween, the League of the South was once again in the news when our friends at the Tennessee Anti-Racist Network alerted the state media that TN Rep. Judd Matheny and TN Sen. Frank Niceley were scheduled to speak to League board members at the 2013 Southern National Congress conference in Fall Creek Falls State Park.
Once again, the result was a media firestorm: The Nashville Post, The Nashville Scene, The Tennessean, Knoxville News Sentinel, The Tullahoma News, WBIR, Raw Story, and The Washington Post all participated in playing the associations game. Rep. Judd Matheny’s spine crumbled under the media pressure. Sen. Frank Niceley kept his promise and addressed the Southern National Congress. The SPLC was outraged and wrote another article about the League’s influence in “mainstream” Tennessee politics.
#7. Stand With Tom Watson Rally – November 23, 2013
The Economist and Creative Loafing each wrote stories about the League’s opposition to the removal of the Tom Watson statue from the grounds of the Georgia State Capitol. Dr. Hill was quoted by The Economist:
“Some, such as Mr Hill, see in these changes “a campaign against southerners, a campaign against whites…[and] an attempt to culturally cleanse the South of any old, white, conservative, Confederate influence.” … Mr Hill’s group has staged street demonstrations against what they call “southern demographic displacement” (and others call “immigration”) around the region.”
I was quoted by Creative Loafing:
“Organizers behind this weekend’s protest have called the Watson statue’s removal “an abject capitulation to political correctness and a heinous assault on our Southern heritage.” John Preston, one of the organizers, told CL in an email that they don’t “see any difference between the destruction of Buddhist monuments by the Taliban in Afghanistan and the PC liberals in Georgia who want to remove the Tom Watson statue.”
#8. Greg Brannon and The League
In December, the League was in the news in yet another round of playing the associations game when the liberal media attempted to link us to Greg Brannon, the Tea Party’s Senate candidate in North Carolina, after he attended a nullification event that had been co-sponsored by the North Carolina League of the South. Mother Jones, Rightwing Watch, Daily Kos, The Huffington Post, Wonkette, The Daily Beast other leftist websites wrote articles to expose Brannon’s “links” to the League.
#9. Greenville Demonstrations – December 7, 2013
The ADL wrote one article that attacked me personally for pointing out on my blog how rich Jewish donors in South Florida that support foreign wars for Israel were raising a ton of money for Lindsey Graham’s reelection campaign. This was only media coverage generated by the Greenville demonstrations.
#10. SECEDE Billboard – Tallahassee
In February, the League’s first SECEDE billboard was covered by Orlando Weekly, Broward Beat, and The Guardian in the UK. It was denounced by our enemies at Imagine2050 and Paul Fleming in The Tallahassee Democrat. The YouTube video that the Florida League made to introduce the billboard was played on the evening news in Pensacola. Two months later, the Florida Chamber of Commerce responded by putting up their own “Succeed” billboard, and Dr. Hill was extensively interviewed by Sunshine State News:
“Why keep the economic millstone of Washington, D.C., around your neck when you could do even better without it?” Hill asked. “Why would Florida want an entity at best ‘stuck in neutral’ (many think it is going hard in reverse) acting as a drag on her already notable achievements, as pointed out by the Florida Chamber of Commerce? Upon reflection, the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s position makes no sense. What good does Washington, D.C., do for you, Mr. and Mrs. Floridian, except to tax you, regulate you, and otherwise punish hard work and initiative by its own wastefulness and ineptitude? We in the league think you can do even better on your own.”
#11. Tallahassee Demonstrations – March 8, 2014
The League’s demonstration against Marco Rubio in Tallahassee was covered by The Gainesville Sun, Gawker, and Imagine 2050. The SPLC also wrote a nasty editorial in response to the Tallahassee rally and threatened to publicly expose several of our members. A black reporter, Andrew Skeritt, quotes Dr. Hill:
“I’m standing up for my people – white Southern people – no one else,” Hill said in a professorial style he must have perfected during almost two decades at the historically black Stillman College in Alabama.”
It was Adam Weinstein’s article in Gawker though that produced my favorite quote of the year:
“I mingled clumsily with the crowd, recognizing only one face—that of Michael Cushman, “the Palmetto Patriot,” founder of the Southern Nationalist Network, who has called the American flag “the symbol of a government which promotes multiculturalism, abortion, interracial and homosexual marriage, Third World immigration, affirmative action and wars to spread democracy.” He looks like a young Hunter Thompson, eyes always sunglassed and lips always pursed, the kind of guy who couldn’t take you in a bar fight but looks serious enough that you wouldn’t start one with him.”
#12. Richmond Southern Marriage & Family Defense Rally – April 5, 2014
In Richmond, Michael Cushman was interviewed by WRIC and appeared on the evening news following our first Southern Marriage & Family Defense Rally which targeted Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring.
#13. SPLC Southern Marriage & Family Defense Rally – May 9, 2014
On May 9th, the League protested SPLC headquarters in Montgomery over their federal lawsuit that seeks to overturn Alabama’s gay marriage ban. Unlike previous rallies, this time my friend Jack Ryan sent out a press release to 203 media outlets in Alabama. This produced two articles in The Montgomery Advertiser, one article in Al.com, two radio interviews for Dr. Hill on WAPI Birmingham and WERC-M, and a segment on Alabama Public Radio. Dr. Hill and I were featured on WAKA on the evening news. There was also an AP article that was syndicated across the country.
#14. Montgomery SECEDE Billboard
The SECEDE billboard in Montgomery that was taken down produced three articles in AL.com, two editorials denouncing us in The Anniston (Red) Star, an article and editorial in The Montgomery Advertiser denouncing us, two articles in The Wetumpka Herald – one which was called “Hate Groups in Our Backyard” – and several radio interviews on WAPI Birmingham, The Alan Colmes Show, The Mike Hewitt Show, The Sonny Thomas Show, The Rocky D Show and The Political Cesspool.
The AP article about the removal of the SECEDE billboard by Lamar Advertising made it on The Drudge Report and was syndicated to hundreds of news outlets across America. Even though two of our demonstrations didn’t generate any media coverage, the League got more publicity in May than at any other point in the last two years.
#15. Chris McDaniel’s Links To The League
Earlier this month, The Daily Beast and Esquire wrote two articles that attempted to link Mississippi Senate candidate Chris McDaniel to the League. This was another case of what we call playing the associations game.
#16. Michael Peroutka’s Maryland Race
The Baltimore Sun and Professor Warren Throckmorton have written articles about Michael Peroutka’s recent victory in a Republican primary in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. The SPLC has also chimed in with an article that went up yesterday that touches upon what Mike Crane said in his speech.
“Peroutka and the League appear to be attempting to extend the reach of their views in Maryland.”
Yesterday, WFSA, WLOX, and 19 Action News in Montgomery ran an article called “Controversial Group Holding Conference in Wetumpka” about the 2014 League national conference. The article noted the League had protested the SPLC and erected a SECEDE billboard in Montgomery in May and that we are holding “an actual two hour street demonstration” here in Wetumpka later this afternoon.
This is an example that shows how much the League has changed over the past two years. In 2012 and 2013, I don’t remember our national conference getting any publicity from the local media. We weren’t making statewide or national news. Instead, VICE was making crank calls to ask us about our opinion on Jennifer Lawrence. A year later, VICE’s HBO show interviewed my wife Renee and I in Montgomery for an upcoming episode about the failure of Alabama’s immigration law. I got the chance to talk about the secession of Alabama to a national television audience.
The last year of activism has shown that it is our actions, or the lack thereof, which have kept us isolated from our target audience. If we have the will power, we can use the traditional media to get our message out to the public in almost any area we choose, Southeast Georgia, Central Alabama, Middle Tennessee, etc. In particular, the AP stories and the local television news segments in Montgomery and Richmond revealed that much of the publicity we receive will be positive, objective, and fair, or in the case of Gawker, even funny.
At the SPLC demonstration in Montgomery, we learned that we can use a website called EasyMediaList.com to get hundreds of press contacts for every Southern state. We can use this resource to send out a simple press release whenever we have a street demonstration to, say, the entire Alabama media, and that this will generate significantly more publicity for us than we have gotten for most of this year.
In the year ahead, I am sure we will be hearing a lot more about Southern Nationalism in the media. When we come back here a year from now, I can’t wait to compare all that we have already done to what we are about to do.