Three days before Christmas, Buckley Kuhn-Fricker and her husband, Scott Fricker, were murdered in their own home by a teenage neo-Nazi.
Kuhn-Fricker’s 16-year-old daughter had been dating the boy for a few months, and her parents had staged an intervention to break them up. They went to bed that night feeling assured that their daughter was done with him. Kuhn-Fricker had texted a friend earlier that day to say he was out of their lives. Hours later, around 5 a.m., Kuhn-Fricker and her husband were dead and their alleged murderer had shot himself in the head.
HuffPost found the Twitter account and revealed the neo-Nazi’s identity:
As @doctorpepper35, [Nicholas] Giampa tweeted about his hatred of transgender people and his admiration for Adolf Hitler. He tweeted about using Jews as target practice.
Almost three months before the murders, the teenager from Lorton, Virginia, praised a book called Siege, an obscure, ominous work written by James Mason, a neo-Nazi devotee of Charles Manson. The 1992 book, republished last year by hyperviolent white nationalist sect Atomwaffen Division, is essentially a call to “Helter Skelter” racist insurrection. Giampa also retweeted an endorsement of The Turner Diaries, William Luther Pierce’s infamous white nationalist novel about race war, often found on the bookshelf of American domestic terrorists.
This case has been on my mind since I read about it on Christmas Eve. I attempted to write it up for last week’s newsletter but found that I wasn’t emotionally ready to face it. Buckley Kuhn-Fricker did everything she could to protect her daughter from a neo-Nazi. She did everything right and it cost her and her husband their lives. The couple’s three children are orphaned and will have to live with that trauma for the rest of their lives.
We’ve normalized hate in America. I won’t go as far as blaming these murders on that normalization but I will say that normalization has fostered an environment that makes it fairly easy for a teenage boy to find hate online, find like-minded communities of people, and find that his views aren’t necessarily out of the mainstream.
I’ve written previously about the White House’s embrace of white supremacists. It’s so extensive that Southern Poverty Law Center keeps a monthly timeline of hate in the White House. Donald Trump’s personal history of being a racist is rather significant. This week, hours after I drafted this piece, news broke that Trump complained in an Immigration meeting that people from “shithole” countries like Haiti and Africa keep coming to the US. The White House didn’t deny his remarks, and Senator Dick Durbin confirmed them. President Trump couldn’t bring himself to condemn neo-Nazis after Charlottesville, something that would be a given for any previous president. He’s also received little fallout from his failure to do so. The White House knows they can’t risk upsetting neo-Nazis, because they’re a constituency, an important part of the coalition that elected Trump in the first place.
This week, we learned that the Department of Justice charged a white supremacist with terrorism but instead of touting the charge as part of the War on Terror, the DOJ didn’t seek any media coverage. This isn’t necessarily a political decision but it’s a curious one, given our current political environment.
Meanwhile, media coverage has played a large role in the normalization of hate as well. The New York Times caught the most hell for their “Nazis, they’re just like us” profile last year but as David Neiwert, author of Alt-America and who has covered the radical right for more than 20 years as an investigative reporter, points out The New York Times are far from the only culprit:
For how many years, we need to ask ourselves, have we allowed the longtime white-nationalist agenda — to foment a culture war between liberals and minorities and the rest of America, to incessantly demonize them and cast them as the embodiment of evil itself — to seep into our mainstream culture? How long have we permitted right-wing demagogues, from Rush Limbaugh to Michael Savage to Sean Hannity to Alex Jones, to spew their irrational, fact-free, paranoid conspiracy-mongering freely over our airwaves and into our homes, coaching one group of Americans on how and why they should virulently hate a whole class of their fellow citizens, without anyone capable of standing up to them and calling them out for it?
The normalization of hate is a slow creep over American society, but the results are anything but. There are a few signs of progress: Twitter has finally begun to ban many extremists and unverified others and Corporate America, for the most part, has determined that they’d rather not be associated with Nazis. But as Adam Serwer pointed out last year in his landmark article about Trump voters and racial resentment, most voters who supported Trump’s white supremacist policies see themselves as being anti-racist. Your average American is more comfortable denouncing Nazis than President Trump. But thanks to normalization, they’re getting more exposure, and less correction, to racist ideas every day.
Buckley Kuhn-Fricker is a hero. She fought to keep her daughter away from a neo-Nazi and sounded the alarm to extended family and others in her community. Her obituary describes her as “passionate about helping others” and touts her career helping seniors remain independent and in their homes. May we all be more like her in our own daily lives.🔷
(This piece was first published as part of the Ctrl Alt Right Delete weekly newsletter, devoted to understanding how the right operates online and developing strategies and tactics to fight back. Register here to receive the newsletter.)