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welcome_to_leith_posterLUMPENPROLETARIAT—Not long ago, free speech radio’s Davey D delivered a set of remarks, which cited a cringe-worthy documentary about neo-Nazis and white supremacists in the midwest and their attempts to propagate bigoted and racist white nationalism.  (Of course, one is hard pressed to think of any other kind.)  Although he didn’t name the documentary film he was referencing, he did say it was about ten years old and featured Tom Metzger.  Or, perhaps, he could’ve meant a 2015 documentary film, which is currently available on Netflix.  It’s entitled Welcome to Leith. [1]  The film was first released at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2015, before being screened at the SXSW Film Festival in March 2015.  The film was then given a limited theatrical release in September 2015.  Welcome to Leith was later broadcast on PBS‘ series Independent Lens on April 4, 2016.  Screen this important documentary film on YouTube or Netflix or other formats; and stay up-to-date with the state of the nation.

Perhaps, screen it for friends, family, or community.  A film screening would be a small victory for humanity.  An even greater victory would occur, if a screening of Welcome to Leith inspires postmortem analyses and reflection, giving us opportunities to learn and grow.  Even greater victory would follow, should the bare and naked face of white supremacist ideology move people of conscience into actions of resistance or into Kingian non-violent civil disobedience coupled with an ongoing programme of grassroots political and socioeconomic education capable of promoting critical media literacy and galvanising political agency and working class solidarity.  Then, a swelling majority of the American working class would see through the veil of racism and identity politics, which divides and conquers and distracts from the true levers of power and the true causes of economic misery, which are perpetually blamed on the ethnic other, as the real criminals, criminogenic economic elites, get away with the people’s resources.

Messina

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Welcome to Leith (trailer, 2015)

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State of the Nation” [2] by New Order

You can walk, or you can run
You don’t have to be someone
I went on a summer cruise
Upon an ocean, born to lose
My brother said that he was dead
I saw his face and shook my head
Can you see where we can’t be?
We’re losing our blood in the sea
‘Cos it’s the state of the nation
That’s holding our salvation
Yes, it’s the state of the nation
That’s holding our salvation
Oh, the state of the nation
Is causing deprivation
Oh, the state of the nation
Is causing deprivation

From my home I traveled far
I drove in my stolen car
When it broke down, I kissed the ground
‘Cos I don’t kiss when you’re around
I don’t find that I have been
The portrait of an only son
If that’s the case, then who could tell
Where my story had begun?
‘Cos it’s the state of the nation
That’s holding our salvation
Yes, it’s the state of the nation
That’s holding our salvation
Yes, the state of the nation
That’s causing deprivation
Oh, the state of the nation
That’s causing deprivation

Even now, I’m all alone
Behind a wall that’s made of stone
I think about where we have been
And all the sights that could be seen
I know it all could be worthwhile
If only I could force a smile
Now, we turn our backs to the sea
The shame of a nation we’ll never be
‘Cos it’s the state of the nation
That’s holding our salvation
Yes, it’s the state of the nation
That’s holding our salvation
Oh, the state of the nation
Is causing deprivation
Yes, the state of the nation
Is causing deprivation

Songwriters:  HOOK, PETER / GILBERT, GILLIAN / MORRIS, STEPHEN / SUMNER, BERNARD

“State of the Nation” lyrics © Reverb Music, In A Bunch Music Ltd., Warner/Chappell Music Ltd., Broadley Music (International), Grow Your Own Music, Reverb Music Ltd., Associated Music International Ltd., Edition Kella Sound

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[1]  Welcome to Leith is a 2015 American documentary film directed by Michael Beach Nichols and Christopher K. Walker about white supremacist Craig Cobb‘s attempt to take over the North Dakota town Leith.  The film premiered on January 26, 2015 at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival and, after a limited theatrical release on September 9, was broadcast on PBS‘ series Independent Lens on April 4, 2016.[3]

Leith is a town which had a population of 16 in 2010.[4] In May 2012, Craig Cobb, an American Canadian white nationalist Neo-Nazi, moved to Leith with the intention of building a community of people sharing his white nationalist ideology and gaining the electoral majority.[5] He purchased 12 plots of land.[6]

Nichols and Walker, who are based in New York, flew to North Dakota two months after they read an August 2013 New York Times article about Craig Cobb’s scheme to transform Leith into a white-supremacist town.[7] They made three trips to Leith within an 8-month period, each around 3 weeks long, for the production of the film.[8] 90 days were spent editing the film.[9] In June 2014 Nichols and Walker launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for the production of the film. They surpassed their $60,000 goal, raising $64,751.[10] The directors cited Errol Morris as an influence for how they shot the film.[7]

Welcome to Leith received largely positive reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, it holds a 97% score based on 34 reviews, with an average rating of 7.7/10. The site’s consensus states: “As disturbing as it is thought-provoking, Welcome to Leith offers an uncomfortable — and essential — glimpse into a part of society many Americans would much rather ignore.”[11] Metacritic reports an 80 out of 100 rating based on 15 critics, indicating “generally favorable reviews”.[12]

Indiewire critic Kate Erbland gave the documentary a B grade, described it as “terrifying and insightful”.[13]

Perhaps, Welcome to Leith would have been strengthened by the inclusion of perspectives from relevant experts in the fields of sociology, political science, and political economy.  Or, at the very least, it would’ve been refreshing to see the documentary film acknowledge the reality that racism and white supremacy is not merely an aberration in American society, but central to its foundational core.  Nevertheless, the documentary film provides an important micro view of the ways white supremacy and white nationalism proliferates through society.

[2]  “State of the Nation” is described as a protest song in the popular literature.  It’s an interesting song, indeed.  Bernard Sumner has always been one of our favourite singer-songwriters.  And, notably, he’s always shown a strong solidarity with his working class background, which includes people of colour but also a certain sympathy for the white working class and underclass, which is often pulled down into the bog of racism and xenophobia.  Sumner sings:

Can you see where we can’t be?
We’re losing our blood in the sea
‘Cos it’s the state of the nation
That’s holding our salvation

White nationalist neo-Nazi Craig Cobb and his supporters argued in the documentary film Welcome to Leith that his race was being “genocided” in their own country, meaning that miscegenation and multiculturalism is diluting or destroying the Aryan lineal descent and racial purity or racial hygiene.  But of course, we can’t say Sumner is singing sympathetically to the sentiments of fears of a browning of white ethnicities.  But, supposing the song was taking a sympathetic stance toward the downtrodden individual, if not his ideology, who can find nowhere else to take refuge or find solace but in the bowels of white nationalist groupings, then we observe the song concludes with an admission of shame:

Even now, I’m all alone
Behind a wall that’s made of stone
I think about where we have been
And all the sights that could be seen
I know it all could be worthwhile
If only I could force a smile
Now, we turn our backs to the sea
The shame of a nation we’ll never be

The sea, of course, being the great sea of ethnic and racial noise, which must be barricaded and shielded away from the pure Aryan race.  It’s sad, to some extent, the ignorance, which is involved in the minds of the rank and file of American white supremacist groups.  As race (conflating phenotype with genotype) has been established as an arbitrary social construct with no scientific basis, we still have people going around with illusory notions of racial purity in their minds.  Large segments of economically vulnerable white working class Americans are woefully under-educated and subject to dogma and demagoguery.  In a bungled attempt to build his cultural cache and celebrity profile, Neo-Nazi separatist American-Canadian Craig Cobb agreed to undergo DNA testing, which he, in his apparent ignorance of anthropology and biology, was certain would confirm to the world his Aryan purity.  Instead, the DNA testing revealed his ancestry consisted of 86% European and 14% Sub-Saharan African, echoing the famous Dave Chapelle comedy skit, and rendering Craig Cobb a real-life Clayton Bigsby.  Mr. Cobb attempted to dismiss his Sub-Saharan African ancestry as “statistical noise”.  But now he has come under scrutiny from his fellow White supremacists.  Imagine, suddenly, that all albinos decided that efforts toward scientific progress were making albinism extinct, that rates of albinism were dropping.  It would be absurd to us, if suddenly they rose up in a hateful separatist albino nationalism, because we wouldn’t be expecting it.  But white nationalism is not surprising because we know it has historical roots in economic and social privileges being bestowed upon ethnic whites at the expense of slavery, American apartheid, racism, Jim Crow, and so on and so forth.  White supremacists, such as Craig Cobb, argue that their white nationalist groups deserve the same public tolerance, which is afforded to civil rights groups, such as the NAACP.  What they fail to observe, however, is the fact that civil rights groups are not like white supremacist groups because civil rights groups grew out of a direct response against racism and white supremacy.  The very existence of white nationalism in a nation necessitates its direct opposition by the people because it represents a permanently hostile and divisive political position with only one possible endgame: ethnic separation buttressed by economic and legal privileges for the so-called Aryan race, whatever that means.

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[Image of Welcome to Leith film poster by source, used via fair use licensure.]

[NEW ORDER lyrics are property and copyright of their owners.  “State of the Nation” lyrics are provided here for educational and personal use only.]

[1 FEB 2017]

[Last modified at 11:02 PST on 1 FEB 2017]

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