'NCIS: New Orleans' Season 6 Episode 11 is a timely reminder of ties between US military and white nationalism
A ProPublica investigative report in 2018 found that several current or former members of the U.S. military were part of the white supremacist group known as Atomwaffen Division
Just this month, U.S. military officials testified before a House Armed Services subcommittee hearing where they said that personnel will not be discharged from the military for membership in a white-supremacist group. In that context, episode 11 of ‘NCIS: New Orleans’ Season 6 was more than relevant.
In the episode titled ‘Bad Moon Rising’, the federal agents infiltrate a white supremacist terrorist group that was planning an operation to kill hundreds of people. The leader of the terrorist group was an ex-armed forces personnel, who was dishonorably discharged from service and charged with manslaughter after he killed a fellow soldier who happened to be Asian-American.
A 2017 survey of 1,131 active-duty troops conducted by The Military Times found one out of every four soldiers had witnessed white supremacy in the ranks. The survey further found that nearly 42 percent of non-white respondents had personally experienced examples of white nationalism in the military, versus about 18 percent of white service members.
In fact, asked whether white nationalists posed a threat to national security, 30 percent of respondents labeled it a significant danger. They ranked it higher than threats in Syria (27 percent), Pakistan (25 percent), Afghanistan (22 percent) and Iraq (17 percent).
Earlier this month, Jarrett William Smith, a U.S. Army Specialist, pleaded guilty to two counts of distributing instructions for making explosives. According to reports, Smith was associated with the Feuekrieg Division, a Neo-Nazi organization, at the time of his arrest.
His online communications showed he had also expressed admiration for other white supremacist groups and leaders, including the Atomwaffen Division, a Neo-Nazi organization, the Misanthropic Division, an Eastern European Neo-Nazi organization, and Robert J. Mathews, the leader of the Order, a white-supremacist group from the Pacific Northwest.
Smith had provided instructions for how to construct a cell phone detonator for an IED, a homemade grenade, improvised homemade napalm, and the targets reportedly were Democratic politician Beto O’Rourke and the media organization CNN.
Smith wasn’t the only army personnel involved in planning or even carrying out acts of violence and terrorism. A ProPublica investigative report in 2018 found that several current or former members of the U.S. military were part of the white supremacist group known as Atomwaffen Division. One of them was Vasillios Pistolis, who was involved in the 2017 neo-Nazi-led violence in Charlottesville.
In 2019, a HuffPost investigation exposed 11 U.S. service members who had ties to Identity Evropa, a white nationalist group known for helping organize the 2017 “Unite The Rally” in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Speaking to ProPublica, Pete Simi, co-author of the book ‘American Swastika’ and an associate professor at Chapman University in California, said white supremacists often draw inspiration from the armed forces. “Extremist culture tends to be paramilitary -- the [Ku Klux] Klan, for instance, is a clearly paramilitary organization, it was started by former military officers,” he said. “A lot of traditional neo-Nazi groups tend to emulate military structure … Some skinhead groups do that as well.”
The extent of the problem seems all too grave to ignore. Perhaps, popular culture and its reach are what is required for this to be a bigger conversation than it is right now. And ‘NCIS: New Orleans’, unlike many of its contemporary mainstream shows and procedurals, continues to push the envelope. Even with a heavy-handed approach, it still opens the floor for a conversation. And that, one can suppose, is half the battle won.
‘NCIS: New Orleans’ Season 6 airs Sundays 10 pm PT.