South Boston, or Southie as it's known, is about to get more of the kind of exposure it could do without.
According to the Boston Herald, a new TV series by Robert De Niro and the Showtime network presents the predominantly Irish neighborhood as a hotbed of the Neo-Nazi movement.
Unsurprisingly, local politicians are in an uproar.
'I am offended on behalf of all the good residents of South Boston that this project in any way will be filmed and thereby reflect poorly on the town. Enough!!!' State Senator Jack Hart told the Herald.
State Representative Nick Collins agreed: 'I am tired of Hollywood writing and rewriting scripts and making movies that characterize people from Boston and South Boston in such a grotesque and unflattering light. If this is all De Niro has left in the tank, he should just retire.'
Hart said in his 51 years in Southie, 'I have never encountered anything resembling a Neo-Nazi group.'
'In fact,' he continued, 'many years ago an out-of-town supremacist group descended on the town and the residents effectively told them they were not welcome.'
Hart was referring to a controversy involving gay groups and officials of the South End of Boston's annual Saint Patrick's Day Parade in 1994. Parade officials had previously canceled the parade to keep gay groups from marching, which inspired members of the allegedly Neo-Nazi Nationalist Movement to come to Boston to celebrate their expulsion by holding a 'pro-majority parade' through the South End, a racially divided section of Boston.
Nationalist Movement leader Richard Barrett and fourteen followers marched on the Southie sidewalks on May 7, 1994, while thousands of angry spectators jeered them. The city hired 800 police in riot gear to protect the Nationalists and the cost to taxpayers was reportedly $800,000.
The parade committee’s refusal to allow gays to march should not be confused with racial or ethnic intolerance, officials had insisted.
This week Southie City Councilor Bill Linehan echoed Hart’s anger, saying the premise of the planned show is 'ludicrous' and 'absurd.'
Produced by Robert De Niro, The 4th Reich will follow a former leader of the Boston Neo-Nazi movement who agrees to become an FBI informant in exchange for getting out of jail. He returns to his old Southie haunts to find his estranged 15-year-old son has been recruited by his former best friend and current leader of the far right Brotherhood.
According to Deadline, the series — developed by De Niro’s Tribeca Productions — will complement the company’s work with Against Violent Extremism, a network for reformed extremists and their victims. Because of that association, some Southie residents are willing to give the show a chance.
Jeffrey Robbins, chairman of the Anti-Defamation League’s New England Board, told the Herald the show could serve a useful purpose if it’s done right.
'Work that exposes Neo-Nazis and other extremists for what they are can play a valuable role in shrinking the troubling phenomenon of hate in the United States. By contrast, of course, anything that romanticizes extremism obviously would be harmful, but there’s every reason based on the apparent background of the people involved in this project to think this will fall in former category.'