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Other Views: A falling out among wing nuts

The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead

It appears that even denizens of the nut brigade (aka white separatists/neo Nazis/Klansmen) have standards, such as they are. North Dakota’s celebrity white supremacist, Craig Cobb of Leith, N.D., has become persona non grata to, of all people, the former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan and founder of the White Aryan Resistance. Tom Metzger said last week that he'’s instructed his attorney to return property in Leith that Cobb had deeded to him. Metzger said, “The way he (Cobb) does business is not the way I do business . His view was to come into town like a brass band. I disagreed with that.” Metzger, it appears, espouses a more stealthy style of racism.

What a turn of events. Just weeks ago, Cobb was crowing that he was connected to a vast network of allies who were eager to support his drive to take over the tiny Grant County town and make it into an enclave for people who think (?) like he does. It’s not working out.

A refresher:

Cobb and a few of his pals started buying up rundown properties in Leith. Soon they ran afoul of health regulations because the house they occupied did not have running water and an approved septic system. Cobb was told he had to bring the place up to standard or be evicted. He said he would do the work but declared he would fight the regulations in court.

Meanwhile, residents of Leith learned what Cobb was all about and got worried. They toughened up building and grounds codes for all Leith property owners. As the situation escalated, a protest in Leith against Cobb and his beliefs made headlines across the nation. Cobb seemed to enjoy the attention.

Then last week, Cobb and friends, saying they felt threatened, marched through town brandishing a rifle and a shotgun. Big mistake. Fearful residents called in law enforcement. The gun-toters were arrested and charged with felony terrorizing. Cobb was sent to the North Dakota State Hospital for evaluation.

Maybe the gun incident will be the beginning of the end for Cobb and his racists. Apparently that sort of behavior contributed to Metzger’s decision to separate himself from the Leith gang, if not because of their beliefs, certainly because of their high-profile provocative conduct.

Cobb’s offensive doctrines aside, until the gun incident, he and his pals had broken no laws. Speaking out about his creed, however outrageous and silly, constitutes protected speech. The people of Leith and others countered Cobb’s racism with vigorous speech of their own, and by any civil measure, they won the argument.

Cobb and his band of merry miscreants have been appropriately characterized as buffoons. Now they are incarcerated buffoons. It’s always risky to second-guess the courts, but convictions would be the best outcome for the people of Leith. Additionally, locking up Cobb and Co. would be a warning for like-minded screwballs who have been contemplating taking a page from Cobb's ridiculous playbook.