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Welcome to Leith was well-received at its showing at Austin's SXSW Film
Festival. The film documents the peculiar events that occurred in
2013-2014 when a nationally-known white supremacist Craig Cobb moves to
tiny Leith, North Dakota (population: 24) with a plan to buy up land
and take over city government and make it into some sort of center of
white supremacy. Once alerted by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC)
the ordinary town folks mobilize to fight back and save their town from
Cobb's nefarious plan.
The odd part of the story is that Cobb's plan seems to be legal. (When
he and his partner are finally arrested they almost seem to have been
provoked.) There is nothing illegal about buying land and moving into a
town. And the first amendment allows him to express his beliefs and fly
his Nazi flags no matter how evil and offensive those beliefs may be.
The town residents actually seemed to be making excuses to get rid of
him such as citing him for not having running water and a sewage system
on his property.
Fundamentally, the film asks the question is democracy about the
community making decisions by the will of the majority or is there a
basic set of minimum beliefs about human equality that are necessary
prerequisites to participate in democratic society? The majority of the
town seemed to decide really quite reasonably - that Cobb's noxious
beliefs were so anti-egalitarian that they didn't want him and his
cronies to live in their town. They are in some sense intolerant of his
intolerant beliefs, but one can hardly blame them.
Welcome to Leith is beautifully filmed and the filmmakers maintain an
impressive level of objectivity about their offensive subject. They let
his evil beliefs discredit themselves rather than trying to paint Cobb
as anything more than the pathetic nasty creature that he is. The
townspeople come off as genuine and human. Perhaps it is a positive
sign that this sort of racism is unacceptable even in one of the
smallest most isolated corners of the United States. I hope that
Welcome to Leith gets widely distributed so that many more people can
enjoy this powerful film.
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