Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Jeff Sessions' Dalliances With Extremists Includes 'Constitutional' Sheriffs and Their Insane Cohort

Will Jeff Sessions become the nation's first "constitutionalist" attorney general?

One of the main takeaways so far from the Senate confirmation hearings for Jeff Sessions, Donald Trump's nominee to be the nation's next attorney general, is that the Alabama senator has a long history of cozying up to some of the most extreme Nativist and anti-Muslim organizations of anyone in the Senate. And we've seen that extremism bubble up in the testimony, as well as his record of attempting to prosecute people who assist blacks in exercising their civil rights.

There is one dimension further to all this -- namely, Sessions' dalliance with far-right "constitutionalists" organized under the banner of local law enforcement, the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association. It certainly raises the question of whether the nation's No. 1 law-enforcement officer will be sympathetic to the extremist beliefs advocated by the CSPOA.

Sessions, along with Louisiana Sen. David Vitter and Tennessee Rep. Marsha Blackburn, all Republicans, participated in a meeting on Dec. 10, 2014, organized under the auspices of Sessions' office with a group of county sheriffs from around the country who were demanding tougher action on immigration and border security.

The focus of the event was to stand in protest of President Obama’s executive action, taken after years of congressional inaction, to offer temporary legal status to undocumented immigrants who have been in the country for at least five years and whose children were born here and are U.S. citizens, provided they pass a background check and pay taxes.

One of the primary presences at the gathering was the CSPOA and its president, former Arizona sheriff Richard Mack. Mack's organization preaches the far-right theory, derived from the racist Posse Comitatus belief system, that the nation's county sheriffs actually constitute the primary law-enforcement officers of the land, rendering them capable of overturning and/or ignoring federal laws and dictates.

Originally billed in the National Review as a “massive gathering” of sheriffs from around the nation to protest immigration, the event was organized by two sheriffs who are active leaders in Mack’s CSPOA; Mack himself insisted he only was present as an invitee, not an organizer. Most of the sheriffs who participated, though not all, are active CSPOA members.

Mack himself is closely associated with Cliven Bundy and his sons and associates, who led armed standoffs with federal law-enforcement officers in two separate incidents -- in April 2014 in Bunkerville, Nev., and in January 2016 at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Oregon. Mack was present at each of those standoffs vocally supporting the "constitutionalist" cause that fueled the confrontations.

The extremism engendered by the CSPOA and its sheriffs was reflected in the crowd of "Patriot" supporters who gathered in Washington on the same day as the meeting with Sessions. Before the meeting took place, these supporters held a protest outside the White House that quickly devolved into an ugly mob demanding that President Obama be lynched. The protest and the meetings afterward were videotaped by Patriot figure Blaine Cooper, who later was arrested and convicted as part of the Malheur takeover gang.

One protester in particular — a bearded man toting an American flag — seemed especially intent on seeing Obama hung.

“Hang the lying Kenyan traitor terrorist piece of shit,” he shouted at one point. “He’s a traitor! Hang him!” The same man kept shouting variations of this throughout the protest.

At one point, he was joined by another protester, who remarked: “We got room.”

“There’s plenty of trees in the front yard,” said the first man. “Oh yeah, plenty of trees. There’s a fine one right there.”

“He wouldn’t be the first one hung from one of them trees.”

“We used to run them out on a rail or fire up the bad ones. Whatever happened to them good old days?”

“You know what the punishment for high treason is,” chimed in the man carrying the livestream camera.

“Written into the constitution by our founding fathers,” said the bearded man. “Death. Death.”

“By hanging,” said the cameraman.

“Upon apprehension,” said the bearded man. “You don’t snap his neck – you watch him choke to death.”

“You slowly lower him down to where his feet are almost touching the ground,” said the other protester.

When a large wood chipper drove past the scene, one of the protesters remarked: “Hey, a wood chipper! That gives me an idea” – suggesting he would like to run the president through the machine.

Afterward, this same group of protesters gathered in the Senate building, outside the meeting hall where the gathering took place, while the participants held a press conference with credentialed media.

Sessions used the gathering to attack Obama's immigration policies. Obama's executive action “is taking jobs and benefits directly from struggling American lawful immigrants and our native-born,” Sessions said. “A government must serve its own citizens."

When the press conference had finished, the participants were swarmed by the sheriffs’ supporters in the foyer, who cheered loudly as they exited and swarmed Sessions to express their admiration

“We love you, God bless you,” one said. “Thank you for all your work in the Senate, and thank you for all of this – fighting Obama tooth and nail.”

Sessions beamed and thanked the woman.

Monday, January 02, 2017

In 2009, the Right Openly Hoped Obama Would Fail, And Set Out to Make It So

So I see that amnesiac Republicans are very, very confused about why Democrats and other sane human beings are already standing up to voice their opposition to Donald Trump's presidency even before he is sworn in.

Well, here's a little cure for their amnesia: An excerpt from my forthcoming book, Alt-America: The Rise of the Radical Right in the Age of Trump (June 2017, Verso Press). This section is from Chapter Five, discussing the rise of the Tea Parties and how the Birther conspiracy theories helped fuel them.

Even before the inauguration, Sean Hannity went on his nationally syndicated radio and announced he was organizing a would-be force to attempt to stop Obama from enacting "radical" policies, calling his show the outpost of “the conservative underground”. Fellow radio host Mike Gallagher similarly promoted an effort by a far-right online group called Grassfire to present a petition announcing that signers were joining “the resistance” to Obama’s presidency. That was soon followed by an abortive campaign to prevent Obama from being sworn into office.

The birth-certificate controversy had seemed largely laid to rest by the election results. Yet in spite of all the incontrovertible evidence proving their various theories and hypothesis were bogus, the outer fringes of wingnuttia clung even after the election – but before the inauguration – to their last little acorn of a conspiracy theory as their last hope for stopping Barack Obama from becoming president.

Some of them – primarily a pair of fringe right-wing lawyers named Leo Donofrio and Orly Taitz – even tried to take legal action to prevent Obama from being sworn in. The U.S. Supreme Court briefly considered Donofrio’s lawsuit challenging Obama's U.S. citizenship -- a continuation of a New Jersey case embraced by the birth-certificate conspiracy theorists (or “Birthers,” as they came to be known) – but peremptorily dismissed it.

The message was clear: Conservatives did not consider Barack Obama to be a legitimate president, a fact underscored by the growing “Birther” campaign. Just as the Right set out to delegitimize a Democratic president when Bill Clinton was elected in 1992, they intended to do the same to Obama. But whereas the effort to undermine and ultimately destroy Clinton revolved around his alleged sexual proclivities, the campaign around Obama would zero in on his foreign-seemingness, his name and his background, and ultimately, his blackness.

Leading the charge was Rush Limbaugh, who announced on his radio show shortly after the election his hope that Obama would fail:

Based on what we've seen with General Motors and the banks, if he fails, America is saved. Barack Obama's policies and their failure is the only hope we've got to maintain the America of our founding.

Limbaugh’s wish for Obama’s failure stirred outrage from liberals and centrists alike, but he was defiant. At the Conservative Political Action Conference in February 2009, he justified it by explaining that Democrats did it too:

Ladies and gentlemen, the Democrat Party has actively not just sought the failure of Republican presidents and policies and now wars, for the first time. The Democrat Party doesn't stop at failure. Talk to Judge Robert Bork, talk to Justice Clarence Thomas, about how they try to destroy lives, reputations, and character. And I'm supposed to say, I don't want the president to fail?

The rant was widely distributed and was discussed in several press reports. It became, in many ways, the definitive conservative response to Obama’s election: Open political warfare, a defiance of the new president’s every objective, was to be the right-wing political project for the ensuing eight years.

And within weeks, it had created the impetus for a new right-wing movement: the Tea Party.

__ [snip]

Greta Van Susteren was not the most ardent of Fox anchors in supporting the Tea Parties, but she managed to play a critical role at key steps of its development; her February 27 show had first introduced the Tea Party movement to Fox News coverage, and five months later, on her Tuesday, July 28 program, she played a major part in turning the Tea Parties into an anti-health-care-reform movement by reporting on the first invasion of a public health-care forum.

It had occurred the day before in St. Louis, when Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill’s staff had hastily assembled a town-hall forum to discuss health-care reform with local constituents. The senator herself hadn’t appeared, but her staffers had found themselves confronted by local Tea Party followers who shouted at them and jeered when they were told the senator supported reform. Van Susteren brought on St. Louis radio talk-show host and Tea Party organizer Dana Loesch, who was present at the St. Louis forum, to talk about the scene there. Van Susteren asked Loesch if McCaskill’s absence was the reason her cohorts “sort of – I don’t know if hijacked is the right word, morphed maybe, morphed it into a Tea Party.” Loesch explained that the forum had come about because of a Tea Party protest two weeks before at the senator’s St. Louis offices that had ended badly with police being called; the senator then arranged the forum “along with Carl Bearden of Americans for Prosperity, and we at the Tea Party Coalition just kind of helped it out, and got some people together and got the word out.”

Loesch also claimed that “it was open to everybody, because this health-care legislation is a concern, I think, to everyone, regardless of whether or not they’re conservative or liberal or a member of any party.”

This was, of course, manifest nonsense: As with the April 15 Tea Parties, the town-hall protest was clearly populated by anti-Obama voters focused on stopping yet another policy proposal by the new president. More disturbing, in reviewing video of the whole St. Louis event, was the way the Tea Partiers used their numbers to shout down their opposition and generally intimidate the town-hall nature of the forum. What was supposed to have been an open discussion of the issues instead became a pushy shoutfest.

Within days of the St. Louis forum, Tea Party protests were breaking out at other health-care town-hall forums around the country. Similar disruptions occurred in Florida, Virginia, Syracuse, N.Y., Iowa, and Maryland. It soon emerged that the disruptions were being carefully planned and orchestrated by corporate Tea Party organizers, including Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks. A leaked memo from a volunteer with Tea Party Patriots website run by FreedomWorks give tips to members on how they could infiltrate town halls and harass Democratic members of Congress.

Some of the advice being dispensed to Tea Partiers:
Artificially Inflate Your Numbers: “Spread out in the hall and try to be in the front half. The objective is to put the Rep on the defensive with your questions and follow-up. The Rep should be made to feel that a majority, and if not, a significant portion of at least the audience, opposes the socialist agenda of Washington.”
Be Disruptive Early And Often: “You need to rock-the-boat early in the Rep’s presentation, Watch for an opportunity to yell out and challenge the Rep’s statements early.”
Try To “Rattle Him,” Not Have An Intelligent Debate: “The goal is to rattle him, get him off his prepared script and agenda. If he says something outrageous, stand up and shout out and sit right back down. Look for these opportunities before he even takes questions.”
FreedomWorks and other Tea Party organizers later tried to downplay the significance of the memo, claiming that it was not widely read or distributed. However, regardless of whether it was an actual blueprint, it fully described (or prescribed) the behavior that subsequently erupted at the Tea Parties around the country.

On August 1, visiting with constituents at an Austin town hall forum, Democratic Rep. Lloyd Doggett of Texas encountered a disruptive mob of Tea Party protesters. When Doggett was asked whether he would support a public-option health care plan even if he found his constituents opposed it, Doggett replied that he would. That sent the crowd into a frenzied chant of “Just Say No,” and they refused to stop. Doggett finally gave up, and was nearly overwhelmed as he moved through the crowd and into the parking lot. The congressman later issued a statement reaffirming his commitment to health-care reform and denouncing the protest.

On August 6, a crowd of jeering Tea Party protesters descended on a town hall meeting sponsored by Democratic Rep. Kathy Castor in Tampa, Florida, "banging on windows" until police and organizers were forced to end the event. The hall originally scheduled for the forum only held 250 people, and several hundred protesters showed up. Many of them – particularly the hundreds who had arrived from outside Castor’s district – were forced to remain outside, where they chanted anti-Obama slogans. Some of them pounded on windows, frustrated at being shut out.

It was even worse inside. Castor and State Rep. Betty Reed were scarcely able to make it through their opening remarks, since angry protestors began shouting at them and interrupting. Just outside the auditorium’s main doors, scuffling broke out between a couple of the participants who were jammed into the hallway like sardines, so police closed off the meeting area. A man who could later be seen on video with a torn shirt was treated for minor injuries following the tussle. Things became so intense that police escorted Castor out of the building after an event organizer suggested she leave for her own safety.

It left an impression, but not a positive one. "They think they're exercising their right to free speech, but they're only exercising their right to disrupt civil discourse," George Guthrie, who drove from Largo to attend the meeting, told a local TV station.

And the behavior fit the blueprint for action laid out early on: Disrupt, distract, and destroy any chance for an actual civil and informed conversation. In other words, demolish the entire purpose of a town-hall forum as the means to bring health-care reform to a halt. As Paul Krugman put it in his New York Times column:

It would not have been a problem if, say, right-wingers had gone marching in the streets in protest of the health-care plans; that's their right as Americans. And no one minded the fact that they chose to participate in these forums. But town halls were never designed to be vehicles for protest. They have always been about enabling real democratic discourse in a civil setting. When someone's entire purpose in coming out to a town-hall forum is to chant and shout and protest and disrupt, they aren't just expressing their opinions -- they are actively shutting down democracy.

Some members of Congress found the disruptions threatening enough to speak out. Rep. Brian Baird of Washington announced that instead of appearing in person, where "extremists" would have "the chance to shout and make YouTube videos," he would hold "telephone town halls" instead. Bair said some of the threats his office was receiving made clear that if he personally appeared, he as likely to have a mass disruption rather than an actual discussion of health-care reform, so he was going to take another approach. He added that he feared “an ambush”: "What we're seeing right now is close to Brown Shirt tactics. I mean that very seriously."

The remarks made something of a national uproar, especially among right-wing pundits, who claimed that Baird was smearing all the participants with such characterizations. However, Baird made clear shortly afterward that in fact he and his office had been threatened by some of these Tea Partiers, who faxed death threats and made them by phone as well. One phone message from Aug. 10 said "You think Timothy McVeigh was bad, there is a Ryder Truck out there with your name on it".

The Tea Party movement, in fact, was becoming Ground Zero for a revival of the Patriot movement of the 1990s, with all of the violent rhetoric and behavior that accompanies it. A prime example of this was the video that circulated among Tea Party followers titled “The Coming Civil War,” a 10-minute rant advocating a secession if President Obama enacted his "socialist" agenda:

The hard truth is, we are headed for a civil war. Nevertheless, rest assured, this will not be the Civil War of 1861. This war won’t be fought with larger-than-life generals, unless nationwide anarchy ensues.

… In spite of these dire predictions, there is still time to save America, if only the millions of Americans who cherish freedom will rise up individually and collectively and get involved in the hard work of preserving, protecting, and defending our Constitution, and giving aid and comfort to those organizations that are working valiantly on their behalf. If you want to prevent a civil war, then you had better rise up now and send a clear message to the President and the U.S. Congress. Tell them you are giving them fair warning. Tell them: We the People of the United States and the Separate States, will declare independence from the U.S. Government under the 9th and 10th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution … if the madness in D.C. doesn’t stop NOW!”

The rant came courtesy of a man named Ron Ewart, a western Washington resident who operated the National Association of Rural Landowners (NARLO), which was built off the bones of the organizations left behind by the late right-wing agitator Aaron Russo, who had made large sums selling a “documentary” touting Posse Comitatus-style tax theories titled America: Freedom to Fascism. NARLO was not only a big "Tea Party" supporter, it was also a listed sponsor of the Glenn Beck-inspired “9/12 March on Washington” being planned for Sept. 12.

The extremism also began showing up in the form of guns at the town-hall forums. Outside an early-August health-care event in New Hampshire featuring President Obama himself, a Tea Party follower named William Kostric showed up with a sign declaring: "It Is Time To Water The Tree Of Liberty” – an invocation of Thomas Jefferson’s famous remark: "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants." (When he was arrested in 1995 for blowing up the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Patriot-movement follower Timothy McVeigh was wearing a T-shirt bearing the quote.) And strapped to his leg was a loaded handgun in a holster.

The next day, Kostric was invited onto MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews, who laid into the man with some tough questions about just what he hoped to accomplish: “Why did you bring a gun to an event with the president?” Matthews also pointed out that in addition to a threatening sign, “you're carrying a goddamn gun at a presidential event.”

Kostric tried to claim that he meant no threat by suggesting that blood needed to be shed, and was otherwise just exercising his rights under the Second Amendment to bear arms. Why he felt he needed to make that point at a town-hall forum on health care, though, he could never really explain. Instead, he insisted: “I'm not advocating violence. Clearly, no violence took place today.” Matthews asked him what he was advocating. Kostric answered: “Well, I'm advocating an informed society, an armed society, a polite society. That's all there is to it.”

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

No, We Can Never Just Ignore Them Away

'Jim Ramm' gives a racist speech at a neo-Nazi rally in Olympia, WA, in July 2005.

We'll be hearing a lot, from Republican apologists primarily but also "mainstream" journalists looking to find "common ground" with the incoming Trump Administration, that we shouldn't be paying any attention to those racists behind the bright red "alt-right" curtain, such as those who let the curtain slip in Washington, D.C., the other day, because doing so just gives them attention and helps them spread their message. What we should be doing, they suggest, is ignoring them, denying them oxygen, and then they will just go away.

This line of argument gives Donald Trump a free ride from having to address the wave of hate crimes that has swept the nation since the election, since doing so might "give oxygen" to the young thugs waving Confederate flags and threatening minorities with chants of "Trump! Trump! Trump!"

Trump did, finally, address the alt-right gathering in D.C. today in his sit-down with the New York Times, but in doing so, he claimed that he had nothing to do with the rise of the alt-right:
President-elect Donald Trump denied Tuesday that he did anything to energize the "alt-right" movement through his presidential campaign and sought to distance himself from it, even though many of the movement's leaders have sought to tether their political views to Trump's rise. 
 "I don't want to energize the group, and I disavow the group," Trump told a group of New York Times reporters and columnists during a meeting at the newspaper's headquarters in New York. 
"It's not a group I want to energize, and if they are energized, I want to look into it and find out why," he added, according to one of the Times reporters in the room, Michael Grynbaum.
In case anyone has forgotten, here is Trump's tweet of Oct. 13, 2015, still live on his Twitter feed:

Indeed, as Sarah Posner and I explored in depth last month for Mother Jones, Trump has an extensive history of encouraging support from the alt-right and other extremist elements, including neo-Confederates and traditional white supremacists. Of course, it doesn't help that this reportage largely went ignored by the rest of the mainstream press -- Trump loves to operate in that vacuum of information that is at the heart of the modern media narrative.

So the Trump apologists have been busily promoting the idea that we should all be like Trump and just ignore the problem, because if you just don't pay any attention to these people, they will shrivel up and go away.

We got a sample of this yesterday from Real Clear Politics' Rebecca Berg on CNN Tonight with Don Lemon, while weighing in, alongside David Gergen, on the "alt-right" controversy -- and received an adroit rejoinder from Gergen:

BERG: ... But I would just make the point that you know, we are giving this outsized attention right now in the media. These few incidents with neo-Nazis, with white nationalist. But this is still a very small share of Trump supporters. 
And I think that's an important point to make, because certainly we haven't expected Barack Obama to come out as president every time one of his supporters says something hateful and address that, and I'm not sure that we can expect that of President-elect Trump every time a room of a few dozen people says something hateful like this.  
LEMON: David, is there a parity here between those two things? 
GERGEN: Listen, I respect what Rebecca said, most of what she said. But the fact is, that Mr. Bannon represents and has sent out a lot of signals to people, as someone you should be scared of, as someone who supports policies that are going to represent this administration, that it's going to be harsh on Muslims, that's going to withdraw basically support for criminal -- social justice in a criminal system, it does not and it's going to downgrade that.  
That is going to go after people in various ways. I have people crying in my classroom, I have people who were, you know grieving about what's happened, but mostly they're scared. They're scared for their families, they don't know what this means.  
And I'm sorry, when the alt-right is taken as seriously as it is, and we begin to normalize this conversation, to say, it's all right to do neo-Nazi kind of rhetoric and we're just going to accept it, it's just part of who we are as Americans.  
No, it is not all right to be neo-Nazi in this country. And we -- just as -- if we're going to raise those specters, let's remember when people didn't rise up against the Nazis, when they were in their midst. 
And it is not right, and the president himself has to be the standard bearer of this, he has to be seen as a president of all the people, that's what we want. And I think we can support Mr. Trump in a lot of what he does. 
BERG: I totally agree with that, David. 
GERGEN: But he has to be embracive and inclusive.  
BERG: But at the same time, you also don't want to give unnecessary oxygen to some of these hateful rhetoric. And there is the potential for that to happen.
Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

Look, there is always a fine line when it comes to the work of monitoring hate groups, right-wing extremists, conspiracist, white nationalists, and the lot -- namely, there is a point of obscurity where this principle (denying them oxygen will make them wither) works very well. If a crackpot or a racist crank is just wheezing out copy in his basement that no one reads, then it's a bad idea to shine the spotlight onto their activities in the way we do established racists like the Klan, because it raises them out of obscurity and may actually attract readers.

It's unquestionable, moreover, that there is always the danger that you will help extremist ideologues recruit people by shining any kind of light on them at all. There will always be a percentage of people who may wind up being attracted to the groups as a result of the exposure given to them.

This danger, however, is really only acute when you do a poor job of reporting on them -- when you fail to make clear their underlying extremism, or the toxic nature of their ideologies, but instead report on them in a "he said/she said" style of reporting in which analysis from the SPLC is given the same credibility as racist spouting from Richard Spencer.

In general, shining a clear spotlight on racists and extremist activity has the main benefit of more broadly informing the public on these issues so that they are better equipped when confronting its inevitable manifestations in their real lives. A well-informed public is the best cure for this ailment.

Secondarily, it has the socially beneficial aspect of sending a message to the hatemongers and racist thugs and would-be hate criminals: This is not acceptable. Society condemns this behavior. You may believe you are standing up for "America" or white people or whatever notions you've worked up in your head, but you cannot do it with our assent.

As I explained in The Eliminationists:
I’ve had some personal experience with this. When I was the editor of the Daily Bee up in Sandpoint in the late 1970s, we were faced with the tough decision of how to handle the increasing visibility of Richard Butler’s neo-Nazi Church of Jesus Christ Christian, based at the Aryan Nations compound some 30 miles down the road in Hayden Lake. After much hand-wringing, we decided it was best not to give them any coverage, since publicity was what they craved, and it would only encourage their radicalism. 
 What we didn’t understand was that the silence was (as it always is with hyper-nationalistic hate groups) interpreted as consent. And so, over the next several years, the Idaho Panhandle was inundated with a spate of hate crimes – enough so that Idaho became one of the first states to pass a bias-crime law – as well as a flood of extraordinary violence, ranging from the multi-state rampage of murder and robbery by the neo-Nazi sect called The Order to the pipe-bombing campaigns planned by their successors. All of these acts emanated from the Aryan Nations. 
By then I had moved on to other papers, but the Bee changed its policies vis a vis the Aryan Nations in fairly short order, as did most other newsrooms in the area that had taken similar approaches. I certainly never forgot the mistake.
Hate crimes are one of the ultimate manifestations of right-wing extremism's spread into the mainstream; only a small percentage of all bias-crime perpetrators are actually members of hate groups. The vast majority of bias crimes are committed by a certain profile of perpetrator: A young white male between the ages of 16 and 25, poorly or moderately educated, prone to other kinds of violence. He is typically motivated to "defend his community" from "outsiders" and most often commits the crime believing he is doing so with the silent support and consent of the community. 

Repeat offenders are far more likely to engage in recidivist crimes if the first offense is treated only as a criminal matter and not as a hate crime; they frequently interpret the light sentence as a wink-and-nod kind of encouragement. 

That's the key thing: All right-wing extremists, including the thugs out there committing hate crimes, see themselves as heroes. They believe they are engaging in the heroic defense of their homes and their communities from pollution by the incoming brown/gay/Muslim/whatever tide. And they love to tell themselves that the silence from their neighbors is actually a pat on the back.

Don't take my word for it. Here's Andrew Anglin of the neo-Nazi "alt-right" website The Daily Stormer:

Trump still hasn’t spoken out against his anti-Semitic supporters, who also threatened New York Times reporter Jonathan Weisman, called for the death of conservative political commentator Ben Shapiro and his children, and told conservative writer Bethany Mandel she deserved “the oven.”
That silence has both Trump’s neo-Nazi fans and his Jewish supporters convinced the candidate is secretly on their side.
 “We interpret that as an endorsement,” Andrew Anglin, the founder of the neo-Nazi website the Daily Stormer, named for the Hitler-era tabloid Der Stürmer, told The Huffington Post in an email.
That's why standing up to them in no uncertain terms and denouncing them clearly and irrevocably is so deeply necessary when it comes to our leading authority figures. The social condemnation is then unmistakable. And the silence is always, always, always interpreted as assent.

Will Donald Trump make that stand? Tragically, I think we would be foolish to hold our breaths waiting for it.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

When Obama Was Elected: An Outpouring of Hate in 2008

Klansman Randy Gray, protesting Obama's election in November 2008 in suburban Detroit

I'm in the middle of writing my manuscript, Alt America: The Rise of the Radical Right in the Age of Trump (due out this summer from Verso Books) and I wanted to share this excerpt (derived from previously published text) to remind people that what is happening now with regard to the recent outbreak of hate crimes is starkly reminiscent of what happened immediately after Barack Obama's election in 2008.

And yes, I'm offering this somewhat in repudiation of the Trump defenders who are angry about anti-Trump protesters taking to the streets immediately after Trump's election without "giving him a chance." It's true that it took several more months before we saw "Impeach Obama" and "Where's The Birth Certificate" signs showing up at Tea Party rallies, but then, it did take awhile before the Koch Brothers and other corporate sponsors who footed the bill for those events to get their acts together. (And no, there is not a scintilla of evidence that George Soros is funding the current anti-Trump rallies.)

This is what happened immediately after Barack Obama's election. See if it sounds like anything happening currently.


On the day Barack Obama was elected President of the United States, much of the nation – particularly those who supported and voted for him – celebrated the election of the first African American to the country’s highest office. For those who voted for his opponent, John McCain, there was naturally the usual bitterness and disappointment.

Among a certain subset of those Americans, however – especially those who opposed Obama precisely because he sought to become the nation’s first black president – it went well beyond the usual despair. For them, November 5, 2008, was the end of the world. Or at least, America as they knew it.

So maybe it wasn’t really a surprise that they responded that day with the special venom and violence peculiar to the American Right.

Like the noose strung in protest from a tree limb in Texas. Students at Baylor University in Waco discovered the noose hanging from a campus tree the evening of Election Day, near a site where angry Republican students had gathered a bunch of Obama yard signs and burned them in a big bonfire. That same evening, a riot nearly broke out when Obama supporters, chanting the new president’s name, were confronted by white students outside a residence hall who told them: “Any nigger who walks by Penland (Hall), we're going to kick their ass, we're going to jump him." The Obama supporters stopped and responded, "Excuse me?" Somehow they managed to keep the confrontation confined to a mere shouting match until police arrived and broke things up.

Then there were the students on the North Carolina State University campus in Raleigh, who spent Election Night spray-painting such fun-loving messages about Obama as “Let's shoot that Nigger in the head” and “Hang Obama by a noose.” The N.C. State administration was so upset by this behavior that it protected the students’ identities and refused to take any legal action against them or discipline them at all.

But those were just warm-ups from the student cheering section. The real thugs, exemplars of the dark side of the American psyche, were shortly making their mark.

That night, four young white men from Staten Island “decided to go after black people” in retaliation for Obama’s election. They first drove to the mostly black Park Hill neighborhood and assaulted a Liberian immigrant, beating him with a metal pipe and a police baton, in addition to the usual blows from fists and feet. Then they drove to Port Richmond, where they assaulted another black man and verbally threatened a Latino man and a group of black people. They finished up the night by attempting to drive next to a man walking home from his job as a Rite Aid manager – he was actually white, but this crew of geniuses managed to misidentify him as a black man – and club him with the police baton. Instead, they simply hit him with their car, throwing him off the windshield and into a coma for over a month.

All four of these men wound up convicted of hate crimes and would spend the duration of Obama’s first term in prison.

In Midland, Michigan, the day after the election, a discarded Ron Paul activist named Randy Gray (he had been peremptorily dismissed from the Paul campaign when his white-supremacist activism was revealed) stalked the sidewalk in the middle of a heavily trafficked intersection in town, dressed in full Ku Klux Klan regalia, waving an American flag. He also was toting a handgun. Police approached and talked to him, but let him continue his display after he told them it had nothing to do with Obama winning the presidency.

A busful of schoolkids in Rexburg, Idaho, started chanting “Assassinate Obama” just to tease the tiny minority of their fellow schoolkids who were Obama supporters. In Rexburg – where the population is over 90 percent Mormon – that’s about three kids in the entire school. District officials didn’t discipline the children who had led the chants, but it did send out a letter to their parents reminding them that students are to be told such behavior is unacceptable.

Then there were the arsons.

On election night, a black family in South Ogden, Utah, came home from volunteering at their local polling station to discover that their American flag had been torched.

The morning after the election, in Hardwick Township, New Jersey, a black man taking his eight-year-old daughter to school emerged from his front door to discover someone had burned a six-foot-tall cross on his lawn – right next to the man’s banner declaring Obama president. It had been torched too.

Another cross was burned on the lawn of the only black man in tiny Apolacon Township, Pennsylvania, the night after the election. A black church in Springfield, Massachusetts, was also burned to the ground the night of the election; eventually, three white men were arrested and charged with setting the fire as a hate crime.

And if the election itself wasn’t enough to bring the haters out of the woodwork, there was always Obama’s inauguration on January 21, 2009.

Two days before the big event, arsonists in Forsyth County, Georgia, set fire to the home of a woman who was known as a public supporter of Obama. Someone painted a racial slur on her fence, along with the warning, “Your black boy will die.”

On inauguration day, someone taped newspaper articles featuring Obama onto the apartment door of a woman in Jersey City, New Jersey, and set fire to it. Fortunately, the woman had stayed home to watch the inauguration on TV and smelled the burning, and she was able to extinguish the fire before it spread. If only she could have done the same for the hate that sparked the act.

The day after, a large 22-year-old skinhead named Keith Luke decided it was time to fight the “extinction” of the white race, so he bashed down the door of a Latino woman and her sister and shot them both; one died. Police cornered and arrested Luke before he could pull off the next planned stage of his shooting rampage, which was to have taken place at a local Jewish synagogue towards which he was driving when arrested. According to the DA, Luke intended to “kill as many Jews, blacks, and Hispanics as humanly possible ... before killing himself.” When he appeared in court a month later, Luke had carved a swastika into his forehead with a razor blade.

But the pain and violence inflicted by these haters was just beginning.

In all, the Southern Poverty Law Center counted more than 200 “hate-related” incidents around the election and inauguration of Barack Obama as the nation’s first African-American president.

Friday, November 11, 2016

The Press and Donald Trump's Army of Haters

The press has come in for a great deal of well-justified criticism for how it covered the 2016 election, especially the way it focused on trivialities and non-events and was devoid of any kind of serious policy considerations. But I consider its most grievous sin the failure of the press to take seriously the reportage that was being done, and was in fact widely available, documenting Donald Trump's alignment with and empowerment of white nationalists, neo-Nazis, militia 'Patriots,' and various extremist factions.

These factions' propensity for ethnic, religious, racial, anti-LGBT, and other kinds of violence is well known and well documented. And because the Trump election has clearly empowered them, a rash of hate crimes against Muslims, Latinos, blacks and gays has broken out (some 200 on the first day alone) and is unlikely to abate soon. Indeed, I'm now deeply concerned that we are going to see pro-Trump militiamen showing up for the anti-Trump demonstrations, and things could become very ugly then. And the press is powerfully to blame.

I was just discussing this with Bruce Wilson on a Chip Berlet post. He pointed out that no one in the press picked up on his reportage that key members of the Trump campaign (mainly Donald Trump Jr.) appeared on several white-nationalist-based radio shows in the waning days of the campaign, for instance. I noted that Sarah Posner and I were both actually aware of those appearances as we were finishing up our piece for Mother Jones on the Trump campaign's massive connections to the white-nationalist and far-right extremist world, and that he had actively bolstered their participation with wink-and-nudge signals they read as encouragement. The database we created in tracking all these connections turned out to be massive, though, and we wound up having to be very selective about what we included, and the radio shows didn't make the cut.

The reason there was no appetite for Bruce's reportage was the same there was no appetite for ours: When Hillary Clinton had, just a couple weeks before our story was published, called out Trump's alt-right connections herself, the story was transformed by the press into a small-minded fetish about one of her remarks -- describing some of these people, quite appropriately, as "deplorables" -- into a trivial horse-race matter, one that Trump successfully converted into an attack on Clinton by having his base embrace "deplorable" as a joke label. The press thereafter completely lost interest in the issue, rather than continuing to take the matter seriously. The examination of the underlying issue -- the reality that Trump was building an army of ugly, racist, and vile hardcore followers was completely glossed over and missed.

And of course, ours was far from the only reportage. There were stories about Trump's anti-Semitism, and his ongoing support from the alt-right, and their plans to take over the Republican Party after the election -- all of which is bubbling up now, after it's all a fait accompli.

The outcome is now happening in our schools and our communities. Thanks a lot, "liberal media."
Here's our report from October (and be sure to click on the sidebar, too). You tell me if, in retrospect, it's pretty outrageous that this got buried.

How Trump Took Hate Groups Mainstream

Friday, October 14, 2016

Donald Trump and His Alt-Right Army of Execrables

Well, here's how I spent my summer and early fall this year:
But Trump did not become the object of white nationalist affection simply because his positions reflect their core concerns. Extremists made him their chosen candidate and now hail him as "Emperor Trump" because he has amplified their message on social media—and, perhaps most importantly, has gone to great lengths to avoid distancing himself from the racist right. With the exception of Duke, Trump has not disavowed a single endorsement from the dozens of neo-Nazis, Klansmen, white nationalists, and militia supporters who have backed him. The GOP nominee, along with his family members, staffers, and surrogates, has instead provided an unprecedented platform for the ideas and rhetoric of far-right extremists, extending their reach. And when challenged on it by the press, Trump has stalled, feigned ignorance, or deflected—but has never specifically rejected any of these other extremists or their ideas.

This stance has thrilled and emboldened hate groups far more than has been generally understood during the 2016 race for the White House. Moreover, Trump's tacit welcoming of these hate groups into mainstream American politics will have long-lasting consequences, according to these groups' own leaders, regardless of the election outcome.

In putting this piece together, Sarah Posner and I, along with Esther Kaplan and her team at the Nation Institute's Investigative Fund (Jaime Longoria, Kalen Goodluck, and Evan Malmgren) compiled a database to track all of Trump's many connections to the extremist right -- and it turned out to be massive. I was fortunate to have such gifted partners in Sarah and Esther, who were able to help shape it into what I think is a powerfully compelling narrative.

Some of the data I collected included memes from various alt-right websites and forums/chatrooms. It's some of the most vile material I've ever gathered in doing this work over many years.

Here's a collection of some of them. The most vicious ones are also near-pornographic, so I won't be posting those.

But the next time one of your Trump-loving friends complains about Hillary's comments regarding that "basket of deplorables," show them these and ask them if they consider the description wrong for these people.

Myself, I think they're even worse than that. I call them "the Execrables." And Trump has raised an army of them.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Montana Republicans Warmly Embrace a White Nationalist's Legislative Candidacy

Taylor Rose, with a 'Montana Sovereign' banner behind him

[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

Taylor Rose likes to project a fresh-scrubbed, wholesome image to his fellow Montanans while campaigning for a seat in the state’s House of Representatives. It’s easy for the blonde-haired, blue-eyed and clean-shaven 28-year-old from the rural Columbia Falls area to do, flashing a toothy grin and ranting about the need to get the federal government out of workers’ hair and open up the state’s timberlands to lumber operations.

The image, combined with a pleasing message (Rose likes to label himself a “pro-labor Republican”) and a slick campaign, have all raised the prospects that Rose might be able to pull off an upset win over incumbent Rep. Zac Perry, a Democrat, in the race for the House seat in District 3, which historically leans Republican.

Taylor Rose
What many voters may not realize, however, is Taylor’s long history of deep involvement with the white nationalist movement, and the dangerously bigoted worldview he has promoted since his teenage years –– a history well documented by the SPLC and the Anti-Defamation League in the years leading up to his campaign.

But Taylor has now carefully whitewashed his image with the help of the Montana Republican Party. GOP candidates have employed Rose for state campaigns and as a legislative aide. A number of mainstream Republican candidates, including GOP gubernatorial candidate Greg Gianforte, have contributed to Rose’s campaign. And one leading Montana Republican dismissed concerns about his background, saying “the rest of us think of him as a good conservative.”

Rachel Carroll Rivas, executive director of the Montana Human Rights Network, said the GOP’s embrace of Rose is taking place in the broader context of a national Republican party that has nominated Donald Trump, whose own alliances with the radical right have radically altered the nation’s political landscape.

"In the current climate it's hard to pick out the most concerning things we see playing out on the ground, but Rose's candidacy makes the list easily,” she said. “The political environment has clearly shifted when there is mainstream party acceptance and grooming of someone with well-documented white supremacist activity in recent years.”

Rose first came to enter the movement in 2011 when his activities on behalf of the white nationalist Youth for Western Civilization were reported by the Center for New Community. Rose, then a recent graduate of Liberty University (the college founded by religious-right leader Jerry Falwell), appeared at a YWC-sponsored “March for Freedom” in Cologne, Germany. He also met with members of Vlaams Belang, the far-right Belgian political party, and members of German organizations designated by authorities there as “right-wing extremist.”

Rose also authored a book in 2012 titled Return of the Right: How the Political Right Is Taking Back Western Civilization, which argued that Western humanists are attempting to impose a “vision to destroy the nation-state, eliminate religion, break down all defined barriers in society (such as family) and eliminate western civilization from the face of the earth in the attempt to institute a radical, multicultural, New World Order agenda.” In the book, Rose argued that this nefarious plot is failing because “the Western world is coming to realize the complete emptiness and harm of belief systems that are at their core, nihilistic.”

The neo-Confederate hate group the League of the South interviewed Rose about the book when it came out. During the interview, Rose continued to warn of the evil nature of “the Left” and predicted that a white nationalist Right would soon rise to the fore in global politics. “You will first see the Right-Wing act as a great power of political influence, mainly upon the center-right, by reorienting the ideas of the center-right to reform immigration policy and take a more hard-line anti-Socialist stance,” he said.

Since returning to Montana, Rose has cultivated political ties with an eye toward running for office –– mostly through the auspices of the state’s GOP, which has made no effort to renounce or distance itself from Rose. Indeed, in the years since Rose's radical beliefs surfaced, the Montana GOP has warmly embraced him:
  • Rose worked as the Northwest Montana campaign coordinator for then-GOP candidate Steven Daines in his 2014 U.S. Senate race, which Daines won. Sen. Daines’ office did not respond to Hatewatch’s request for comment or explanation.
  • In 2015, Rose was hired by Montana Senate Republicans as a legislative bill title reader and as a majority aide, a staff position that enabled Rose to network widely with party officials and senators. According to Carroll Rivas, Rose used that position not only to make political connections but to actively tamper with the political process: “He was so bad and out of line that there were times in committee that he would actually say a vote in the back of the room – they would be voting in committee, and he would say ‘yea’ or ‘nay’ in the back of the room.”
  • When asked about Rose’s candidacy during a roundtable political talk show in June, Rep. Matthew Monforton of Bozeman, a leading House Republican, dismissed concerns about Rose’s white nationalist background, saying “the rest of us think of him as a good conservative.”

  • On his campaign Facebook page, Rose has boasted of his broad engagement with the local Republican Party, including posing for photos with local leaders at the Flathead County Fair.
  • Several mainstream Republican candidates have donated to Rose’s campaign, notably GOP gubernatorial candidate Greg Gianforte, who gave a $170 donation to Rose that was matched by his wife. Rose also received donations from Republican Sen. Mark Blasdel of Kalispell and Rep. Greg Hertz of Polson.
Hatewatch attempted to reach a number of Montana GOP officials, including Monforton and Daines.

In addition to coverage by the SPLC, Rose’s white nationalist background has been detailed at Montana Cowgirl, Raw Story, and Wonkette. However, most Montana media coverage of his race and his candidacy (such as Rose’s profile at the Missoulian) has omitted any mention of his history of radicalism.

Rose has never renounced or apologized for his radical past, which is extensive. Indeed, he has continued to embrace it, even appearing last fall on a young-conservative website's podcast discussing his candidacy with a “Montana Sovereign” banner proudly displayed behind him – referencing his apparent involvement in the far-right sovereign citizens movement as well. In a recent interview in the Flathead Beacon, Rose denied that he was a racial supremacist and focused on defending the traditional cultural values of Western Civilization.

“I am not affiliated with white supremacist groups or leaders,” Rose told the newspaper. “To say otherwise is slanderous. YWC was a cultural group, not a racist group. We defined Western civilization by the classic definition of ancient Greeks and Romans, and we were pro-Christian. We did not say it was exclusively white. We were also very critical of Islam, but that is an ideological issue, not a racial issue. I can promise you that Liberty University would not have tolerated a white power group on its campus.”

In reality, YWC was an overt white nationalist organization with multiple connections to white supremacists, though it often used code words such as “cultural identity” and “racial chauvinists” to disguise its racism, arguing that white people face rampant discrimination at the hands of multiculturalism. Some of its better-known members and associates –– Matthew Heimbach and Kyle Bristow –– have gone on to found their own white nationalist groups.

In the meantime, Rose has been busily voicing racially and ethnically incendiary sentiments on social media over the past year. He expressed revulsion at the prospect of a white couple giving birth to two black babies via artificial insemination. He also bitterly complained when it was announced that Harriet Tubman, the black woman who helped lead the Underground Railroad during the Civil War, would replace Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill. In one of his Facebook posts, he compared the action to the removal of Confederate monuments around the nation in the wake of the mass shooting at a black church in Charleston, S.C., by a white-supremacist Confederacy admirer.

One of his commenters chimed in: “It’d be a lot quieter if they were all hanging from nooses.”
On Rose’s campaign Facebook page, he has openly indulged in Islamophobic attacks on Muslim immigrants and Syrian refugees. In one post published in March, he wrote, “Terrorism in Europe during the Cold War was mostly conducted by homegrown, native European Leftist terrorist groups. Now it is committed by Islamic immigrants or the decedents of Islamic immigrants. If we stop the importation of the jihadies, we won't have these attacks.”

Rose also posted a racially incendiary rant about “domestic terrorism by the black supremacist group ‘Black Power Political Organization,'” and called for legislation making it a hate crime to assault a police officer. The BPPO is an obscure group that claimed responsibility for the shootings of seven police officers in Dallas earlier this summer, but which subsequent investigations showed had no known connection to the shooter, Micah Xavier Johnson, though Johnson in fact was apparently enamored of several other black nationalist groups (the BPPO was not among his Facebook “likes”).

Rose also wrote an article that appeared in the Citizens Informer, the official newspaper of the Council of Conservative Citizens, a white nationalist group that is the heir of the white citizens' councils during the 1960s. Materials on the CCC website helped Dylann Roof, the alleged killer of nine African American churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina, radicalize in his white nationalist beliefs.

The article, which was published in the Jan.-June 2013 issue of the paper, sings the praises of UKIP (United Kingdom Independence Party), headed by Nigel Farage, who, according to a former classmate, once sang a song with the lyrics "gas 'em all, gas 'em all" and liked that his initials were the same as the neo-Nazi National Front.

Rose wrote that UKIP "provides the best model on how Anglosphere right-wing parties should run," and then noted that "we must tactically concede that conservative libertarians offer us the best hope for delaying the destruction of our people." "If American nationalists, Rose wrote, "decided to show up at Tea Party rallies and meetings and push for white working class advocacy, the debate and structure would change in favor of the American right” and, according to Rose, the national debate “could change from amnesty to deportation and from multiculturalism to nationalism.”

Taylor Rose, Citizens Informer

"UKIP: The Model Right Movement," written by Taylor Rose and published in the Citizens Informer, the publication of the Council of Conservative Citizens.
And while he’s running for a legislative seat, Rose nonetheless appears not to be a fan of democratic republics. He’s a member of a Facebook public group called Monarchists, which “exists for the purpose of civil discussion between monarchists and those interested in monarchy as the ideal form of human governance.”

Rose also conducted an interview in April with the “Patriot” movement website NorthWest Liberty News’ weekly podcast (though the link for that interview appears to be broken).

In an interview for a podcast with Ryan Girdusky of the young-conservative website Red Alert Politics, Rose lightly brushed over his radicalism and focused mostly on his status as a “young millennial” running for office. However, behind Rose for the duration of the interview was a banner declaring “Montana Sovereign – Don’t Tread On Me,” clearly indicating that Rose considers himself an antigovernment “sovereign citizen,” a movement that has been part of the Montana scene since the 1990s, in the heyday of the Montana Freemen and the Militia of Montana.

Rose’s description of his warm welcome by the Montana GOP in that interview made for a stark contrast with the banner behind him.

ROSE: Local Republican leadership in the county, and I’ve spoken with a lot of the Republican leadership across the state, is very, very excited. They really have been very nice to young people rising up. In the current Legislature, we already have several millennials sitting in House seats across the state, and so when I decided to throw my hat in the ring and started talking to people about this, the leadership was very excited. They’ve been very helpful, they’ve been very excited at the idea that there are more young people that want to get involved, and they don’t want to get in our way. There’s definitely – they’re not being restrictive. The old guard of the party is being very helpful and very nice to us young people in helping us rise up and have a voice and speak for millennials.
In his interview with the Beacon, Rose touted his broad acceptance by the local and state GOP as proof that accusations about his radicalism “don’t add up.”

“I was open about my past involvement with YWC, and I was vetted by the Republican Party,” he told the newspaper. “I wouldn’t say that I am a mainstream candidate, but I’m not on the fringe either. The minute you reject multiculturalism, you become a target for the left, and that is what’s happened

Rivas said that Rose’s embrace by the GOP represents an unfortunate evolutionary shift in the state’s politics, in which such extremists, always present in the background, had typically been relegated to the fringe.

“In previous years, the Montana Republican Party distanced themselves from candidates like Rose who had ties groups like the Klan and National Socialist Movement,” she said. “The times have changed. The efforts by the Alt-Right to put a nice suit on their racism may be viewed as effective in this case. And, while Rose’s views seems aligned with the Richard Spencers of the world, his vision isn’t so different than April Gaede’s Pioneer Little Europe.

“This is the reality of what the people of the Flathead Valley are facing right now –– a  triangulation between two white supremacists on the national stage and a candidate for state house that just might win. I fear to imagine what’s next.”