Louis Beam first came to public attention in 1981 during a conflict between white and Vietnamese fishermen in Galveston Bay, Texas. The Texas Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, led by Beam, became involved in the conflict and, following a court case in which the Klan was instructed to cease harassing the Vietnamese, Beam became increasingly active nationally as an advocate of what he described as the “Fifth Era Klan.”
The most recent period of Klan activity, which Beam defined as the fourth era, had failed, he argued, because its leaders did not understand that the only hope of bringing about racial victory was to abandon the idea of a mass movement and return to its roots as an armed underground organization.
Beam’s writings on the subject, which included the outline of a points system to be awarded depending on the importance of the individual assassinated, raised his profile within the extreme Right and in the late 1980s he was among those tried unsuccessfully for seditious conspiracy in Fort Smith, Arkansas. He continued, however, to espouse the need for political violence and in 1992, in the final issue of his magazine, The Seditionist, published what would prove to be his most important article, “Leaderless Resistance.”
The article argued that the only way to defeat the federal government was to avoid centralized organizations as these were easily infiltrated. Instead militants should return to the approach pioneered in the original American Revolution, in which the committees of correspondence that had organized resistance to the British had functioned as independent cells. A second American Revolution would once again need to take up leaderless resistance.
Coming as it did immediately before the killing of Christian Identity believer Vicki Weaver by an FBI sniper, the article was the subject of discussion at a gathering of “Christian men” organized by Identity leader Pete Peters later in the year. In 1993, Beam, himself an Identity adherent, was at Waco, Texas, during the FBI siege of the Branch Davidian religious community that culminated in the burning to death of over seventy adults and children. Two subsequent events were to raise Beam’s profile still further.
First, following the emergence of the citizen militias in 1994, his article on leaderless resistance began to enjoy an increased circulation. More importantly, the bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma the following year led to the claim that it had been the result of a conspiracy involving a group following Beam’s strategy.
This claim was not only made by critics of the militias but also circulated among sections of the Patriot movement. Beam himself, however, saw the most likely explanation of the Oklahoma bombing in the same light as did many Patriots, as a federal government conspiracy intended to crush opposition and bring about a police state.
An early exponent of the notion of a Zionist Occupation Government, Beam told the court during the Fort Smith trial that his writings had been intended to expose the conspiracy that controlled the United States. Writing in the 1990s, he claimed that multiculturalism was being used by the same bankers who had sponsored the Bolshevik Revolution in order to destroy national identity and create a New World Order.
Despite ill-health and suggestions that he has become less committed to antisemitism, he has continued to be active, and in 1999 declared his support for antiglobalization protesters at Seattle. New alliances, he predicted, would form between those who had described themselves as conservatives and those who had seen themselves as progressives. “The New American Patriot will be neither left nor right, just a freeman fighting for liberty.”