Forks, Washington, known as the “Logging Capital of the World,” has reportedly taken on the signs of a community under siege. In this small timber town there are rows upon rows of idle logging trucks, yellow “solidarity” ribbons tied to telephone poles and trees, with signs posted everywhere that read, “This Family is Supported by Timber,” “Ban the Spotted Owl,” or simply “For Sale.”
With their livelihoods threatened and seemingly nowhere to turn, some loggers last summer sought refuge and support from the only organization that appeared interested and sympathetic to their plight: the Aryan Nations. Based in Hayden Lake, Idaho, this organization seeks to establish an “Aryan homeland” for white Christians in Washington, Oregon, Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho. It has targeted Forks and other distressed logging towns in an attempt to establish a foothold in the region.
The organization made its first attempt at recruiting last June. With TV cameras rolling, white supremacist Floyd Cochran distributed leaflets and shook workers’ hands at a sawmill entrance in Medford, Oregon. “Aryan Nations supports the RIGHT of the White LOGGER and all hardworking White TAXPAYERS to make a living,” read the leaflets. “As Aryan Nations sees it, the birds already have a habitat of their own, and they have been feathering their nest for a long time now—it’s called Washington, D.C.!”
Cochran claimed to have recruited 21 new members from his visit to Medford, but Forks was a tougher nut to crack. Bill Richards, who covered the story for the Chicago Tribune, described Forks as having “a reputation as a tough town for outsiders.” When a band of Hell’s Angels tried to take over the town in the 1970’s, loggers reportedly beat them, demolished their bikes, and threw three of them into a river.
Robert Hughes, a member of the Justice Department’s Community Relations Service who has long tracked the Aryan Nations’ efforts, warned a gathering of concerned residents that the group would try to appeal to local economic frustrations. “We’re seeing a rhetoric shift from the more overt white supremacy and anti-Semitic message [of white supremacist groups] to one championing white workers and trying to take advantage of economic conditions.” Hughes claims that “hate crimes”—including cross burnings, bombings, homicides, and vandalism—have risen 23 percent in the last year, which he attributes to white supremacist groups.
After the meeting with Hughes, a consortium of local logging groups issued a statement warning these groups to stay away, but not all citizens were as certain of the’ community’s reaction. As David Soha, part owner of a logging company, told Richards, the anti-government, anti-environmentalist message of the white supremacists may attract some loggers, particularly those who lost their jobs because of the spotted owl.
Indeed, the repulsiveness of his organization notwithstanding, Floyd Cochran is right about one thing: “You don’t have to be a racist to be against elite environmentalists and big government.” If Washington continues to ignore the needs of the increasingly alienated middle class—if taxpayers continue to be given a backseat to snail-darters and spotted owls—then the political class may succeed in realizing its worst nightmare: a Middle American uprising spearheaded by white supremacists.