The National Geographic Channel has found considerable success with its documentary news series “Trafficked with Mariana van Zeller,” now in the middle of its second season. Van Zeller digs into the secrets behind black markets around the globe and encourages her viewers to think of “trafficking” in a broader and more comprehensive way.
“White Supremacy,” the episode premiering Jan. 5, 2022, investigates how racist ideology is spread around the globe and what kind of threat it poses to the American way of life. Van Zeller, the academics she interviews and even some of her white supremacist interview subjects don’t hesitate to define the movement as terrorism.
We’ve got a clip from the episode that offers some background and aims to debunk the idea that most domestic mass shooters are “lone wolves.”
Van Zeller visits the Ukraine to learn about the role that U.S. citizens, many of whom are military veterans, have played in the militia movement that’s helped defend the country against Russian aggression. Some of those veterans have ties to white supremacist ideology.
Craig Lang was discharged from the U.S. Army for going AWOL and threatening to kill his (now former) wife. In 2015, he went to Ukraine and joined a militia with an extremist reputation. He has helped a lot of American and European fighters get a place in local militias and get to the front.
Lang is wanted by the FBI for the 2018 murder of a married couple during a robbery in Florida. He fled back to Ukraine. Van Zeller has a contact who sets up a meeting, but the fugitive ex-soldier decides she might be part of an FBI setup and declines to go on camera.
The documentary spends a lot of time with Christian Picciolini, a former skinhead who’s become a leading figure in efforts to help others leave racist ideology behind. Picciolini is quick to point out how some groups have toned down their rhetoric after the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, backfired on the movement when white nationalist protesters clashed with counter-protesters.
Van Zeller ties the idea that less inflammatory language is a new tactic for white supremacist groups to another veteran who turns up in the documentary. Proud Boys leader Joe Biggs is an Army veteran who fought with the 82nd Airborne in Iraq and Afghanistan. Biggs and his group dismiss charges of racism, saying they promote the superiority of Western culture and fight back against “white liberal guilt.”
After talking to van Zeller about the righteousness of peaceful protest, Biggs turns up later in the documentary and appears in some shocking footage filmed in Washington, D.C., in early 2021.
Other episodes in the current season have investigated black market plastic surgery, online romance scams, black market marijuana and outlaw motorcycle clubs. The reporter’s idea is that white supremacist ideology had a limited reach 30 years ago when they were distributed via physical media and have now exploded worldwide via the internet.
“Trafficked” makes a compelling argument that white supremacists use many of the same tactics as radical jihadists and that the U.S. government should treat the threats with equal seriousness, utilizing the same law-enforcment tactics on both.
The show premieres on the NatGeo channel at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Jan. 5 and will be streaming on Hulu.
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