Earlier this week, Channel 4 gave us all a break from Benefits Street, Big Benefits Family Special or some other benefits-related show like Rupert Murdoch’s Scrounging Scoundrels – the sort of programming that encourages right-wing morons to write to ‘Dear Deirdre’ and moan about how well the poorest in Britain live.
Instead, we were treated to a documentary looking into the lives of a group of American conservatives who probably watch a little too much Fox News.
The show follows the activities of the Traditionalist American Knights, the Missouri chapter of the infamous racist group with an unhealthy affliction for the letter ‘K’: the Ku Klux Klan. Members are well known for their secrecy, hatred of almost everything, and partiality for wearing Halloween costumes all year round. If you already disagree with everything the Klan stand for, there’s nothing here that will make you sympathetic to their ideals.
This is the first time that anyone has been allowed any real insight into the day-to-day operations of the Klan. We see the costumes being pieced together. We witness the cross-burning, which is meant to symbolise the members’ faith in Christ. We watch Klansmen perform a midnight leaflet drop in Lexington – you could call it a Klandestine operation. Locals were left wondering why they hadn’t received flyers from Domino’s instead.
A few members explained their reasons for joining the group, and they’re all frighteningly similar. Linda felt inferior and insecure, and joining the Klan made her feel equal. John spent most of his youth partying and yearning to belong; the Klan made him feel a part of something worthwhile. These aren’t people you’d automatically brand as racist, rather people who are lonely or disenfranchised. They feel forgotten by society. They are the type of people who groups like the Klan or the EDL or Murdoch’s empire prey on.
As you’d expect, none of the show’s subjects believe the Klan to be as notoriously racist as it’s shown itself to be in the past. They’re blissfully ignorant of their own racism, even when three of their affiliates are arrested for conspiring to murder an African-American. Rick insisted the group were not motivated by a ‘black thing’ and the media ‘can’t make everyone responsible for one act’. Well, Rick, if you didn’t want to be judged on your associations, you probably should’ve joined your local book club instead of a hate group.
Frank, the group’s “Imperial Wizard”, refers to the arrests as an ‘isolated incident’ and ‘not what we teach’. It’s hard to take him seriously when talk of such criminality is juxtaposed with a raffle to win a much sought-after Klan action figure – I’ll stick to Barbie and Ken, thanks! To prove how anti-racist he is, Frank whips out his only photo of himself and a token African-American friend as soon as the opportunity is provided. Good job, Frank! I’m totally convinced!
No, no. I’m not. Frank is too busy parading around as a Dumbledore impersonator to acknowledge any racism, so I’m really not arsed about the ignorant bullshit he tells himself to justify the Klan’s skewed version of Wonderland. Titles such as “Imperial Wizard”, “Knighthawk” and “Goblin” create a fantastical bubble for members to inhabit. At certain points during the programme, you can excuse yourself for thinking you’re watching ‘The Only Way Is Hogwarts’ or ‘Made In Middle Earth’.
Reality bites when the faction is subjected to an online attack from hacktivist group Anonymous. Members’ names and details are posted online, forcing some of them to make their way back up the rabbit hole. John is one of the members who leaves, fearing for his own safety and that of his children, who need to be protected because, as he says, they are ‘the future of the white race’ and ‘the white race hasn’t got long left’. Has John just predicted armaggedon? Is the world going to end in his children’s lifetime? Should he become a fairground clairvoyant?
No! John simply inadvertently revealed the extent to which Frank’s group ignores racism. He revealed them to be the ignorant, self-involved hypocrites usually associated with hate groups. As much as they tried to hide it, or redefine popular “misconceptions” about the Klan, Frank and his followers only reaffirmed the dangers of such an extreme and intolerant ideology.
The Ku Klux Klan hasn’t changed. It’s still the Hocus Pocus-spouting hate group it’s always been. Thanks John.