Power of Symbols

By Christopher Zoukis

Hoskins sought out Webster Smith and introduced himself.  He then invited Smith to join him at his table.  The two men spent the next two hours engaged in intense conversation.  Smith did most of the talking.  Hoskins interrupted occasionally, asking a question.  But for the most part, Hoskins simply listened.  He was soaking up information like a sponge.  Image courtesy youtube.com

When he got back to Virginia, Hoskins began to write.  He wrote for the next three years.  The result of his labors was an almost impenetrable and incomprehensible 469-page monster of a book – Vigilantes of Christendom.  In his book, Hoskins set out the concept of the Phineas Priesthood, using Numbers 25 as his starting point.  From there, Hoskins moved on, tracing the history of famous Phineas Priests.  According to Hoskins’ interpretation of history, famous Phineas Priests included John Wilkes Booth, Robin Hood, the Waffen SS, and the Ku Klux Klan.  And of course, Gordon Kahl, and Robert Mathews and The Order. 

Vigilantes asserted that anyone – man or woman – who saw the Law of God being broken was ordained by God to take any action necessary against those breaking the Law.  These law-breakers were called “ungodly.”  Hoskins called such actions “Phineas Acts.”

Hoskins provided Scripture to encourage and back up such violent “Phineas Acts.”  The first was Ehud, whose story was related in Judges 3: 1-30.  Ehud led an armed revolt against the Moabite occupation of territory belonging to the Tribe of Benjamin.  Ehud asked for and received an audience with the King of the Moabites.  Walking into the King’s presence, Ehud killed him.  Ehud then rallied the Israelites to take advantage of the situation.  Thousands of Moabites were slaughtered.

The second example was Jael, who was a female Israelite.  Jael offered Sisera – who was a Canaanite – hospitality and safe haven.  By ancient custom, hospitality included protection.  She murdered Sisera by pounding a tent peg into his head.  Hoskins applauded this act of treachery as an example of a “Phineas Act.”

Hoskins went on to add that “The thing that Phineas heroes hold in common is their dedication to the word – dedication to enforcing God’s Law.  Their ends also all read alike.  Most are martyrs or are willing to be martyrs to the cause.  There are countless others, some of whom are mentioned in the pages following.  The thing all have in common is the fanatical drive to enforce God’s Law and to fight the tyrant and lawbreaker of the day.”

Because he understood the power of symbols – especially religious symbols – Hoskins designed a logo for the Priesthood.  The letter P with a horizontal line though it.  In effect, the logo stated that Phineas Priests were fighting for the Cross.  The connection to the religious zeal of the Crusades was obvious. 

The logo was quickly adopted by white supremacists.  It began appearing on bumper-stickers, T-shirts and jewelry.  The Phineas Priesthood came to represent the ultimate commitment any white supremacist could make. 

This idea of ‘ultimate commitment’ proved to be the true power of Hoskins’ book.  Not only did the book clearly and dynamically articulate the idea of the Phineas Preisthood, but it also did much more.  It injected the idea of religious exclusivity – even a religious aristocracy – into the emotions of fanatical white supremacists everywhere. 

In other words, who didn’t want to be part of such an elite group?

Vigilantes of Christendom became a bestseller among white supremacists, ranking right up there with The Turner Diaries.  The natural result was that Hoskins became even more famous.  His presence at Identity gatherings was in great demand.  It was at one such gathering in 1991 that Hoskins hooked up with Byron de la Beckwith.  Beckwith was the Klansman who had murdered Medgar Evers.  Hoskins and Beckwith hit it off and began corresponding with each other.  Hoskins lived in Virginia and Beckwith lived in Mississippi.

Hoskins printed one of Becwith’s letters in The Hoskins Report.  Beckwith signed the letter, adding, “Phineas for President.”  In fact, Beckwith was so taken by the idea of the Phineas Priesthood – and the latitude it allowed for justifying violence – that he claimed he had been a Phineas Priest when he killed Medgar Evers thirty years before.

When Beckwith was finally tried and convicted for murder a few years later, Hoskins distanced himself from Beckwith.  This was necessary because Beckwith’s trial received national media attention.  And the media exposed Beckwith’s connection to the Phineas Priesthood.  Which made Hoskins look like a rabid nutcase.  Hoskins stated he had never met Beckwith and didn’t know him.

It was a lie, of course.  But to Hoskins’ way of thinking it was a necessary lie.  For he wanted the celebrity and fame associated with being a savior – the savior of the white way of life.  Being branded as a religious madman did not fit with his self-conception.  So he simply denied knowing Beckwith.

Today, Hoskins still lives in Virginia, where he publishes his newletters and oversees his small book publishing empire.  Virginia Publishing Company puts out a steady stream of white supremacist books.  He occasionally attends Identity gatherings, where he is adulated as a Rock Star of Racism.  In his own mind, he is “an elder statesman” of the white supremacist movement.

He never attained the national celebrity he desired.