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April 16, 2012 Off

American Nazi Party Seeks Attention with “Lobbyist” Publicity Stunt

Nobody can squeeze fif­teen min­utes of infamy out of the Inter­net like a neo-Nazi group can, a fact demon­strated recently by a flare-up in the blo­gos­phere after South Car­olina neo-Nazi John Tay­lor Bowles reg­is­tered as a Con­gres­sional lob­by­ist on behalf of the tiny Amer­i­can Nazi Party (ANP).

Within a few days of the April 10 fil­ing, Bowles’ name appeared in dozens of news­pa­per arti­cles and thou­sands of blogs as the “first ever” Nazi lob­by­ist. That it was merely a pub­lic­ity stunt seemed to have occurred to rel­a­tively few observers. How­ever, the ANP is minis­cule even by neo-Nazi stan­dards, with only around two dozen active mem­bers. Led by Rocky Suhayda of Michi­gan, the ANP holds few events and does lit­tle more than pub­lish a crude newsletter.

The lob­by­ist stunt might have been out of char­ac­ter for Suhayda, but was typ­i­cal of Bowles, who has fre­quently sought the spot­light over the past decade. Bowles is a long-time neo-Nazi who first became involved with the National Social­ist White People’s Party as a teenager in Bal­ti­more in the 1970s. In the 1980s he report­edly spent four years in prison on an arson con­vic­tion, some­thing that didn’t pre­vent him from sub­se­quently work­ing for the U.S. Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture as a meat inspector.

Bowles even­tu­ally returned to neo-Nazism by join­ing the National Social­ist Move­ment in 2003 and becom­ing one of its more active mem­bers. By 2005, Bowles was the group’s Vir­ginia state leader; he sub­se­quently became state leader for South Car­olina. It was there he orches­trated his first major pub­lic­ity stunt, issu­ing a press release in Decem­ber 2006 announc­ing that he was run­ning for president.

Over the next year and a half he used this posi­tion as “pres­i­den­tial can­di­date” to help him get atten­tion from both within the white suprema­cist move­ment as well as from the media—even though his name was not on any bal­lots and Bowles him­self was inel­i­gi­ble to run (by virtue of his con­vic­tion). Dur­ing this time, Bowles also exploited anti-immigration sen­ti­ment for pub­lic­ity by orga­niz­ing an anti-immigration rally in South Car­olina and announc­ing a trip to the Texas-Mexico bor­der he dubbed “Oper­a­tion Throw Back the Wetback.”

Bowles’ exploits did gar­ner him pub­lic­ity, but also the neg­a­tive atten­tion and jeal­ousy of fel­low NSM mem­bers, who kicked him out of the group in late 2007. In response, Bowles formed his own splin­ter group, the National Social­ist Orga­ni­za­tion of Amer­ica, which never had more than a hand­ful of mem­bers and fell apart about eight months later, after Bowles suf­fered a heart attack.

After recov­er­ing, Bowles joined his fourth neo-Nazi group, the Amer­i­can Nazi Party, in 2009, writ­ing for its newslet­ter, the White Worker, and orga­niz­ing events in South Car­olina. His lob­by­ist stunt seems to have been an attempt to regain the “glory” of his faux pres­i­den­tial bid—the only lob­by­ing issue he even put on his reg­is­tra­tion form was “bal­lot access laws.”

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