The New York Times, bless it, had been reporting on the California neo-Nazi leader Jeff Hall even before May 1, when Hall’s 10-year-old son allegedly shot him to death. Hall had been inculcating his son with his white supremacist beliefs (his daughter as well, although, as the son put it, “boys are more important”) up until the early morning hours when, police believe, the son intentionally shot and killed his father. (Motives remain unknown—the son and a sister had been contested by their father and mother, with their father receiving custody. Hall had taught his son, yes, how to shoot a gun.)
Hall, 32, was a young star—the de facto leader of the southern California branch—in the Detroit-based National Socialist Movement, the largest U.S. white supremacist group, which claims more than 400 members throughout the country and is seen as a successor to the much-diminished Aryan Nation. The group taps into and capitalizes on more mainstream grievances commonly heard from the populist right—anti-immigrant sentiment, anti-bailout rhetoric, and the like. But Jeff Hall, a plumber, was no Joe the Plumber: The N.S.M. unmistakably advances a separatist, racist agenda that holds whites above all others and directly pays homage to the Nazis. In fact, shortly before his death, Hall had given his son a belt with an SS insignia; at one rally, he wore a black Nazi uniform. (To see many photographs of Hall and others, go here.) The Times quotes N.S.M. head Jeff Schoep at a New Jersey rally telling an assembled group, “The government tells us we’re in recovery. Well yeah, if you’re a fat cat on Wall Street, if you’re some greedy Jew running a bank that got a whole bunch of kickbacks, maybe it is better. But not for us.”
In April 2009, a Department of Homeland Security report stated, “The economic downturn and the election of the first African American president present unique drivers for right-wing radicalization and recruitment.” The prospect that President Obama would liberalize immigration (much as his predecessor had wished to do) was cited as an additional potential impetus to the growth of right-wing extremism. Last fall, Hall ran in a local election, for a seat on a water district. He lived in Riverside, California, in the so-called Inland Empire east of Los Angeles—a region that was among the hardest hit by the 2008-9 housing crash. Running on the National Socialist ticket, Hall received 28 percent of the vote. He had planned to run again.