published Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

Cook: What to do about the Nazis

Pay them not to come.

"Offer those Nazis $15,000 to cancel," one woman said. "Once they get here it can cost over $100,000 in hospital bills, police time, SWAT teams and lawyer fees if any sort of drive-by shooting or ruckus occurs."

Stitch yellow stars on our sleeves. Place long-burning yellow candles in every window of every downtown store, apartment and restaurant.

"The silent witness of yellow candles for the duration of the Nazis' visit," a reader emailed.

Renounce their Nazism with diversity. Black, white, gay, straight, religious, atheist, line up together on the Walnut Street Bridge.

"Since we have the world's longest pedestrian bridge, we can form an unbroken chain of peace," one man said.

In case you haven't heard, we're about to get a face full of hate. The National Socialist Movement, the largest neo-Nazi group in America, is holding its 40th anniversary rally on the Hamilton County Courthouse lawn on April 26.

Their ideology calls for a pureblood, snow-white America. So let's beat them at their own game.

"Offer free ancestral DNA testing for the top 10 officers of our swastika-wearing visitors," one friend said.

What would it look like to counter their racism with an event that builds black-white trust here? Or hold an inter-religious ceremony devoted to Holocaust Remembrance Day, or Yom HaShoah. Pack the house (The Tivoli? McKenzie Arena?) full of Jews, Muslims, Christians, anyone, everyone.

"A communitywide understanding and respect for their corporate grief," the reader said.

I'd like to hire some big-chested tenors and sopranos. Drag the speakers out of Track 29, give them more microphones than a Nixon news conference and tell them to let loose until the china bursts. Let them drown out the Nazi rhetorical slopline. Their falseness against our falsettos.

We could also avoid it totally. If a Nazi shouts into a microphone and nobody hears him, does the hate still spread?

Or would doing so signal some tacit approval? Don't we need to match their voices with louder voices of our own?

We must do something, for the neo-Nazis are belching out a dangerous ideology, taking their script right out of 1940 Germany. Yet they are also clownish and warped, like bloated cartoons from a drunken Hateland. Swastikas? Storm Trooper uniforms? Sometimes, evil is seductive; other times, it's idiotic.

They arrive in two weeks. This is the calm before the storm. We have time to think a few things over.

• The neo-Nazis are not monsters.

Yes, they are espousing monstrous thoughts and would be the first to regrease the machinery of evil.

Yet whatever wickedness they are capable of, I am as well. It is this lesson that is of utmost importance: that genocide and great evil are not committed by those with red horns and tails and pitchforks, but by ordinary, unthinking people. You know, good rule-following citizens.

When philosopher Hannah Arendt observed the trial of captured Holocaust architect Adolf Eichmann, she wrote about his plainness. The banality of his evil. The psychiatrist who examined him even pronounced him sane.

When asked the reasons for their actions, Nazis often answered: We were following orders, we were just doing what we were told.

Following orders. Just doing what we were told.

Really want to protest the Nazis? Vaccinate our town against conformity and group-think and just-going-along-with-things obedience.

• The neo-Nazis call for job creation, a rebuilding of the middle class and an end to illegal immigration. Ignore the swastika imagery, and they sound like a modern political party.

"Strengthening family values, economic self-sufficiency, reform of illegal immigration policies," their website manifesto reads.

Such bait can hook America's poor. There's been a 56 percent increase in hate groups since 2000, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. So if you can't pull yourself up by your bootstraps, the next best thing is using them to stand on someone else's head.

• If we protest the Nazis, can we please also protest the entrenched poverty in our city?

It would be marvelous to have 1,000 people righteously march in counter-protest. It would be even more marvelous to have an 80 percent voter turnout this fall and citizens who routinely and regularly hold accountable our local and national politicians.

Let's not confuse our dramatic Nazi protest with day-to-day democracy.

We need just as many people lining the seats at the next school board meeting.

Just ask Mizpah Congregation's Rabbi Bill Tepper. Days ago, I asked him what it took to stop hate. He only needed one word.

"Education," he said.

Contact David Cook at or 423-757-6329. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter at DavidCookTFP.

about David Cook...

David Cook is the award-winning city columnist for the Times Free Press, working in the same building where he began his post-college career as a sportswriter for the Chattanooga Free Press. Cook, who graduated from Red Bank High, holds a master's degree in Peace and Justice Studies from Prescott College and an English degree from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. For 12 years, he was a teacher at the middle, high school and university ...

Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.
TirnaNOG said...

"When asked the reasons for their actions, Nazis often answered: We were following orders, we were just doing what we were told."

How often we've heard the above very statement locally? We were just following orders?

If you trek back on some local and read a few opinions written to news locally, and openly discussed on a few local forums, you'll find that very same neo nazi philosophy has been openly expressed, and expressed often, by quite a few locals. And not just any locals either, but some pretty powerful ones and authority figures too.

• The neo-Nazis call for job creation, a rebuilding of the middle class and an end to illegal immigration. Ignore the swastika imagery, and they sound like a modern political party.

Sounds like a lot of local and national rightwing conservatives.

There's nothing NSM are spewing and vomiting that we haven't been subjected to on a local level and at the hands of some locals, and oftentimes have been even put into practice.

Bottom line: Many here may openly denounce them all the while privately supporting and condoning them.

"Such bait can hook America's poor

It ain't just the poor they attract, Mr. Cook. Personally, I don't think the NSM picked Chattanooga. I think they were invited.

What happened to that crowd locally who once openly shouted they wanted to ship all the immigrants back to Mexico and all the blacks back to Africa? And why were Chattanoogans so silent when local Chattanoogans were spewing their own brand of hatred and using local authority to enforce it? What do you think WWB through your own neighborhood and getting jacked up, stop and frisked were all about but this groups brand of hate? Or having a neighbor calling and reporting you as a suspicious person in the community you've lived all your life? Although now downplayed to a degree, What do you think the local efforts to gentrify was all about? What type philosophy do you believe was behind it? Strategies changed doesn't guarantee primary goals as well have changed. And why is Chattanooga now feining surprise and shock even?

NSP philosophy is a mirror image of philosophies that have been expressed openly by some locals, and we're not talking about 20TH century locals either, but 21ST century Chattanooga, and at times even acted upon.

April 15, 2014 at 3:06 a.m.
conservative said...

"Cook: What to do about the Nazis"

"Pay them not to come"

With Mr. Cook, I most often only need the caption or the first sentence or two.

No, we have a national Socialist party now because we pay them with other people's money to become a Socialist. Liberals love other people's money. They vote to take other people's money. They want more and more Socialist programs funded by other people's money.

And then when there is opposition from the other people whose money is taken from them by the Socialists/Liberals, the hate speech arises.

We have had a huge party of National Socialists for quite some time.

April 15, 2014 at 8:17 a.m.
tifosi said...

Education is indeed the key. It will affect many generations to come. It was the G.I. Bill that transformed America after WWII by offering free college educations to veterans. That would eventually land us on the moon. Let's do it again.

April 15, 2014 at 9:01 a.m.

Mr. Conservative, will you be spending the time until the rally polishing your black high-top boots, or do you always keep them ready to kick somebody's ass for your god's glory? to show your Jesus as Reichsmarschall? you as head of Propaganda and Gestapo?

Let the neo-nazis speak. Listen to what they say. There's no need to talk to them, shout at them, pray for them, or demonstrate at them. Watch and listen. If you don't react or become as them, they've been bested.

Watch the Nuremberg rallies of the 1930s and then the mega-church Sunday performances of 2014 with the pageantry, harangues, commandments, and indoctrination, you'll see that group think and action is similar. See where the roots of religious extreme fundamentalism find their message, messengers, and audience in the "truth" of the big lie.

Then see how politicians, government, and special interests play the same game.

April 15, 2014 at 9:20 a.m.
NewToChatt said...

Truly tragic for Chattanooga - with the 3 innocent people gunned down by a heil hitler raving lunatic - our area gets this??

There are limits to free speech - inciting hatred is akin to shouting fire in a crowded theater-

April 15, 2014 at 11:01 a.m.
wallyworld said...

Newtochat - actually, it's much worse. If the USA doesn't stop these inciters ('Fox Nuse' divisive hateful dogma, all the radio Limpballs, and all the idiotic hate spewing right-wing nuts), they could destroy the world. Tim-- McVeigh listened to this hate garbage, and reacted! There are others that will react - check Kansas City.

April 15, 2014 at 12:18 p.m.
MattHudson said...

As a thoughts are simple on this matter. Lets simply rally our local veterans that still remain from the WW2 era as well as other conflicts. All of us can join together downtown and share our stories of the horrors hate produces by the very men and women who witnessed it. There is nothing better then branding a victims face in the mind of the aggressor. I would love nothing more then to open the eyes of such aggressors by showing them the very essence of the people they speak against. I will admit myself that there are times where I hate on others in stupidity...the difference is I have the education, knowledge, and experience to know better. I have a favorite quote that I like to live by, "evil happens when good men fail to act". Just my thoughts.

April 15, 2014 at 1:09 p.m.
Rickaroo said...

Con-man is a sad little man who long ago traded in his brain for blind belief in an ancient book of tall tales and a musty old dogma. He doesn't THINK so much as he REACTS, like a dog hears a strange sound and instinctively barks. He sees or hears the word "socialist," which automatically conjures up all manner of evil spirits in the vacuum of his mind, and in knee-jerk fashion he lashes out, lumping all people who speak the least bit favorably of socialism in any form with these hate mongers and ne'er-do-wells. I'm quite sure that these wackos in the NSM, like con-man himself, do not have a clue what the word socialist really means. There is nothing remotely socialistic about this arrogant, dimwitted menagerie of bigots.

April 15, 2014 at 2:10 p.m.

Banning free speech, even hateful speech never works, but only makes it more intriguing, hidden, and less subject to scrutiny.

White southerners banned abolitionist speech. Catholics banned reformation speech. Nazis banned any speech but theirs. North Korea bans any speech but the dictator's.

Would you want someone like Mr. Conservative to ban your speech as "blasphemous"? In his theocracy it would be. Science wouldn't be taught, but you'd get creationism. Democracy wouldn't be taught, but obedience to the will and word of the King and the King's gestapo. Critical thinking wouldn't be taught, but complete acceptance of the wishes of the rulers.

If the speech isn't blasphemous, it's unpatriotic, or seditious, or un-American, or anti-military, or anti-Wall Street, or anti- big business. There will always be someone who wants your speech to be silenced.

Free speech is forever a problem to small, fearful minds who want to keep others in the darkness as they present Their Truth, Their Whole Truth, and Nothing But Their Truth.

Banning free speech then becomes banishing free-thought. That leads to witch trials, grand inquisitions, and holocausts.

Did veterans fight for free speech, as hateful and disgusting as it might be at times, or for a closed, fearful society of toadies who may only hear what others approve of as correct speech?

Let the neo-nazis have their say in the same way we let street preachers, Muslims, gay-haters, Stalinists, Adventists, Baptists, Zionists, Republicans, Democrats, and alien abductees have their free speech.

To do less than allow them to speak is to limit your own right to free speech. That's what they are hoping you will do.

April 15, 2014 at 2:26 p.m.
Rickaroo said...

Here is my suggestion for "welcoming" NSM to Chattanooga: On the day they are supposed to meet at the Court House, schedule a huge downtown block party, encouraging blacks, whites, latinos, gays - anybody who believes in the equality of us all - to come. Get a good rock band. Set up a cleared spot on the court house grounds for the NSM group to speak and everybody be perfectly silent while their speaker has the mike. Nobody boo or cat-call, just let them have their say, and then as soon as they are finished, everybody turn away from them and let the band break out in some loud and joyous, danceable song and everybody start dancing in the streets. Then maybe some gays and/or mixed couples approach them, smiling and in a friendly manner, asking them to join the party. Just a thought. Either do that or just completely ignore them and nobody show up at all.

April 15, 2014 at 2:52 p.m.
NewToChatt said...

Hate Speech is NOT Free Speech :....there is no right to speak fighting words—those words without social value, directed to a specific individual, that would provoke a reasonable member of the group about whom the words are spoken. For example, a person cannot utter a racial or ethnic epithet to another if those words are likely to cause the listener to react violently."

Revoke their permit.

April 15, 2014 at 2:58 p.m.
MocTastic said...

Who decides what is hate speech? Do you? Or do I? Does our ministers? Does our rabbis? Does the politial party leaders? You go down a dangerous path when you start labeling and punishing speech.

That being said, best option would have been put a total news embargo on the story, they want attention and press, don't give it to them.

April 15, 2014 at 3:11 p.m.
Rickaroo said...

NewToChatt, I agree with you, to an extent, about hate speech, but I have never even heard of this group until I saw this news story about them the other day. I have no idea if they indulge in hate speech... or do they keep their hateful views to themselves all the while exhibiting a more innocuous public image? It seems dictatorial to me to just assume that they are going to say inflammatory, hateful things and then ban them from speaking or assembling. And anyway, even hate speech is still protected under our first amendment.

April 15, 2014 at 3:12 p.m.
SPQR said...

What a sheer waste of ink and air over the arrival of the NSM. They have no power, no assets, no backing, no influence that matters. And yet the hip and PC screaming meemies around here are just all a twitter proposing all kinds of useless twaddle to counter them.

News flash: wrong focus. Wrong group. There's another one.

They are not banal but they are evil. They also have all the evil influence you can imagine, to the tune of about 10 million a year of tax money, swaying elections and influencing 'education.' And no matter what kind of spin they put on their actions, they hate. THAT is who needs to be countered. However, the delicate idiots around here don't want to be called 'wayciss.'

Here, enjoy the lullaby:

April 16, 2014 at 1:17 a.m.
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