CNN Asks: Can The KKK Be Rebranded As Benign Civic Organization?

| by Sarah Fruchtnicht

In the wake of the shooting at a Kansas City Jewish Community Center last week, CNN is asking if the white supremacist group the Ku Klux Klan can be rebranded into a nonviolent civic organization.

CNN published a feature Saturday called “Can The Klan Rebrand?” where Ashley Fantz asked marketing experts if it’s possible for the KKK to undo the “damage” done by shooter and self-proclaimed anti-Semite Frazier Glenn Miller, who killed three people last Sunday.

"What this guy just did set back everything I've been trying to do for years," said Imperial Wizard Frank Ancona.

"The Klan has always been about wolves in sheep's clothing. Hate groups have never had on their business cards the n-word or some sort of overt act of violence. They've always tried to appear a little more inclusive and less threatening, so it's not surprising that they're saying they are against this shooting,” John Rowley, president of advertising agency and crisis management firm Fletcher Rowley in Nashville, told CNN.

"Disney is happiness,” said marketing expert Dan Hill. “Nike is you're proud you ran the race. The Ayran Brotherhood -- that's somewhere on the spectrum of rage and outrage. We are talking about an emotion that leads to violence. If you use that rhetoric, you can't say you didn't expect that kind of reaction."

"They stand for hatred; they always have," Atlanta-based brand consultant Laura Ries told CNN. "Maybe they don't believe in shooting up a center for Jewish people, but they still support beliefs that are beyond the scope of understanding for most people and certainly the freedom and equality our country believes in."

Ries said a lack of central leadership poses a big hurdle if the Klan wanted to rebrand.

"The KKK doesn't have a Pope. Look at what that guy has done. You have to have a leader like that to make people believe a change has happened," she said.

Rowley’s firm, which worked on former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards’ campaign in 1991, when he won against former KKK leader David Duke, said even the "best spin must be grounded in reality."

Jelani Cobb, director of the Africana Studies Institute at the University of Connecticut, said there would be no point in having a Klan without violence.

"Violence and racial intimidation were the KKK's raison d'etre. They're not simply a controversial civic organization. If in fact they reject violence, the only honest way of establishing that would be to do restorative work for the incredible damage their history of violence has already done," Cobb said. "No sensible person is going to wait around for that to happen."

The Southern Poverty Law Center estimates that the KKK has about 8,000 members nationwide.

Sources: Mediaite, CNN