‘Triple Hate’ is a four-part documentary about Nathan Bedford Forrest, the Memphis City Council, the Klan, the Crips, Ulysses S. Grant, racism, and the specter of history. It will be airing every day this week, only on VICE.com.
Here Comes the White Safety Patrol
Matthew Heimbach insists he’s not a racist. This comes as a surprise to his fellow students at Towson University, in the suburbs of Baltimore, where Matthew has formed a group called the White Student Union that advocates for “persons of European heritage”—what most of us call “white people.” It also comes as a surprise to the African American students who feel targeted by the night patrols the senior history major began conducting in March. The patrols target supposed “black predators,” Matthew wrote on the WSU’s website, citing (among others) a case in which an African American man pulled out a knife and his penis, and wagged both at a co-ed couple who were copulating in a parking garage. “White Southern men,” he wrote, “have long been called to defend their communities when law enforcement and the State seem unwilling to protect our people.”
Also surprised by Matthew’s claim that he’s not a racist is Duane Davis. “You are a fat, racist little bitch,” the scrappy, dreadlocked man told Matthew one sunny Tuesday this April. There was a rally going on, organized by the Student Government Association and the Black Student Union. In a field behind Duane and Matthew, about 100 students protested the White Student Union by reading unity-themed slam poetry from a microphone. When Matthew showed up on the edge of the crowd, a dozen protesters had come to confront him. Down the façade of a parking garage, a banner unfurled reading, wsu gtfo (translation: White Student Union Get the Fuck Out).
“There’s no need to insult me,” Matthew told Duane, who looked one wrong reply away from punching the 21-year-old.
“I’ve killed people,” Duane said. “In self-defense… But I’ve killed people.”
Matthew has the look of someone who’s been bullied his whole life: he puffs out his chest to hide an abundant belly, wears unfashionable drugstore spectacles, and on this day sported what vaguely resembled a Morrissey T-shirt.
“Who is that on your shirt?” Duane said, jabbing Matthew in the chest. The onlookers leaned in to hear the answer.
“Ian Smith,” Matthew said, before rattling off the biography of the former prime minister of Rhodesia, a white supremacist who resisted efforts to end white rule there in the 60s. “He’s one of my heroes.”
A svelte woman in a dashiki interrupted. “If you were dying and needed a heart transplant,” she asked, “would you accept one from a black person?”
Hearing from Three Guantanamo Bay Prisoners Who’ve Been on Hunger Strike for 100 Days
On the 7th of February, 2013, there was a dispute inside Guantanamo Bay over prison guards searching Qur’ans. For the following two days, inmates ate the remainder of the food they had—including stuff that was reportedly two years out of date—and, once finished with all of their decomposing rations, embarked on a hunger strike. Yesterday was the 100th day of the inmates’ protest against their treatment and, out of the 166 still being held at Guantanmo, 102 are on hunger strike, with 30 being force fed.
Authorities at the prison camp have revised their guidelines to allow them to shackle hunger-strikers to a chair, before fitting them with masks and inserting tubes through their noses and into their stomachs to force feed them for up to two hours at a time. Despite these efforts, some prisoners claim to weigh as little as 85lbs.
Several attempts have been made to punish or dissuade inmates against their starvation efforts.According to Shaker Aamer (the last British resident being held in Guantanamo) prison wardens have begun inflicting sleep deprivation on inmates, as well as adopting a new practice where, instead of shackling their hands and legs and pushing them along from behind, they’re now clipping cloth dog leashes to inmates’ waists and dragging them around like animals.
Aamer is one of 86 inmates who have been cleared for release but are still being held inside the facility. Something that, according to Clive Stafford Smith—a lawyer representing inmates at the prison—is completely irrational. “Any prison, even in the most despotic dictatorship, should not have 86 of 166 [52 percent] prisoners cleared for release,” he told me, before adding, “Obama hasn’t shown the political will to do the right thing.”
Stafford Smith provided me with testimonies from three Guantanamo hunger-strikers in order to gain a little more insight into the Cuban detention camp that President Obama promised to close within a year back in 2009.
Who’s Getting Rich Off the Prison-Industrial Complex?
You likely already know how overcrowded and abusive the US prison system is, and you probably are also aware that the US has more people in prison than even China or Russia. In this age of privatization, of course, it’s also not surprising that many of the detention centers are not actually operated by the government, but by for-profit companies. So clearly, some people are making lots and lots of money off the booming business of keeping human beings in cages.
But who are these people?
Using NASDAQ data, I looked through the long list of investors in Corrections Corporation of America andGEO Group, the two biggest corporations that operate detention centers in the US, to find out who was cashing in the most on prisons. When we say “prison-industrial complex,” this is who we’re talking about.
The individual who’s invested the most in private prisons is Henri Wedell, who started serving on CCA’s board of directors in 2000, when the company was struggling with scandals related to prisoner abuse and mismanagement. He now owns more than 650,000 shares in the company, which is far more successful these days. Those shares are worth more than $25 million.
I called Wedell to ask him what it was like to make a fortune from the incarceration of others, and whether it bothered him to profit off a system that puts more people in prison than any other country in the world.
“America is the freest country in the world,” he told me. “America allows more freedom than any other country in the world, much more than Russia and a whole lot more than Scandinavia, where they really aren’t free. So offering all this freedom to society, there’ll be a certain number of people, more in this country than elsewhere, who take advantage of that freedom, abuse it, and end up in prison. That happens because we are so free in this country.”
Presumably, when he’s referring to all the freedom Americans have, he’s not including the 80,000 inmates in 60 prisons operated by CCA.
Watch This Is What Winning Looks Like, our new documentary about chaos, corruption, sexual abuse, and the war in Afghanistan.
Then head to Reddit and ask Ben Anderson, the filmmaker behind the doc, a question.
(Source: Vice Magazine)
Thus far, photographer Peter van Agtmael’s career has primarily focused on documenting the effects of America’s post 9/11 wars both at home and abroad. Before traveling to Iraq in 2006, however, he covered certain issues surrounding HIV-positive refugees in South Africa, and the Asian tsunami in 2005. After starting work in Iraq, he went on to win numerous awards, work in Afghanistan—both embedded and unembedded—and documented injured servicemen and their families. Oh, and he also shot the photo in the table of contents for this month’s issue of our magazine. We spoke to him about the mysterious attraction of conflict, and the realities of censorship and care for a country’s wounded.
VICE: You graduated in history with honors from Yale. What specifically did you study?
Peter van Agtmael: I studied a pretty general curriculum, that being the expectation. By the time I wrote my thesis, I had decided to write it on how the iconography of WWII Yugoslavia, of opposing forces like the Chetniks and Ustaše, was renewed in the Balkan conflict of the 1990s. How it was used to stoke fear and exploited by the power brokers to wage a civil war.
Do you think that your education led to you working as a photographer in a warzone at the age of 24?
I grew up in the suburbs of Washington, DC. Those suburbs are like suburbs anywhere. It’s easy to want to dream about more exciting places. When I was a kid, I was always very into pictorial history books—especially ones about WWII. I found it all very exciting and romantic, in its own way.
Obviously, you get older and the reality of these things kicks in, but the romance doesn’t go away, even when you get caught in the midst of it; that’s the strange and scary thing. I have had depraved and scary experiences in the last decade, but I’ve had beautiful ones, too. The fact is that when you get caught in the middle of these things, in these places there’s an indescribable merit somehow to feeling involved, to be making a record for history, it is satisfying a certain natural curiosity—one with certain useful impulses, and certain dark impulses as well.
Do you think that built-in fascination with conflict applies to most soldiers, too?
I think it’s across the board. If you have read Michael Herr’s Dispatches, he puts it really well—though it may be a dated reference in some ways. He essentially said that you can’t take the romance out of war. It’s sort of innate. It’s a genetically hardwired part of the experience. We all objectively realize the awfulness and brutality of it, but also for a lot of young people —especially men—there is this draw to it, not at all based on logic or rational thought. There are a million ways to try to intellectualize it, rationalize it, and break it into its tiny component pieces, but at the end of the day there’s a pull that can’t really be described or explained away. At least not for me. I envy people who aren’t drawn to war in a lot of ways. I’ve had a good and interesting life so far, but at times I wish I had made different choices.
A large black truck parked across the field came into view. Two men were inside, one of them wearing a ski mask. It was Edward. He exited and approached while his driver peered at us through his sunglasses. I introduced myself and asked how much time we had for the interview. “Until it gets hot, I guess,” Edward said and explained that earlier in the day he had received information that African American ex-military sharpshooters who were now gang members had traveled from Detroit to stalk him and his fellow Klansmen before the rally. It sounded ludicrous, but then again I was standing in the middle of a garbage dump talking to a member of the Ku Klux Klan in 2013.
Is a Park in Memphis, Tennessee, the Epitome of Racism in Modern America? The KKK Say It’s Just History, Many Others Disagree
Above: A cross-lighting ceremony that took place near Tupelo, Mississippi, in late March following a Ku Klux Klan rally in Memphis, Tennessee, that was organized to protest the renaming of three parks in the city built in honor of the Confederacy. It is a “cross lighting,” not “cross burning,” because these Klansmen “do not burn, but light the cross to signify that Christ is the light of the world.” Photo by Robert King.
In the middle of an unkempt park in Memphis, Tennessee, stands an oversize bronze statue of a Confederate lieutenant general astride his mount. Its subject, Nathan Bedford Forrest, is considered by some to be one of the most infamous and powerful racists in American history. The first official leader of the Ku Klux Klan, some historians allege that Lieutenant General Forrest’s most heinous act was ordering his troops to slaughter hundreds of surrendered soldiers at 1864’s Battle of Fort Pillow, more than half of whom were African American. Others celebrate him as the physical manifestation of the South’s ethos during the Civil War and beyond: a rebel hero who relentlessly campaigned for his cause until it became untenable; he never gave up, even after his death.
Unveiled in 1905, the Memphis News-Scimitar reported that the masterfully sculpted monument to Nathan Bedford Forrest (or NBF) would “stand for ages as the emblem of a standard of virtue.” And today it seems the newspaper’s prophecy was correct, except for perhaps the “virtue” part. As of 2013, “that devil Forrest,” as he was infamously nicknamed by Union General William T. Sherman, is still sprinting across a Tennessee ridge on his stallion, kicking up dust in a city with historically tense racial relations.
Pink granite tiles and modest bronze headstones that look like plaques skirt the sculpture. General Forrest and his wife, Mary Ann Montgomery, are buried underneath. NBF’s more celebrated moniker, at least in some circles, is the “Wizard of the Saddle,” a nickname he earned for his wondrous equestrian talents in battle, and one that calls to mind the highest modern-day rank of the KKK—the Imperial Wizard.
The latest controversy surrounding the park and statue came to a head in early February, when the Memphis City Council unanimously voted to change the name of Forrest Park to Health Sciences Park (at least temporarily; a special commission is still in the process of deciding its final name as of press time), in line with the downtown medical-student facilities of the University of Tennessee that surround it. Two other Memphis parks—Confederate Park and Jefferson Davis Park, named after the president of the Confederacy—were also renamed by the City Council, with the reasoning that they were publicly funded reminders of an era that could be considered offensive and unwelcoming to the majority of the city’s residents, 63 percent of whom are African American according to the 2010 census.
Shortly after the City Council’s decision, a man identifying himself as Exalted Cyclops Edward announced that his chapter of the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan was planning a massive rally to protest the renaming of the three parks. “It’s not going to be 20 or 30,” he told local NBC affiliate WMC-TV. “It’s going to be thousands of Klansmen from the whole United States coming to Memphis, Tennessee.” Later in the month the city granted the Loyal White Knights a permit for a public rally to be held March 30 on the steps of the county courthouse in downtown Memphis, one day before Easter and five days before the 45th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination at the Lorraine Motel.
It was an eerily familiar scenario for Memphians. On January 17, 1998, around 50 members of the KKK held a rally at the very same courthouse in what they claimed was an attempt to protect their “heritage” in the lead-up to MLK Day and that year’s 30th anniversary of his assassination. Outnumbered by counterprotesters, the Klan’s vitriolic screeds incited a small riot that resulted in looting and the ill-prepared police force teargassing the entire crowd.
One Memphian and self-proclaimed member of the Grape Street Crips seemed to take the Klan’s threats to return to his city very seriously. Following the announcement of the planned rally, 20-year-old DaJuan Horton posted a video on YouTube in which he states that he’s organizing a consortium of local gangs—some rivals—to unify and show their discontent on the day of the rally. Local and national media suddenly became very interested in the impending event, whipping a diverse cross-section of the city into a frenzy.
“They gonna come to Memphis, Tennessee… where Martin Luther King got gunned down,” DaJuan says in the video. “You’re going to come here and rally deep—really, really deep, in my language, just to talk? No, it’s not gonna happen like that. When you come to Memphis, Tennessee, we’re gonna rally right across from you, and it’s gonna be Young Mob, Crips, Bloods, GDs, Vice Lords, Goon Squad… I’m getting on the phone with them daily. I’m talking to the big guys, the big kahunas. I’m talking to the Bill Gates of the gang wars. You come to Memphis, we’re going to be waiting on you. It’s versatile down here. We got every gang you can think of; we’ve got the fucking Mob down here. Bring your ass on.”
What does “winning” the war in Afghanistan look like? It’s not good.
The Department of Justice Secretly Spied on the Associated Press
In what is being called a “massive and unprecedented intrusion” into a news organization, the Department of Justice has admitted that it seized two months’ worth of phone records from the Associated Press. The president of the AP has now sent a letter protesting the unjustifiable violation, which follows the DoJ’s admission of the probe last Friday.
“There can be no possible justification for such an overbroad collection of the telephone communications of The Associated Press and its reporters. These records potentially reveal communications with confidential sources across all of the newsgathering activities undertaken by the AP during a two-month period, provide a road map to AP’s newsgathering operations, and disclose information about AP’s activities and operations that the government has no conceivable right to know,” AP President Gary Pruitt said.
According to the AP’s own reporting, the records included incoming and outgoing calls, and call durations, for AP office phones, the phone for AP reporters in the House of Representatives press pool, and, perhaps most distressingly, the work and private numbers of individual reporters.