Grand Knighthawk Infiltrating The KKK happens to be a tale that would fit very well in a season of something like American Crime Story. It’s a story that makes your blood boil and your skin crawl. A story about which you probably had barely any idea. The ABC News documentary Grand Knighthawk: Infiltrating the KKK can very well fit into all three categories quite neatly. KKK stands for Ku Klux Klan, the infamous and most notorious white supremacist organization in the United States of America. Most of you already know that, as I am assuming that you are reading this only after watching the documentary. In this article, we are going to summarize the whole thing and run an analysis of it.
What Happens In The Documentary?
Three men, who all used to work at the Lake Butler Correctional Facility in Florida, were arrested in 2015 on the charge of plotting the murder of a black man. The catch: these three turned out to be members of the KKK. Associated Press journalist Jason Dearen took an interest in the story, decided to investigate it, and wrote a series of articles. Dearen had this firm belief that there had to be an informant working for law enforcement who was responsible for the arrests of these three men. His suspicion was proved to be right as he was eventually contacted by Joseph Moore, who took an enormous risk to infiltrate the KKK, a daring action that eventually stopped the murder of Warren Williams, who used to be an inmate at the Florida prison.
In the ABC News-produced Hulu documentary, Joe Moore is interviewed by the producer himself, George Stephanopoulos. We get to know what really happened through Moore’s own words, some previously unseen actual video footage and recordings, as well as Dearen’s account of the events.
Who Was Joe Moore?
As said before, Moore happens to be the man who stopped the lynching, which effectively makes him a hero. Life hadn’t been an easy journey for the man, as he was physically exploited and abused by men when he was just about eight. That could not stop him from eventually growing up and joining the military as an ace sniper. However, Joe suffered from depression and had been battling it for a long time. Despite all that, he did an undercover stint for the FBI, where he infiltrated another KKK group. That didn’t go well, though, as Joe broke a major rule by telling his wife all about it. Yet, when the FBI got a whiff of something sinister going on in the Lake Butler prison, they decided to give the responsibility of the operation to Joe. This time, though, his wife knew everything.
The three men who would later be arrested were Charles Newcomb, David Moran, and Thomas Driver. While Newcomb was a former prison guard, Driver and Moran were still working at the facility at the time of the events. The three of them were already on the FBI’s radar, but there was no substantial evidence to apprehend them. Thanks to his military background, Joe didn’t have much trouble infiltrating the group and winning the trust of the three. While Newcomb was the dangerously calm ringleader, Moran and Driver were rather erratic and hot-headed. They were all united thanks to their common hatred for people of color, the worst possible flag to rally behind.
After infiltrating the group in 2013, nothing much happened in the first year other than Joe getting deeper and rising up to the rank of Grand Knighthawk. The title is the KKK equivalent of a glorified henchman, which only proves the whole group fully trusted Joe, which gave the FBI an advantage. An unfortunate scuffle between prison inmate Warren Williams and Driver made the latter extremely mad, and he showed the desire to take revenge on Williams once he got out of prison, which soon happened. Williams’ skin color fuelled the unjustified anger in Driver further, and his thoughts of murdering Williams got further provoked by Moran and Newcomb. Joe forwarded this information to the FBI, and they decided to hatch a plan to save Williams from the megalomaniacs as well as put the trio behind bars.
Did Williams Get Saved?
Just like Joe, Williams also had a very unfortunate life. The whole reason he ended up in the correctional facility was his mental health issues, which used to make him violent to an extreme level. It reached a point where his mother couldn’t control Williams, and he had to be taken away by the people at the correction facility. With people like Driver around, his life at Lake Butler was not that great either. But after his release, Williams sort of managed to fix his life by taking an interest in fishing as well as art and poetry. Little did he know that a bunch of evil madmen were planning his doom. Thankfully for him, Joe Moore was there.
Now that they knew about the intentions of the KKK, the FBI had no choice but to put Mike’s and Joe’s recording devices in Joe’s truck and make Joe wear a wire. That obviously put Joe in far greater danger, especially with a wife and four kids awaiting his return. But Joe was never a man who would abandon his duty. Nothing could ever take away his spirit. So he kept going at it and went on to do surveillance of Williams’ house with Newcomb and Moran. While Newcomb revealed his plan about abducting Williams and injecting him with insulin, Moran seemed more interested in going guns blazing at the target. However, after getting followed by a suspicious patrol car, the KKK clan didn’t do anything that day. Joe kept his composure and handled the situation like a pro.
The FBI finally hatched a plan to trick the KKK into believing that their enemy was dead. They let Williams and his mother know what was going on and then put Williams in a hotel. But before that, they staged William’s murder and delivered a very believable photo of the dead body to Joe, who got startled for a second, proving how good a job they’ve done. What followed was the most important part of the operation: Joe showed the photo to the three KKK members individually and made them confess that their desire had been fulfilled. Through a tensed, anxiety-filled real video, we see Joe successfully pulling that off and the FBI effectively taking the three into custody.
Despite the three KKK members being under the thumb of the FBI, Joe had to go into witness protection with a changed identity with his family to escape the wrath of other KKK members. In the trial, though, he stood firm against the trio, and despite the defense trying hard to harass him by bringing up his mental illness, Joe managed to hold his ground. The driver pleaded guilty and received a four-year sentence, which is over now. The other two received twelve years each and are still behind bars.
After the trial, some members of the KKK visited Joe and threatened his family. Realizing this would never stop, Joe finally decided to come out and tell his story to the whole world through this documentary. He also met Williams, and the two shared a very touching moment together. The documentary ended with the declaration that the Florida Department of Correction refused ABC News an interview, but they had released a statement that implied that they also stand against any kind of racial violence and discrimination. The war against the KKK and white supremacy in America is still going on, and it is not going to end anytime soon.
Let me just say this right off the bat. The kind of anxiety I went through while watching Joe perform the trick with the fake photograph and extracting the confessions from the three KKK members is very similar to how I felt during the train scene in the very recent Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning or the Trinity Test scene in Oppenheimer.
That brings me to another thought I had while watching Grand Knighthawk Infiltrating the KKK: this story would have made a great, absolutely thrilling movie. But here is the contradiction: the reason this documentary exists is Joe Moore’s decision to tell the story to the whole world in order to put his family out of harm’s way. More importantly, a man like Joe Moore deserves to be seen by millions of people, and it is far more refreshing to see Joe telling his own story instead of an actor enacting it. What further adds value here is the meeting between Joe and Williams, both of whom suffer from different kinds of mental illnesses. It is extremely inspiring to see these men fighting an uphill battle against terrible men like Newcomb, Driver, and Moran and eventually winning it. Truth is in fact stranger than fiction, as all these things really happened in the world we all live in.
I guess I have made it quite clear that the documentary has managed to move me and emotionally impact me, as something like this should. But Grand Knighthawk Infiltrating the KKK is not without its usual flaws. The narrative feels a little uneven initially and takes a while to find its footing. Despite the running length being as short as 75 minutes, parts of the documentary feel unnecessary, and it’s pretty clear that the makers have fluffed it up to reach a significant running length. The overall experience does get affected by these shortcomings, but the documentary still has enough punch to hit your gut. It happened in my case, at least.
Lastly, the issue it deals with is a major deal, even in the world of today. This is really sad because the world really doesn’t need to deal with all this nonsense when there are so many fires to put out already. Sadly, though, we live in a world that is never fair. So a person like Donald Trump, who preaches an ideology unnervingly similar to Newcomb, Moran, and Driver, gets elected to run the greatest country in the world. Naturally, seeing someone like Trump at the top of the government has only added fuel to the cause of all these white supremacist groups, including the KKK, who are finding new ways to poison this world. We are not going to have cape-wearing superheroes saving us from all these demons who are walking among us. It’s people like Joe Moore who would do that for us. That is where we find the hope that we need, keep fighting for the right thing, and dream about a world where something like racial discrimination is a thing of the past.