Academic Who Knew Sikh Shooter Wade Michael Page Says Neo-Nazi Soldiers, Musicians Shaped His Hatred
The following is a transcript of a Democracy Now! interview with Pete Simi, an academic who met and interviewed Wade Michael Page, the man who killed 6 in the Sikh temple shooting.
Years ago, University of Nebraska Professor Pete Simi met and interviewed a white power musician who had served in the military specializing in psychological operations. On Sunday, it was that same man — Wade Michael Page — who attacked a Sikh temple in Wisconsin killing six worshippers. Page, who died following the attack from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, was an Army veteran with a long involvement in the neo-Nazi music scene. The military newspaper, Stars and Stripes, reports Page was steeped in white supremacy during his Army days and spouted his racist views on the job as a soldier. We speak to Simi about Page’s politics, the white-power music scene and Page’s time in the military.
He’s joining us now from Omaha, Nebraska. Professor Simi, welcome to Democracy Now! Tell us how you met Wade Page.
PETE SIMI: I began conducting field work with members of different white supremacist groups in 1997. By about 1999, had began focusing on the Southern California movement, the different groups and individuals that were involved in Southern California. One of my main contacts ended up being Page’s housemate. I met Page through one of my main contacts in 2001. He had been in Southern California for not very long. He had recently relocated from back East to Southern California. The main reason for him relocating was to join his first band, his first White Power neo-Nazi band Young Land, which was a fairly newly emerged band in Southern California that was kind of an up and coming in that scene. So, it was at that time that I met page. He was just really starting to get involved in the White Power music scene and was starting to meet a lot of different people in Southern California.
AMY GOODMAN: What was your reaction on Sunday when you first saw the photograph of the man who opened fire on the Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin?
PETE SIMI: Actually, I did not realize that it was Page until Monday afternoon fairly late. I was not able to follow media coverage earlier on Monday as details were being released. I was on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s website reading one of their articles about the tragic incident, and a photo — a side profile of Page — was prominent in that article. I immediately recognize the photo and it looked a lot like Page, but that at point I still did not really fully realize who it was. Then, as I read the article, it really hit me. It was a very surreal feeling. Frankly, just kind of sick to my stomach when I fully realize that this is the person who I had spent fairly extensive time with over the course of close to 3 years.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, Pete Simi, he, Wade Michael Page, grew up in Littleton, Colorado, the site of the Columbine shootings?
PETE SIMI: Yes, that is what he had told me.
AMY GOODMAN: Did he talk about being affected by them?
PETE SIMI: Not in particular, no. That was not anything that he — maybe mentioned in passing, but nothing in particular about Columbine that I remember him really talking about in depth.
AMY GOODMAN: Let’s talk about his years in the military, 1992-1998, where the reports are he worked in Psy-Ops at Fort Bliss in Texas, and then at Fort Bragg in North Carolina; Psychological Operations. Did he talk about this period and what he did in this unit and what he did in the Army overall?
PETE SIMI: Most of what he talked about in the military was not so much — he did have some favorable things to say as far as he felt like he did get some good training and there was some valuable experiences for him based on this time in the military. He talked a little about the Psych-Ops stuff, but he didn’t get into too much detail in terms of what he was actually doing. He seemed to value the fact that he received training in terms of weapons and that kind of stuff. But, most of what he talked about in terms of his military experiences was how much it really caused him to realize how whites are at a disadvantage and how much the deck is stacked against whites. He really, kind or, belabored the point that African-Americans in the military are coddled, they’re not disciplined when engage in misconduct compared to white personnel, that African-Americans consistently get promotions over whites in the military due to affirmative action-type policies. That was probably the bulk of what he talked about in terms of his military experiences.
AMY GOODMAN: Who did he hate most?
PETE SIMI: As far as during the time that I knew him, I would say it was pretty even mix between anti-Semitism. He clearly felt there was a small effort, a small conspiracy of Jews who were out to dominate world affairs, something that’s often referred to a Zionist Occupational Government, this idea that this small conspiracy of Jews have literally taken over the United States government and really dominate world affairs. He clearly subscribed to that set of beliefs and would talk pretty frequently about Jews do this and Jews control that, and then a lot of anti-black sentiment. So, between those two, those were the most frequent targets of his kind of hateful beliefs.
AMY GOODMAN: During his time in the military, from 1992-1998, there was this famous case at Fort Bragg of a racist soldier who killed this black couple randomly. His name was James Burmeister. Did he ever talk about this?
PETE SIMI: When I asked him about Burmeister, he indicated knowing Burmeister. He didn’t seem to suggest the they were close friends, but that they did know each other, and that this was somebody he had, kind of, known more in passing. They weren’t close friends. He did indicate to me that he did — part of how he started identifying with neo-Nazi beliefs during his time in the military was that he had met individuals who were active military personnel that were already involved in white supremacist groups. And through them, was exposed to white supremacist propaganda or literature. And this was kind of part of his early indoctrination process during his time in the military.
AMY GOODMAN: Did he say he approved of what Burmeister did?
PETE SIMI: He did not come out and say, this is something I want to do tomorrow, or anything like that, but he certainly did — tended to see it as, well, what do you expect? — this is the kind of stuff. A lot of times that type of violence will be responded to by individuals involved in these groups, kind of nonchalantly, well, this is the kind of stuff that happens when you have a society that race mixes, would be something that is often referenced after an incident like that. This is the fallout, what do you expect? or, you know, whites are typically the ones that are on —the victims of this kind of violence. So, this kind of turnabout is fair play-type of mentality is also something you hear quite a bit.
AMY GOODMAN: Did he say racism, white supremacy, was tolerated, was allowed in the military in places like Fort Bragg?
PETE SIMI: He said it was — definitely existed. From his perspective, it was not tolerated nearly enough. His perspective was that the military was really kind of structured in a way that was completely opposed to whites and certainly opposed to any ideas and regards to white supremacy, neo-Nazi. He never talked about feeling that the military was a place that where was, kind of, thriving, where these types of were thriving. From his perspective, it was not nearly thriving enough. The things he would talk about is that there are not nearly enough white people that share his views.