Possible link to Jo Cox killing puts US neo-Nazi group back into focus

National Alliance says theres no connection but member admits founders ideas and the bible of racist right continue to strike a chord at home and abroad

Roaring up the gravel track on a Yamaha Grizzly ATV, Dave Pringle is wearing a long beard, ponytail, a camouflage hunting cap and shorts. His dark blue T-shirt says Hillary for prison 2016. His right arm has a tattoo with the words, molon labe the ancient Greek battle cry, Come and take them.

Pringle, a gunsmith, is chief of staff at the National Alliance (NA), a fascist group that apparently sold books to Thomas Mair, the man charged with the murder of British MP Jo Cox. On Saturday, speaking to the Guardian over a padlocked gate at the organisations 364-acre campus in the Appalachian mountains, he denied all knowledge of Mair.

If he bought the books from Amazon.com, could he be linked to [its founder] Jeff Bezos? he demanded. Lots of people buy books. Ive been buying from New Vanguard [the NAs propaganda arm] since 1989 and guess how many crimes Ive committed? Zero.

Pringle, 47, married with two teenage children, said of Coxs death: Its a terrible thing. She was white, an Englishwoman with two children. What else can I say? Do I agree with her politics? Of course not. Do I think you guys need more Syrians in Britain? No.

Once the most feared neo-Nazi group in the world, the NA is now something of a spent force. It never recovered from the death in 2002 of its founder, William Pierce, a leading white supremacist who advocated racial apartheid in America and was banned from the UK. His 1978 novel The Turner Diaries, about a survivalist who blows up the FBI and triggers a purge of Jewish and black people to create an Aryan fantasy world, inspired Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh and British nail bomber David Copeland. It was described by the FBI as the bible of the racist right.

Receipts published by the Southern Poverty Law Center appear to show that Mair spent more than $620 (436) on literature from the NA, including guides to homemade guns and explosives, between 1999 and 2003. Receipted items also included Ich Kmpfe, an illustrated handbook issued to members of the Nazi party in 1942.

In a statement, the NA insisted that it has no connection with Mair, any more than hundreds of thousands of other book customers.

We did not work with him, were not familiar with him, and did not remember his name even after the release of the illegally obtained book receipts, it said.

The munitions manual is a US army publication widely available online, the NA added, while offering condolences to Coxs family.

Pringle admitted that Pierces ideas continue to be influential at home and abroad.

The thing about Dr Pierce is that he identified a problem and decided to do something about it and tell people about it, he said. Here in the US the problem is through government policy, in conjunction with a controlled media, our people Americans of European descent are being driven to destruction.

You cant advocate for white folks

Speaking in calm, measured tones that many would find all the more chilling, Pringle expounded the NAs antisemitic worldview.

In the media we have an astounding concentration of Jews, he said. Who rules America influences our people, people of European descent? The most salient fact of life in America is who controls and owns the media: [Mark] Zuckerberg, [Marissa] Mayer [claimed to be Jewish on extremist websites], [Sumner] Redstone. They have control at every level.

His racist diatribe continued: Jews have a culture of critique where they question our homogeneity and our traditions. They are culture destroyers. The overall tone is that you cant advocate for white folks.

William Pierce. Photograph: AP

Asked for his opinion of Hitler, Pringle replied carefully: He was the head of Germany from 1933 to 1945. I understand he was a vegan. Everybody has good ideas and bad ideas.

He acknowledged that the Nazi leaders book Mein Kampf is held at a library on the estate. Secluded in picturesque woods in Hillsboro, Pocahontas County, West Virginia, it also contains a meeting hall, offices, staff residences, books warehouse, community garden, hunting grounds and church that preaches physics professor Pierces cosmotheist religion. It is a comfortable setting for learning and deep philosophical discussions about race, Pringle added.

He declined to give membership figures or say how many people reside there but a resident of a nearby farm, Linda Thompson, estimated it at no more than 10. Since Pierces death from cancer, the NA has been hit hard by factional infighting, vicious legal battles and a series of humiliating criminal cases and prison terms.

But it is protected by Americas first amendment guarantee of free speech and it continues to pump out a weekly online radio programme, run four websites and distribute printed material. Pringle handed over the gate a glossy brochure entitled Building a New White World. It carried a photo of a black man and a white man and asserted that races that evolved in the more demanding environment of the north advanced more rapidly than those in the tropics.

The brochure stated: After the sickness of multiculturalism, which is destroying America, Britain and every other Aryan nation in which it is being promoted, has been swept away, we must again have a racially clean area of the earth for the further development of our people… We will do whatever is necessary to achieve this White living space to keep it White.

NA members must be white a non-Jewish person of wholly European ancestry and not homosexual, bisexual or married to a non-white person. But Pringle insisted: Im not a racist. White people are not allowed to join the black police officers association. I dont have a special Jew detector. I dont know if youre homosexual until you tell me or I catch you in the act.

We cant vote our way out of this

Hillsboro is a struggling town of 260 hit by the decline of the coal industry. A few blue placards proclaim: Trump: make America great. Some farmhouses lie abandoned with boarded up windows. Explaining his choice of T-shirt, Pringle, who was born in Morristown, New Jersey and grew up in Anaheim, California, said: If Hillary Clinton is elected thatll be 12 years without a white man in the White House and look at whats happening.

The NA was formed in 1974 from a group called the National Youth Alliance, which emerged from the support of the segregationist demagogue, Alabama governor and three-time presidential candidate George Wallace.

We cant vote our way out of this, Pringle said. But he denied his group had any ambition for a violent overthrow of the government. Its not possible. You cannot get anywhere with that. Ours is an organisation to educate people, to increase the volume of awareness. If you wanted to bring up Jewish power on TV right now, poof, youd be gone off there.

The NA property, where guests have reportedly included members of the BNP, is reached through woods along a narrow gravel path that passes horses and lush grazing land. But what happens beyond the gate appears far from innocent. Last December the NAs chairman, Vietnam war veteran Will Williams, was arrested for allegedly assaulting a former NA staff member.

At nearby Timberlake Farms, Linda Thompson said every evening while out in the woods she heard Pringle firing off at least one or two rounds. She described incidents in which a drunken member of the NA chased her down the road, another was scared to death and another once told her: We are now occupied and its shoot to kill. Police have sometimes called her with questions or to ask her to note licence plates.

The NAs choice of location in West Virginia is no accident, added 54-year-old Thompson. We do not have many Jewish and black people in this county and that is one reason they chose this area. Unfortunately a lot of country folk are a little prejudiced. Someone said, The queers got killed in Orlando. I said, They are human beings too. Pocahontas county is far behind in its thinking and theres a lot of poverty, drug abuse, corruption.

But these days, even locally, among civil war battlefield trails and near the birthplace museum of writer Pearl S Buck, the NA does not cast much of a shadow. Robert Taylor, a lifelong resident who has run a grocery store in Hillsboro for 43 years and used to serve Pierce occasionally, said: I dont know if theyre still a big organisation or not. Im sure people in Hillsboro dont support their views. Ive not heard of anyone who did, anyway.

Reaching across the Atlantic

That the NAs appeal to far-right sympathisers in the UK and elsewhere does not surprise analysts. Rick Eaton, senior researcher at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, said: Some were better than others at reaching across the Atlantic and the NA was one of those. Fifteen years ago we saw them having contact with groups in the UK. American groups set the standards because they can pretty much do what they want short of violence under first amendment laws.

After reading Pierces novel Hunter, in which a lone-wolf assassin kills racially mixed couples, BNP members began a sticker campaign against mongrelisation and attacked a mixed race couple in a London pub.

For Mair to have made purchases around 15 years ago makes perfect sense, Eaton added, but now the NAs influence is waning. Its kind of a shell of its former self. They have been such a non-factor in recent years that I havent followed them that much since they splintered and people went their different ways. With the death of Pierce and Richard Butler of the Aryan Nations [in 2004], theres not a lot of serious leadership in any of these groups like there used to be.

George Michael is associate professor of criminal justice at Westfield State University in Massachusetts who interviewed Pierce and noted his admiration for Hitler. He agreed: Right now its at its low point. There are two groups claiming the mantle of the NA and its getting really ugly in court with accusations flying back and forth. Ever since Pierce died, the NA was in steady decline.

Michael added: I would expect the NA to wither away but I am reluctant to say that definitively because [Pierce] articulated a well-formed ideology. The radio plays were archived and theres a chance it will have a second life in cyberspace. He could survive beyond the grave. At the present time, his group is pretty much in tatters.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/jun/19/neo-nazi-group-influence-jo-cox-killing-suspect-national-alliance