The Madeleine Brand Show

The Madeleine Brand Show is a daily, two-hour program that looks at news and culture through the lens of Southern California. Hosted by Madeleine Brand

Why white power bands thrive in Orange County

by The Madeleine Brand Show

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Members of the National Socialist Movement (NSM) hold up shields for protection against rocks and debris being thrown at them by counter-demonstrators to the neo-Nazi group. An NSM anti-illegal immigration rally in October in Riverside, California resulted in fights between the neo-Nazis and counter-protesters. David McNew/Getty Images

The FBI announced this morning that Wade Michael Page, the man who killed six people at a Sikh Temple in Wisconsin Sunday, died of a self-inflicted gunshot to his head. Authorities are still trying to determine his motive, which may never happen, but Page left clues. He was apparently a white supremacist. For years he played in so-called 'Hate Rock bands' including one here in Orange County.

According to Heidi Beirich, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center's intelligence project, which tracks hate groups throughout the country, there was somewhat of a low 10 years ago of the number of hate groups. In the 1990s, there was a boom in the number of hate groups in the US. Hate groups really started to proliferate again after 9/11 and after President Obama was elected, in response to the country changing in a way that they didn't approve of.

And those hate groups are very prevalent in California. Per capita, the number of hate groups don't match a place like North Carolina, but California has one of the highest concentrations of hate groups in the US.

Skin heads and white supremacists made their way to Southern California back in the 40's and 50's. As areas like Los Angeles began to diversify, hate groups were pushed out to areas like the Inland Empire and Bakersfield. They also continue to thrive in places like Orange County and San Diego.

A strong white supremacist music scene continues to thrive in Orange County and San Diego as well. According to Beirich, if you go back a few years, groups that used to run the Nazi scene have fractured. The collapse led to inter-skinhead violence over controlling the skin-head business. And as groups continue to exist, they also continue to splinter, which leads to music being used to bring each other together.


Heidi Beirich, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center's intelligence project, which tracks hate groups

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