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In gunman some see growing racist movement

Crazies. Lone nut jobs. Isolated loonies. Those are frequentdescriptions of people like James von Brunn, the 88-year-old whitesupremacist accused of opening fire at the U.S. Holocaust MemorialMuseum and killing a black guard.

Others believe he represents something more dangerous: a growingracist movement motivated by a number of converging factors,including the first black president.

Photos: Holocaust Museum shooting

The potential for an increase in violence from whites who feelthey are slipping from power is high, people from across theideological spectrum say.

"I believe we are headed for an unprecedented level of conflictand racial turmoil," said Carol Swain, author of the 2002 book"The New White Nationalism in America" and a professor ofpolitical science and law at Vanderbilt University.

Swain cited anger over immigration, growing minoritypopulations, racial preferences, high minority crime rates, theeconomy and multiculturalism as forces driving white people towardnationalism.

"It seems like the tables have turned for some white people,and they have no recourse except desperation," Swain said.

An April intelligence assessment by the Department of HomelandSecurity said that right-wing extremists could use the troubledeconomy and the election of President Barack Obama to recruitmembers.

Former FBI agent Danny Coulson, who headed the terrorisminvestigation of 1995's Oklahoma City bombing and now runs asecurity firm, said federal agents have increased their monitoringof white supremacist groups since Obama's election, and havenoticed increased chatter and membership.

"These neo-Nazi groups have been laying in the weeds for a longtime," he said. "Then you have a president who comes in who's anAfrican-American and they hate that. And he's tough on guns, andthey really hate that."

The movement has broadened beyond neo-Nazis. Advocacy groups forblacks and Hispanics unwittingly provided a blueprint for others toorganize and defend the interests of white people.

Louis R. Andrews is chairman of the National Policy Institute, awhite advocacy group. He does not advocate violence, but expects tosee increased racial animosity that will eventually manifest itselfin more physical attacks.

"There's no such thing as post-racial," Andrews said, whenasked about the claim that Obama's election moved American racerelations to a better place. "There's conflict, conflict, andcontinued conflict."

Andrews said he voted for Obama because "I want to see theRepublican Party destroyed, so it can be reborn as a partyrepresenting the interests of white people, and not entrenchedcorporate elites."

Swain argues that many people with "white nationalist" viewsdon't fit the extremist stereotype -- they are professors,scientists, elected officials.

"What drives a person to the point where they hate someone?"she asked.

Historically, the answer has been economic trouble, combinedwith several more factors, scholars say.

"The hate is always there. Social factors have to exacerbate itor bring it out," said Jacques Berlinerblau, associate professorof Jewish civilization at Georgetown University.

"It's almost as if there is some sort of silent signal, asignal that it's OK, this is necessary, it must be done," he said.

Some people can be "pushed over the edge" by stresses such asthe loss of a job or another traumatic event, said psychologistDavid Eigen.

"Men aren't supposed to feel powerless or helpless," Eigensaid. "When a man starts to feel that, he feels angry and ashamedinside, and he can project it outward. For hundreds of years, Jewshave been a convenient target. So let's blame the Jews."

"There's something festering in society today," he said. "Aboil has been broken. We want to put a Band-Aid on it, but it's toolate."

In Pittsburgh, Richard Poplawski was recently charged withgunning down three officers after his mother called the police onhim. Poplawski had been upset over losing his job and afraid Obamawould ban guns, his friends said.

Poplawski had posted numerous racist messages on an extremistWeb site in the months before the attack, according to theAnti-Defamation League.

"I've been a longtime lurker on Stormfront," said one post onan account identified as his, "and I see myself probably rampingup the activism in the near future."

Photos: Holocaust Museum shooting


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