Jeff Weise, described as a 16 year old "baby face", recently killed his grandfather and then went to his school where he killed several children and adults.
Like other youth who have become mass murderers, he felt isolated and experienced behavior problems and social withdrawal. In the Spring of 2004, he finally found a group who encouraged his separation in the most extreme ways - this group of Nazi's praised this Native American on a reservation for embracing racial nationalism. Jeff Weise created the user name "Todesengel," which is German for "Angel of Death", and logged on to a discussion forum for a group of National Socialists. After a few exchanges, he changed his user name to NativeNazi.
Nazi and other hate groups often complain of being misunderstood or misinterpreted. In this case, they have a point. A lot of common reaction has been "How can a Native American believe in White Supremacy?" One key element of Nazi philosophy encourages racial nationalism. An animalist level of separating races quite literally in the sense that wolves don't run with a pride of lions. The white supremacy is often more visible in their rhetoric than mission statement.
The discussion forum has since been removed, but the internet has ways of keeping history. Reading the exchange between this young man and folks who appear to be adults, we see these Nazis encouraging the anti-social behavior and ideas we've come to look for since Columbine. Besides bantering about how a famous epithet should be changed to apply to Native kids who act Black, he forum condoled him and reinforced his feeling of alienation.
" I respect your open-mindedness; not everyone is so brave to think the way you do," says one of the first responses. It is followed with others embracing him with "There is a place for you, I hope you stick with us" and "We welcome you, brother." After adopting a philosophy of race based separation and one that sees "each race superior in its own way," he enters a discussion forum which behaves quite typically of how hate groups and cults embrace susceptible children and adults. After seeing himself as harassed and misunderstood, he has those ideas endorsed, is accepted as special and is praised.
In his message to the group, he asks about age requirements. There are none. He goes on to mention his problems at school and reiterating he was young. There doesn't appear to be any hesitation to keep encouraging him to stick with the group.
Is the group responsible for his actions? They didn't pull the trigger. They behaved as they do. Encouraging an atmosphere of perceived oppression, hindered victory, a glorious task ahead and brotherhood. They endorsed his negative view of the race mixers around him adopting Black culture.
Then again, on the actual web site for the Nazi group, their FAQ asks, "Killing innocent people is wrong, isn't it?" We all know the real answer, but this group goes on to describe society as "individuals..part of the social movements that produce them.. who can be out of place." It doesn't say no and dismisses the idea of innocence or guilt.
There are a lot of questions raised by tragedies like this. One overlooked question is the perennial topic of hate groups in schools and intolerance among youth. It's easy to feel queasy over the Nazi's encouragement aimed at our youth, but it's also a reminder that these groups see themselves in a light of righteous legitimacy where they have no more of an obligation to keep young people away than the Democrats or Republicans. It's up to us, not them.
Tolerance.org is one of many sites with information for parents, teachers and teens on understanding the importance of tolerance. TalkingWithKids.org specializes in communicating with kids on tough issues in general.
Hate groups infiltrate through , video games and perhaps most importantly, through a lack of communication and supportive social structure.