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Sikh Temple Killer Wade Michael Page Was Radicalized by Army Base's "Thriving Neo-Nazi Underworld"

Page's motive may never be known, but the details of his life suggest that the path toward his final act began at a U.S Army base.

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Page’s exposure to the neo-Nazis at Fort Bragg seemed to catalyze his bigotry, driving him further into extremist territory, said Pete Simi, an associate professor of criminology at the University of Nebraska, Omaha.

Simi should know as well as anyone. He met Page in Orange County, Calif., while conducting interviews for a Ph.D. thesis on white supremacist groups — research that eventually led to the 2010 book  American Swastika: Inside the White Power Movement’s Hidden Spaces of Hate, co-authored with sociologist Robert Futrell. Simi interviewed Page numerous times from 2001 to 2003, and even bunked with him and a white supremacist roommate to learn about their daily lives.

“Wade saw the military as a transformational time in his life,” Simi told the  Intelligence Report. “He always said, ‘If you don’t go in the military a racist, you’re sure to leave as one.’” Page believed that less-qualified black soldiers were promoted over whites and that they were disciplined less harshly. Despite these views, he made sergeant and was admitted into an elite psychological operations unit specializing in promoting pro-U.S. sentiment.

An Army buddy told the  Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that Page expressed hatred for all non-whites, calling them “dirt people.” He also said Page sported a tattoo referring to the “14 Words,” shorthand for the notorious white supremacist catchphrase “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for White children,” coined by the late terrorist David Lane. A heavy drinker, Page eventually sank his military career by showing up for work drunk, another Army friend, Christopher Robillard, told the  Journal Sentinel. When he refused treatment, the Army discharged Page in 1998, Robillard said. Page then moved in with a woman in Denver but wound up on the streets after they broke up.

Lyrics of Hate

Page was always a music lover, and another turning point toward violence came when he attended Georgia’s Hammerfest, a large white power music festival, in 2000. He was so attracted to the message and lifestyle of the musicians he met there that he relocated to the city of Orange in Southern California, then a thriving center of the racist music scene.

When Simi met him in 2001, Page was playing bass guitar and singing backup vocals with a band called Youngland. He couldn’t hold a regular job because he drank so heavily that he would pass out and miss work the next day, Simi said.

But he reveled in his white power music performances, which became the center of his life, and his rhetoric now fell squarely in the neo-Nazi corner. He called Muslims “towel heads” or “sand niggers,” Simi recalled. He was so furious after the Sept. 11 attacks that he thought the U.S. should just bomb Middle Eastern countries to smithereens. Most of his hate rhetoric, though, was directed toward Jews and blacks. About the Holocaust, Page said, “They had it coming,” and “Germany did what needed to be done.” One chilling incident during the December holiday season reflected the depth of Page’s hatred: When he and Simi were entering a pizza parlor that had a decal of a menorah, a candelabrum used in Jewish ceremonies, on the door, Page refused to touch the door. “It was like it was poison. He just froze. He wouldn’t even touch anything that had a menorah on it.”

In 2003, Page was having trouble paying his bills, irritating his friends and evidently wearing out his welcome. He moved back to Fayetteville, where he worked at a Harley-Davidson dealership for a year and a half. John Tew, the general manager, told the Intelligence Report that he fired Page because he refused to obey orders from female co-workers. After Page had gone, Tew found an application for the Ku Klux Klan in his desk. “He actually came back for it when he realized he’d left it behind, but I’d thrown it away.”

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