A Coast Guard lieutenant accused of plotting a domestic terror attack was detained this week pending trial. According to prosecutors, 49-year-old Chris Hasson allegedly planned to “murder innocent civilians on a scale rarely seen in this country,” targeting a number of high-profile Democratic politicians and journalists. Initially arrested on drug and gun charges, prosecutors said they planned to file additional charges later, saying the first round was “the proverbial tip of the iceberg.”
Hasson’s detention memo offers clues as to how and when he was radicalized, including a letter he sent to “a known American neo-Nazi leader” in which he outlined his desire to fight for the white nationalist cause.
“I am writing you regards [sic] to your ideas behind North West migration. To date I have read most of your books and briefly looked at your website,” Hasson wrote in the letter, dated September 2017. “We need a white homeland as Europe seems lost. How long can we hold out there and prevent n****rization of the Northwest until whites wake up on their own.”
Speaking with ThinkProgress, individuals at Hasson’s detention hearing on Thursday identified the “neo-Nazi leader” as Harold A. Covington. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) also identified Covington as the Nazi leader in question in a separate report that same day.
Covington, who died in 2017, was a prominent white nationalist for decades who helped popularize the idea of a white ethnostate in the Pacific Northwest, an idea which maintains popularity among members of the far-right.
Covington was by no means a universally-admired figure within the far-right — he managed to get himself expelled from apartheid-era Rhodesia for being too racist and was described as a “coward” by the white nationalist website National Vanguard upon his death, a description echoed by his own brother in a 2008 interview with SPLC.
However, Covington continuously shows up on the inspirational peripheries of far-right extremist groups. He is credited with helping set up the British neo-Nazi group Combat 18 during the 1990s, and his Northwest Front idea was mentioned in white supremacist and mass murderer Dylann Roof’s manifesto — though Roof disparaged the idea because he did not want to give up “the beauty and history of my state.” After Roof killed nine people in a Charleston, South Carolina church in 2015, Covington called it a “preview of coming attractions.”
Despite his obvious white nationalist leanings and track record of egging-on far right terrorists, Convington’s books remain readily available on Amazon. Titles include “Dreaming the Iron Dream,” described as a collection of “racial and political essays,” and “The White Book,” which outlines the technical details in forming an ethnostate in the Pacific Northwest. Covington’s most popular writings are a series of fictitious novels documenting the formation of the ethnostate, all of which are available to buy on Amazon.
Other white supremacist literature is also readily available on Amazon. William Pierce’s “The Turner Diaries,” considered the Bible of far-right extremism — and credited with inspiring over 200 murders — is also readily available on Amazon, despite regular bookshops refusing to stock it. Quartz noted earlier this week that books by Holocaust deniers like former KKK wizard David Duke and neo-Nazis were also available for purchase.
Under its Offensive and Controversial Materials guidelines, Amazon notes that it “does not allow products that promote, incite or promote, incite or glorify hatred, violence, racial, sexual or religious intolerance or promote organizations with such views.” The company has previously removed far-right content from its platform, including books by virulent misogynist Daryush “Roosh” Valizadeh last September.
It’s unclear, then, why Covington’s books, and others like them, have been allowed to remain on the site. When reached for comment, an Amazon spokesperson told ThinkProgress, “As a bookseller, we provide our customers with access to a variety of viewpoints, including books that some customers may find objectionable. That said, we reserve the right not to sell certain content, such as pornography or other inappropriate content.”
Keegan Hankes, a researcher at the SPLC, told ThinkProgress such inconsistencies have plagued Amazon for some time and that the retail giant appeared to react to each case differently.
“Amazon has always been reticent to take down any literature — the only example that comes to mind is James Mason’s Siege [an exceedingly violent far-right series of newsletters], but it’s been a persistent problem with them forever,” Hankes said. “They are much like any of the other tech companies, completely reactive. It takes something bad to happen for them to enforce their policies.”
It’s unclear whether Covington’s books will be removed following Hasson’s arrest. Additional charges are expected in the coming weeks.