I posted a short article a few months ago about Jacques Pluss, a medieval historian who abruptly left the National Socialist Movement (NSM) in October 2005.
The story originally caught my eye not because of its connection to the NSM but rather because I found intriguing the idea of an academic joining forces with this particular neo-Nazi group. Why, I wondered, had this man chosen to leave the world of academia to attend marches with a collection of Nazi fetishists?
Pluss is no academic slouch by any means. He received his PhD in medieval history from the University of Chicago, generally considered one of the top five history programs in the US.
Stranger still was the reaction by members of the NSM to his departure. NSM spokesman Bill White posted on October 19 that Pluss was "seriously depressed and taking psychiatric medication for emotional issues since his dismissal from Farleigh Dickinson University. Recently, I am told, he had his prescription and / or dosage changed, and began behaving bizarrely."
White maintained that the NSM placed Pluss on "a leave of absence."
Pluss was ousted last spring from a position as an adjunct instructor from Farleigh-Dickinson University. He said that he actually exposed himself, mailing a letter from Ireland detailing his "involvement" with the NSM.
It turns out that Pluss, who is Jewish, actually infiltrated the NSM in order to obtain background information for a book project. He recently made public his ruse at History News Network.
Contacted at an undisclosed East Coast location, Pluss provided me with some interesting information about the NSM and the white nationalist movement.
"My decision to join the NSM was inspired by the work of [philosophers] Michele Foucault and Jacques Derrida, who believed that a researcher needed to "become" the research subject," he said. "After filling out the one-page form and sending in my $20, I was officially a member of the NSM."
Among the duties that Pluss performed for the NSM was the production of a weekly Internet radio program.
"I created a persona for the program, and the formula was pretty simple: all I had to do was rail against blacks, Jews, and people south of the border," he said, adding that his shows have since been removed from the NSM archives. "Since I also had the ability to do it with a level of discourse above the 10th grade leel, all the better; as long as I could obnoxiously villify people of color, they loved me."
The NSM also loved the fact that Pluss was an academic; the following is from a February 2005 memo from NSM commander Jeff Schoep:
I stated that we had a surprise coming, and this will be welcome news for all throughout the White Patriot Movement. This is a move of Historical Proportions in our struggle, that a man with such credentials is stepping forth with such a sound and resonating message of Truth, beaming forth directly from the National Socialist Movement!"They recognized that I brought a measure of legitimacy to the group with my presence," he said. "I can only imagine how shocked they were when they realized that they'd been had."
Pluss, who described his true political views as "mainstream Republican," said that he and his fiancée have received numerous threats since he left the NSM.
"In addition to the Internet vilification, I received three calls threatening my life, which I registered with the local police," he said. "My fiancée was also threatened over the phone – the caller said that he would cut her throat."
The NSM, said Pluss, is not the rapidly expanding movement that its leaders make it out to be.
"The national meeting in Kansas City garnered about 30 people, eight of whom were women," he said. " At the Yorktown rally I counted 115. The notion that this is 'fastest-growing' white supremacist group is nonsense, unless you consider that the rest of the racist groups all have about three people."
Most of the NSM units, according to Pluss, are small.
"A lot of these so-called 'units' are basically one guy in a given city," he said. "They consider groups larger than six people to be a huge success."
Pluss, a Vietnam veteran, provided an impression of what he considers to be the typical NSM member.
"They are generally lower working class males in their 20s and 30s, and theya re lucky if they have a high school education," he said. "Most of them are unemployed or just scraping by, and there are large number on some form of disability."
Also trained as a psychoanalyst, Pluss offered a psychological profile of the typical follower of the NSM.
"Life really isn’t working out for these people, and from a psychological perspective they tend to be rage-filled individuals who treat hate as a matter of religion," he said. "They likely suffered some form of childhood abuse or neglect, and many seem to suffer from paranoid personality disorder."
Pluss speculated on why groups like the NSM are able to attract members.
"These individuals tend to gravitate toward an individual or idea to fill a void in their lives," he said. "They likely lack a father figure, and they tend to compare favorably with people who wind up in religious cults."
The historian took aim at the leadership of the NSM.
"“I think the Bill White is three steps below Satan,” he said. "He is a dangerous character, probably spent a lot of time in a psychiatric institution."
Pluss also spoke out about the NSM's commander, Jeff Schoep.
"Schoep is a complete mediocrity who is not very bright," he said. "The national offices of the NSM are in his mom’s basement, and he collects he’s on food stamps, draws welfare, and lives in a trailer."
Despite his derision of the NSM and similar groups, Pluss was quick to point out that they must not be ignored.
"The white power movement is a dangerous thing - even though they are small in numbers they are very dangerous, because they are made up of thugs," he said. "They are networked very well, and they can definitely hurt people."
Pluss spends his days tending to his horses.
"I have a lifelong interest in riding and training hunter-jumper horses since I was 13," he said, adding that he has an interest in a commercial farm. "However, since the economy went south we wound up with a bunch of furry lawn mowers."