Strangers with candy: Modern-day Klansmen are desperate for new recruits. (Photo via Flickr user arete13)
The Ku Klux Klan is having some trouble with recruitment. After all, competition is getting pretty fierce among the various right-wing militias and bunker-dwellers looking to build up armies to fight the fast-approaching Race War Apocalypse. Last weekend, Klansmen in South Carolina tried to sweeten their pitch by dropping off goodie bags stuffed with candy and nativist propaganda in the driveways of unsuspecting exurbanites.
Residents were unsurprisingly alarmed by the gift, which included mints, Smarties and a flyer invite to “SAVE OUR LAND / JOIN THE KLAN”, accompanied by a website and a hotline number for the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, a southern sect based in North Carolina. The number leads callers to a recorded rant about Mexicans and their “third-world diseases”.
“It is time to enforce our immigration laws and send them back, and put troops on our border with a shoot-to-kill policy,” says a man with a thick Southern accent. “Always remember, if it ain’t white, it ain’t right. White power.”
In an interview with FOX Carolina, Robert Jones, the Imperial Klaliff of the sect, said that the racist candy bags were part of a larger recruitment effort in advance of the Klan’s tri-annual “national night ride”.
Because this is Obama’s America, where black people sometimes live next door to white people, some of the flyers ended up in the yards of minority residents. But Jones explained that the group didn’t target specific houses, because obviously that would be racist.
"I mean, we can't tell who lives in a house, whether they're black, white, Mexican, gay – we can't tell that," he told the TV station. "And if you were to look at somebody's house like that, that means you'd be pretty much a racist." He added that residents don’t need to be scared of the Klansmen, unless they’re doing something wrong – which, according to the LWK website, includes “drugs, homosexuality, abortion and race-mixing”.
The South Carolina charm offensive is not an isolated incident. Despite being the country’s most notorious hate group, the KKK’s membership has been steadily falling for decades, thanks to infighting, scandals and a generally bad reputation. The Southern Poverty Law Center estimates that membership in the KKK now numbers between 5,000 and 8,000, spread across isolated (and frequently warring) sects.
In a sense, the Klan has become the Windows of hate groups. They enjoy great brand recognition and customer loyalty among racist grandfathers, but are rapidly losing market share to savvier, more aggressive right-wing fear-mongers.
But in the past few months, various KKK sects and chapters in several states have tried to step up their recruitment efforts. Using social media and other digital strategies, along with traditional tactics like late-night leafleting, they are targeting new members – particularly nascent racists between the ages of 13 and 17. In Pennsylvania, for example, a local KKK group announced in April that it was launching a “neighbourhood watch”, informing residents of Fairview Township that they could “sleep tonight knowing the Klan is awake”. Even more alarmingly, Barcroft TV reported this spring that some chapters in West Virginia and the Midwest are even starting to train members in military-style combat – a first for the modern KKK.
More recently, KKK groups like the Loyal White Knights have been capitalising on the current border crisis in an effort to swell their flagging ranks. Fliers similar to those that popped up South Carolina have materialised on suburban doorsteps and windshields in Atlanta, Texas, Tennessee and Florida in the past few weeks, scaring local residents and raising fears that the hooded hate group is undergoing another resurgence.
Whether that is the case isn’t clear yet, according to SPLC’s Mark Potok. The KKK has successfully parlayed nativism into new members in the past, most famously during the wave of Catholic and Jewish immigrants in the 1920s, but also during the Bush-era debates over immigration reform. But according to the SPLC, the number of KKK chapters has declined significantly since 2010, amid a proliferation of other right-wing terrorist groups.
Of course, the Klansmen aren’t the only ones exploiting the plight of detained migrant children. In addition to the various Tea Party politicians fundraising off amnesty fear-mongering, Patriot militias and other Cliven Bundy fans have been patrolling the border for weeks: setting up “command post”, blockading buses full of Guatemalan children and drawing in new conscripts who see the current influx of unaccompanied minors at the border as another harbinger of some vague but imminent collapse.
Here again, the KKK finds itself at a disadvantage – because who wants to eat candy and play dress-up when there’s a war going on?
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