Northeast Jefferson County east of Birmingham, Alabama, has long been known as a white-flight suburb and home to a crowd of racist rednecks, mostly good old boys and gals who work for the power company, the gas company, the phone company and in construction. Bordered by rural and mostly white Blount and St. Clair counties to the north and east, it has become the poor side of town. The money went south. The black migration from the city has in recent years about taken over what was at one time the largest, mostly white suburb in the country called Center Point, which was the halfway point between the industrial city of Birmingham and the countryside in the 1950's and 1960's.
Now that the citizens of the United States have elected the first African-American president in US history, however, there are racist, conservative activist groups popping up all over the place - and not just the Tea Party. One man has put his area on the map like no other.
Michael B. Vanderboegh of Pinson, Alabama, hit the national spotlight last week and is now under serious federal law enforcement scrutiny since calling for right-wing militia-style activists to toss bricks through the windows of Democrats on his SipseyStreetIrregulars blog, designed to appeal to the so-called Three Percenters, or three percent of American gun owners with the most radical view of the Second Amendment.
Vanderboegh may have been able to continue blogging in relative suburban obscurity, except that somebody decided to carry out his call to throw bricks in New York, Arizona and Kansas. One brick that crashed through the window of the Democratic Committee headquarters in Monroe County, New York, had a note attached with a quote from Barry Goldwater: "Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice."
"I guess that guy's one of ours," Vanderboegh said in a telephone interview with a Montgomery newspaper. "Glad to know people read my blog."
Another brick slammed through the glass doors at the Democratic Committee's office in Rochester, New York, and another was thrown at the window of Rep. Louise Slaughter's district office in Niagara Falls. Reports of brick-throwing at Democratic offices were also reported last Monday in Arizona and Kansas.
Thanks in part to a new Southern Poverty Law Center report on the Rage of the Right, the guy's story, such as it is, has been repeated in The Washington Post, not once but twice, and MSNBC on National Public Radio and in hundreds of newspapers, thanks to the AP wire.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center's intelligence report on Vanderboegh, he has tried to portray himself as a moderate, first in the militia world and more recently in the anti-immigration movement.
"But he hasn't always sounded that way," according to the report. Back in the mid-1990's, he wrote a document entitled "Strategy and Tactics for a Militia Civil War," in which he discussed the utility of snipers using "violence carefully targeted and clearly defensive: war criminals, secret policemen, rats …"
As of November 1, the tiny group of Three Percenters gave itself another name - the Alabama Minuteman Surveillance Team - and the mission of making life miserable for any business that hires undocumented workers.
"We hereby put exploitative employers and crooked politicians on notice," Vanderboegh declared after ending the patrols and deciding to return to Alabama to concentrate on the situation there. "We intend to make it toxic for anyone doing public or private business to use illegals. If I were a politician in Alabama right now, I'd start getting REAL careful about who I accepted money from. Because we're fixin' to flip on the light switch."
Vanderboegh denied any suggestion of vigilantism, telling a Birmingham newspaper that all his group sought was enforcement of existing laws. He had similarly shrugged off criticism of the para-militarism of the militias back when he was associated with groups including the Alabama Constitutional Militia, the Tri-States Militia and the 1st Alabama Cavalry Regiment of the so-called Constitutional Militia.
Take note that was during the Clinton years. He seems to only have a problem with Democrats, not Republicans, an indication that his so-called "revolution" is not exactly as nonpartisan as he tries to claim.
On his blog and in other documents on the Web traced to him, Vanderboegh talks about President Barack Obama as a "tyrant," but he uttered not one word of criticism against President George W. Bush while his administration dismantled the Fourth Amendment against illegal searches and seizures by authorizing illegal spying on every American's email, Web browsing habits and phone calls.
Now that policy is about to trap Vanderboegh in a legal juggernaut, and he may get the chance he seeks to get arrested for the cause to tell his story to a larger audience. He openly seeks publicity on his site and writes that he fully expects to be arrested.
A spokesperson for US Attorney Joyce Vance's office in Birmingham said it would be inappropriate to comment on an ongoing investigation. The chief deputy for Jefferson County is referring all press calls to the public relations agent for the local office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which has so far refused to return phone calls after interviewing Vanderboegh Tuesday.
While Vanderboegh tells TV reporters he's not a racist, a Google background search on Michael B. Vanderboegh shows he recently purchased this book from Amazon.com: "White Rage: The Extreme Right and American Politics," by Martin Durham.
This week, Vanderboegh claims he is getting death threats himself and said he called the FBI to turn in an Easter card he allegedly received in the mail with bird mess inside. He thought it might be anthrax, he says, so he claims he started taking antibiotics. Yet he continues right on blogging about his "hate," even after several police vehicles and a hazardous materials truck showed up to claim the Easter card, and he was not treated as a hero or a patriot.
"I must admit that I am starting to develop a healthy hate, one that I must guard against if I do not want to become the same kind of beast that collectivism apparently manufactures so easily out of these godless assholes," Vanderboegh writes. "Acting like bugs, they've just about got me convinced of their absolute lack of any humanity.
"As I have written before, when you can think of them as bugs, as they think of us, it makes it easier to kill them," he continues. "I am now to the point where I almost DO think of them as bugs. Like Zander to the Brain Bug in Starship Troopers, I want to scream, 'One day, somebody like me is going to kill you, and your whole fucking race!' Collectivism has finally convinced me that it is a race unto its own.
"They have also demonstrated that this is an existential war of extermination, one way or another. Them or us. I vote them," he writes. "They still have to shoot first. But it will be the last temporary advantage they get. There ain't no live and let live with bugs."
He signs his posts Mike III, for Three Percent of gun owners.
Also this week, the manager of a local wildlife refuge at Turkey Creek had to notify Vanderboegh that he would no longer be allowed to deliver history lessons to schoolchildren.
Taylor Steele, director of the Turkey Creek Nature Preserve for Birmingham Southern College, said in an interview that Vanderboegh would tell stories as part of the park's programs and seemed pretty well-versed in history.
"I had no idea what his political or social faction was," Steele said. "Of course, when that story broke, I told my volunteer that we deal with kids, and that we can't have that element being part of that education program."
As a result, Vanderboegh writes on his blog in a classic example of the white Southern racist playing the victim, "So, I'm fired from a job I never took a dime for. It was perfectly predictable and I am actually amazed the collectivist academics took so long.
"Still, it hurts," he says. "It hurts a lot."
One of Vanderboegh's documented links is to another group called the Oath Keepers, which tries to recruit police officers and members of the US military to join their anti-federal government, racist cause.
Writing on his blog about the FBI raids on militias in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana this week, where evidence suggests a group of right-wing radicals were planning to kill police officers and bomb their funerals, Vanderboegh calls it a "well thought out, perfectly targeted, craftily planned, brilliantly executed and impeccably timed" bit of public relations and "propaganda" on the part of the Obama administration, specifically designed to discredit him, his groups and their plans for 'revolution.'
"For the Imperial Feds, this was a propaganda coup of the tenth order of magnitude," he writes.
His advice to the "brotherhood" of white racists?
"My recommendation: Stand fast. Await word. But be ready if this turns into another Waco."
Not far from Pinson in the southern Appalachian foothills in the towns of Springville and Trussville, other right-wing groups of Vanderboegh's ilk also thrive, and some of them have the official imprimatur of elected officials running for higher office.
State Sen. Hank Erwin, who is running as a Republican for Alabama lieutenant governor, is taking part in a Tea Party protest in Montgomery Tuesday, according to his Facebook page, where he calls himself "very conservative."
But not long ago, he attended a meeting of another radical right-wing group that has sprung up in Northeast Jefferson County, a modern-day Ku Klux Klan without the white robes that is also connected to the Tea Party movement.
"There is a popular city in Alabama that is slowly but surely becoming recognized in the political atmosphere as a 'must' visit. The town is Trussville, and in the last six months it has been a breeding ground for political action groups," Erwin claims on his Website. "The most recent group to join in the trend is serving as a counterpart to the women's movement, as a number of men demonstrated their frustration with the current economic crisis at what hopes to be the first of many 'Conservative Patriots Club' meetings."
The formation of a men's club comes after the so-called success of a women's group known as the "Republican Women of Trussville," which last month generated "one of the largest Tea Parties in the state," Erwin claims, with nearly 2,000 in attendance.
Leading the first meeting for the Conservative Patriots Club was Springville resident Harold Mathews, a small plane dealer and owner of Mathew's Manor, a private wedding chapel at the corner of US Highway 11 and Old Springville Road, where meetings take place every first Tuesday of the month at 7 PM.
According to three sources who have been asked to attend these meetings, but refused, that is now the official meeting place for the group, a fact unbeknownst to the Southern Poverty Law Center. In fact, during a call to the center's public relations office Tuesday morning, the SPLC said it had never heard of the Conservative Patriots Club, and would not comment on Erwin's conservative activism, since it is a nonprofit organization prohibited from taking part in politics.
Mathews runs a conservative email list, and three weeks before the election of Obama as the first black president in US history, he sent me an email message containing a death threat.
"You ignorant Boob!" he wrote. "The Obama machine slanted it so bad … This is what happens stupid, when people can get great gifts and benefits from government, it bankrupts the government. Now, we have all our taxes paying welfare at a exorbitant amount to people who aren't even a citizen of this country giving health care away like it is candy. Where does it stop? I guess when government gets so big that it tells YOU and the rest of the Liberal News rags WHAT TO WRITE and how to WRITE.
"You guys do not get it. They are already telling you and you are so blind to the facts of what is going on that when you do see it, it will be too late to fix without a revolution!" he continued. "Well maybe a revolution is good now and again. I know just where to put my first Bullet!"