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Why Alcoholism Is the Convenient Scapegoat in the “Jewish Center Killer” Story—Not the Culprit

Frazier Glenn Miller is a nationally known white supremacist, but the media decided to blame the bottle for his hate crime.
 
 
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The following story first appeared on Substance.com

On the afternoon of Sunday, April 13, the eve of Passover, a news story broke about three fatal shootings outside two Jewish-related facilities in Overland Park, Kansas, and the subsequent arrest of a man identified as Frazier Glenn Miller, who yelled “Heil Hitler!” as the police car sped him away.

Miller, 73, was not a lone wolf out of nowhere. He has been a nationally known fixture of the white-supremacist movement for decades. Once associated with a group of domestic terrorists called The Order, after a decade or so out of prison and the public eye he seemed in recent years to have settled down, even campaigning in 2010 for a Missouri senatorial seat. Despite garnering a mere handful of votes, Miller had been able to spread his bilious theories of “Jew control” across the mediasphere—in campaign commercials, web TV shows and, most notably, on Howard Stern’s highly rated Sirius show.

Jokingly dubbing him “the only honest politician,” Stern treated him as a harmless buffoon with a “good gift for gab,” allowing him opportunities to plug websites, including his own, Whty.org, and the white supremacist forum Vanguard News Network (VNN.com), which he described as “the place me and my fellow segregationists hang at.”

Why had this clownish old racist suddenly done something so atrocious as to go gunning for Jews on a Sunday afternoon? What made him “snap”? 

“He is known as an affable man, pretty much like anyone else, except for his views that Jews deserve extermination,”  The New York Times reported. “What gnaws at those who have studied Miller and followed his views and actions over the years is one simple question: Why now?”  McClatchy story asked.

One answer was quick to emerge: alcohol. “Jewish Center Shooting Suspect Went Insane [From Alcohol],” announced  ABC.com two days after the killings.

Plenty of people lined up to attest to Miller’s penchant for drink. Although their credibility is hard to ascertain (most are anonymous posters on white-supremacist websites), it’s not unreasonable to assume that Miller was a drinker. His nephew  told a North Carolina paper that it was possible he “had gotten drunk” the day of the crime. On the other hand, claims that he suffered from alcohol-related dementia seem extreme. If any any toxicology tests were done following his arrest, the results remain sealed.

But whether or not Miller was an alcoholic is not the point. What matters, what a mountain of evidence proves, is that Miller was a world-class hater.

Alcohol is the red herring in this tale. Pinning a career racist’s apparently abrupt turn to mass murder on alcoholism or dementia does, however, serve the different-but-overlapping purposes of both the mainstream media and the white-supremacist movement. For the racists, it’s an easy way to distance themselves from Miller without having to lose any sleep about how the murders relate to their similarly espoused beliefs. For the media, it’s an easy way to avoid a sticky wicket or two that would result from looking too deeply into the organizations and alliances that make up the nation’s white-supremacist movement.

Leading movement figures have ties not only to Tea Party groups but to politicians like Tom Tancredo, the far-right Colorado congressman who is campaigning to be his state’s governor. Focusing attention on this shadowy network would trigger an immediate outcry of  “liberal bias” from the right. This accusation has been remarkably effective at  striking fear into the mainstream media over the past two decades—a period that coincides with the growth of this once-fringe movement.

Reports like the AP’s “ Kansas Shooting Suspect Had No Record of Violence” were true only in the strictest sense: Miller was never convicted of a violent felony. But his bio reveals a man whose life has crackled with violence. He served as a Green Beret sergeant in Vietnam before being discharged from the peacetime army in 1979 for racist pamphleteering. Already married and a father, he wasted no time forging a path toward “racial idealist” glory.  According to The New York Times, that same year he took part in the notorious Greensboro Massacre in North Carolina, in which Klan members gunned down five protesters associated with the Communist Worker’s Party.

 
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