Revisiting Blood in the Face in the Wake of the Overland Park Shootings

The neo-Nazi in his summer plumage.
Frazier Glenn Miller, Jr. (AKA Frazier Glenn Cross, Jr.) will likely be hit with federal hate crime charges in addition to murder for the shootings at the Jewish Community Center in the Overland Park suburb of Kansas City:

Frazier Glenn Miller Jr., 73, of Aurora, Mo., also known as Frazier Glenn Cross, could be charged as soon as today in Johnson County District Court, where he probably will face murder counts. District Attorney Steve Howe said information about charges could be released this morning.
Miller has made statements to investigators, but authorities would not reveal those comments Monday. The southwest Missouri man long has been known for deeply anti-Semitic and racist statements. He was a Ku Klux Klan grand dragon at one time and founded the White Patriot Party in the 1980s.

I thought the shooter's name sounded familiar, but I couldn't place it until they showed some clips of his WPP days. That's when I knew where I'd seen him: in a 1991 documentary about white supremacists called Blood in the Face. I rewatched it earlier this week (it's available for streaming on Amazon), and was struck by how the filmmakers really didn't take Frazier (or other white power figures in the movie) very seriously, and how big a mistake that might have been.

Context is important. In 1991, America had emerged as the clear victor of the Cold War and was still one glorious, Pearl Jam-filled decade away from 9-11. We'd conducted a nice, perfunctory military campaign against Iraq, the wars in Croatia and Bosnia has yet to really get rolling, and white power groups like the KKK and The Order -- though still in existence -- seemed almost quaint. Surely this new age of enlightenment (The Ren & Stimpy Show and Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego both debuted that year) meant such hate groups were on the outs, yes?

To be fair, I don't think this was the intent of James Ridgeway, investigative journalist and author of the book the film is based on, which he also co-directed (the title comes from National Alliance founder William Pierce's assertion that only white people can show shame: "blood in the face"). In fact, he's since updated that work to include references to the Oklahoma City bombing and the rise of the militia movement. However, while watching the film it's hard not to get the sense Ridgeway's co-directors Anne Bohlen and Kevin Rafferty (Rafferty directed another of my favorite docs, The Atomic Cafe) were trying to emphasize the buffoonery while playing down the menace.

This story continues on the next page.

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