he shooter who stormed a Sikh temple Sunday killing 6 and wounding 3, before being shot to death by police, had a long well-documented history of white supremacist activities. Wade Michael Page belonged to a band that sung “about murdering Jews, black people, gay people and a whole host of other enemies,” Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law, told The New York Times. One of his band’s album covers contained a noose.
He participated in the online communities of white supremacists, Potok said, often signing off with code words like 88 — which signifies the salute Heil Hitler — and 14 — which signifies the 14 word slogan of white supremacists, “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for White Children.”
Page also wore a tatoo of a Celtic Cross, adopted by white supremacists and Neo-Nazis. Yet somehow, people who knew him told The New York Times they were surprised he did this. His 53-year-old neighbor, Peter Hoyt, said he was “stunned” that the man he had known could have done something so violent. And they weren’t the only ones who failed to recognize the red flags.
Janet Napolitano, the homeland security secretary, withdrew the report and apologized for what she called its flaws. Daryl Johnson, the homeland security analyst who was the primary author of the report, said last year that after the flap, the number of analysts assigned to track non-Islamic militancy had been reduced sharply. Homeland Security Department officials denied his assertion and said the department monitored violent extremism of every kind, without regard to its religious or political bent.
From Oak Creek to Washington D.C., Americans allowed the hate speech of Page and people like him to fester. No one knew where he would strike — that it would be Sikhs, rather than Jews, or African-Americans or some other racial or ethnic group. But it should have been clear to all of us that people who talk like this aren’t always making empty threats.