Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Fear: As Groundless Then As It Is Now

Two children at the Minidoka Relocation Center, Idaho, in 1943
“President Franklin D. Roosevelt felt compelled to sequester Japanese foreign nationals after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and it appears that the threat of harm to America from ISIS now is just as real and serious as that from our enemies then.

-- Roanoke, Va., mayor David Bowers, explaining why the United States should reject the entry of refugees from Syria 
This remark, uttered this morning by a Democratic mayor to justify his order suspending all aid from his city in the effort to resettle Syrian refugees, is more deeply revealing than the man who uttered it might think. If nothing else, looking back at the internment casts a very dark shadow on our current behavior -- as it should.

First of all, it has to be pointed out that Bowers' remark is profoundly ignorant: Among the 110,000 or so people of Japanese descent rounded up into concentration camps by the U.S. government during World War II, some 70,000 of them were American citizens. Of the 40,000 non-citizens who were shipped off, the vast majority were (usually elderly) immigrants who had been in the United States for over 30 years, and who were only non-citizens because U.S. law at the time actually forbade Japanese immigrants from naturalizing. So these people were "Japanese nationals" only in a very technical sense.

More importantly, though, the now-largely-settled historical consensus is that the supposed threat posed by Japanese Americans living on the West was virtually nonexistent, and cannot in retrospect even remotely serve as justification for stripping over an entire class of citizens and their parents of their civil rights, based on their ethnicity, and rounding them up into concentration camps.

It is this nakedly racist component of the internment episode that makes Bowers' lame justification so striking, because it appears to be an endorsement of such policies. And using FDR as a fig leaf in this regard is similarly lame, because we know now that, sainted president though he may be, Roosevelt was also a deep-seated racist when it came to the Japanese, and was an avid subscriber to the patently racist "Yellow Peril" conspiracy theories that provided the grist for so much of the anti-Japanese mill of the times.

Here's a sampling of FDR's thoughts about the Japanese, from an editorial he wrote for the Macon Telegraph in 1925:
Japanese immigrants are not capable of assimilation into the American population. Anyone who has traveled in the Far East knows that the mingling of Asiatic blood with European or American blood produces, in nine cases out of ten, the most unfortunate results...In this question, then, of Japanese exclusion from the United States, it is necessary only to advance the true reason -- the undesirability of mixing the blood of the two peoples. This attitude would be fully understood in Japan, as they would have the same objection to Americans migrating to Japan in large numbers.

Unfortunately, Japanese exclusion has been urged for many other reasons -- their ability to work for and live on much smaller wages than Americans -- their willingness to work for longer hours, their driving out of native Americans from certain fruit growing or agricultural areas. The Japanese themselves do not understand these arguments and are offended by them.
Anti-Japanese sentiments used in a 1920s
political campaign in California.

Moreover, it is abundantly clear that the racist stereotypes to which not only FDR but most of the rest of the nation subscribed were in fact prerequisites for the internment. Americans believed that Japanese-Americans would betray them because racist propaganda had been assuring them of this for the preceding half-century. This was especially clear in the nature of the hysteria that swept the Pacific Coast after Pearl Harbor, which (as I previously described) was not only unusually vicious, but constantly referenced these well-established beliefs in a nonexistent conspiracy.

Central to these beliefs was the notion that the immigrant Japanese (the majority of whom were engaged in agriculture) were secretly "shock troops" sent by the Emperor to serve as a "fifth column" on American shores; they supposedly only awaited the signal to spring into action at the right moment to act as a linchpin of the long-planned invasion of the Pacific Coast.

Of course, in retrospect, we know now that no invasion of the coast was ever contemplated by Japan; their entire purpose was to establish hegemony in the Asian Pacific. But the reality is that even at the time, the military was fully aware that no invasion was even remotely likely. Nor even was a full-scale attack, a la Pearl Harbor, even feasible. At the worst, scattered raids were primarily the threat faced by the Pacific Coast.

Indeed, federal authorities already had made the assessment that the Japanese living in America posed no threat to the security of the nation. Some months before the war arrived, President Roosevelt had secured the services of Chicago businessman Curtis Munson in coordinating an intelligence report on Japanese in the United States. Munson's report, delivered on Nov. 7, 1941, couldn't have been more clear: "There will be no armed uprising of Japanese [in the United States] ... For the most part the Japanese are loyal to the United States or, at worst, hope that by remaining quiet they can avoid concentration camps or irresponsible mobs. We do not believe that they would be at least any more disloyal than any other racial group in the United States with whom we went to war."

Military strategists at the War Department were well aware that the Pacific Coast was under no serious threat of being invaded or under any kind of sustained attack, despite constant clamoring by various jingoes in the press. General Mark Clark, then the deputy chief of staff of Army Ground Forces, and Admiral Harold Stark, chief of naval operations, both ridiculed the notion of any kind of serious Japanese attack on the Pacific Coast when they testified that spring before a Senate committee, though Clark (who had spent several years as an officer at Fort Lewis, Washington) did admit that the possibility of an occasional air raid or a sustained attack on the Aleutian Islands "was not a fantastic idea."

Secondarily, West Coast Commander John L. DeWitt’s clamorous appeals for devoting badly needed troops for the defense of the West Coast were dismissed by War Department officials who knew better; to the planners there, preparing an offensive army for operations in Europe and the Pacific, such requests were self-indulgent wastes of their time.

However, the justification of the evacuation and incarceration of Japanese Americans, at least in the popular mind, was not because of fears of mere sabotage, but because of fears of invasion, to which DeWitt in his proclamations made frequent reference. The most infamous of these embodied the twisted logic behind the drive for internment:

“... It therefore follows that along the vital Pacific Coast over 112,000 potential enemies, of Japanese extraction, are at large today. There are indications that these are organized and ready for concerted action at a favorable opportunity. The very fact that no sabotage has taken place to date is a disturbing and confirming indication that such action will be taken.
It is important to understand that, as Tetsuden Kashima explores thoroughly in his definitive text, Judgment Without Trial: Japanese American Imprisonment during World War II, the incarceration of the Nikkei in World War II was not simply the result of hysteria. In fact, as he demonstrates, it had been planned and well in the bureaucratic works for quite some time, beginning as early as the late 1920s.

However, allowing the military to incarcerate citizens en masse -- which in the end was the underlying bureaucratic purpose of the episode -- obviously raised real civil-liberties issues. And these almost certainly would have been raised immediately had anyone suggested evacuating and placing in concentration camps the nation's entire Italian-American or German-American populations.

The Nikkei, however, offered a unique opportunity in this regard, particularly since they represented a relatively smaller ethnic population -- one which was, moreover, popularly reviled and almost completely marginalized. The hysteria was already latent in the cultural landscape, and government officials and politicians at all levels -- local, state and federal -- readily whipped it higher at nearly every opportunity.

The race-driven hysteria, in essence, did not in itself cause the internment -- but it was the linchpin in convincing the public to proceed with it. And indeed, the public not only approved, it demanded it.

The result was a horrific episode in our history, a permanent black mark, and in the end a tremendous waste of the nation's resources and energies. As I've explained in my book Strawberry Days: How Internment Destroyed a Japanese American Community:
The overwhelming weight of the postwar evidence is that the internment prevented very little, if any, sabotage or espionage. Moreover, even beyond its transparent unjustness, the damage to the integrity of the Constitution, and the dangerous precedents it set, the internment of the Japanese Americans was an unfathomable waste. It demonstrably undermined the war effort, and proved not to be worth a penny of the billions of taxpayer dollars it wasted.

In addition to the hundreds of millions of dollars the actual enterprise itself cost -- rounding up 120,000 people by rail car and shipping them first to "assembly centers"; building ten "relocation centers" in remote locales, and then shipping the evacuees into them; maintaining and administering the centers for another three years, which included overseeing programs to help internees find work outside the camps; feeding the entire population of internees during this time; and then helping them to relocate near their former homes once the camps closed -- there were $37 million more in initial reparations costs in 1948, and then $1.2 billion more in the later reparations approved by Congress in 1988.

At the same time, the Japanese on the Pacific Coast, who occupied some 7,000 farms in the "Military Exclusion Zone," actually were responsible for the production of nearly half of all the fresh produce that was grown for consumption on the Coast (the Japanese also shipped out a great deal of produce to the Midwest and East). Indeed, Nikkei farms held virtual monopolies in a number of crops, including peppers, snap beans, celery and strawberries, and a large portion of the lettuce market.

When these farmers were rounded up and interned, a handful of enterprising whites decided to try running their farms with the hope of making a killing from the crops. But labor was so short that not one of these enterprises lasted beyond about five weeks, and none of them had a successful harvest. Nearly all of these farms lay fallow for the next four years. This major loss of production of fresh vegetables clearly harmed the war effort on the home front, and played a significant role in triggering the rationing that came during the war years.
Now, our nation's Republican governors and all of the GOP's presidential candidates, along with a handful of spineless, mewling Democrats like Bowers and New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan, are demanding that President Obama halt his plans to bring in large numbers of refugees from Syria. In doing so, they are not only giving in to exactly the dark impulses that the ISIS terrorists who recently struck Paris intended for them respond with, they are simultaneously empowering the far-right extremists who have been ginning up their xenophobic campaign against the refugees for several months now.

Nevermind that the vast majority of these refugees are children and the elderly (as the Washington Post explained: "The United States has asked the UNHCR to prioritize refugees who are considered vulnerable – women with children, the elderly, people who have been tortured or who may require modern medical treatment they cannot easily get elsewhere. Half the accepted refugees so far have been children. A quarter are adults over 60.")

Nevermind that the screening process, contrary to the shivering xenophobes' quivering claims, is in fact multilevel, quite arduous, and only begins after the refugees have been in camps for two years. It's hard to imagine a terrorist submitting himself to that kind of challenge unnecessarily, given that a set of fake papers and a tourist visa will get him into the country with only a fraction of that kind of scrutiny; and waiting as a "sleeper" through a multi-year process is not how ISIS terrorists have ever operated.

Nevermind that, contrary to the widely spread assumption repeated in the media that the Paris attackers included men with Syrian refugee passports, the passports they intentionally left to create that impression are now believed to have been fakes, left there so that the media would report that terrorists were coming in among the refugees. In other words, conservatives' factual basis for connecting the refugees to the Paris attacks is entirely groundless.

No, what's really important to understand is that in the end, by locking our doors to the victims of ISIS, we give ISIS exactly what it wants. We succumb to the fear, and they win. We victimize these refugees a second time, and we create a massive cauldron of extremism that will overrun whatever walls we try to erect.

Adam Taylor perhaps explained this best in the Washington Post:
The very same refugees entering Europe are often the very same civilians who face the indiscriminate violence and cruel injustice in lands controlled by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (though, it should be noted, many in Syria are also threatened by the brutal actions of the Syrian government). Globally, studies have shown that Muslims tend to make up the largest proportion of terror victims, with countries such as Syria and Iraq registering the highest toll.

If Muslim refugees come to Europe and are welcomed, it deeply undercuts the Islamic State's legitimacy. Aaron Zelin, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, has helpfully catalogued some of the Islamic State's messages on the refugees pouring into Europe from the Middle East. The messages give the impression of deep discomfort and even jealousy that the Muslim population the Islamic State so covets for its self-proclaimed "caliphate" would rather live in "infidel" Western lands.

... What seems almost certain is that the Islamic State wants you to equate refugees with terrorists. In turn, it wants refugees to equate the West with prejudice against Muslims and foreigners.

Let's be clear: It's not that there is no risk attached to bringing in refugees from Syria. There is always the possibility that one of those children will grow up to be a radical terrorist who kills lots of people. That risk, though, becomes a virtual certainty if we slam our doors on them. And it becomes less likely the more thoroughly we welcome the refugees and help them to assimilate to American society, as the vast majority are eager to do.

As Middle East terrorism expert Daniel Bynam explained several months ago in a paper for Brookings:
Both sides have it wrong. Concerns about terrorism and the refugees are legitimate, but the fears being voiced are usually exaggerated and the concerns raised often the wrong ones.
... Because the refugees are from Syria and Iraq, where the Islamic State is based, it is easy to conjure up fears that the jihadi group has inserted sleeper agents among the refugees who will burrow into host societies and then spring their trap. But the Islamic State doesn’t work that way. In its online magazine Dabiq and other propaganda organs, it stresses the ingathering of Muslims, though it does toss the occasional rhetorical bomb calling for Muslims already in the land of the infidels to“attack, kill, and terrorize the crusaders on their own streets and in their own homes.”

However, the Islamic State argues most “good Muslims” should travel to Iraq and Syria to fight on behalf of the Islamic State against its local enemies, not the other way around. (In contrast, Inspire, the English-language online magazine of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, stresses launching terrorist attacks in one’s home country.) The Islamic State might call for attacks in the West, but it has focused its own money, fighters, and suicide bombers on defeating its enemies in the Middle East. The refugees themselves, fleeing war and extremism, are not strong supporters of the most violent groups: if they were, they would have stayed in Iraq or Syria.

... If the refugees are treated as a short-term humanitarian problem rather than as a long-term integration challenge, then we are likely to see this problem worsen. Radicals will be among those who provide the religious, educational, and social support for the refugees – creating a problem where none existed. Indeed, the refugees need a comprehensive and long-term package that includes political rights, educational support, and economic assistance as well as immediate humanitarian aid, particularly if they are admitted in large numbers. If they cannot be integrated into local communities, then they risk perpetuating, or even exacerbating, the tensions between Muslim and non-Muslim communities in Europe. Despite their current gratitude for sanctuary in Europe, over time the refugees may be disenfranchised and become alienated. We’ve seen this movie before, where anger and disaffection fester, creating “suspect communities” that do not cooperate with law enforcement and security agencies and allow terrorists to recruit and operate with little interference. 
There is no easy solution to this problem, one we have had no small hand in making in the first place. I know from having dealt with the nature of terrorism for some years that the path out is fraught, but it is the only path out. We just have to be brave enough to take it. We cannot succumb to fear, because in truth, that is the only weapon they have.

If we do, our grandchildren will look back on this episode, just as most of us do today with the Japanese American internment, and regard with shame and regret for the utter waste it will leave in its wake.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Conservatives Freak Out When Black ‘Captain America’ Takes On Extremist Border Vigilantes

[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

There’s a new Captain America, and he’s black. Not only that: His first villains are border militiamen.
Repeating what happened a few years ago when Marvel Comics’ film franchise cast a black man (Idris Elba) in the role of the Viking demigod Heimdahl, white nationalists have erupted in grumbling and outrage over the iconic comic hero’s change in race – perhaps somewhat predictably.

But it is the use of border militiamen as the first villains confronted by the new “Cap” that has mainstream conservative pundits in an uproar. They appear to continue to believe that armed border-militia “minutemen” who sometimes patrol the U.S.-Mexico border are just ordinary conservatives.

However, that just isn’t true. In reality, the border-vigilante movement has been a cesspool of criminality that frequently attracts sociopaths and charlatans.

Marvel Comics editors re-launched their comic book in the summer of 2014 as the “All New Captain America,” reflective of the comic-book giant’s desire to remain current with younger readers. One of the changes in the book involved retiring Steve Rogers, the Caucasian character who has been Captain America’s “secret identity” since the 1940s. Editors chose the character of longtime Avenger Sam Wilson, a.k.a. the Falcon and an African American, to replace Rogers.

In his first issue as “Cap,” published just this month, Wilson goes up against a group of vigilante border watchers who call themselves the “Sons of the Serpent” and kidnap and harass immigrant
border crossers.

“Attention all trespassers! I am the Supreme Serpent!” the masked leader tells the hapless immigrants he has caught. “By invading this sovereign land, you defy the laws of God, nature and the United States Constitution! Therefore, I hereby apprehend you by the power vested in me by the aforementioned God, nature, et cetera, et cetera.”

An immigrant pleads that he doesn’t want any trouble, and the masked villain replies: “Oh, I believe you, sir. I can see you have enough trouble with you already, trouble and disease and crime weigh heavy on your backs.”

“Until the mighty wall is built,” the villain adds, “you come here for employment that is rightfully ours! And if denied it, you seek welfare paid for by our tax dollars! Also, you know how you make me press one for English at the beginning of every call to my satellite provider? That is something I cannot abide!”

In the end, “Cap” thrashes the vigilantes and sends them packing, musing as the narrator: “I mean, come on. Who wouldn’t want to punch these guys at least a little, right?”

These scenes provoked an outcry from a number of mainstream conservative outlets, who for some reason saw themselves in the people the superhero was beating up. The Koch-funded MacIver Institute was one of the first to raise the alarm, followed by the Washington Times, the Daily Caller, and Breitbart News. A number of conservative pundits, including Allen West, followed suit, all complaining that Captain America was making conservatives out to be villains.

On Fox News’ morning show Fox & Friends, Tucker Carlson, Clayton Morris, and Heather Childers all discussed the comic, appalled that “conservatives” were being so badly maligned.

“The [Supreme Serpent] is an American who has misgivings about unlimited illegal immigration and the costs associated with it,” Carlson explained. “And that, according to the comic book, is evil.”

“The whole theme is the same,” Carlson added later, “which is that out there in the middle of the country between Malibu and Georgetown everyone is an ignorant, snake-handling bigot and they need to be held in place or else they’ll turn this country into Nazi Germany. It’s like, the people who run this country, a lot of them actually believe that. I live near them. They really think that.”

Jim Gilchrist, one of the co-founders of the Minuteman Project, protested vigorously about the villainization of the border watchers. And at the white nationalist site VDare, much of the disgust revolved around Captain America’s new race as well as his new villains. (At the neo-Nazi site Stormfront, the change in race had long been a topic of disgruntled discussion.)

Whether or not the border vigilantes make appropriate comic book villains for Captain America to combat is a question best left to editors, creators, and readers. But there should be no confusion about whether the militiamen who have populated the border-vigilante movement since its inception a decade ago are ordinary conservatives who “have misgivings about illegal immigration,” as Carlson put it. They are not.

It is one thing to have such misgivings, but it is another thing entirely to take the law into your own hands by going out on potentially dangerous foot patrols in the desert while heavily armed and to brandish weapons at immigrants, sometimes arresting them – which is what border militiamen such as the Minutemen often do.

And while such activities have indeed attracted a fair number of well-meaning, ordinary conservatives, they have also attracted a large number of criminals and sociopaths, a number of whom have assumed leadership roles within the border movement. Much of that attraction is attributable to the nativism that drives the movement and the frequently violent and vicious rhetoric the border watchers use in their everyday discussions of immigration.

Chris Simcox's booking photo
No one embodies that tendency more than Chris Simcox, who cofounded  the Minuteman Project with Jim Gilchrist. The former California schoolteacher turned Arizona desert rat had a long history of unstable behavior that contributed to the split between his organization and Gilchrist’s shortly after their project’s April 2005 launch.

Simcox was arrested in July 2013 and charged with three counts of child molestation — later reduced to two — after his then-6-year-old daughter and one of her friends, age 5, accused him of sexually assaulting them. The trial is currently on hold after a lengthy dispute over whether he would be permitted to cross-examine the alleged victims (which he won). If convicted of the felony charges, Simcox could face life in prison.
The Ranch Rescue vigilantes in action

Even before Simcox came along with his Minuteman concept, one of the early border-militia organizers who preceded him also had a number of brushes with the law. Casey Nethercott, another Arizona resident, was involved in a border-watch operation called Ranch Rescue at the turn of the century, and he too had a number of criminal legal problems.

Nethercott — who had done prison time in California for assault in the 1990s — and some of his fellow Ranch Rescue members in 2003 assaulted two Salvadoran migrants who had crossed the border on foot and wound up on a ranch where the nativist border watchers operated. The migrants were held at gunpoint, and one of them was pistol-whipped and attacked by a Rottweiler. With the assistance of the SPLC, the migrants sued their attackers and won a million-dollar civil judgment against Ranch Rescue, including $500,000 against Nethercott, who also faced criminal assault charges in the case but eventually had them dismissed.

Nethercott eventually left Ranch Rescue and then began organizing his own border watches at a property he purchased in Arizona. Eventually he had a tense standoff with Border Patrol agents at that property; when FBI agents tried to arrest him for his role in that incident two weeks later, they wound up shooting the white supremacist who was accompanying him at the time.

Indeed, while the phrase “rule of law” even today is often bandied about by the remaining bands of vigilante nativists, the record demonstrates that this was a peculiarly flexible concept for many of the Minutemen and their associates.

Shawna Forde
Shawna Forde, for example, incorporated the phrase into the logo for her offshoot border-watch operation, Minuteman American Defense. Forde’s operation was widely promoted at the website of Simcox’s Minuteman Project co-founder, Jim Gilchrist; previously, she had been deeply involved in Simcox’s MCDC operations in Washington state.

Then, in June 2009, Forde was arrested and charged with masterminding the horrific murders of a 9-year-old girl and her father in the small Arizona border town of Arivaca, along with a white-supremacist cohort named Jason Eugene Bush and a local man, Albert Gaxiola, as part of her plan to create a border-militia compound. All three were convicted, and Forde and Bush wound up on Arizona’s Death Row.

After the arrests of Forde, Bush and Gaxiola, Forde’s former associates in the Minuteman movement fled from their onetime protégé. National leaders of the Minuteman movement — particularly Simcox and Gilchrist — hastily tried to put distance between themselves and Forde and her group. To this day, Gilchrist tries to claim that he had little to do with her.

But while Forde’s conviction severely damaged the border-watch movement — as one ex-MCDC leader put it,  “A lot of people felt, well, you’re a Minuteman, you’re a killer” — that was not the end of it.

Todd Hezlitt
In April 2012, one of Forde’s associates in the desert, a Tucson man named Todd Hezlitt, was arrested and charged with two counts of sexual conduct with a minor for an affair he had initiated with a 15-year-old girl from a local high school where he was an assistant wrestling coach. Two months later, he fled with the girl to Mexico, and he briefly became an international fugitive.

A few weeks after that, the girl turned herself in to the American consulate in Mazatlan. Hezlitt was caught a short time later and extradited. He eventually wound up agreeing to plead guilty to the sexual conduct charges in exchange for not being charged with kidnapping, and was sentenced to six years in prison.

J.T. Ready
Another violent incident from a former border watcher erupted in Arizona in May 2012 when Jason Todd “J.T.” Ready — a longtime leader of the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement, and an organizer of independent NSM border watches in Arizona — went on a shooting rampage at the home of his girlfriend.

Before committing suicide, Ready shot and killed his girlfriend, Lisa Lynn Mederos, 47; her daughter, Amber Nieve Mederos, 23; the daughter’s boyfriend, Jim Franklin Hiott, and Amber’s 15-month-old baby girl, Lilly Lynn Mederos. Investigators later found chemicals and military-grade munitions at Ready's residence.

As Tim Steller at the Arizona Daily Star observed: “Undoubtedly, there have been bordermilitia members in Arizona who have carried out citizen patrols without harboring racist motives or having criminal tendencies. The problem for the movement … is that people with these motives or tendencies have cropped up repeatedly among citizen border-watchers.”

Given that history, Captain America probably has good reason for seeing a border militia gang as villainous. It’s not at all clear why mainstream conservatives, however, would see such a gang as one of their own.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Interfaith Counter-Protests Put a Damper on Armed Anti-Muslim Rallies

In Bremerton, WA, the interfaith defenders of the Muslim community were smiling even in the pouring rain.

[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

The antigovernment militiamen who concocted this weekend’s “Global Rally for Humanity” – in which they and their fellow Patriots agreed to hold protests at mosques in over 20 cities around the nation, all while bearing weapons – were not shy about their ambitions and hopes that the demonstration would be massive and worldwide.

But fantasy met reality on Saturday, when most of the planned protests simply didn’t happen after all. Among the few rallies that actually came together, the counter-protesters well outnumbered the anti-Muslim activists. Indeed, “anti-hate” protesters came out to make their presence felt even at some of the locations where not a single protestor showed.

"I expected to see a group of people here angry, with signs talking about how awful Muslims were, but no one showed up," said Brian Todd, pastor of a Baptist church in Huntsville, Al., after no one bothered to show up for the announced protest at the local mosque. Todd had come out to show his support for his Muslim neighbors.

That was a common refrain at a number of the locales. At one of the planned protest sites, in Medford, Ore., the organizers yanked their names from the national roster and renamed their rally a “Back the Blue” pro-law-enforcement affair. One of the organizers told a local TV station that they didn’t want to be associated with “a hate group.”

In Bremerton, Wash., where the rain came down in sheets, no protesters were to be found at the planned site. However, a cluster of about 35 local residents, spontaneously spurred on by news coverage of the planned rally, came out to defend their Muslim neighbors.

“We don’t mind getting wet,” one of them told Hatewatch. “It’s worth it to defend our friends.”

Some of the Bremerton participants said they saw a carful of camo-wearing folks who “flipped us off," but they didn’t stop. “I think they saw they were outnumbered badly,” one told Hatewatch.

And in Sydney, Australia – one of the organizers’ hopes for making their protest have a “global” reach – hardly anyone turned up either, except for counter-protesters who outnumbered them four to one.

There were a couple of notable exceptions. In Phoenix, the protest led by uber-“Patriot” Jon Ritzheimer – who appears to be one of the godfathers of the “global” protest and its chief promoter – drew a couple of dozen participants, several of them well armed. However, they were dwarfed in both size and volume by the chanting counter-protesters who met them and called them out as “racist.”

“I don't hate Muslims, OK? I don't hate Muslims," Ritzheimer told a Phoenix TV station. "Islam is what I have a problem with."

"Muslims are practicing Islam in its literal interpretation and that's why we have deaths going on in our country and terrorist attacks taking place," he explained.

A group of neo-Nazis attempted to join the Phoenix rally.
A small cluster of neo-Nazis wearing shirts with fascist symbols came to the rally as well, but Ritzheimer asked them to leave.

"We politely asked these Nazis to get out of here, because they do not represent us, and I do not condone those actions," he said.

And in Dearborn, Mich., a small group of anti-Muslim protesters showed up outside of the mosque, only to find an even larger group of counter-protesters as well.

As Huffington Post noted, the cumulative effect of the weekend’s protests, in fact, was a large outpouring of love and interfaith support for the Muslim community – and a large heaping of contempt for the fearmongers behind the rally.

“We are proud of our allies from different faiths who have been our partners in dialogue over the years and stand with us against fear and hate,” said Dr. Sayyid Syeed, national director of interfaith and community alliances at the Islamic Society of North America in Plainfield, Ind.

Friday, October 09, 2015

Militiamen Plan to Bring Guns to Mosques Around Nation in 'Global' Protest of Islam

[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

The perfect storm of Islamophobia cresting around the nation could reach a new watermark of ugliness this weekend, as armed protesters are planning to gather outside at least 20 mosques in various locations around the United States.

Calling the protests part of a “Global Rally for Humanity,” the self-described “Patriots” plan to bring weapons to protest outside Muslim worship centers on Saturday.

The protests appear to be the brainchild of Phoenix anti-Muslim activist Jon Ritzheimer, who made headlines in May by organizing an armed protest outside a Phoenix-area mosque. Ritzheimer then told the Phoenix New Times that he intended to take his protest idea global. Ritzheimer also has a history of issuing ugly threats, including his threat to arrest Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow for having voted in favor of President Obama’s arms deal with Iran. Even his fellow militiamen from Michigan disavowed that one.

But he's energized once again with his plan for the weekend.

“I’m going to tell everybody to utilize your Second Amendment [rights] in case we come under that much anticipated attack," he said. Ritzheimer never explained who he thought might attack them.

Two days after posting a video announcing the protest, he posted another video disavowing any responsibility for the protests, saying he was not the “mastermind” – “No, I cannot take credit for such a wonderful rally” – but that he was avidly supporting it anyway. He punctuated that video by holding up a copy of the Koran and shooting it with a pistol.

In late August he posted another video that once again promoted the protest and attacked Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, who will be leading a protest Saturday in Washington D.C. Ritzheimer warned him not to carry out a purported plan to take down the American flag at the White House.

“Just know that we III Percent, we militiamen are standing at the ready across our nation,”  he said. “And when you strike, we will strike back. We will level and demolish every mosque across this country."

Despite Ritzheimer’s claims of a “global” protest that would include Australia and the U.K., so far events are confined to the United States, spread around in 22 cities so far (see map here), with the largest concentration of them in Florida and Texas, where three cities are scheduled to see armed protesters. Each of the Facebook page promoting a protest has taken a localized approach: “Our local law enforcement officers and our country are under threat like never before. Rally up with other patriots in support of local law enforcement who put their lives on the line every day to protect us,” read the Facebook page for the rally in Medford, Ore.

Meanwhile, in Port Orchard, Wash., the pitch was a different concern: “We need to send a clear message to them that we won't accept Sharia Law here in this county!!”

The Council for Islamic-American Relations issued an advisory urging mosque-goers to be careful and take safety precautions this weekend.

"A lot of the times with stuff like this, we don't know if it's just bluster or something serious,” CAIR executive director Ibrahim Hooper told the International Business Times. "Our position is generally not to give attention to people seeking cheap publicity. But there's been enough violent rhetoric around this event that we just felt it prudent to alert the community about what actions they can take to make sure everyone is safe and secure."

Organizing each of the rallies was fairly simple: All a would-be organizer had to do was create a new page on Facebook, following instructions from the original Global Rally for Humanity page: “This is how fellow patriots in your area can get in touch with one another. And if there is not an event page set up for your area yet then its time for you to take the initiative and start a page and invite patriots and share it.”

It is not certain all the rallies will come off as planned. At least one – in Racine, Wisc. – has already been canceled after their Facebook page was filled with disgusted reactions from locals.

"Unbelievable! And people wonder why we have mass shootings. Stop teaching hate!” one reader responded.

Friday, October 02, 2015

How the Candidates, the Haters, and the Media Have Cooked Up a Perfect Storm of Islamophobia

[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

Donald Trump loves to portray himself as a man of the people, and so throwing the mic open to his supporters at a recent town-hall gathering in New Hampshire seemed like a natural gesture. The first questioner at the Sept. 17 Rochester Republican presidential primary event – a man who identified himself as someone “from White Plains” – gave him the kind of blunt talk that Trump himself reveres.

“We have a problem in this country,” the man said. “It's called Muslims. You know our current president is one.”

“Right,” Trump answered, an unsurprising reply given that 66 percent of his supporters believe that Obama is secretly a Muslim.

“You know he's not even an American," the man continued.

Trump gestured to the audience: "We need this question. This is the first question."

"Anyway, we have training camps growing where they want to kill us," the man said. "That's my question: When can we get rid of them?"

"We're going to be looking at a lot of different things," Trump replied. "You know, a lot of people are saying that and a lot of people are saying that bad things are happening. We're going to be looking at that and many other things." And then he moved on.

In the days that followed, Trump was questioned about his response to the man. Why hadn’t he corrected the man’s claim that Obama is Muslim? Or his claims about training camps?

Trump answered the first question – he didn’t feel “morally obligated” to defend President Obama – but ignored the remaining issues about his performance. In particular, Muslim-rights groups wanted to know why he seemed to condone the man’s rabid hatred of Muslims and his plans to “look at” rounding them up.

Then another Republican presidential candidate, Ben Carson, added fuel to the fire. Asked on NBC’s “Meet the Press” about Trump’s response, Carson told host Chuck Todd that he didn’t believe Islam is consistent with the U.S. Constitution: “I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that,” he said.

That, too, provoked an outcry, with Muslim civil-rights groups calling for Carson to "withdraw from the presidential race because he is unfit to lead, because his views are inconsistent with the United States Constitution." Indeed, Article VI, paragraph 3 of the Constitution specifically prohibits any religious test for persons to hold office.

Moreover, many Muslim Americans saw the candidates’ rhetoric as a sign that a fresh wave of the visceral, irrational ethnic loathing of all things Muslim was about to descend upon them. And while such sentiments have been part of the American landscape since at least Sept. 11, 2001, for reasons that are not altogether discernible, it has reached a fever pitch in the past several weeks – the culmination of a perfect storm of electoral politics, conspiracy theorizing and nativist fearmongering.

Those concerns are well grounded. One incident that caught national attention involved a Muslim teenager named Ahmed Mohamad who was arrested by police in Irving, Texas, after he brought an electronic clock of his own making to school to show his teacher, who mistook it for a bomb. It soon emerged that Irving’s mayor was well-known nationally for her role as a right-wing activist against the supposed threat (in reality, nonexistent) of “Sharia law,” and the mayor indeed continued to defend her police force’s actions in arresting the teen.

Though the teen’s trauma was ameliorated somewhat by becoming a national celebrity toasted by President Obama and various tech companies for his bravery, the incident also clearly demonstrated the dangers of succumbing to ethnic fearmongering. Eventually, the conspiracists got around to Mohamad, too, claiming he had carefully planned the whole fiasco from the start and was secretly a tool of Islamist radicals.

Islamophobia has infected small-town America, too, in places ranging from Duncan, S.C., to Twin Falls, Idaho – places where longtime operations that have carefully placed refugees from around the world in jobs and new lives in America are suddenly under siege from their own neighbors. These citizens, whipped up by anti-Muslim activists and right-wing media, are deeply fearful about Muslims – notably, those from Syria – destroying their communities.

The role played by local media in fueling these flames is especially noteworthy. In Twin Falls, local talk-radio hosts turned to topics and fears of refugees “changing our culture” and “bringing a threat to the community”. One caller was especially upset about the criticism of Ben Carson:
This makes me mad, and also scared to death. We’ve got a Muslim, a Muzzie leader in this country, telling a presidential candidate that he should resign because of what he said? I mean – it is against the Constitution! They have Sharia law, we do not!
Other callers waded into the waters of bizarre conspiracy theories that had nothing to do with reality:
I don’t think a lot of people are aware of the fact that bringing all these foreigners in, especially that bunch that [Secretary of State John] Kerry is proposing to bring in, they’re going to come here, and they will eventually overpopulate. And we’re going to be conquered by the sheer numbers of those overpopulated people.
The hosts, of course, did nothing to discourage this kind of talk, but instead blandly folded it in with their own discussions.

This sort of conspiracist discourse reached its apotheosis on a national scale the day after Donald Trump’s town hall, when popular “Infowars” radio host Alex Jones hosted Larry Klayman of Judicial Watch, a onetime respected Beltway insider who in recent years has gone off the rails in claiming that President Obama is secretly a Muslim conspiring to destroy America. And indeed, that very theory was the primary subject of his interview with Jones.

The twist in this discussion was Klayman’s belief that some generals might take out the president in a coup to prevent him from turning America into a subject nation of the Caliphate, noting that most of the current chiefs of staff are “yes men” too cowardly to take such heroic action:
Maybe Obama is pushing them to the point that maybe someday will wage a coup in this country. I’m not advocating that but I know that some of these retired generals and admirals have talked about it. I know that, it’s been in the public domain, because Obama, and I’ll say it straight up because no one else is, you will, Obama is a Muslim through-and-through. Obama sympathizes with a Muslim Caliphate, Obama sympathizes with the mullahs in Tehran, he sympathizes with the radicals in the Far East.
The bulk of the interview, however, was devoted to the depths of Obama’s supposed depravity, as limned by Klayman:
Yes, he wants to bring the United States down to its knees. He admired his father, his father was Muslim. His father was thrown out of this country because he overstayed his student visa, much like many Muslims are doing these days, and others. And Obama, in his heart, has disdain. But he’s very smart, because he pulled a number over all of us. He defrauded us. I don’t believe he’s a natural-born citizen to be a president of the United States. He’s told everybody he’s a Christian, he’s not. And actions speak louder than words. And yes, I do believe in his heart, he would like to see the world run by Muslims.
Though Klayman has wandered far afield from his salad days in the 1990s when Judicial Watch was filing numerous lawsuits against the Clintons and he was a well-regarded conservative insider, he still rates the occasional puff piece for his work in the right-wing press praising his crusades. And last year, he even scored a legal victory by getting a judge to agree with his lawsuit against the National Security Administration’s data-collection program, though that suit was later dismissed.

The spread of Islamophobia into the conservative mainstream, as evidenced by the rhetoric of Republican candidates, extends well beyond Trump and Carson. As Mondoweiss recently explored, most of the GOP’s candidates have indulged in Muslim bashing of some kind or another in recent months:
  • Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor turned TV show host, has called Muslims departing mosques “uncorked animals,” and said that Islam is “a religion that promotes the most murderous mayhem on the planet.”
  • Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has refused to back down from his groundless claim that certain areas of Europe are “no go zones” dominated by Muslims using Sharia law.
  • Ex-Florida Gov. Jeb Bush hired as his political adviser Jordan Sekulow, who has a long background of anti-Muslim activism, and is noted for calling supporters of the so-called Ground Zero mosque “terrorists.”
  • Texas Sen. Ted Cruz hired as his Tennessee campaign chair a man noted for his history of anti-Muslim activism, Kevin Kookogey.
  • Rick Santorum has himself a long history of anti-Muslim comments, including a speech at the 2014 Values Voters Summit in which he claimed that “the West” was in an existential fight with the forces of “radical Islam,” noting that “you don’t have Baptist ministers going on jihad.” Santorum has also endorsed profiling Muslims in security and law enforcement work.
But Trump in particular, due to his current front runner status in the race, has been a catalyst for some of the most overheated Muslim-bashing. This week, he demonstrated how the fires of bigotry can just keep escalating.

Though he had told Bill O’Reilly on Fox News only a few weeks before that, in his view, there ought to be even more room for refugees from the Syrian crisis, on Wednesday, he abruptly changed his mind.
I’m putting the people on notice that are coming here from Syria, as part of this mass migration, that if I win, they’re going back – they’re going back! I’m telling you – they’re going back!
This was met with wide applause from audience. And then Trump explained his rationale, which appeared to come straight out of an Alex Jones radio show:
Because military tactics, you know, are very interesting. This could be one of the great tactical ploys of all time – a 200,000-man army, maybe! Or if you sent 50,000, or 80,000, or 100,000 – we got problems! And that could be possible! I don’t know that it is. But it could be possible. So they’re going back. They’re going back. I’m telling you. So if they come, that’s great. And if I lose, I guess they stay. But if I win, they’re going back. A lot of people will say, oh, that’s not nice. We can’t afford to be nice! We’re taking care of the whole world, we’re losing our shirts on everything we do! Everything we do!
And the flames just keep rising higher.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Idaho Town Divided By Fears Over Refugees, 'Sharia Law'

[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

Zeze Rwasama, the director of College of Southern (CSI) Idaho’s refugee relocation center, has to shake his head at the firestorm that has erupted over his program in the farming town of Twin Falls, Idaho.

“These people, they are working from false information,” he says ruefully. “All we can do is tell people the facts and hope they listen.”

For more than 30 years, CSI has hosted a refugee relocation center tucked away on its Twin Falls campus, lending a hand to people from around the world uprooted by political violence and other upheavals. And for most of those years, it has gone about its work quietly, placing the refugees in jobs and living arrangements and helping them get educations and, often, become American citizens, with little controversy.

So it came as something of a shock to the people running the center this summer when a group of far-right local citizens – fueled by paranoid fears of the looming imposition of “Sharia law” and the spread of ISIS-affiliated terrorism – began organizing against its operations, demanding that the college divest itself of the program and petitioning the governor of Idaho to cease all refugee-relocation programs in the state.

The group, organized as the Committee to End the CSI Refugee Center, began showing up at CSI board meetings in June to demand the center be closed, spurred by the announcement in April that refugees from Syria would soon be among those being processed by the center.

Rick Martin
"Bringing in Syrians, who are predominantly of Muslim background, may be opening the door to terrorists pretending to be refugees," said Rick Martin, a conservative political activist from the nearby town of Buhl, who heads up the committee.

"We're not against legitimate refugees. They need to be treated with dignity and respect. But it would be easy for someone to lie about their background," he added.

The group tried in August to put a measure on the Twin Falls County spring ballot to have the center banned from the CSI campus, but the county attorney declined to allow it, saying it was blatantly unconstitutional. The group last week filed a second petition, claiming its new language resolved the problems, but the county attorney again indicated that it would have problems clearing the legal hurdles.

The committee has remained undaunted, opening an online petition pleading with the CSI board to shut down the program. The petition claims that elsewhere, “refugee resettlement has resulted in a pattern of horrific sex crimes,” and that in Boise, it “has resulted in an increase in terrorist activity,” while “every dollar spent assimilating a single extended family of refugees is a dollar that could be spent making their home country more livable for all their countrymen.”

Another petition, directed at Gov. Butch Otter, garnered over 200 signatures at, urging that all refugee programs in the state be shut down: “If this reverse colonization of our country continues, there won't be a future for American Families,” it stated.

Petition signers made clear their thinking: “To hell with the humanitarian effort. We are at war with these people,” said one. “These refugees are a threat to my family, my way of life, and my country,” wrote another.

The issue has received considerable play on local right-wing radio talk shows, where the notion of Sharia law being imposed in America was described as a concrete reality, rather than the misinformation-driven fantasy that it is.

Martin and his committee also put together a website, Magic Valley Refugee Watch, that provides links to a number of articles and videos denouncing refugee resettlement, particularly for people fleeing the war in Syria.

The top link on the page directs readers to a video featuring anti-Muslim zealot Ann Corcoran, who explains that these refugees include would-be terrorists and “Islamic supremacists.” Corcoran, a Maryland activist has solidified her relationships with some of the major anti-Muslim groups in the country over the past year as they have increased their anti-refugee activism. She has been courted by Frank Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy  “think tank” and Brigitte Gabriel’s ACT! for America, the largest grassroots anti-Muslim group in the country. Corcoran’s Refugee Resettlement Watch blog has highlighted Rick Martin’s anti-refugee efforts in Idaho as part of her push to mobilize what she calls “pockets of resistance” against refugee resettlement nationwide.

Another link directs readers to an extended screed against the CSI program, claiming that “ISIS terrorists have indicated they will use the refugee program to bring in their Jihadists” and that their medical screening is inadequate: “Many diseases including drug resistant tuberculosis, leprosy and other diseases have been brought in with legal immigration & illegal aliens,” it says.

At CSI trustee meetings, the activists have been similarly outspoken. One claimed that Muslims have stated a goal of ruling the world and killing those who don’t subscribe to Islam.

“Like oil and water, U.S. culture and the Mohammedan mindset do not mix. The machetes, pressure-cooker bombs, ‘honor’ killings and 747s that have killed so many Americans should remind us of this unfortunate fact,” opined a letter writer to the local Times-News. “Let’s not fund our own demise by importing even one person who means to destroy us.”

Right-wing commentary in Idaho has been even more openly extreme. At The Voice of Idaho, one writer opined: “By this point, anybody who doesn’t recognize that our country is being invaded in a mass migration facilitated by Communist United Nations operatives – and that includes the Obamanation is either willfully ignorant or invincibly stupid.  Either way, it’s time to get serious and recognize it for what it is because they are endangering our families, our way of life, and our country.”

A white nationalist organization, the American Freedom Party – which recently began increasing its visibility and presence in the Pacific Northwest – inserted itself into the discussion by phoning out a prerecorded message to Idahoans urging them to voice their outrage over the “thousands of Muslim refugees headed to Idaho.” The message went on to inform that the “non-white invasion of their state and all white areas constitutes white genocide.”

AFP chairman William Johnson was unrepentant about the blanket nature of the robocall, which left many of its recipients irate. “Some people don’t like it, well that’s too bad,” Johnson told the Idaho Statesman. "We don’t like the direction this country’s taken. They can sit through a 45-second harangue by our party telling them why the white race is dying out.”

Along with the ugly rhetoric, there has been some ugly behavior directed at Muslims in the program since the group began organizing. Leo Morales, director of the Idaho chapter of the ACLU, told Hatewatch that in at least one case, a woman wearing a headscarf was harassed at the store where she worked as a clerk by people demanding to know if she was Muslim.

“They started in with the ugly stuff: ‘You don’t belong in my country, you need to leave my country.’ And then also finished with, ‘I am gonna come back next week, and if you’re still here, things are gonna be … different,’” Morales said. “So the young girl was scared, really scared. And she eventually shared this with her teacher.”

Other young people have been harassed as well. A teacher at a local school where some of the refugees attend class told activist Deborah Silver that one day, a pickup truck with a large Confederate flag hanging off the back showed up one day as school was letting out, “and there was some concern there. So they did remove the kids from the road and notify the police that someone was hanging around there. I’ve also heard reports from a couple of teachers at CSI that a couple of the Muslim girls, wearing headscarves, were approached on their way to school.”

Even more unsettling, a group of Boise-area militiamen who call themselves the “Idaho III Percent” have begun showing up at some of the CSI board meetings to register their displeasure with the program. The group, headed by Boise resident Brandon Curtiss, has posted attacks on the refugee program on its Facebook page, while Curtiss is also listed as a member of Martin’s committee.

As Morales noted, “that sort of environment is one that’s very traumatizing for the refugee community.”

Contributing to the turmoil has been the arrival of a noted anti-Muslim activist, Shahram Hadian, currently the pastor of a Christian church in northern Idaho, and known for labeling all of Islam “demonic.” Hadian made headlines last year by playing a key role in a fight in the Idaho Legislature over funding for child-support enforcement services.  In the Magic Valley, he jumped into the debate over the refugee center by demanding that it be closed.

"The refugee program needs to be halted. So what I said was immigration, lawful immigration needs to be limited, particularly from Muslim countries," Hadian said.

Rwasama observed that nearly all of the fearmongering has been based on false information and distorted perceptions. It’s very difficult to even achieve refugee status, and the people who arrive in Twin Falls have all been carefully screened, he said.

“The refugees who are being resettled are less than 1 percent of all the refugees that are out there on the planet,” Rwasama told Hatewatch. “So if you only going to be helping less than 1 percent, then you are definitely going to be selective – very, very selective – about who gets in.”

There has been pushback against the fearmongering. Silver, a longtime Twin Falls resident and local accountant, formed her own organization, Magic Valley Refugee Advocates, in response to the agitation. “I just knew from experience what the center did and how they went about it, and I knew that what these people were saying was wrong,” she said.

“The thing is, most of the people who know about the refugee center support what it does,” Silver said. “The businesses do; our unemployment rate is under 4 percent, so our philosophy is, you put them right to work right away with a job here. And so the businesses are very supportive.”

One of the more interesting expressions of support has come from a local evangelical Christian named Jennifer Thornquest, who has taken to standing out on the Perrine Bridge – the huge span across the Snake River Canyon that welcomes visitors to Twin Falls – with a sign showing her support for the refugees.

“I wanted something tangible to do to help the people in Syria,” Thornquest said, adding that it gets “very lonely” out there. On her blog, she has described some of the ugliness that is directed her way from passing drivers, while at other times the shows of support she receives can be uplifting.

“The vast majority of people in the Magic Valley area are very supportive of what we are doing,” Rwasama said. “What’s happening is that with technology now, one person can multiply one voice into hundreds. They are very committed to spending more time to broadcast their opinions, but they are just a minority.

“We’ve actually seen an increase in the number of people who are coming to volunteer here, and people making donations as well. This has raised awareness in the community, and now people are coming out and supporting us.”

Still, as Silver noted, the volume of noise from the Islamophobic contingent has been overwhelming: “They’re calling all these elected officials – the mayor, the trustees, the city council – and they’re getting a ton of these calls,” she said.

“They’re getting traction, and that’s what’s scaring me,” Silver said, on the eve of a community forum on the subject sponsored by the Times-News. “I’m working on community involvement, and we are reaching out to faith leaders in the area. And we’re getting a very good response with that. But there’s so much chatter going on, it’s making the atmosphere very crazy.”

Silver observed that the noise being made by the extremists is distorting the shape of the discourse. “These kinds of characters are going to scare away normal people, and so only their crowd is going to show up, and pretty soon that’s who we’re electing, because nobody else wants to talk to them,” she said.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Conspiracists Accuse Alex Jones of Being a ‘Zionist Shill’ After Infowars Takes Down David Duke Debate Video

[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

Alex Jones appears to regret having brought David Duke onto his program late last month for an extended interview.

An uproar among white nationalists immediately followed the interview, with one extremist after another proclaiming it proof that Jones, the popular conspiracist radio host who operates InfoWars, was working secretly on behalf of Jewish interests. The chorus of disapproval from Jones’ sector of the right-wing paranoid universe became so loud that Jones eventually took down the two-hour video from his own website (though others promptly put up copies of it), and deleted most references to it on his site, including comments from his fans.

In the meantime, the argument on the far right about Jones’ ostensible Jewish ties has continued apace.

It all began in mid-August when Jones issued a challenge to Duke, the longtime Klan and neo-Nazi leader, to appear on the air with him and debate him, in part because he and his staff had found instances in which Duke was found criticizing Jones, notably over Jones’ fondness for conspiracy theories about FEMA concentration camps.

“And then he goes into: ‘Alex Jones wants to scare you from being politically involved, and tell you you can be put in prison if you fight back.’ No, I said you’ll be put in prison, or enslaved or impoverished if you don’t fight back,” Jones complained.

“I’m gonna give Duke a chance to even play clips on this show, to show me where I said this and that, but don’t sit there and say something if you don’t have the meat and potatoes,” Jones said.

So three days later, Duke appeared on Jones’ radio show and remained for a full-two-hour interview.

For most of the first half of the affair, Jones and Duke appeared to be largely in agreement in their paranoid view of a New World Order-dominated America. But things started to drift apart when Duke became increasingly insistent on blaming the entire conspiracy on “Jewish supremacists” who he claims are engaging in a race war against whites, and who he said control the nation’s banks, its political officials, and its media.

“All right,” Jones said, “I’ve never had anybody Jewish try to stop me from covering the things I do, going over the things I do.”

Then he brought on his producer, Rob Jacobson, a Jewish man who was sitting in the studio. Jacboson began peppering Duke with questions about the logic and veracity of a number of his claims, pointing out that only one of the participants in the notorious Jekyll Island meeting of 1910 (a centerpiece of many New World Order conspiracy theories) was Jewish.

At that point, Duke became shrill and defensive, and even more loudly insistent in describing the nefarious results of various Jewish conspiracies. He and Jones swapped complaints about how much time he was being allowed to speak, which became a secondary focus of their debate. Duke complained that Jacobson – who kept interjecting with counterfactual material – was cutting him off. And after two hours, the interview ended on a sour and inconclusive note as Jones offered to bring Duke back yet again.

However, that does not appear likely now. Jones’ video of the interview was swamped with comments from Duke fans attacking Jones and Jacobson for having had the temerity to challenge Duke’s assertions about Jews, claiming that the two radio hosts had now proven that they were in the pocket of Jewish interests. Shortly afterward, Jones removed it from his YouTube page.

But the controversy only appeared to step up at that point, at least among the denizens of the conspiracist universe. On YouTube,  in addition to copies of the original debate, videos headlined “Alex Jones Exposed as Zionist Shill by David Duke” and  “Zionist Alex Jones Attempts to Bully Anti-Zionist David Duke” began appearing.

At the Conspiracy Outpost – a message board where people trade a variety of far-right theories – there was much discussion of Jones’ Jewish ex-wife. One commenter argued that “it is easy to observe that he was controlled by outside forces and possibly did this to Duke as a last ditch effort to save his life. He lost. BIG TIME.”

There was even criticism at the InfoWars community, where one diarist posted that Jones had “disappointed many of his loyal fans”: “Alex Jones must know that although he has done so much good for us in the fight for our liberty, he is failing on the most important topic of our times: Global Zionism.”

But the harshest criticism came from the neo-Nazi right. At The Daily Stormer, editor Andrew Anglin slammed Jones for taking down the video, noting that the comments on Jones’ own websites were running strongly in favor of Duke, even on threads not devoted to the debate: “The comments are all over his YouTube page, all over People are spamming his Twitter and that of [contributor] Paul Joseph Watson.”

Another Daily Stormer contributor, Lee Rogers, then composed an essay titled “Alex ‘Jew Wife’ Jones: The Looming Death of a Corrupt Dick Juice Driven Disinformation Empire,” which concluded: “Either way, unless his operations are further subsidized by Jewish financing, I do not see how he can sustain them for much longer in light of what has happened.  I believe we are truly seeing the looming death of Alex Jones and his empire of disinformation.”

At the white nationalist Traditional Youth Network website, the headline read: "David Duke defeats Alex Jones: We Are Destined to Win." The piece credits The Daily Stormer with provoking the debate, adding: "Had it not been for Daily Stormer’s activism, Jones’ listeners would have carried on assuming that Duke is a hateful and ignorant fool who wants to genocide black babies, but truth prevailed."

Duke himself reveled in the fresh shot of attention. At his site, he posted a couple of videos ruminating on the “victory” in the debate, and issued a statement: “I don’t want to go on the warpath with Alex Jones,” Duke said. “But, I am shocked that this great debate that he promoted on his show, has suddenly disappeared from his website and channel. …. He should not [be] trying to send it down the memory hole and hide from his listeners."

Duke, in the meantime, managed to keep up his penchant for making headlines: In Baton Rouge, he was ejected from a meeting of the United Daughters of the Confederacy at a hotel on the campus of Louisiana State University. According to news accounts, he was asked to leave the gathering after getting into an argument with someone about the Black Lives Matter movement. He claimed he had been invited to speak, but meeting organizers denied that.

And back at Jones’ site, the only trace of the great Duke-Jones debate that remains is the video of Jones’ challenge to Duke beforehand.