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BOOKS AND THE CULTURE The Inanity of Evil BY STEVEN G. KELLMAN BLOOD IN THE FACE Directed by Anne Bohlen, Kevin Rafferty, and James Ridgeway SLACKER Directed by Richard Linklater ADAM WAS A white man in the gosp el according to those congregated in Cohoctah, Michigan, for a summit of bigots. What defines and elevates the white race above all others, they claim, is the ability to blush, to show blood in the face. That genetic ability ends, they contend, at the southern borders of France and Italy. “If you don’t have a conscience,” declares one unabashed racist, “you’re not gonna blush.” During shameless attacks on Jews, blacks, Hispanics, Asians, homosexuals, and other “mud people,” no one in Blood in the Face blushes. Though their necks are red, their cheeks are pallid. Based on a book by Observer contributor James Ridgeway and directed by Ridgeway, Anne Bohlen, and Kevin Rafferty, Blood in the Face offers a group portrait of the racist wing of the radical right. White supremacists from the Ku Klux Klan, Order, Aryan Nations, Posse Comitatus, Euro-American Alliance, White Patriots Party, National Association for the Advancement of White People, American Nazi Party, and similar friendship societies speak their minds in their native language of drivel. Except for an occasional off-camera question, the film allows the voices of hate to speak for themselves. “I’m a violent anti-Semite,” boasts one. “I’m anti-mud people. I hate Filipinos. I hate Mexicans. I hate them all.” “I never liked a nigger in my life,” says another, whose sentiments uncannily resemble those of Bensonhurst bigots in Spike Lee’s Jungle Fever. “All they know how to do is play football, basketball, and baseball.” Blood in the Face offers a plenum of venom. From the lips of avid loathers come several remarkable revelations, including the fact that Jerry Falwell is a Jew; that 35,000 Viet Cong are massed in British Columbia; that a seven-lane bridge was built in Laredo to help Soviet tanks pour in from Mexico; that a North Korean army has assembled in Baja Reagan’s cabinet were Jews. “There was not Steven Kellman is a professor of comparative literature at the University of Texas at San Antonio. one gas chamber nor one Jew gassed,” insists Canadian fascist John Ross Taylor about a Holocaust he assures us did not happen. Any sober adult will recognize gas when it is vented. Through their own words, these blockheads brand themselves as at best casually acquainted with reality. Reserving particular animus toward Jews and oblivious to the fact that Reagan’s cabinet held only 13, not one of them a Jew, and that a Jew has not sat on the Supreme Court in 22 years, they rail against ZOG \(the Zionist Occupation Government they claim controls Washingin their hierarchy of hates, more perhaps as a nostalgic salute to the vile deeds of the Nazis than as a rational response to anything in their own experience. They come dressed for a carnival of miscreance, in white sheets, kilts, sylvan camouflage bouquets, and stormtrooper uniforms. The cape and dunce cap worn by a 63-year-old crank who rants about blacks on TV add nothing to the gravity of his analysis. Enamored of the exploits of the Third Reich, Glenn Miller, leader of the White Patriots Party, declares: “Ich bin ein Deutschlander,” but his atrocious accent belies the claim. Miller ran, unsuccessfully, in North Carolina for the U. S. Senate, and he almost makes Jesse Helms seem a paragon of tolerance and sanity. Blood in the Face is a freak show, and its stars offer droll discourses on numerology and on schemes to found a new apartheid nation in the Northwest. “We are not playing Boy Scouts,” insists Christian Identity Minister Jack Mohr, one of the movement’s many campfire churls. We witness an outdoor wedding celebrated by burning a cross and the festive commemoration of Hitler’s 97th birthday. Young and old, male and female, these schlemiels hardly seem capable of ironing their own sheets, much less lead the violent counterrevolution they crave. One man laments the lack of coordination among the different hate groups and fears that they might unwittingly blow one another away. The witless face of contemporary hate as portrayed in Blood in the Face inspires fewer fears than grins and jeers. The filmmakers do interject stock footage of George Lincoln Rockwell asserting, “I’d rather gas queers than anybody else,” and of Nazi troopers packing Jews off to slaughter. But most of its contemporary pigs are epigoni of earlier demagogues. We do learn that some of them are linked to the murder of Jewish talk-show host Alan Berg \(the inspiration for Eric Bogosian’s But the film provides no context for the reckless rants it records, no sense of the differences among the hate groups, their histories, the size of their active membership, the gap between rhetoric and performance. The face of hate is hideous, but Blood in the Face paints bold-faced bigotry as feckless more than fearsome. The most disturbing thought provoked by this film is the realization of how the respectable right differs in degree rather than kind from its bastard cousins. It is out of such fetid soil that David Duke’s career has been growing. Ronald Reagan is denounced by Pastor Bob Miles as “a traitor to his race,” a politician who is “working for the Jews in Hollywood,” but the Gipper’s beliefs in astrology and the imminence of Armageddon are not out of place in the madcap meetings of crackpots that Blood in the Face captures on film. Why would these paranoiacs who make a fetish of secrecy and a tenet of hostility allow outsiders, much less bona fide leftists like Bohlen, Rafferty, and Ridgeway, into their private gatherings? “We invited you here so we could use you just as you are using us,” explains Pastor Bob. The white supremacist movement has been making videos to spread their message, and presumably they thought that Blood in the Face would serve the same end. The absurd spectacle of zealous racists is useful as a blatant reminder of social pathology. It is hard to imagine using this film to win anyone over to bigotry. These lunatics are preaching to the already per verted. HIS TOWN HAS always had its share of crazies,” says a current, white-haired one. “I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.” A younger newcomer admits he loves the place, except for the ants. The town is Austin, and it is the star of Slacker the only character present from beginning to end. The camera wanders along Guadalupe and other streets in the West Campus area, while Austinites recruited for quirky parts speak their lines at Les Amis, Captain Quackenbush’s Cafe, and other local landmarks. Yet even a member of the Wheatsville Co-op also seen on screen might acknowledge a larger phenomenon. Slacker is as much about Amherst, Ann Arbor, Berkeley, Boulder, Madison, or any other college town with a critical mass of graduates who have not yet commenced. The slackers of the title are dozens of twentysomething men and women who hang out at the fringes of a university, searching for a center. \(The movie is going into national reProducer-director-writer Richard Linklater THE TEXAS OBSERVER 19