The cliché that people and nations learn from history is not only overused, but also overestimated; often we fail to learn from history, or draw the wrong conclusions. Sadly, historical amnesia is the norm.
Sea Monkeys, Idaho and White Supremacy
Interesting read from ten years ago at the LA Times Magazine about Harold von Braunhut, the inventor of sea monkeys and other comic book fare and his connections to the Aryan Nations. A bit of a surprise ending. Here's a taste.
AMONG VON BRAUNHUT'S MANY INVENTIONS, WHICH RANGE FROM bulletproof garb to an insect observation kit, is a pen-sized weapon called the Kiyoga Agent M5, which telescopes into a metal whip at a flick of the wrist. The M5 caused an uproar in 1988 after it was revealed, in a fund-raising letter for the Aryan Nations, that a portion of the sales proceeds was going to Richard Butler, founder and leader of the organization. (This is the same Richard Butler who, along with the Aryan Nations, was recently found negligent and ordered to pay $5.1 million after two security guards assaulted a mother and son outside the Nations compound in Idaho in 1998.) Butler was on trial for sedition and needed help with his legal bills. Shortly after the M5 story broke, the Washington Post ran a lengthy article about Von Braunhut, revealing his involvement with "some of the most extreme racist and anti-Semitic organizations in the country." The article quoted an official with the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith as saying: "He has a reputation of being a generous contributor." Von Braunhut has vehemently denied the accusations in various news reports. Yet in a 1988 interview with the Seattle Times, he referred to the "inscrutable, slanty Korean eyes" of Korean shop owners and was quoted as saying, "You know what side I'm on. I don't make any bones about it."
At my request, the ADL, which has tracked Von Braunhut for years, sends me a rather hefty package. In it is a picture of the inventor, who resembles Lenny Bruce, posing in a priest's collar in front of a Nazi flag. News clippings track his frequent attendance at the Aryan Nations Congresses held every July in Hayden Lake, Idaho, where he appeared as recently as 1995--sometimes as a featured speaker, sometimes as the lighter of the burning cross. And there are newsletters from an organization called the National Anti-Zionist Institute, headed by "Hendrik von Braun," whose return address, P.O. Box 809, Bryans Road, Md., is the same place one sends away for Sea Monkey paraphernalia such as baseball kits.
Floyd Cochran, spokesman for the Aryan Nations until 1992 and a reformed racist, recalls Von Braunhut as a slight, balding man with "a rather large nose for a person of the Aryan Nations." He says Von Braunhut was something of a misfit. "He'd give long speeches about numerology and he'd make references to the pyramids," Cochran says. "It just didn't play very well."
I did not know about this or I'd forgotten.