Monday, April 17, 2017

Far Right Descends On Berkeley For 'Free Speech' And Planned Violence

[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

BERKELEY, Calif. – The American far right – alt-right figures, antigovernment movement leaders, and a conglomeration of conspiracists and extremists ranging from anti-feminists to nativists, all angrily voicing their support for Donald Trump – came here Saturday itching for a fight. They found it.

On social media, the organizers and supporters called it “the Next Battle of Berkeley,” a chance to gain revenge for an earlier event on the University of California campus that they believed had infringed on conservatives’ free speech rights: In February, a scheduled appearance by alt-right provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos was shut down by rock-throwing “antifascist” protesters.

So when several hundred of them gathered at a downtown park for a “Free Speech” event Saturday – most from out of town, many from all around the country – they came prepared to do battle with the same black-clad protesters, many of them wearing helmets, pads, and face masks of their own. The result was an inevitable free-for-all, with organized phalanxes on both sides lining up, occasionally erupting into fistfights, and then breaking down in a series of running melees that ran up Center Street into the heart of downtown.

By the day’s end, 11 people were injured and six hospitalized. Police arrested 21 people on a variety of charges.

The rally had drawn wide attention among various right-wing factions leading up to the event. Perhaps the most noteworthy of them were the Oath Keepers, the antigovernment “Patriot” movement group closely associated with the Bundy standoff and various far-right conspiracist activities.

Stewart Rhodes speaks at the rally.
“We’re going [to Berkeley] because people are having their rights violated,” Oath Keepers president Steward Rhodes told a North Carolina gathering the week before. “So it could be argued that with the full support of the local politicians, thugs in the streets are beating people up and suppressing their rights to free speech and assembly. It could be argued that California is in a state of insurrection.”

Various alt-right figures also became involved. Kyle Chapman, an Alameda County man who has gained recent notoriety as “Based Stickman,” the stick-and-shield-wielding defender of right-wing speech, came and was reportedly arrested. Canadian Lauren Southern, an alt-right pundit who came to notoriety by denying the existence of rape culture and by demonizing minorities, arrived wearing a helmet boasting a “MAGA” (Make America Great Again) sticker.

Nathan Damigo taunts protesters
Nathan Damigo, one of the key figures in the student-oriented white-nationalist “Identity Evropa” organization, was not only present, but acted as a provocateur throughout much of the day, egging on protesters and leading a group of young white men with “fascy” haircuts in confrontations on the street. Damigo was videotaped sucker-punching a young woman in black who was embroiled in the street brawls.

The rally was scheduled to begin at noon, but by 11 a.m. both sides were out in force, and the right-wing speakers, including Southern and Rhodes, began addressing the crowd from a tree-covered portion of the park. Meanwhile, hundreds of protesters gathered, separated from the “Patriots” by orange police cordons, enforced by some 250 officers. By around noon, the protesters began to march around the park.

Groups of right-wing activists formed lines to prevent black-clad antifascists from entering their space, even as the protest moved around the east end of the park and then congealed on Center Street, on its west side. It was there that the police cordons finally started breaking down, the two sides were milling as a mob, and fights began to break out. Objects ranging from plastic bottles to large rock to bagels were flying through the air. A trash bin was rolled down the street, and several bins of garbage were set afire.

The Pepe banners come out
Banners came out, including some featuring Pepe the Frog, the notorious alt-right mascot. One sign featured the anti-Semitic meme, “Goyim Know.” Eventually, the mass of people moved a half-block to the intersection of Center and Milvia streets, where the two sides again faced off for the better part of an hour.

Insults were shouted and chanted, threats were made, skirmishes erupted. Both sides appeared to be evenly matched. That mob broke up when someone lit a large smoke bomb that obscured everyone’s vision for several minutes. In the fog, melees began breaking out, several of them running east up Center. Eventually the mob moved up the block to the intersection of Center with Shattuck, the main downtown boulevard.

The right-wing militants appeared to be attempting to head toward the Cal-Berkeley campus a few blocks further east, but the protesters stiffened their resistance and prevented them from getting much further beyond Shattuck. As participants began drifting away, the combatants remained mostly within a small half-block on Shattuck. Eventually, an organized phalanx of police moved in and broke up the crowd, and most participants went home.

Afterward, the alt-right was exultant, claiming “victory”: Chapman claimed that “Berkeley got sacked,” while the rally’s original organizers, a far-right group called the Proud Boys, boasted: “Today was an enormous victory! I could not be more proud or grateful for every one who attended the event! This was the turning point!”

Post-election pro-Trump rallies in late February held around the country similarly provoked scenes of mob violence.

More photos from the rally below.

A Trump supporter is arrested by police.

Anti-Semitic and racist themes were common.

Protesters traded insults with the rallygoers.

Another Pepe sign.

Oath Keepers leader Gerald DeLemus, a Bundy Ranch figure.

When this rallygoer wasn't wearing his Spartan helmet, he was showing off
his 'white pride' tattoos.

There were a number of injuries on both sides.

A Trump supporter screams at the protesters.

The 'Identity Evropa' crowd in action.

Nathan Damigo, center, and his pals threaten protesters.

A couple of rallygoers recover from the effects of pepper spray.

Canadian alt-right pundit Lauren Southern was there with a contingent.

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Alex Jones' Defense of Trump Unleashes Obscene, Homophobic Attack on Congressman

[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

Alex Jones keeps saying he has nothing against gay people and thinks they’re wonderful. But then he keeps saying hateful and ultimately insane things about LGBT folk.

The most recent outburst came Wednesday, when Jones posted a video featuring the latest of his wildly obscene and homophobic rants directed at Rep. Adam Schiff—this time with a bug-eyed outburst worthy of Dr. Strangelove, urging President Trump to hit China with nuclear weapons pre-emptively and claiming: “The United States is preparing to nuke China!”

The video, posted to Jones’ YouTube channel, features an increasingly unhinged disquisition warning that China planned to engage the U.S. in a nuclear showdown—and then blaming liberals in Congress, particularly Rep. Schiff, for causing the problems:

JONES: This is what Communism delivers. This is what Venezuela delivers. This what all you people that want collectivism, and hate prosperity. Because you’re socially envious, and hate the prosperity because it makes you feel bad. And now you nihilistically want to start World War III, you assholes. If I wasn’t totally committed to stopping this, I would be getting out of the country with my family and getting to the Southern Hemisphere two years ago.

The world’s in the greatest danger ever, and the Democratic Party and the Republican Party are lined up, showing weakness in the face of all this garbage. And that’s why the Communist Chinese, the biggest mass murderers in history, don’t respect us. Because the Democratic Party and snot-nosed people like the intel deputy head, Adam Schiff over there, are scumbags.

You think having all those fairies and pansies up there, little chicken-necks, running around attacking our president all day, makes us strong? It makes us look weak. It doesn’t matter we’ve got ten to one nuclear weapons against China. Those crazy people have proven they’ll go to war. They’re completely psycho, like Kim Jong Un on power trips.

So if China keeps pushing, the only option is full commitment to hit China pre-emptively. That’s the only way to survive this nuclear and Trump knows it. And Russia has already been told they better stand down. The United States is preparing to nuke China! So get ready, assholes! You wanted it, you’re gonna get it! Turn that off! Goddamn it!

Jones is no stranger to hysterical vitriol; during the 2016 campaign, he worked himself up into a red-faced frenzy making the bizarre claim that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were literally possessed by demons. But if recent broadcasts are anything to judge by, nothing gets Jones quite as agitated as potential political threats to President Trump, the object of Jones’ furiously ardent admiration.

Jones has been on a mission attacking Schiff, D-CA, recently, fueled primarily by the congressman’s work as the Democrats’ leader on the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation of Donald Trump’s campaign ties to Russia. In a March 29 interview with Trump adviser/operative Roger Stone, he unleashed a tide of vitriol unusual even by Jones’ standards, particularly for its unapologetic obscenity:

STONE: What we’re hearing from the Democrats both in the House and Senate is red-baiting --

ALEX JONES: That’s on Drudge.

STONE: -- fear-mongering -- It is well beyond the point of recklessness, whether it is Adam Schiff who has maligned me or whether it is Senator Mark Warner or whether it is Senator John McCain. But let me tell you something, Alex, these guys are pussies. They talk a tough game. “We’re going to get Roger Stone in front of the committee.” Gentlemen, ladies, I am ready, I am more than ready --

JONES: In fact, let me say this right now. Let me tell -- I’m not against gay people. OK. I love them, they’re great folks. But Schiff looks like the archetypal cocksucker with those little deer-in-the-headlight eyes and all his stuff. And there’s something about this fairy, hopping around, bossing everybody around, trying to intimidate people like me and you, I want to tell Congressman Schiff and all the rest of them, “Hey listen asshole, quit saying Roger and I” -- and I’ve never used cussing in 22 years but the gloves are off -- “listen you son of a bitch, what the fuck’s your problem? You want to sit here and say that I’m a goddamn, fucking Russian. You get in my face with that I’ll beat your goddamn ass, you son of a bitch. You piece of shit. You fucking goddamn fucker. Listen fuckhead, you have fucking crossed a line. Get that through your goddamn fucking head. Stop pushing your shit. You’re the people that have fucked this country over and gangraped the shit out of it and lost an election. So stop shooting your mouth off claiming I’m the enemy. You got that you goddamn son of a bitch? Fill your hand.”

I’m sorry, but I’m done. You start calling me a foreign agent, those are fucking fighting words. Excuse me.

STONE: Yeah, I don’t think I have ever been in a campaign in which we disparage the patriotism of our opponents. Now, I’m not going to go there. But I think Adam Schiff has acted irresponsibly and I think he needs to be confronted with his exact words.

JONES: He’s sucking globalist dick.
Newsweek noted that some legal experts viewed Jones’ threat against Schiff as a potential violation of federal law prohibiting direct threats to elected federal officials. Rep. Schiff is married and has two daughters.

As with Jones’s declaimer at the outset of his rant saying he “loves” gay people, he has frequently claimed that, because he is a “libertarian,” he is ardently neutral on the issue of whether or not homosexuality is acceptable.

Meanwhile, out the other side of his mouth, Jones has blamed the gay community for the Orlando Pulse massacre in which 49 people, most of them LGBT, were killed and 53 wounded. (He first claimed the murders were “a false flag” event.) He has claimed the United Nations is ‘space cult’ plotting to make our children gay, or more precisely, “an asexual humanoid.” He claims that toxins introduced to Americans’ diets have been responsible for turning children gay.

Jones, the nation’s most prolific conspiracy theorist, has been an ardent Trump supporter since the spring of 2016. One of his favorite theories before and after the election has revolved around his claims that liberals and the intelligence community are plotting to assassinate Trump.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Pro-Trump Rallies Attract Opposition, anPro-Trump Rallies Attract Opposition, and Violence Again Ensuesd Violence Again Ensues

[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

Hundreds of Donald Trump supporters in dozens of cities around the nation held local pro-Trump rallies this weekend, but not all were peaceful.

The rallies—originally organized to celebrate an anticipated repeal of the American Care Act that did not come about when the House canceled its vote on repeal legislation—went ahead anyway “as a show of support for the administration’s fast-moving agenda,” as Breitbart News put it.

Most of the rallies—in places such as New York, Philadelphia, Washington, San Diego, Nashville, and Lansing, Michigan—drew only medium-sized crowds. Opponents showed up to counter-protest, and in some locales such as Philadelphia, outnumbered pro-Trump protesters.

And there was the inevitable friction, especially where members of the anarchist “Black Bloc” became involved. The masked, black-clad “anti-fascists” led chants to interrupt the rallies and began scuffling with the red-hatted objects of their protest.

At rallies in Huntington Beach, California, Seaside Heights, New Jersey, and Salem, Oregon, fights broke out, though police quickly intervened in each case and prevented the violence from spreading. The scene at Huntington Beach very nearly descended into a running melee, with one of its organizers getting hit with pepper spray.

Four counter-protesters were arrested, three for illegal use of pepper spray and one for assault and battery, according to a spokesman for the California State Parks Police.

Some of the self-described “Patriots” who showed up to support Trump also were seen wearing masks of their own, notably at the rally in Salem led by antigovernment organizations such as the militia-oriented “3 Percenters.”

One of these “Patriots” approached and surrounded a black man from Portland named Cameron Whitten, who had come to the rally, he said, to ask people questions. Some of the pro-Trump bloc apparently misidentified Whitten as Micah Rhodes, a Portland black man arrested as a sex offender for sex with underage girls.

They wound up haranguing and threatening Whitten. “I suggest you get back over on that side right now,” a masked man told him, “before I fucking kick your ass for fucking raping little kids, you son of a bitch.” He claimed “we have done a shit-ton of research on you.”

Whitten kept asking the man to identify him, if in fact he knew who he was. The man, joined by several of his friends, continued to threaten him until they were distracted by reports of a flag burning.

One man, Matthew Heagy of Terrebonne, was arrested for pepper-spraying a police officer. Another pro-Trump supporter was briefly detained for having a gun at the rally, but was released, police said.

Violence trailed President Trump’s rallies all during the 2016 campaign, encouraged by the then-candidate’s own rhetoric. Trump openly told participants at one rally to “beat the hell out of” protesters, told them he’d like to “punch [a protester] in the face,” and later described for his rally-goers the violent fate that “back in the old days” was expected for such protesters.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Trump's ICE Bulletin Aims To Shame 'Sanctuary Cities,' But Its Numbers Are Skewed

[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

`The bulletin is long, detailed, and intimidating, as it is apparently intended to be: The Trump administration’s first weekly list of suspected crimes by immigrants in “sanctuary cities,” issued by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) seemingly details some 206 cases where suspected illegal immigrants were involved in crimes in jurisdictions where local officials have declined to cooperate with ICE’s detainer requests.

There’s a problem, though: The numbers listed in the bulletin are not what they seem.

The bulletin’s stated intent is to call out the sanctuary cities. “In uncooperative jurisdictions like Cook County, Illinois, and the City of Philadelphia, ICE is barred from interviewing arrestees in local custody. Therefore, in these communities a large number of criminals who have yet to be encountered by ICE are arrested by local authorities and released in these communities without any notification to ICE,” the report said.

“When law enforcement agencies fail to honor immigration detainers and release serious criminal offenders, it undermines ICE’s ability to protect the public safety and carry out its mission,” Acting ICE Director Thomas Homan said in a statement.

Conservative sites promptly picked up on the bulletin’s fearmongering context, running headlines like: “ALERT: Trump Releases Terrifying List Of Cities With Extremely Unsafe Illegals… Do You Live Here?”

However, ICE’s numbers are not quite what they appear to be. In the report, titled the "Weekly and Declined Detainer Outcome Report," 206 declined “detainers” are listed: immigrants marked by ICE for possible deportation but who instead were released by law enforcement between January 28, 2017, and February 3, 2017. ICE typically requests that these individuals be detained by local law enforcement for about 48 hours in order “to allow DHS to assume custody for removal purposes.”

More than half the cases listed by ICE, however, involve people who have only been charged with violations but have not been convicted. Out of those 206 on the list, 116 cases involve pending charges.

The detainers, moreover, are only a tiny portion of the total 3,083 detainers issued throughout the country during that same period. That represents about 15 percent.

Finally, not only is it unclear what period the number cited in the report covers, the figure itself is somewhat murky, since it does not represent all the cases in which immigration authorities sought custody of people facing criminal charges. As a result of this, major cities like New York and Los Angeles are underrepresented on the list.

The large majority of the immigrants on the list, nearly 70 percent, are from Mexico. All told more than 95 percent are from Latin American countries.

The most common charges listed are assault, driving under the influence of alcohol, domestic violence, robbery and sexual assault. Some of the immigrants on the list have been charged with drug possession, resisting an officer and prostitution.

Thanks to one county – Travis County, home of the state capital, Austin – Texas is the most frequently listed state. Travis County accounted for nearly 70 percent, with 142 of detainer cases listed.

State politicians promptly made hay with the bulletin. Governor Greg Abbott called the report “deeply disturbing,” saying it highlighted the “urgent need for a statewide sanctuary city ban in Texas.” Abbott pulled state funding for Travis County programs last month after Democratic Sheriff Sally Hernandez said that she would only honor detainer requests from ICE agents on a limited basis.

“Texas will act to put an end to sanctuary policies that put the lives of our citizens at risk,” Abbott wrote response to the bulletin.

President Trump created the weekly list as part of his first executive order, issued Jan. 25 and titled Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States, a section of which instructed the ICE Director to make such a report public.

The executive order represented Trump’s first steps to make good on campaign promises not only to build a “wall” along the U.S.–Mexico border, but also to crack down on sanctuary cities for shielding undocumented immigrants from federal officials. The order included a plan to publish a weekly list of crimes ostensibly committed by undocumented immigrants.

The section, titled “Sanctuary Jurisdictions,” calls for the Homeland Security secretary to “utilize the Declined Detainer Outcome Report or its equivalent and, on a weekly basis, make public a comprehensive list of criminal actions committed by aliens and any jurisdiction that ignored or otherwise failed to honor any detainers with respect to such aliens.”

Throughout his presidential campaign, Trump was fond of citing various crimes committed by undocumented immigrants. He often invited family members of those who were victims of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants to appear onstage with him at campaign events.

Trump’s opening campaign statement in June 2015 had set this tone: “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists and some I assume are good people,” Trump said of undocumented Mexican immigrants.

According to the Declined Detainer Outcome Report, the aim of the new order is “to better inform the public regarding the public safety threats associated with sanctuary jurisdictions.” The report also calls for the secretary of state to “make public a comprehensive list of criminal actions committed by aliens.” an Office for Victims of Crimes Committed by Removable Aliens is scheduled to be established, and it will direct the Justice Department to prioritize those immigration prosecutions.

Local officials around the country voiced dismay with the bulletin.

“They cast a very broad net in who they included in this list. We’re all still trying to figure out what is accomplished by this list, and also how it’s going to be used,” said Jorge Elorza, mayor of Providence, R.I., which was included in the list.

Elorza noted that Rhode Island generally does not honor most ICE detainer requests, but the mayor said Providence appeared to have been singled out because of a non-binding resolution passed by city councilors in 2011, which Elorza says wasn’t about detainers.

In Oregon, Washington County Sheriff Pat Garrett said the report does not accurately describe the difficulties or potential legal ramifications associated with honoring ICE detainer requests." He noted that 2014 Oregon federal court ruling determined that law enforcement could be held liable for keeping someone in jail for immigration agents without probable cause.

ICE’s aggressive tactics against sanctuary cities reflects deeper problems with its approach to enforcing immigration laws – namely, that the threat of deportation arising out of any contact with the legal system is undermining the ability of law enforcement to pursue real crime. In some ICE jurisdictions, women who have been victims of domestic abuse have been dropping their cases out of fear they might be picked up by ICE agents merely for showing up at the courthouse.

Their fears are not groundless. An NPR report showed a video, circulated widely among immigrants, of ICE agents standing outside a Denver courthouse as they waited to make arrests. Subsequently, four women dropped cases in which they were victims of “physical and violent assault,” according to Denver City Attorney Kristin Bronson, who said they feared they risked deportation if they showed up for a hearing:

“We had pending cases that we were prosecuting on their behalf and since January 25, the date of the president’s executive order [on immigration], those four women have let our office know they were not willing to proceed with the case for fear that they would be spotted in the courthouse and deported.”

In February, an undocumented immigrant was arrested at a courthouse in El Paso, Texas, by ICE agents moments after a hearing at which she had been granted a protective order against her abusive ex-husband.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Donald Trump, the Authoritarian Master of Alt-America

Below is an excerpt from the penultimate chapter of my forthcoming book, Alt-America: The Rise of the Radical Right in the Age of Trump, due out this summer from Verso Books. It seemed especially relevant right now.


From the first day that Trump assumed the presidency, the White House was embroiled in some kind of chaos – some of it internal wrangling, some of it a product of the press responding to his provocations. Longtime Beltway observers were shocked by all the turmoil, believing it signaled an administration already in distress early in its tenure.

But the chaos was by design, something Trump positively cultivated, following the pattern set by dozens of other authoritarian leaders throughout history – using the turmoil to create so much general uncertainty that his rigid, unyielding positions eventually come to define the general consensus. Wielding his Twitter account – which he described as his way of “speaking directly to the people” – like a combat veteran with a grenade launcher, Trump also demonstrated that he was masterful at creating distractions that kept his critics and the press hopping from one “outrage” to another, paying little attention while he quietly enacted his agenda on a broad array of policy fronts.

Trump’s first real foray into asserting an authoritarian style in enacting his agenda came when he followed through on his campaign promises to sign a Muslim immigration ban when he became president. His first attempt at doing this came with one of his first executive orders, issued Jan. 27, banning all travel from seven Muslim-majority nations: Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

When the order came before the courts after several states sued to block it, Trump’s legal team attempted to argue that the order was not a “Muslim ban” – that is, a religious-based ban that would have run afoul of the Constitution on several counts, notably the Establishment Clause – but in short order, ran aground on the shoals of Trump’s own campaign rhetoric. The federal judges who reviewed the case all cited the candidate’s vows to institute a “Muslim ban” as evidence the order was intended to apply a religious test and therefore likely unconstitutional, and ordered it blocked.

The judges’ rulings infuriated the president, who tweeted after the ruling February 4: “The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!”

Yet when the case went before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, Trump’s legal arguments again foundered. “Are you arguing,” queried Judge Michelle Friedland, “that the president’s decision is not reviewable?”

After much obfuscation, Department of Justice lawyer August Flentje said: “Uh, yes.” The appellate court upheld the order blocking Trump’s order.

That weekend, the Trump team sent out Stephen Miller, the 31-year-old “senior adviser” who was a onetime Jeff Sessions staffer closely associated with Stephen Bannon, and himself had a background of dalliances with white nationalists, out to act as the administration’s spokesman on the news talk programs. And he made an indelible impression.

“The president’s powers here are beyond question,” he told Fox News Sunday. “We don’t have judicial supremacy in this country. We have three co-equal branches of government.” He also criticized the appellate court. “The 9th Circuit has a long history of being overturned and the 9th Circuit has a long history of overreaching,” he said. “This is a judicial usurpation of power.”

A week later, on Feb. 21, Miller told Fox that any replacement order would follow the same template: “Fundamentally, you’re still going to have the same basic policy outcome for the country, but you’re going to be responsive to a lot of very technical issues that were brought up by the court and those will be addressed. But in terms of protecting the country, those basic policies are still going to be in effect.'"

So when Trump filed a second executive order banning travel from Muslim nations – reduced to six nations, with Iraq dropped from the list – that, in order to bolster its case, claimed erroneously that Islamist terrorists posed the greatest domestic threat to Americans, and that those six nations had a history of producing immigrants who later committed terror crimes. That order, too was struck down by a federal judge, who ruled that Miller’s Feb. 21 comments were evidence that the order’s intent had not changed.

Floundering displays of incompetence amid assertions of authoritarian certainty such as this became part of the daily White House circus. In mid-February, it emerged that National Security Adviser Mike Flynn had lied to Vice President Mike Pence about his contacts with Russian officials during a November meeting, and after a weekend of turmoil, Flynn was fired. Trump eventually replaced him with a vastly more respected national-security figure, retired Gen. H.R. McMaster.

The chaos became ceaseless. Sean Spicer banned outlets from press briefings. Another cabinet pick, would-be Labor Secretary Andrew Pudzer, was forced to withdraw after allegations of abuse by his ex-wife emerged. Thousands of open government jobs went unfilled because, Trump explained, the administration wasn’t even trying to fill them.

Tension with the press became intense, especially as Trump attempted to control the message to the public. He did this by regularly asserting the Alt-America version of reality, making himself the final authority of what was “factual” in that universe. True to that reality, he inverted the concept of “fake news” on its head by labeling the mainstream press “fake.” While the press scrambled to make sense of his seemingly open dissembling, his real audience – his red-capped Alt-America followers – received the message clearly: Don’t believe the lying press. The only person you can believe is Trump.

Thus, Trump’s response to the increasing blizzard of stories detailing his incompetence was to blame the institutions recording it, rather than addressing the chaos and floundering. At his contentious February 16 press conference, he went to open war with the media.

“The press has become so dishonest that if we don't talk about it, we are doing a tremendous disservice to the American people, tremendous disservice,” he said. “We have to talk about it, to find out what's going on, because the press honestly is out of control. The level of dishonesty is out of control.”

The next morning, he tweeted:

The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!

Trump’s Twitter account, indeed, became his chief agent of chaos, whipping up storms of media and diplomatic controversies that became the focus of much of the daily news reportage around the White House. On March 4, he launched what became his most notorious tweetstorm.

Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my "wires tapped" in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!

Is it legal for a sitting President to be "wire tapping" a race for president prior to an election? Turned down by court earlier. A NEW LOW!

I'd bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to Election!

How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!

It later emerged that Trump was inspired to send out these tweets after reading a Bretibart News story, based on anonymous sources, alleging that Obama had tapped Trump’s phones during the campaign. Fact-checkers found the story to be utterly groundless.

Obama adamantly denied the allegation, as did everyone in the intelligence community. James Clapper, the former director of national intelligence under Obama, told NBC’s Meet the Press that in the national intelligence activity he oversaw, “there was no such wiretap activity mounted against the president, the president-elect at the time, as a candidate or against his campaign.” FBI director James Comey asked the Justice Department to issue a statement refuting Trump’s claim.

In reality, Trump’s tweets had put his own manifest incompetence on public display: Anyone even remotely acquainted with American surveillance knows that wiretapping is an extremely limited practice legally, permitted only after evidence is presented to a federal surveillance court panel that then approves or disapproves the warrant. If Trump really had been surveilled by the Obama administration, as he claimed, that meant there was enough evidence for a court to approve it. He either was making clueless and reckless allegations, or he was in reality in deep trouble.

Nonetheless, the White House continued to insist that other evidence was going to emerge demonstrating that Trump had been right. Sean Spicer spun Trump’s tweets for reporters, using “air quotes” to claim that he hadn’t been referring to wiretapping specifically: "The President used the word wiretaps in quotes to mean, broadly, surveillance and other activities."

Spicer then berated reporters for not picking up on news reports that vindicated Trump, notably a report the night before from Fox News pundit Andrew Napolitano, who claimed that the surveillance had actually been conducted by the British intelligence agency GHCQ: "Judge Andrew Napolitano made the following statement, quote, 'Three intelligence sources have informed Fox News that President Obama went outside the chain of command (to spy on Trump). He didn't use the NSA, he didn't use the CIA ... he used GCHQ.’”

Intelligence officials in the UK were outraged, dismissing the allegation as “utterly ridiculous.” Fox News backed away from Napolitano’s claims, and shortly afterward suspended him from appearing on the network. But Trump adamantly refused to apologize, claiming that Spicer had only read the news story to reporters.

As the media tried to make sense of it all, Kellyanne Conway’s delicious turn of phrase, “alternative facts,” was heard often. Pundits and late-night comics had enjoyed a field day with the term, using it to scornfully refer to the administration’s growing record of spinning a spurious version of reality.

Conway herself had grown weary of being the butt of their jokes. “Excuse me, I’ve spoken 1.2 million words on TV, okay?” she told an interviewer. “You wanna focus on two here and two there, it’s on you, you’re a f—ing miserable person, P.S., just whoever you are.”

What Conway’s critics missed was that, despite their derision – and to some extent, because of it – the gambit worked.

Overall, Trump’s travails seemed to hurt him badly in the polls. By mid-March, according to Gallup, only 37 percent of Americans approved of his performance, while 58 percent disapproved. Those were shockingly low numbers, especially compared to other first-term presidents at similar junctures in their tenures, who were generally in high-approval zones: 62 percent for Obama, 58 percent for George W. Bush, 60 percent for Ronald Reagan.

And yet in the places where it really mattered – that is, in the congressional districts of Republican Trump-backing lawmakers – Trump’s ratings remained high, well over 50 percent. Conservative-oriented polls by Rasmussen put his approval rating at 55 percent. Among Republicans over, 81 percent found Trump “honest and trustworthy.”

"I think he's doing good," Gary Pelletier, a Buffalo, N.Y., retiree told a local reporter. "People are complaining that he's not doing enough, but I'm all for whatever he's doing."

"He's doing everything he said he was going to do," said another Buffalo resident named Phil Pantano, 60.

This was always the role that Alt-America has played: a refuge for people who reject factual reality, a place where they can convene and reassure one another in the facticity of their fabricated version of how the world works. From its beginnings in the 1990s as an alternative universe with its own set of “facts,” to its growth during the early part of the new century through the spread of antigovernment conspiracism, through its evolution into the mainstream of conservatism through the Tea Party, and finally its ultimate realization as a political force through the ascension of Donald Trump, Alt-America’s primarily usefulness was as a ready tool for right-wing authoritarianism. The army of followers was already fully prepared by 2015, when Trump picked up their waiting scepter.

It was also the real-life manifestation of Robert Altemeyer’s “lethal union” of right-wing authoritarian followers with a social-dominance-oriented authoritarian leader: that moment, as Altemeyer says, when “the two can then become locked in a cyclonic death spiral that can take a whole nation down with them.”

Other experts on authoritarianism similarly fear the outcome of Trump’s authoritarianism. “You submit to tyranny,” writes Yale historian Timothy Snyder, “when you renounce the difference between what you want to hear and what is actually the case.”

Accepting untruth, Snyder warns, is a precondition of tyranny. “Post-truth is pre-fascism,” he writes, and “to abandon facts is to abandon freedom.”

Snyder sees Trump’s insistence on setting the terms of reality as a classic ploy: “This whole idea we're dealing with now about the alternative facts and post-factuality is pretty familiar to the 1920s,” he told Vox’s Sean Illing. “It’s a vision that's very similar to the central premise of the fascist vision. It's important because if you don't have the facts, you don't have the rule of law. If you don't have the rule of law, you can't have democracy.

“And people who want to get rid of democracy and the rule of law understand this because they actively propose an alternative vision. The everyday is boring, they say. Forget about the facts. Experts are boring. Let's instead attach ourselves to a much more attractive and basically fictional world.”

The political reality on the ground, however, will depend on how Trump responds to challenges to his authority. His history so far, particularly his manifest incompetence, points to a bleak outcome.

A longtime Democratic presidential adviser warned Ron Klain told Ezra Klein: “If Trump became a full-fledged autocrat, it will not be because he succeeds in running the state. It’s not going to be like Julius Caesar, where we thank him and here’s a crown.

“It’ll be that he fails, and he has to find a narrative for that failure. And it will not be a narrative of self-criticism. It will not be that he let you down. He will figure out who the villains are, and he will focus the public’s anger at them.”

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Seattle Synagogue Hit With Hate Graffiti, But Leaves It Up To Spark Discussion

[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

When a neighbor first spotted the hate graffiti spray-painted on the wall of the Temple de Hirsch Sinai synagogue in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, his first impulse was to cover it over, not to give the haters any more attention.

The graffiti – “Holocau$t i$ fake hi$tory!” – was painted in large letters on a wall inside a meditational area on the temple grounds. So “Carlos,” as the neighbor later identified himself, decided to cover it instead with a sheet painted with the words, “Love Wins.”

“Early this morning while I was walking with my dog I saw the words that had been sprayed on the building,” he explained. “I was so deeply overwhelmed with emotion that when I arrived home I immediately began bawling. Once I regained my composure I felt that the best thing that could be done is to show the love that exists in this world rather than let one person’s actions receive attention unnecessarily.”

Rabbi Daniel Weiner, who oversees the synagogue, appreciated the gesture – but took down the sheet and left the graffiti intact for everyone to see. The synagogue erected a small sign in front reading: “Temple de Hirsch Sinai is aware of this graffiti. We are choosing to leave it exposed for the time being.”

The synagogue's rabbis erected a sign explaining
why the graffiti remained uncovered.
“It was a very sweet gesture and touching, but we took it down,” Weiner said. “I think it’s extremely important that people see this.”

The apparent hate crime was only the latest incident in a wave of threats and attacks directed at Jewish communities across the United States, including toppled gravestones and other vandalization, as well as a rash of bomb threats directed at Jewish communities. The most recent such rash led to the evacuations of five Jewish community centers in the U.S. and Canada during the recent Purim holiday.

Weiner called the graffiti “a toxic mix of Holocaust denial, the stereotypical charge that Jews are obsessed with money, and the notion coming from the (President Trump) administration that all facts are fungible … fake facts, fake history.”

On the temple’s Facebook page, Weiner explained the rabbis’ reaction. "We immediately contacted law enforcement, who have responded quickly and efficiently in opening an investigation, for which we are profoundly grateful. Temple continues to take vigilant, substantive security measures to insure the safety and well-being of our community. In light of other recent threats and upcoming celebrations, we have further enhanced these measures," he wrote.

"And as we take all of these precautions, we are also adamant in our conviction that we will not allow the toxicity of intolerance and growing climate of hate to define who we are, how we live, and what our nation can be.”

The rabbi called for action on the tide of anti-Semitism from President Trump, who has generally declined to address the wave of bias incidents that have occurred in the wake of the election, other than making a few vague statements. Trump reportedly is also considering eliminating the budget for the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism.

“A message needs to come from our president, not only decrying anti-Semitism but specifically indicting white supremacists and in particular those who support his candidacy,” Weiner said, adding that he did not blame Trump or his administration directly but regretted “the tone that has been set throughout the campaign.”

Weiner told reporters that he believes people who were “previously marginalized or silenced now feel newly empowered” to express hateful sentiments.

“The majority of us need to push back against that and convey that America is still America … there’s no place for hate or tolerance of toxic expression.”

The community’s response, including a statement denouncing the crime from Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, has been heartening to Weiner. He says the members of the Seattle Jewish community have rallied around the act.

“People are incredibly hurt and upset. But most of the calls I’ve gotten, all of the calls have been supportive, but most have been defiant,” he said.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Trump's Second Travel Ban Once Again Misidentifies Source of Domestic Terrorist Threat

[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

President Trump’s latest attempt at what his critics call a “Muslim ban” – officially known as his executive order on travel – is predicated on the administration’s claim that people from six Muslim-majority nations pose an immediate security threat to Americans by potentially harboring radical Islamist terrorists who might commit acts of violence on American soil.

However, a careful examination of domestic-terrorism data in the United States powerfully indicates that this claim is poorly grounded. The vast majority of so-called “Islamist” inspired terrorism arrests have involved pre-emptive arrests by law-enforcement sting operations in which potential actors were arrested under circumstances where the public was never at risk. None of the listed nations – Somalia, Iran, Libya, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen – produced any terrorist who has successfully committed a violent act against Americans.

Most of all, the vast majority of domestic-terrorism incidents in the U.S. do not involve radical Islamists – rather, for the past several decades, most cases of violent terrorism have involved homegrown right-wing extremists. In a growing number of recent cases, some of these extremists have begun targeting Muslims and refugees themselves.

Sean Spicer's tweet provided the only public view
of Trump's executive order signing.
The president issued the order March 6, marking the administration’s second attempt at banning travel from Muslim nations whose refugees and emigrants pose a terrorism risk, as Trump had promised during the 2016 election campaign season. The first executive order, issued Jan. 27, listed the same six nations as well as Iraq, but was immediately contested in the courts and overturned as unconstitutional.

The administration is hoping that its revised order is able to surmount the legal difficulties encountered in its first attempt, primarily by claiming – the president’s campaign rhetoric notwithstanding – that the previous order, as the White House had argued in court, “did not provide a basis for discriminating for or against members of any particular religion,” nor does the new order.

This order also has faced immediate legal challenge in federal courts by several states; so far, Hawaii and Washington have filed lawsuits that include several other states as co-plaintiffs. The SPLC issued a statement decrying the order, saying it is “still discriminatory, continues to target the Muslim community and will cause ripple effects felt by people perceived to be Muslim.”

In his order, Trump attempts to surmount previous legal arguments about the ban’s appropriateness by claiming that

Recent history shows that some of those who have entered the United States through our immigration system have proved to be threats to our national security. Since 2001, hundreds of persons born abroad have been convicted of terrorism-related crimes in the United States. They have included not just persons who came here legally on visas but also individuals who first entered the country as refugees. For example, in January 2013, two Iraqi nationals admitted to the United States as refugees in 2009 were sentenced to 40 years and to life in prison, respectively, for multiple terrorism-related offenses. And in October 2014, a native of Somalia who had been brought to the United States as a child refugee and later became a naturalized United States citizen was sentenced to 30 years in prison for attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction as part of a plot to detonate a bomb at a crowded Christmas-tree-lighting ceremony in Portland, Oregon. The attorney general has reported to me that more than 300 persons who entered the United States as refugees are currently the subjects of counterterrorism investigations by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The order calls these cases “recent,” though both of the arrests occurred in 2010. And, as Chip Gibbons of the Bill of Rights Committee/Defending Dissent Foundation recently noted, they both involve cases of pre-emptive arrest: “In each case the ‘terrorism’ in question was concocted by the FBI, as part of a sting operation.”

As NPR’s Middle East editor, Larry Kaplow, explains:

The two Iraqis were convicted in Kentucky of supporting militant groups back in Iraq that were attacking U.S. troops there. They were not charged with planning attacks in the U.S. The Somali man mentioned came to the U.S. as a small child. He was noticed by the FBI after he exchanged hundreds of emails with suspected terrorists and made statements to a jihadist website. He attempted to detonate what he believed was a bomb — actually a fake bomb supplied by FBI undercover agents — at a Portland Christmas tree lighting in 2010.

Moreover, domestic-terrorism statistics collected over the past eight years indicate that over three-quarters of all Islamist-related domestic terrorism arrests in the United States have involved such pre-emptive plots, cases in which no member of the public is ever harmed or even at serious risk. Only a tiny handful of all Islamist plots have been responsible for the vast majority of casualties by Muslim domestic terrorists.*

Four incidents in particular, all with abnormally high numbers of deaths and injuries, account for more than 90 percent of Islamist domestic-terrorism casualties (which total more than 90 deaths and over 400 injuries):

  • November 6, 2009, Fort Hood, TX: Nidal Hasan, an Army psychiatrist influenced by radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki and suffering from mental illness himself, goes on a shooting rampage inside an Army facility, killing 13 and wounding 32, in an effort to strike a blow in defense of the Taliban leadership in Afghanistan and to become a martyr. Hasan was sentenced to die and awaits execution.
  • March 15, 2013, Boston, MA: Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, two Chechen brothers (ages 19 and 26, respectively) who emigrated from Kyrgyzstan 2002, set off two pressure-cooker bombs at separate locations along the route of the Boston Marathon, killing three people and injuring an estimated 264 others; and then, when spotted by police after being identified as the suspect, killing another police officer and engaging in a gunfight with police in which Tamerlan was killed and another officer wounded; Dzhokar is later captured hiding in a boat without incident. Convicted of 30 counts, including four murder charges and conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction, he was sentenced to die and is currently held at a high-security federal prison in Colorado.
  • December 2, 2015, San Bernardino, CA: Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik, a Muslim couple recently married in Pakistan, though the husband had been a longtime resident of California, go on a shooting rampage at a holiday party for Farook’s coworkers in a county department, killing 14 and injuring 22, before being killed themselves in a shootout with police
  • June 12, 2016, Orlando, Florida: Omar Mateen, an American-born Muslim of Turkish descent, kills 49 and wounds 53 others at a gay nightclub in Orlando. Mateen is killed during the incident.

None of these perpetrators is from any of the nations targeted in the Trump travel ban. All of them, except Tashfeen Malik, were U.S. citizens.

When it comes to assessing the realities of domestic terrorism and the areas where the public is most at risk, these statistics strongly suggest that, regarding Islamist-inspired violence, the greatest area of concern has to be the recent uptick in murderous acts by American-born or –based Muslims, such as those in Orlando and San Bernadino. Recent immigrants, and particularly refugees, not only have been inactive in recent years, some of their communities in fact have been targeted for hate crimes and acts of domestic terrorism by right-wing extremists.

Indeed, both the public generally and law-enforcement officers specifically are most at risk from domestic-terrorist violence when it is committed by fanatics from the radical right. The incidents involving such cases outnumber Islamist terrorism incidents nearly two-to-one.

Likewise, more than 60 percent of all right-wing extremist cases have involved acts of violence in which the public is at risk (compared to only 21 percent of Islamist incidents), and while only about 10 percent of Islamist cases resulted in deaths, over a quarter of right-wing extremist incidents did so.

Consider the steady drumbeat of terrorism over the past eight years from the radical right, including sovereign citizens, white supremacists, militia-movement extremists, and anti-abortion fanatics. Here is just a sampling of the more than 100 such incidents cataloged since 2008:

  • July 27, 2008, Knoxville, TN: Jim David Adkisson, an angry conservative with a manifesto urging violent war against liberals, opens fire in a Unitarian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee during a youth performance of a musical, killing two and wounding seven. He pleads guilty to murder and sentenced to life in prison.
  • April 4, 2009, Pittsburgh, PA: Richard Poplawski, a white supremacist from Pittsburgh, Pennslviana, fearful of an Obama plot to take his guns away, kills three police officers and injures two others in a standoff with police at this home. Poplawski is found guilty of murder and sentenced to die.
  • June 20, 2010, West Memphis, AK: Jerry and Joe Kane, two sovereign citizens, kill two police officers when pulled over in West Memphis, Arkansas, then die in shootout with local and state police.
  • January 18, 2011, Spokane, WA: Kevin William Harpham, a white supremacist, plants lethal backpack bomb along route of MLK Day Parade in Spokane, Washington, which did not detonate. Harpham pleads guilty to attempting to use a weapon of mass destrustrion, and attempting to cause bodily injury with an explosive device because of the race, color, or national origin of a targeted person, and is sentenced to 32 years in prison.
  • August 5, 2012, Oak Creek, WI: Wade Michael Page, a white supremacist, kills six and wounds four during a shooting rampage in a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, before eventually killing himself after being wounded by an officer.
  • February 15, 2014, Rome, GA: Three men in the so called Rome Militia – Brian Edward Cannon, Corey Robert Williamson, and Terry Eugene Peace – attempt to purchase pipe bombs and other explosives to attack a police station, a water treatment center, and other sites in hopes of overthrowing the US government. All pleaded guilty to charges of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction, and all sentenced to 12 years in prison.
  • April 13, 2014, Overland Park, KS: Frazier Glenn Miller, former grand dragon of the Carolina Knights of the KKK, kills three at shootings at was extremely well known to law-enforcement authorities long before he embarked on a killing rampage at two Jewish community institutions in Kansas. He’s found guilty of guilty of one count of capital murder, three counts of attempted murder and assault and weapons charges, and sentenced to die.
  • June 8, 2014, Las Vegas, NV: Jerad and Amanda Miller, a married couple and Patriot movement members who had spent weeks involved in the antigovernment standoff at the Cliven Bundy ranch, go on a shooting rampage that killed three people, including two policemen, in Las Vegas. They’re killed by officers during a shootout.
  • June 17, 2015, Charleston, SC: Dylann Roof, a young white supremacist enters black church in South Carolina, prays with congregants, then opens fire on smaller group, killing nine and wounding another. He was found guilty of all 33 federal hate-crime charges against him in December 2016 and sentenced to death.
  • July 22, 2015, Lafayette, LA: John Russell Houser, an admirer of Dylann Roof, similarly caught up in ‘lone wolf’ and other far-right ideologies, enters Louisiana theater with gun, kills two, wounds nine, and is killed.
  • October 27, 2015, Colorado Springs, CO: Robert Lewis Deer kills a police officer and two others, and injures 9 in shootout and standoff at Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He references “no more baby parts” in police interview, is charged with first degree murder, and eventually ruled mentally incompetent to stand trial.
  • October 14, 2016, Garden City, KS: Three Kansas militia members plot to bomb an apartment complex home to hundreds of Somali immigrants.

This last incident underscores the potentially lethal nature of right-wing extremist terrorism. Curtis Allen, 49, Gavin Wright, 49, of Liberal, Kan., and Patrick Stein, 47, a resident of a nearby Dodge City, Kan., not only had stockpiled a huge cache of semi-automatic weapons and ammunition with the intent of using them against Somalian refugees and immigrants living in an apartment complex in suburban Garden City.

Their primary plan entailed constructing and detonating three Timothy McVeigh-style truck bombs loaded with fertilizer and fuel oil in the center of the complex, and then mowing down survivors as they fled down the complex’s exit streets with their guns.

The scheduled day for the attack: November 9, the day after the 2016 election. The men were motivated, their attorneys said, by their belief that if Donald Trump won the election, then-President Barack Obama would declare martial law to prevent him from attaining the office, requiring the militias to act.

One of the plotters was recorded describing the militiamen’s beliefs:

“The only fucking way this country’s ever going to get turned around is it will be a bloodbath and it will be a nasty, messy motherfucker. Unless a lot more people in this country wake up and smell the fucking coffee and decide they want this country back … we might be too late, if they do wake up … I think we can get it done. But it ain’t going to be nothing nice about it.”

“There has been an incredible increase in anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant sentiment over the past few years. Anti-Muslim groups have exploited terror attacks in Paris and San Bernardino,” observed the SPLC’s Heidi Beirich after the men were arrested. “The presidential campaign has also produced some of the rawest nativist appeals in recent memory.

“Significantly, this anti-Muslim and anti-refugee sentiment is increasing within the ranks of the anti-government movement. We’ve seen it in the spate of armed protests outside of mosques in Phoenix and other places last year. The U.S. attorney bringing these charges said the three suspects were members of a militia called the ‘Crusaders.’

“As the Department of Justice announced, the defendants are innocent until proven guilty. The details of the plot, however, are disturbing and should serve as a warning to those who traffic in the politics of fear and bigotry.”

Particularly given the surge in hate incidents since the election, manifest especially in the surge of anti-Semitic threats and attacks over the past month, as well as a growing tide of anti-Muslim hate crimes, the concerns about right-wing domestic terrorism should be more acute than ever.

However, President Trump – who has only made vague gestures at addressing the problem – appears determined instead, with this most recent executive order, to worsen the situation for everyone involved.


*The above statistics are a preliminary summary of domestic-terrorism data that have been compiled as part of a multi-year project by the author in conjunction with the Investigative Fund of the Nation Institute. Its full findings will be published in April by Reveal Radio and the Center for Investigative Reporting.

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Is Kansas’ ‘Climate of Racial Intolerance’ Fueled by Anti-Muslim Political Rhetoric?

[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

Shocking hate crimes like the recent shootings of two Indian men in a restaurant in Olathe, Kansas, often seem to come out of nowhere. But in reality, they emerge not from a vacuum, but always from an environment that encourages and fosters this kind of violence.

Wednesday’s shooting in the Kansas City suburb by a white man who had been shouting racial slurs at the victims and later told a bartender he had shot “two Iranians,” left Srinivas Kuchibhotla, 32, a Garmin engineer from Overland Park, dead and his co-worker, Alok Madasani, 32, as well as Ian Grillot, 24, who attempted to intervene, critically wounded.

The shooter, a former air traffic controller named Adam Purinton, 51, shouted at his victims: “Get out of my country!” The FBI is investigating the case as a hate crime, though Kansas has no hate crime statute.

The shootings set off shock waves in India, where many families have members working and living in the United States under similar circumstances.

Kuchibhotla’s brother-in-law, Venumadhav Gajula, told the Los Angeles Times that he blamed the shooting on “a growing climate of racial intolerance in the United States.”

Certainly, the climate in Kansas, as well as in neighboring Missouri, where Purinton was arrested, reflected just such a growing intolerance. In the months leading up to the election, the Kansas City region’s political scene became ratcheted up into high rhetorical gear for the November vote, and produced campaign appeals notable for their violence-drenched Islamophobic fearmongering.

The most noteworthy of these was a series of mailers from the state Republican Party that went out to voters in the final weeks of the campaign making undisguised appeals to people’s fears that radical Islamist terrorism might overwhelm Kansas.

“Have You Met the New Neighbors?” read the bold letters on the envelope of one mailer, next to an image of an apparent Muslim terrorist. “ISIS is not going away anytime soon,” read the envelope’s script.

This GOP mailer promoted the candidacy of Joseph Scarpa with the promise to keep terrorists out of Kansas.
Another mailer featured a script promoting candidate Joseph Scapa for a state House seat, saying he “wants to keep Kansans safe.” Next to an image of a young girl waving an American flag, it explained: “The first step to keeping Kansans safe is to recognize who the enemy is. Joseph Scapa understands the threats we face right here in Kansas. He will fund new training for our Kansas Law Enforcement officers to ensure they are properly equipped to recognize and deal with foreign and domestic threats in our state, from those who support ideologies that are in conflict with the United States Constitution and our Kansas values.”

It concluded: “Let’s keep terrorists out of Kansas!”

The 'ISIS Hunting License' offered as a campaign stunt by Missouri's newly elected governor, Eric Greitens, during the 2016 campaign.
Another mailer featured an envelope with a similar scared-child script: “What is ISIS? Will they hurt me?” And one of the GOP mailers was an attack on a Democratic opponent, suggesting that “Democrats support moving terrorists to Kansas!”

Meanwhile, in Missouri, another campaign appeal – by the man ultimately elected the state’s new governor, Eric Greitens – featured an even more violent suggestiveness.

In July, Greiten began issuing “ISIS Hunting Permits” marked to expire “when we defeat this evil” as a campaign fund-raising item. A former Navy SEAL officer, Greitens sold the stickers for $10 donations, while for $100, donors would get a sticker signed by another former SEAL who claimed he killed Osama bin Laden.

"All of these people who are out there, they want to join our mission," Greitens told reporters. "They want to become part of the team- part of the campaign- and we thought this would be a fun way to let people know about my biography and that we all need to stand together against terrorism.”

At the time, Faizan Syed, the Counsel on American Islamic Relations in Missouri’s executive director, warned that Greitens’ message could be easily twisted into violence. "The problem is with his target audience. Amongst them are radicals in this country who don't know the difference between the two [Muslims and radical Islamists]," said Syed.

"Those are the people who we have to be worried about when they get a bumper sticker saying 'here's your permit to attack ISIS'. When they see a woman at Walmart with her children and they say, 'this looks like ISIS, I'm going to attack ISIS,' that is when the real trouble begins," he added.

In October, the Islamophobic paranoia bubbled up into the real world in Kansas when three men from Dodge City were arrested and charged with plotting to murder hundreds of Muslims on the day after the election by setting off truck bombs in a Somalian community in Garden City. The men were part of a militia group that regularly traded in Islamphobic paranoia, reflected in their own words, as captured by the FBI on tape:

“The only fucking way this country’s ever going to get turned around is it will be a bloodbath and it will be a nasty, messy motherfucker. Unless a lot more people in this country wake up and smell the fucking coffee and decide they want this country back … we might be too late, if they do wake up … I think we can get it done. But it ain’t going to be nothing nice about it.”

Afterwards, local officials worked hard to restore a sense of normalcy with their Somalian refugee neighbors.

“The only answer I can give you about why this happened is that they wanted to attack your religious beliefs,” Garden City Police Chief Michael Utz told community leaders. “But you need to know that whether you are an immigrant or not, you are all Garden Citians.

“Some of you have said you can’t go to your mosque to pray or that you can’t go to your homes because you are afraid,” Utz said. “But we and the sheriff and the FBI are here to say that you are safe in Garden City and safe in the United States of America.”

In the Kansas City area, both Indian and Muslim minorities are struggling with fears about their safety in the United States. "Everybody's going to be extremely cautious," said the Indian owner of a local jewelry store. "I think it's going to take time for this to settle in."

Meanwhile, in India, students are reportedly rethinking their plans to come to work in the U.S. "I used to think of America as a place where there is greater racial equality than exists in India," 26-year-old Dhriti Ahluwalia told the Washington Post. "Now people are afraid. There is inequality. There is racism."

Friday, February 17, 2017

Trump Still Refusing to Address Post-Election Wave of Anti-Semitism, Hate Incidents

[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

One of the truly disconcerting aspects of the wave of post-election hate incidents that followed Donald Trump’s ascension to the presidency in November has been Trump’s near-complete silence on the matter – particularly given that many of the incidents appear to have been inspired by him and feature references to his name.

At Thursday’s press conference in Washington, the president was pressed once again – twice – on the subject, including direct question about the recent spate of phoned-in bomb threats at Jewish community centers. And both times, he failed to give anything resembling a coherent answer, let alone a clear statement opposing hate crimes committed in his name.

Late in the event, Trump called on reporter Jake Turx, who asked him:
So, first of all, my name is Jake Turx of Ami magazine and, I, despite what so many colleagues might be reporting, I haven't seen anybody in my community accuse either yourself or anyone on your staff of being anti-Semitic. However, what we are concerned about and what we haven't really heard you address is an uptick in anti-Semitism and how in this climate you're going to take care of it. There have been reports out that 48 bomb threats have been made against Jewish centers all across the country in the last couple of weeks. There are people who are committing anti-semitic acts or threatening to --
Trump cut him off:
You know he's said that he's going to ask a very simple, easy question. And it's not. It's not a fair question. Sit down. I understand the rest of your question. So here's the story, folks.

Number one, I'm the least anti-Semitic person you've seen in your entire life. Number two, racism, the least racist person. In fact, we can very well relative to other people running as a Republican —

Quiet, quiet, he lied about getting up asking a straight, simple question, so, you know, welcome to the world of the media.

Let me just tell you something, that I hate the charge. I find it repulsive. I hate even the question because people that know me, and you heard the Prime Minister. You heard Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday. Did you hear him? Bebe, he said, "I've known Donald Trump for a long time. Then he said, forget it." So you should take that instead of having to get up and ask a very insulting question.
However, a short while later, as the conference was wrapping up, Sirius XM reporter Jared Rizzi asked the president: "I'll follow up on my colleague's question about anti-Semitism. It's not about your personality or your beliefs. We're talking about a rise in anti-Semitism around the country. Some of it by supporters in your name. What can you do to deter that?"

Trump blamed it on “the other side”:
And some of it — and can I be honest with you? And this has to do with racism and horrible things that are put up, some of it written by our opponents. You do know that? Do you understand that? You don't think that anybody would do a thing like that.

Some of the signs you'll see are not put up by the people that love or like Donald Trump. They're put up by the other side. And you think it's, like, playing it straight? No. You have some of those signs and anger that is caused by the other side. They'll do signs and they'll do drawings that are inappropriate. It won't be my people. It will be the people on the other side to anger people like you.
Earlier in the week, at a press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Trump was asked a similar question:
Mr. President, since your election campaign and even after your victory, we've seen a sharp rise in the anti-Semitic incidents across the United States, and I wonder, what do you say to those among the Jewish community in the states and Israel, and maybe around the world, who believe and feel that your administration is playing with xenophobia and maybe racist tones?
Trump replied with a rambling discourse on his Electoral College victory.

"Well, I just want to say that we are very honored by the victory that we had, 306 electoral college votes," he said. "We were not supposed to crack 220, you know that, right? There was no way to 221, but then they said there's no way to 270. And there's tremendous enthusiasm out there."

Trump proceeded to call for an end to racism and "every other thing that's going on."

"I will say that we are going to have peace in this country," he continued. "We are going to stop crime in this country. We are going to do everything within our power to stop long-simmering racism and every other thing that's going on. A lot of bad things have been taking place over a long period of time."

The SPLC has been tracking the wave of hate incidents that, one month after the election, totaled 1,094 cases. Of those, over 440 were directly connected to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign – either through the invocation of his name, as when violent perpetrators chant his name to intimidate minorities or leave it as a graffiti-styled threat, or through invocation of his campaign slogans, such as people shouting at immigrants: “Make America white again!”

“Mr. Trump claims he’s surprised his election has unleashed a barrage of hate across the country,” said SPLC President Richard Cohen in November. “But he shouldn’t be. It’s the predictable result of the campaign he waged. Rather than feign surprise, Mr. Trump should take responsibility for what’s occurring, forcefully reject hate and bigotry, reach out to the communities he’s injured, and follow his words with actions to heal the wounds his words have opened.”