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Too Articulate

Encounters With Art Jones, the Nazi on the Cutting Room Floor

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Neo-Nazi ideologue and insurance salesman Art Jones was interviewed back in 1986 by a crew of liberal filmmakers who had spent a day shooting a gathering of far-right extremists at a powwow near Flint, Michigan. Last week at the Film Center, he showed up in the front row for the film's first Chicago screening, expecting to see himself on the big screen. He had to settle for a quick cameo in the cross-burning scene.

The film is a documentary called Blood in the Face, and Jones figures he was cut out of it because "I don't sound like someone who dropped out in the second grade." He credits the filmmakers, who include Michael "Roger & Me" Moore, with "finding some of our less articulate members."

After the screening he stood up to tell the full house at the Blacklight Festival what had been left out. Since his speech had not made the final cut, he took the floor to make up for it. "I was in that film," he began. "And I am a member of the movement shown, but I don't want to exterminate anybody. All I want is for the white people to survive. I salute Louis Farrakhan, and I--"

"Speak for yourself! Speak for yourself! Speak for yourself!" yelled someone in the audience. Another heckler demanded, "Who gave you that authority?"

So far no one has, despite Jones's attempts to run for alderman, mayor, and U.S. congressman. One of his campaign platforms called for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution mandating that "neighborhoods would again be organized by race and culture." Jones might run for Congress in the next election, even though his 1984 campaign went nowhere: "I don't want to pick up garbage in the ward; I'd rather take care of the garbage in the country." He calls Illinois senator Paul Simon "that bow-tied Bolshevik bastard."

Outside the screening a few protesters marched with a big red flag. "Don't let the Nazis speak!" read their leaflet. It damned the "liberal filmmakers" for "giving them millions of dollars' worth of free publicity." This is how "liberals, even black liberals, help build racism and fascism," continued the flyer, criticizing the Blacklight Festival for scheduling Blood in the Face.

But inside, Jones was surrounded by a thoughtful knot of black nationalists from the audience. They were busy finding common ground--the Jewish conspiracy, for instance, and their respective racial purities. When the Art Institute's beefed-up security detail, wearing navy blue blazers, politely shepherded them out of the theater, the impromptu seminar continued out on Columbus Drive. Jones told his black listeners: "You don't know it but I'm the best friend the black people had in this city, but I got knocked off the ballot by a Jewish lawyer because I had the answers." (His answer to the city's housing crisis, for instance: Invest in trailer homes. Set them up in vacant lots. Move blacks into them. Demolish the projects. Rebuild the projects--that creates jobs. Move the blacks back in. Repeat as necessary.)

One black viewer wondered why Jones's colleagues had to use dehumanizing expressions like "mud people." Sympathetic, Jones assured him he had pressed this very point at the last American Nazi Party meeting. "I told them that our propaganda is too crude and too vulgar," he said. Jones is no stranger to slander himself: "I'm always going to be tagged neo-Nazi. I don't see anything 'neo' about it," he snorts.

He wasn't offended by the documentary, he says; he just wished he had a chance to show how reasonable he is. Unlike some of his kind, for instance, he is open to non-Aryans as long as they are sufficiently anti-Semitic. "We know we're going to get distorted," he says. "The way they depict us is really irrelevant, since our words are spoken and our signs are seen. That's all our followers need."

At Sunday brunch in a busy Marquette Park restaurant a few days after the screening, Jones was playing movie reviewer. They Live--a horror thriller--came highly recommended. Blood in the Face got fewer stars.

John, one of Jones's brunch companions, had come up from downstate Illinois to see Blood in the Face. He'd already read the book of the same name surveying "the rise of a new white culture" and opined, "The book was much better than the movie."

A younger perspective on the movie was offered by Emily, who got a complimentary slice of plain cheesecake from the waitress since it was her 22nd birthday. Last month she attended a Nazi gathering at Hayden Lake, Idaho. She commented on the growing number of skinheads at the yearly event, saying, "It's so nice to know there's a lot more racist youth out there than ever before." For her, the movie produced a similar feel-good effect. "Whenever you see anyone who thinks along the same lines as you, it's like going home. It's refreshing," she said, smiling.

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