2 Ways of Dealing With a Racist
Maria Perez Manning is a prosecutor in the Los Angeles city attorney’s office who specializes in hate crimes. The Rev. Greg Davis is the pastor of Central Christian Church of Glendale who has been calling a racist “hot line” lately.
They approach the same problem with different tactics. At the urging of City Councilman Joel Wachs, the prosecutor is drafting a proposed city ordinance designed to thwart racist propagandist Allan Eric Carlson and anybody else who tries to stick foreign objects in boxes of Mini Pop Tarts, Cheez-It crackers and other grocery packages. Manning doubts that she could stomach a conversation with Carlson, saying that “it would be like talking to a rambling idiot.” The pastor, meanwhile, would welcome a chat with the Glendale resident. This week, his Bible study group discussed ways “to respond to Carlson’s free speech with free speech of our own.”
If Carlson came by church some Sunday, “he’d meet some good, loving people,” Rev. Davis says. “He might meet some African Americans he’d really like.”
That doesn’t seem likely. Last week, in describing the strange battle between Carlson and the California Grocers Assn., I acknowledged that perhaps I should have tried harder to talk to the Goebbels wannabe. The 411 operator had no personal listing; his propaganda recording goes on and on. Signing off, I suggested that maybe it’s just as well, since there’s no talking with some people.
“All you have to do is listen to my message and leave a message,” Carlson told me in a letter. “You know how a voice mail system works, don’t you?”
Did he take my bait or did I take his? I called again and listened. And listened. And listened. There was a lot of talk about “mud people” and “miscegenation” and an update on the Ruby Ridge hearings. There was some doggerel about the “Sons of Gestapo” and “soft targets.” And there was the sinister suggestion about how, during the Santa Anas, a single arsonist could cause about a half-billion dollars in damage.
Perhaps 15 minutes passed, maybe 20, before I left my message. Soon, he called back.
The tone was cordial. I was wondering whether he would corroborate some of things I heard about him. Yes, Carlson told me, he doesn’t work. This 31-year-old man gets by on a modest allowance from his family back in New Jersey. And, yes, he operates on his own, “a one-man cell” busying himself with his leaflets and his phone line. And contrary to common belief, Carlson insisted that he has nothing against Jews, though he certainly doesn’t appreciate the Anti-Defamation League’s efforts to monitor his activity.
Where does the hatred come from? On a recent recording, Carlson boasts of how, back in the third grade, he taunted the first black kid in his class. Was it something he learned at home? “My parents are not that way at all, actually,” he told me. “They never pushed anything.” His racial animosity is “just a gut instinct.” And he’s always felt “an incredible hostility to all Latinos.”
When he first arrived in California, he says, he used to listen to Patrick Buchanan rail about immigration. Then he started paying more attention to Tom Metzger and his so-called White Aryan Resistance.
Nothing, it seems, angered Carlson more than when Metzger was convicted in October, 1991, of misdemeanor unlawful assembly in connection with a 1983 cross-burning in Lake View Terrace. He was also outraged by a subsequent editorial in The Times that failed to mention that Metzger’s wife was dying of cancer--a heartlessly insensitive omission, in Carlson’s view.
“I kind of snapped and went from the mainstream and to the extreme. I left the Buchanan Brigades and started reading ‘Mein Kampf.’ ”
It wasn’t dreams of a race war that brought this white separatist to what is arguably the most multicultural city the world. Years ago, it seems, Carlson worked as an extra in a movie and discovered some talent for stage direction. “I came out here with the vague idea of maybe writing and directing movies.”
Instead he’s out visiting grocery stores and putting leaflets in school lockers--and occasionally winding up in jail. This doesn’t mean he’s given up on Hollywood. He says he’s still working on a screenplay (from a white separatist point of view, of course.)
It doesn’t seem like much of a life, being a one-man cell.
Does it ever get lonely? “Oh, yeah. Definitely.” Do you have any friends? “Not really,” he said. “A couple of pen pals.”
He seemed a bit sad when I had to end our telephone conversations.
So I find myself hoping that Allan Carlson takes Rev. Davis up on his offer. The other day, the pastor says, he called Carlson’s recording seven times, but listened long enough to leave only one message--to express the hope “that God would bless him.”
And if God doesn’t, well, at least the pastor tied up the phone line.