The KKK are a bunch of dorks
On Tuesday, a Catholic priest came clean about his past which included burning crosses on behalf of the KKK. The 1977 Washington Post article on Father William Aitcheson’s arrest noted how the then 23-year-old held the rank of “exalted cyclops” of the Robert E. Lee Lodge of the Maryland Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.
A grown man was walking around referring to himself as an “Exalted Cyclops” and he wasn’t even at Comic-Con. Goddamn.
Per the Gang Enforcement Network, the “Exalted Cyclops” was a rank used in the so-called Second Klan Era, which lasted from 1915 to 1944. States each chapter presided over were referred to as “realms.” A “Grand Goblin” presided over a “dominion,” which is considered a cluster of “realms.” During the First Klan Era (1865-1871), ranks included such titles as “Hydras,” “Furies,” and “Ghouls.” The “Grand Cyclops” reported to the “Grand Giant.” It’s a shame “Dungeons & Dragons” wasn’t invented yet, because then these geeks could pretend to be orcs and elves without committing murder and voter intimidation.
Granted, at this point, everyone has heard of the ranks “Grand Wizard” and “Grand Dragon.” Those alone should earn these twerps a lifetime of getting shoved into their high school lockers. If J.R.R. Tolkien had been around in the 19th century, you’d better believe klansman would be running around calling themselves “Grand Hobbits” and “Imperial Balrogs.”
Slate shed some light on the origins of the ranks culled from the mythical creatures you’d typically find on black light posters and in Led Zeppelin lyrics:
The Klan’s whimsical titles of office hearken back to its Reconstruction-era beginnings. In 1865, six Tennesseans formed a club that mainly involved dressing up in costumes and riding around Giles County after dark. Their ghoulish appearance spawned a legend that they were apparitions of soldiers from the bloody Civil War battle of Shiloh seeking revenge against the freedmen. Sensing the fear of a few credulous blacks, nearby localities started copying the stunt, and representatives from around the region formed an umbrella organization in Nashville in 1867. The titles of offices drew upon the ghostly mythology surrounding the group.
These titles, while odd to the modern ear, were in line with fraternal organizations of the time. Members of the Masons, the forefathers of the fraternal-order movement, aspire to be Worshipful Masters or Senior Wardens. The Lamb’s Club, which first appeared in the U.S. in 1874, is headed by a Shepherd and a Boy. When the Shriners formed in 1870, their leaders were styled the Potentate and the Chief Rabban.
Here’s the thing: The titles aren’t odd to the modern ear. They’re in the public vernacular thanks to blockbuster trilogies in which Orlando Bloom wears pointy ears. The difference is that benign geeks usually know that a fascination with Mordor is a little silly. The people who perpetrate race hate while referring to each other as goblins and wizards don’t have quite the same self-awareness.
[photos: AP, Getty]