Welcome to Leith

Issue section: 

Welcome to Leith is a feature-length documentary which chronicles the struggle of the residents of Leith, North Dakota, to rid the town of a white supremacist.

Leith is a tiny, quiet town of just 24 people. Everything changes in May 2012 when Craig Cobb, described as one of the top five white supremacists in the US, moves into town.

He begins to acquire plots of land as part of his surreptitious plan to turn Leith into a whites-only community to preserve the Aryan race.

The town is not exactly prepared for what becomes an international news story. The town has only three deputies and a sheriff. The mayor of the town confesses to having not even known what a white supremacist was.

The residents are alerted to Cobb’s intentions by the Southern Poverty Law Centre, a non-profit organisation that helps to expose white supremacist groups. Its director sees their work as important because since the 9/11 attacks in the US, the government provides no resources for investigating white supremacists. The film highlights a number of terrorist attacks by white supremacists which make this fact truly shocking.

The film has something to say about freedoms and liberties when applied to Nazis. Even the most committed liberal would shudder at the way that Cobb uses constitutional rights to protect himself from the residents’ opposition.

It is also a film I would urge those tempted by identity politics to watch. Leith is a town with only one black male resident. He was not left to fight alone and it was his white neighbours who were often the most vehement in opposition to Cobb’s white supremacist ideology. If identitarians are correct, why would this small rural white town rise up at the thought of having it turned into a whites-only community?

It reminds us that people of all backgrounds have a duty and an interest in fighting racism and the best way to fight it is together. A good example of this comes when large numbers of anti-racist activists descend on the town to protest against Cobb. The protesters, including powerfully North Dakota’s Native American residents, give Cobb his most hostile reception. It is a useful insight into local anti-racist activism in the US.

Welcome to Leith has a lot to say to UK viewers with many echoes of the anti-racist struggle in this country. Particularly chilling are the complaints that the white supremacists make about “multiculturalism”. There is an appearance from a Daily Mail journalist who interviews some of the residents about their campaign. Ironically, their paper probably has more in common with Cobb than the brave residents.