Saturday, November 16, 2013

Pocatello Racism Existed Before 2Great4Hate

Editor's Note: The following op-ed will appear in the Idaho State Journal tomorrow. To the right is the image I scanned that day in October of 2009 of the CD in question.

Recently the Idaho State Journal reported on the accusations of one Ralph Lillig against the group 2Great4Hate on his local access television show. Lillig, as Pocatello voters know, is the man behind the referendum to overturn the anti-discrimination ordinance in the city. On the show in question, Lillig claimed that incidents of hate literature showing up in various places in Pocatello, particularly at Pocatello High School and the university area, were “fabricated” by the group 2Great4Hate as a way to get the group off the ground. Lillig called the group “extremists” and despite the Journal pointing out that the Aryan Nations’ took credit for the literature distribution in 2010, Lillig stands by his assertion that the fliers and other items of hate speech were created by 2Great4Hate.

Let’s talk about extremists.

As a student at Idaho State University and, at the time, an employee of the campus library, I encountered one of these items distributed campus-wide by members of the Aryan Nations. In my experience, it was a CD by a band performing what is called white resistance music. Over the short minutes I could stomach to listen to the CD, the band, Fetch the Rope, screamed their hatred for Jews, blacks and gays while establishing their white pride.

The pain and fear that overcame my body as I listened to the garbage on that CD is something I had never before felt and thankfully have never felt since. To hear the graphic portrayal of hanging a person is stomach-churning. That afternoon I felt sick and my heart raced. To find this kind of racism, this pure hatred, in my place of employment and at my school in the 21st century when lynching and neo-Nazism were supposedly a thing of the past was harrowing.

It wasn’t difficult to draw my own conclusions. Having grown up in Eastern Idaho, I thought this sort of hate to be a product of Northern Idaho, not something that ever surfaced close to my own home. The artwork on the album contained a noose and flames, keys to its content before I even bothered to listen to a sample of what masqueraded as music. I knew that there were a few usual suspects who could have distributed these CDs—small branches of neo-Nazis of various stripes, the Aryan Nations and the KKK came readily to mind.

Anyone that could create the kind of filth I heard on that CD is the real extremist.

I reported the item to my supervisor who reported the incident to the library’s dean and a sweep of the library commenced, removing all of the offending material. Once reported to campus public safety, we learned items had been dropped in at least one other location on campus as well.

The incident occurred in October of 2009; a date of which I am certain due to the date stamp on the image I saved to my own computer of the CD cover and the fact that I remember thinking at the time that the bright orange CD sleeves with “free” written on them were likely picked up by many an unsuspecting student thinking they had something to do with the approaching Halloween holiday.

Clearly my own story does not jibe with Lillig’s account that the group 2Great4Hate surfaced simultaneously with racist literature dropped in one Pocatello neighborhood in 2010. Why? The first newspaper account of an incident may not have happened until April 2010, coincidentally just before 2Great4Hate surfaced, but the hate lit drops were happening as early as October 2009. However, those fliers urging that white members of the community save “a future for white children” and turn away from groups supporting minorities were from the same group as the CDs. This was easy to establish as the CDs in 2009 of the group Fetch the Rope were also available on the website listed on the white supremacist fliers 7 months later.

2Great4Hate has been consistent in its statements about the group’s formation following the April 2010 flier incident. They couldn’t have known the library incident occurred. To blame the 2009 incident on 2Great4Hate, Lillig himself or the Easter Bunny isn’t possible because the incident was not made public.

To blame these incidents on a group that is truly trying to make Pocatello a better place is disgusting. A group that is striving for diversity, inclusion and equal rights in the workplace in no way compares to the group of extremists that distributes CDs that threaten “we’ll hang you from a tree twenty-feet high.” To believe otherwise is foolish.

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