Welcome to Leith (2015): Part 1 of 2
Director: Michael Beach Nichols and Christopher K. Walker
Writer: Michael Beach Nichols and Christopher K. Walker
Cinematographer: Michael Beach Nichols
Producer: Joey Carey, Jenner Furst, Michael Beach Nichols, Christopher K. Walker, Joshua Woltermann
by Jon Cvack
I always know I’m in for a treat when my friend Tim text’s me about a movie. I’m writing this right after the Charlottesville Riots, where for the first time I think we’re seeing the true side of Trump and his supporters finally coming out, and it’s breaking my heart. I see people that I would consider friends defending Nazis, masking that defense behind the First Amendment, as though just because something is currently a particular right the law cannot evolve.
I once considered myself a pretty vehement first amendment supporter, but I do not consider Nazis and White Supremacists right to free speech falling within the First Amendment purview, as the very nature and foundation of those ideologies is the mass disruption and often destruction of specific human lives. The defense that so long as an individual is not inciting violence that it is within the bounds of free speech is negated when the very purpose of that idea is to destroy life. I believe in free speech as it comes through constructive dialogue. The moment one side poses to murder human life, that is no longer a constructive conversation. This seems pretty straightforward. The first amendment doesn’t apply to yelling “Fire!” in a movie theater as it could hurt or kill people, and the Nazis are a far more extreme version of this idea.
The amazing thing about the first amendment's evolution is that that we now live in a world where our ability to consume speech as changed. The same amendment that allows Nazis to go out and protest is now the same amendment that allows us to watch it and judge. The founders would never fathom us watching videos on computers and cell phones, captured by the people who were there and published for the world to see. In their time you’d have the news filtered, if you ever heard it. Think of how long it would take for someone to have heard of Charlottesville Riots in rural Nebraska in the early 19th century? It’s no longer that we are reading about someone’s thoughts and what they did with them, but that we are first hand seeing the actions based upon those ideas. Amongst a freer economy, free speech has allowed us to see the smallest moments. I think of all the police killing, and of these riots, and how much was filmed. We now get to watch it and pass judgment; that is as citizens - do we want this or not? I do not and I would support the law adjusting to designate Nazis and White Supremacists as terrorists who do not have the privilege to exercise their first amendment right. It’s dangerous and produces zero benefit. The law evolved to one day allow us to see the ugly side of America, and we now must ensure that that same law is used to properly protect people against things we might not known about.
Charlottesville opened a lot of people’s eyes to the extreme right of America. Not too long ago I watched a PBS documentary Oklahoma City, which is about the Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168 men, women, and children, committed by White Nationalist Timothy McVeigh, and while I was figured it was going to examine the events about the bombing specifically, it actually was about the rise of White Nationalism from the 1980s onward, where with the early Reagan economy, when farms were hit hardest (a period seen in both great films American Fable and God’s Country, if you’re wondering), with many having to declare bankruptcy or seek work elsewhere, especially in Iowa. During the period, many White Nationalist groups started moving to upstate Idaho, hiding out in the woods, where in one terrifying shot we see a miniature Nazi compound, covered in Swastikas. The film examines the tale of Ruby Ridge, but for the sake of brevity just check those essays out, if you want to know more. Most recent was The Battle of Bunkerville, examining Cliven Bundy and the stand off between the cattle ranchers and the accompanying militias against the Federal Government, where the Federal officers retreated against Bundy and the others pointing their loaded rifles at the police, threatening to shoot. Later he went to the Oregon Reserve Building, taking it over for a few months, with the police simply waiting for him to surrender peacefully.
There was a strange combination of anti-government extremists on one hand, willing to shoot the police who they love so much because of grazing laws and Nazis/White Nationalists further to the right. I was left wondering where all the militias were who could have brought their loaded AR15’s and stand to ensure the Nazis didn’t do anything stupid. The point being that a very intense division is occurring within modern politics today, a split that is unprecedented in recent times and unprecedented for such a media heavy age, and there is a man in power who is willing to go easy on White Nationalists and Nazis, or at the very least, to appease those who disagree, he didn’t go nearly hard enough, especially for a man who knows how threaten “fire and fury.” So what happens when these behaviors are more excusable?
Continue to Part 2...
BELOW: I was left wondering at what point a person decides to fully embrace Nazism, uproot himself to try and start a Neo-Nazi colony with any degree of confidence that it'll work out well
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