Last month, Towson University's White Student Union garnered a lot of media attention because they had taken it upon themselves to patrol the university grounds in response to a perceived "black crime wave." Other fun facts about the WSU: they're proud to have been included on the Southern Poverty Law Center hate map, they enjoy going as a group to the shooting range — but "not in a military way," and they believe that white people are systematically disenfranchised by the law. Today, a profile of Matthew "Commander" Heimbach appeared on The Daily Beast, and the consensus is that the dude seems pretty nice.
“He’s really polite,” says Jonathan Smith, president of the Black Student Union. "He just seems like a nice person. It’s really hard to believe that he’s promoting these ideas," claims Bilphena Yahwon, who founded Be the Change Towson in response to the White Student Union's attempt to get university approval. Caitlin Dickson, the piece's author, remarks on his "pleasant demeanor." Her account leaves you with the impression that you'd probably get along well with him, as long as you managed to keep the conversation on topics other than the ways in which multiculturalism amounts to a genocide upon the "white, European identity".
However, either because of the sustained media attention focused on Heimbach's views, or because of the overpowering obsession he and his crew have with the spurious concept, it seems unlikely that that would happen.
Here's a list of interesting facts I gleaned from reading the piece:
- Heimbach was inspired by the works of Pat Buchanan. Surprise!
- He doesn't like skinheads and neo-Nazis, though, because "they don't advocate a positive message."
- Before founding the White Students Union, Heimbach helped to create the now-defunct Towson branch of the Youth for Western Civilization. It is now defunct because its members graffitied "White Pride" on campus. "White pride is no different than gay pride or black pride," said a confused Heimbach.
- The WSU is not supported or endorsed by the university. That's okay, though, because the lack of regulation gives them freedom to come up with awesome ideas like the patrol.
- The WSU has yet to thwart any crimes, but one time they put two drunk girls in a cab.
- Paddy, the organization's right-hand-man, is passionate about the creation of a white "ethnostate," free from the corruptive influence of multiculturalism.
With all of this said, I also couldn't help but think that Heimbach seems incredibly well-mannered and sort of sweet (when he's doing things other than circulating ridiculous rhetoric about how his rights as a white man are threatened by others who are just literally just trying to achieve equality). When I wrote about him last month, I had the distinct impression that a lot of his blustering pride was just posturing — feeling sorry for him made me fairly uncomfortable, but I couldn't help it. Smith, the president of the Black Student Union, believes that Heimbach "doesn't want diversity," but he also states that he has "never felt like he's trying to belittle me or not want to be in my presence." Oh, great. Good for you, Commander Heimbach. What an upstanding guy you are.
So Heimbach doesn't lack interpersonal skills and he isn't openly bothered by the black people that he knows. So he thinks that he's fighting for a just cause. Does that mean that he deserves our pity? Dickson closes her article by noting that
[T]hose who recognized him during the patrol—and even the student who grew angry at the sight of him—knew who he was. Not because he’s used violence, intimidation, or harassment against other students but because they’ve read and watched countless interviews with him. But even if he is all talk, some people are listening.
Even if Heimbach is a nice guy, what part of arming a pack of white supremacists with "nonlethal weapons" so that they can patrol the campus in search of black criminals is not intimidating? According to the article, there have been six patrols so far. Some members carry large Maglite flashlights with them as they walk around in a group. In the words of a black male sophomore who sees them passing, "They look weird, kind of freaky. It's intimidating." A member of a Jewish fraternity became visibly distraught when they crossed his path: "I hate them. I'm Jewish and they're white supremacists."
It's incredibly misleading to claim that his words and his words alone are responsible for these reactions. Heimbach's racist words are vile, but he's well within his rights to disseminate them. His actions, on the other hand, are far from harmless. While it's understandable — perhaps even laudable — that Dickson would want to humanize someone who's been so vilified in the media, her attempt to do so overlooks the ways in which his speech and actions contribute to a culture of ignorance and create an environment that makes his peers feel uncomfortable and unsafe.
Riding Along With a Towson University Student's "White Patrol" [The Daily Beast]