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.”

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.”

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Gaffney Proposes a Smashing Replacement for Flynn in NSA Seat: 'Jerry' Boykin

[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

Frank Gaffney, one of the unofficial advisers behind President Trump’s Muslim travel ban and a key right-wing voice on national security issues, has a nominee in mind to replace former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn – a bold choice, someone he thinks can help the new chief executive overcome the Flynn debacle.

Ret. Lt. Gen. William G. “Jerry” Boykin.

On Tuesday, Gaffney tweeted his advice to Trump: “Retired Lieutenant General William 'Jerry' Boykin is that man. He can help Trump make America great again.”

Gaffney expanded the idea further in a column for the right-wing webzine Newsmax titled “Trump Must Channel Reagan on National Security Post.” He referenced Reagan’s 1986 selection of William Clark as national security advisory.

“Like Ronald Reagan, [Trump] needs a top hand who has the judgment and ability to staff up and guide a national security team to achieve victory over Jihad,” he wrote. “Retired Lieutenant General William "Jerry" Boykin is that man.”

Gaffney also appeared on the Breitbart News Daily XM Radio program and promoted Boykin further. “We need a similar guy. I have a candidate. I’m sure that’s the kiss of death, but I believe the guy who should replace General Mike Flynn is another retired Army lieutenant general by the name of William ‘Jerry’ Boykin,” Gaffney told host Alex Marlow.

He said Boykin has “that kind of clarity and courage under fire, most especially, of an extraordinary leader of men, one of our most decorated special operators.”

“This is the guy for this time, I think, and I hope that Donald Trump will think about bringing him in. He knows him, he worked with him in the course of the campaign, and he would, I believe, help him execute a strategy for victory over jihad, which is what we need at the moment,” he said.

However, if Trump is seeking to avoid controversy, Boykin might not fit the bill.

Boykin came to national prominence while still in the Army during the Iraq war, when he gave a speech about hunting down strongman Osman Atto in Mogadishu. "He went on CNN and he laughed at us, and he said, 'They'll never get me because Allah will protect me. Allah will protect me.' Well, you know what? I knew that my God was bigger than his," Boykin told the Los Angeles Times. "I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol." He also told a religious group in Oregon that Islamic extremists hate the United States “because we’re a Christian nation, because our foundation and our roots are Judeo-Christian.”

Alongside a history of many other controversial remarks, Boykin has said that “Americans need to have more babies” to counteract the world’s growing Muslim population, called President Obama a “Communist dictator” who is using psychological operations on Americans, claimed that the repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” doctrine has led to the “absolute destruction” of the military, warned that Obama is “creating a Marxist nation” with an agenda “straight out of the Communist Manifesto," and even theorized that Obamacare is part of a conspiracy to create a “Brownshirt army.”

In 2014, Boykin was caught on a hot mic making an awkward attempt at humor by telling a reporter from Israel that “Jews are the problem” and the “cause of all the problems in the world.”

In 2015, he told a gathering of the extremist anti-LGBT organization Watchmen on the Walls that Christians in America were being persecuted, and that it was time for them to rise up “like an Army.”

“This SOGI [sexual orientation and gender identity] nonsense is an example of exactly what they’re trying to do us,” Boykin said. “They’re trying to put us in a situation where we’re going to lose our businesses, where we’re going to be forced to accept what Adolf Hitler forced the church to accept in Germany in 1937.”

“We’re at war,” Boykin said, as he declared that the push for gay rights is “evil” and cannot be compared to the fight for civil rights: “This is not about civil rights, this is about the evil that has come into our society and is trying to destroy our ability and our freedom to be able to worship our god as we choose.”

“We’re not rising up against evil,” he warned. “When we rise up against evil, we’ve got to rise up like an army. We’ve got to act like we’re in the military because, in fact, we are God’s army.”

Since 2012, Boykin has been executive vice president of the Family Research Council, an anti-LGBT hate group.

Gaffney himself is no stranger to extremism. His Center for Security Policy regularly demonizes of Muslims both abroad and in the United States. He travels around the country and holds daylong conferences devoted to promoting those smears, along with a heavy dose of conspiracy theories and crackpot claims. He is also credited with having helped foment a significant wave of Islamophobia in the U.S. that crested in 2016.

Nonetheless, Gaffney’s CSP has played a critical role in shaping the Trump administration's foreign policy regarding Muslims. Trump made headlines during the campaign when he cited dubious statistics generated by Gaffney’s group to defend his proposal for a ban on all immigration by Muslims into the United States.

Trump reportedly received advice on “national security issues” from Gaffney during his transition, but Gaffney said he did not have a formal position with the new administration.

Even with Gaffney's support, however, Boykin is unlikely to be chosen. According to White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, Trump has narrowed down the choice to replace Flynn to three candidates: Ret. Admiral Robert Harward, Ret. Gen. David Petraeus, and Ret. Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Why You Cannot Defend Orcas and Donald Trump Simultaneously

Donald Trump meets with Blackstone Group executive Jonathan Gray.

It seems almost counterintuitive that a person who spends their time advocating on behalf of killer whales might support a politician like Donald Trump.

For good reason: Trump is notoriously anti-empathetic -- particularly when it comes to LGBT people, Muslims, Hispanics, and other minorities -- and indisposed to even expanding civil rights for his fellow humans. It would be astonishing if someone who produced two big-game-trophy-hunting sons were ever to advocate on behalf of such entities so beneath him in the hierarchy of things as animals.

And yet, there are such folks. A few of them are my friends. So I'm here to explain to them why any support for the current occupant of the White House is support both for the current regime of enclosure in tiny tanks for the captive-orca population, as well as for the eventual extinction of the Southern Resident killer whale population, as well as inflicting harm on all the world's wild orcas generally.

You are being, in short, no friend of the orcas, either captive or wild.

First, it's important to know that the nemesis of orca captivity reformers -- SeaWorld -- is closely allied with Donald Trump.

SeaWorld's majority stockholder is the Blackstone Group, the onetime owners of the company who took its stock public and who have taken the biggest hit from the Blackfish effect. Blackstone CEO Steve Schwarzman has been one of Trump's biggest cheerleaders in the media. And the admiration is clearly mutual; Trump recently invited Schwarzman along for a ride on Air Force One.

(It was Schwarzman, you'll recall, who put his foot in the company mouth on national television by blaming Dawn Brancheau for her death when she was attacked by Tilikum: Challenged about SeaWorld's stock, Schwarzman told his CNBC host that the company had only "had one safety lapse -- interestingly, with a situation where the person involved violated all the safety rules that we had." The company quickly tried to backtrack, saying that Schwarzman had "misspoken," explaining that "his comments did not accurately reflect the facts of the accident or SeaWorld’s longstanding position on it.")

One of Trump's earliest rumored picks for Treasury Secretary was Blackstone Real Estate president Jonathan Gray. Instead, he chose Steve Mnuchin, the notorious "foreclosure king."

What Schwarzman is particularly hopeful of is that Trump will heavily deregulate business. For businesses like SeaWorld, that will mean potentially releasing them from OSHA regulations, not to mention those from APHIS.

Speaking of APHIS: Trump named Brian Klippenstein, the notorious puppy-mill defender, to the transition team making his choice for Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The website of Klippenstein's organization, Mother Jones notes, "stresses the importance of 'defending our traditions,' and includes photos of performing elephants."

The man they chose -- former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue -- is close to agribusiness interests and a Confederacy fan to boot. He also has long been closely affiliated with the Georgia Aquarium, which has been fighting to keep cetaceans in captivity through their beluga collection. That is a fight it has been losing -- until now.

In early February, Trump's new USDA promptly blacked out all previously available information on puppy-mill operations. The agency released an Orwellian statement saying it removed the information “based on our commitment to being transparent … and maintaining the privacy rights of individuals.”

And those are just the concerns around captive cetaceans. Trump's ascension to the presidency is even more troubling, and likely devastating, to the wild killer whale population of the Salish Sea -- and for wildlife, particularly the endangered kind, in the USA and elsewhere generally.

Those who follow my work regularly, and particularly in the past year, are well aware that the Southern Residents are slowly starving to death. This trend reached its apotheosis this year, when we lost seven whales, including the century-old matriarch, J2 Granny, at the end of the year.

The orphaned J-54, starving after his mother's death, is supported in the water by family members shortly before his own demise.
It was truly a gut-wrenching experience this year, watching familiar orcas like the great J-28 slowly waste away from malnutrition. Then we saw her orphaned and unweaned calf, J-54, slowly starve to death too. At the end, he was so weak, he was being held up in the water by his sister, J-46 Star, and cousin, who were so desperate to keep him afloat they were raking him with their teeth. But he died anyway.

One of the keys to getting them the salmon they need, as most orca advocates are aware, will be removing the four dams on the Lower Snake River and restoring the salmon habitat behind them, to provide them with more Chinook at the mouth of the Columbia in the critical winter and spring months.

However, these dams have been held in place forever because they have been a political football of the rabid Republican right in Washington state since the 1990s, when they held rallies with bulldozers to defend their dams from the threat of those urban environmentalist liberals from Seattle who wanted to restore the salmon runs by tearing them down. That mentality has never abated.

One of their chief defenders, in fact, is Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers of Spokane, a sturdy Republican who wields considerable power in the House. McMorris-Rodgers not only defends the dams, she wants to pass legislation that will make them permanent. In other words, she is hoping to prevent a federal judge's impending order (that might take effect in as soon as five years) from removing the dams. Here's what she recently wrote:
There are some who believe the Snake River dams are not allowing for adequate salmon recovery. However, thanks to collaboration between states, tribes, federal agencies, and private property owners, our salmon are returning at record levels. Since 2014, more than 2.5 million adult salmon and steelhead passed Bonneville Dam, the highest returns since they began counting in 1938. The Sockeye, Fall Chinook, and Coho were also among record and near-record runs as well.
In reality, salmon runs on the Columbia have collapsed in the past two years; those "record" runs were not the result of rehabilitation measures, but rather reflected a short-term experiment on the river when the system was flooded with large numbers of salmon fry to see what the effect might be.

Cathy McMorris-Rodgers after meeting with Trump
It won't matter, however. Not only is McMorris-Rodgers one of the most powerful members of the Republican House now in control in Washington, she's also a close ally and longtime supporter of Donald Trump. He briefly considered her for his Interior Secretary position (and was even reported to be the choice in the press), but then went with Ryan Zinke instead, choosing to keep McMorris-Rodgers in her influential role in the Congress.

Afterwards, she said that Trump had asked her about federal lands policies: "He wanted to know what steps we could be taking," she said. "He’s very interested in more access on federal lands."

The dams, of course, are hardly the only front on which the Trump administration -- and the complete Republican control of the Congress -- are going to wreak havoc for wild orcas. Salmon-habitat restoration fights in the West have all revolved around entrenched business interests that would be harmed (or at least face added costs) by the steps required to bring back the fish.

So naturally, salmon -- and, consequently, orcas -- will be among the main species affected by the recent announcement that the Republican House intends to gut the Endangered Species Act. Another Republican actually has introduced legislation to eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency altogether.

In the meantime, global climate change -- and the ocean acidification that accompanies it, which in turn is believed to be playing a major role in the decline of salmon populations -- will continue at full blast, because we the USA now has an administration led by a man who believes that global warming is a "Chinese hoax."

Look, it's hard to say what attracted any orca lover into the Donald Trump camp. Maybe you thought it would have no effect on the orcas you love. But as your friends, we're asking you to wake up and smell the coffee. You made a bad choice. You have empowered the very people who will do the most possible harm to our black-and-white friends. We all mistakes, right?

But moving beyond them entails a first, essential step: You have to cop to it.

And then let's move on to making a real difference for these orcas. That's going to entail real political awareness going forward. And knowing just who your enemies, and who your friends, really are.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Fight Fascists With Mockery, Not the Violence That Feeds Them

Protesters mock neo-Nazis at a rally in Olympia, WA, in 2005

Early on during the Inauguration Day alt-right event on the University of Washington campus that eventually devolved into a near-fatal melee, I looked around Red Square, and I had a bad feeling.

I wasn't just afraid that things would get ugly. I saw the guys in the red "Make America Great Again" hats -- I just took to calling them Red Caps -- were itching for a fight, smirking and leering with that privileged alt-right sneer. I saw a dead serious, angry protest crowd, intent on blocking their entry. And I could see that no matter what, the scene was going to make everything worse -- by playing right into those alt-righters' proto-fascist hands, straight out of their historic playbook.

Even though it seemed peaceful enough at the outset, when the numbers of would-be audience members for Milo Yiannopoulos' talk began lining up outside Kane Hall were roughly equal to those of the anti-fascist/anti-Milo protesters who began surrounding them and blocking their entry, it nonetheless seemed like a situation ripe for violence, since many of the protesters were coming into pretty close proximity to the alt-right Milo fans and there were plenty of verbal exchanges. Some of them even were conversations, but others were mere back-and-forth unpleasantries. There were minor physical moments, notably some of the red ballcaps getting knocked off people's heads and then swiped. And then the Black Bloc showed up, in an organized troupe, and it really did take a dark turn.

I know the Black Bloc folks love to claim that they need to wear masks with their black clothes in order to hide their identities from retaliation by neo-Nazis as well as police. Color me less than convinced, but what do I know: I've only been reporting on neo-Nazis and fascists for over 30 years with my face and my name out there, right? (I also get the feeling that a lot of them wear masks because it makes them feel badass. Whatever.) And they certainly make no bones about looking down their ideologically pure noses at normal mainstream nebbishes like myself, since we are insufficiently militant in the face of the fascist threat. Or so I've heard.

Well, the cold reality is that the masks also become a license for acting out violently, indulging in behavior they'd never consider if there were a chance their identities would be known. Obviously, that includes assaulting journalists, even those there on assignment to monitor the situation for the SPLC, as I was. On three separate occasions I was assaulted by a Black Bloc person who knocked the phone I was recording the event with (on a selfie stick) out of my hand.

Indeed, it seemed to include assaulting anyone they damned well pleased. And that was where the whole thing turned dark. What had been a fair and peaceful (if pointedly uncomfortable for the alt-righters) exercise in free speech by the anti-fascists, socialists and leftists who first comprised the protest crowd suddenly became an exercise in mutual menacing.

Of course, I understood why they were whacking me -- because they wanted to protect their identities from further reprisals afterwards (even though every one of them wore a mask as well), and they in fact coach each other in knocking down cameras as an identity-protection measure. I don't think a single one of them thought about the bizarre totalitarianism of their actions -- their attempts to control the information from a mass public event, attempts that (like similar corporate or law-enforcement attempts at controlling information) eventually prove futile, especially in an age when everyone has a cell phone with their video cameras rolling at events like this.

Sure enough, eventually the brutality became physical: One young Trump supporter made the mistake of getting too close into the faces of a phalanx of masked Black Bloc folks and wound up getting smacked in the mouth and hit with a bulb full of blue paint that covered half his face. His red-capped buddies patted him on the back and hugged him; one of them took his picture, exclaiming: "You're red, white and blue!"

The 'Pepe' banner and chants come out
The Red Caps, meanwhile, were frustrated that they couldn't get in to see Milo, and their frustration boiled over. It began to reach a peak when one of the smirking alt-righters pulled out a Pepe banner -- which, for anyone at all social-media savvy, is well understood now to be the rough equivalent of pulling out a swastika flag. Certainly cheering the Milo fans, who then chanted "Pepe! Pepe! Pepe!" knew it. And that was about the time things began to get ugly.

More of the Red Caps and their friends began shoving their protesters, and several minor tussles began breaking out. There was a group of dedicated peacekeepers who had been intervening with the crowd's interactions all night (most of them wearing bike helmets and backpacks to protect themselves) and they intervened in several of these brewing melees.

One of these was a 34-year-old computer programmer named Josh Dukes, who is a big, imposing man with a noticeable anti-fascist tattoo, and his interference was notably effective in dealing with some of the more violently inclined alt-righters, who were tussling right next to me when he stepped in, as you can see in the video above. I'd been observing Dukes throughout the event as well, and he had only been intervening peacefully in every situation.

Josh Dukes intervenes in a budding melee moments before he is shot
At that particular moment, I was whacked from behind by a young woman in a masked black outfit who sneaked away through the crowd while I searched for my camera/phone, even as the melee began to spread and I heard more shouting, and then a muffled bang. By the time I had collected my gear, people were clearing away and Josh Dukes lay on the ground, critically wounded. (Dukes survived, but just barely; he suffered a .22 wound to his vital organs and has undergone multiple surgeries since. He remains in serious condition.)

The man who shot him was someone else I'd been observing all evening (you can see him throughout my video, wearing a black leather jacket and a maroon hoodie). I took note of him early because the Red Cap crowd was noticeably white, and this man was the exception -- he was of Asian extraction. (People who study the alt-right do not find this unusual, FWIW, since the movement's authoritarian appeal can cross ethnic, racial and gender boundaries.) Just before the shooting, he had donned a yellow ballcap (he's among the people chanting "Pepe!" in the video), and somehow ended up in the middle of the melee that erupted next to me. We still don't know how and why he shot Josh Dukes, but that's what court hearings are for.

Milo, as I reported, attempted to claim in his speech inside the hall that the roles were reversed -- that it had been one of his alt-right fans who had been shot by an antifascist. Breitbart News and the Daily Caller both reported the same. The Daily Caller wound up writing a story that corrected the facts but, notably, did not explain that it was a correction of the site's previous reportage. Breitbart, meanwhile, not only never bothered to correct its reportage, it instead (without a hint of irony) accused the UW president of changing her story about the event, and left the shooting utterly unmentioned in its subsequent reportage.

Both sides blamed the other for the violence, though it seemed the Red Caps were unhappy and freaked out merely by the presence of protesters peacefully asserting their own free-speech rights -- which, in their worldview, constitutes an assault on their free speech. Certainly the Black Bloc escalated the tension into violence, but in the end, there also was little question about who showed themselves willing to resort to lethal force: the pro-Trump contingent.

That was underscored a few days later when the College Republicans at the University of Washington -- the sponsors of the event and the people who had invited Yiannoupoulos and thus held ultimate responsibility for his presence on the UW campus -- issued a public statement that made no mention of the shooting victim or concern for his well-being or recovery, but instead warned the anti-fascists that "it's time your flame is put out. If you keep prodding the right you may be unpleasantly surprised what the outcome will be."

Simultaneously, we're now being subjected to a hysterical propaganda campaign from the right attacking the mainstream marches against Trump as being the products of a nefarious "leftist" scheme to wreak violent havoc, using the Milo protest at UW, and the subsequent violent protests in Berkeley a few nights later when he tried to speak there, as their primary examples. Republicans are now associating these scenes with the outspoken town halls that people like Jason Chaffetz are currently enduring, saying they now fear for their safety, even though the town-hall scenes have been in reality only about as raucous as your average Tea Party protest at the health-care town halls in 2009.

Not exactly advancing the debate has been the viral video of alt-right/white nationalist leader Richard Spencer getting punched in the face, which became the topic of conversation about the same time as the protests, and over which many nominally peace-loving liberals indulged their inner authoritarians and openly approved of the violence. "It's OK to punch Nazis" is the essence of their logic.

OK, I will be among the first to admit that Richard Spencer has an eminently punchable face. More than a few times, when I have been sifting through and editing videos featuring his smug, dead-eyed smirk, I've had to resist the impulse to reach through the screen and just slap that shit off his face. So, yes, there was something viscerally satisfying to seeing him punched. But I also winced.

I winced, first, because I'm human, and acknowledge it or not, so is Richard Spencer, and I happen to still feel enough natural empathy that I respond viscerally and strongly to other people's pain and suffering. That's one of the main things that separates me from people like Richard Spencer.

I also was chagrined, however, because I have a deep enough familiarity with the history of fascist movements to recognize that the Left, as represented by the guy punching Spencer, is simply playing right into their hands.

This is the fascist playbook: Provoke violence by your enemies, the kind that creates scenes of fascist victimhood and left-wing brutality; then, through deft manipulation of popular sentiments through propaganda and media, use it as an excuse for (a) consolidating power, and (b) wildly overreactive, exterminationist violence, often backed up by state police and even military force.

Recall, if you will, that this was a strategem used by both the German Nazis and the Italian Brownshirts, embodied in the Nazi anthem, the "Horst Wessel Lied," and dozens of propaganda posters depicting Brownshirt martyrs:

A prewar Nazi propaganda poster from 1932. It reads:
"We are the new Germany!
"Think of the victims --
"Vote National Socialist Ticket 1!"
In the final years of the Weimar Republic, Germany was mired in a grave political and economic crisis that left the society verging on civil war. Street violence by paramilitary organizations on the Left and the Right increased sharply. In the final ten days of the July 1932 parliamentary elections, Prussian authorities reported three hundred acts of politically motivated violence that left twenty-four people dead and almost three hundred injured. In the Nazi campaigns, propaganda and terror were closely linked. In Berlin, Nazi Party leader Joseph Goebbels intentionally provoked Communist and Social Democratic actions by marching SA [Brownshirt] storm troopers into working-class neighborhoods where those parties had strongholds. Then he invoked the heroism of the Nazi "martyrs" who were injured or killed in these battles to garner greater public attention. Nazi newspapers, photographs, films, and later paintings dramatized the exploits of these fighters. The "Horst Wessel Song," bearing the name of the twenty-three-year-old storm trooper and protege of Goebbels who was killed in 1930, became the Nazi hymn. 
The well-publicized image of the SA-man with a bandaged head, a stirring reminder of his combat against the "Marxists" (along with other portrayals of muscular, oversized storm troopers), became standard in party propaganda. In the first eight months of 1932, the Nazis claimed that seventy "martyrs" had fallen in battle against the enemy. Such heroic depictions -- set against the grim realities of chronic unemployment and underemployment for young people during the Weimar period -- no doubt helped increase membership in the SA units, which expanded in Berlin from 450 men in 1926 to some 32,000 by January 1933. (State of Deception: The Power of Nazi Propaganda, U.S. Holocaust Historical Museum, 2009)
This was a refinement of sorts of an old tactic mastered by American Southerners in the post-Civil War Reconstruction era, when they managed to turn any effort to contain their own implacable racial violence and the war of terrorism waged by whites against freed slaves and Northerners who came South to assist them into an egregious attack on their sullied honor. A man whipped to near-death by the Klan could become, in their rhetorical up-is-down world, a villainous lowlife injuriously accusing an upstanding white citizen, the act of which became the greater sin.

Precisely such a scenario gave birth to one of the hoariest of American political cliches, "waving the bloody shirt." The phrase originated with the case of a white schoolteacher who was whipped within an inch of his life by Klansmen for having dared to teach black children to read; the incident became nationally notorious, leading prominent liberal senators to demand action from Congress. One of these was (falsely) accused of waving the teacher's tattered, bloodstained shirt on the floor of the Senate, lending itself to the phrase. The phrase then became a stock retort among Southerners whenever accused of waging acts of violence against black people and others, a dismissive sneer that couldn't have been better propagated by Fox News.

The bloody shirt captured the inversion of truth that would characterize the distorted memories of Reconstruction that the nation would hold for generations after. The way it made a victim of the bully and a bully of the victim, turned the very blood of their African American victims into an affront against Southern white decency, turned the very act of Southern white violence into wounded Southern innocence; the way it suggested that the real story was never the atrocities white Southerners committed but only the attempt by their political enemies to make political hay out of it. The mere suggestion that a partisan motive was behind the telling of these tales was enough to satisfy most white Southerners that the events never happened, or were exaggerated, or even that they had been conspiratorially engineered by the victims themselves to gain sympathy or political advantage. (Thomas Budiansky, The Bloody Shirt: Terrorist Violence After Appomatox)

In other words, this is a tactic that is already deeply embedded within American conservatism -- every right-wing pundit from Bill O'Reilly to Laura Ingraham to Rush Limbaugh has trotted out a version of it in the past eight years or more. The right's persecution complex is one of its most enduring and overpowering traits.

And now Donald Trump is tapping into this projection-fueled trait on behalf of his far-right populist and nationalist agenda. So it's very clear how this is going to play out -- especially with a compliant media always eager to provide "balance" to their reportage: Any kind of violence, even defensive or responsive, from Trump's opponents is going to be used as an excuse to escalate, ad infinitum.

This is why I had a bad feeling on the night of Inauguration Day, watching the scene unfold in Red Square, observing the antifascists playing into the alt-right's game, culminating in seeing someone get shot. It was straight from the historic fascist playbook.

And it doesn't have to be this way.

I'll be honest, even though the SPLC's official position is to discourage protests at far-right events (because too often bad shit happens ... as manifested that night), I have to confess that I was glad there were people out there standing up to them, letting them know that a hatemongering voice like Milo's is considered toxic in our community, voicing their unflinching disapproval. Too often these smirking little alt-righters like to tell themselves that they represent the real community, and it is good -- no, essential -- to remind them that they are most decidedly not.

But there was an essential element, an important part of our community, a reminder of the empathetic values we stand for, missing:

Humor. Mockery. Laughter.

When confronting fascism -- or, in the case of the alt-right, proto-fascism, which differs from the full-bloomed phenomenon on insofar as it is not yet wantonly killing people, nor does it hold dictatorial police-state powers -- in the face, it's really essential to understand the nature of this most foul of political beasts.

Fascists, you need to understand, are the ultimate psychic vampires: They feed off hate. They want to stoke it as much as possible. They want things to become as violent as possible. They love it when you become violent, and give them martyrs, like the young man with with blue paint on his face. That's all the excuse they need to step things out. To get out the .22s. And after that, it just keeps ratcheting upward, with more and more violence.

If you think that the Left is going to win -- hell, if you think anyone is going to win, except violent men -- in that scenario, you have another think coming. We've already seen that most liberals underestimate these proto-fascist right-wing populists who now control our government. Do not underestimate the ease with which we can reach a fully authoritarian state, especially now that we have seen nearly half the nation embrace an open authoritarian leader as president. If we continue down this track, and continue to give them the violence they crave, we will see the worst nightmare imaginable coming at us.

We have to stop feeding them, and yet we also must let them know we stand against them. The only solution is a serious dedication to nonviolent action. But the general shape that such action takes is also so passive that it creates a vacuum into which swoops the Black Bloc element that clearly is doing more to help the fascists than they are to harm them.

If you want to see an example of how to do this right, look back to Olympia, Wash., on July 2, 2005, when a clutch of flag-waving fascists announced their intentions to recruit openly in the Northwest, as well as their hopes of sparking a "race war" in America:

The neo-Nazis in question -- the Northwest chapter of the National Socialist Movement, whose activities regionally we've reported previously (you may also recall they were the group that designated me a "race traitor") -- were not exactly threatening. For that matter, they were completely unimpressive in nearly every regard: disorganized, lackluster speakers with nothing interesting to say, and physically unimposing. Even their new brownshirt outfits came off more like insipid geek fantasy role-playing.

Nigel Fovargue
The speakers -- like Nigel Fovargue, the Los Angeles Nazi whose image graces the top of the post, or Shawn Stewart, a skinny Iraq War veteran from Billings, Montana -- really had little to say, other than spewing racial invective: "There's a little cockroach that has crawled into every nation and they have been kicked out everywhere. Who am I talking about? The Jew. The Jew hates you all," Stewart said.

This meant they all ran out of steam after about ten minutes; by 2:30 p.m., a half-hour into the rally, they all began talking among themselves about who would speak next. After awhile the speakers began returning to the podium to rant a little longer.

The mocking protesters were colorful, loud, and hilarious

In stark contrast, the crowd in Olympia was largely good-natured -- their main purpose was to mock and laugh at the Nazis. Following up on the previous day's community gathering that celebrated the city's diversity, the crowd of protesters that showed up was intent on making a positive response to the Nazi presence.

Especially noteworthy was the troupe of protesters dressed as clowns -- Nazi clowns, who actually goosestepped together better than the inchoate cluster up on the Capitol steps. They pranced and laughed and danced in the front of the crowd, setting the light-hearted mocking tone that prevailed throughout the afternoon.

The idea for this was hatched by local organizers, including Rick at Olyblog, who approached me last January with the idea, and which sounded at the time like an excellent response I endorsed.

Mind you, this runs directly counter to the advice given by my friends at the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League, who consistently urge people to stay away and defang the Nazi rallies by denying them an audience.

Having covered Aryan Nations events in Coeur d'Alene, I can attest that this is generally good advice. Though community organizers in northern Idaho would often hold counter-rallies elsewhere as an alternative celebration (to good effect, I might add), nonetheless, the parade routes there would still be lined with counter-protesters who just turned ugly, spewing hate right back at the Nazis; this always seemed to me to be counter-productive, a matter of feeding the beast. The Nazis always took sustenance from it.

The noise from the counter-protesters frequently drowned out the Nazis on the loudspeakers

The response in Olympia, however, was one of the most effective I've seen yet. For one thing, by making mockery the theme of the day, it transformed the mood of the crowd from an angry one -- and who wouldn't get angry if they actually listened to what these Nazis were saying? -- into a celebratory one. They played music, they danced, and made so much noise having fun that, if you were in the crowd, you couldn't hear a word the Nazis were spewing.

The frustration was self-evident on the neo-Nazis' angry faces and in their speeches
It also seemed to disorient and dishearten the Nazis. Of course, they recognized that their entire audience that day was constituted of people who opposed them -- and it was clear from their taunts ("The only reason we are able to be up here today is because you people don't have the guts to do what it takes to silence us," Gary Nemeth told the crowd) that they hoped to spark violence from them, a la Toledo. But after awhile it became clear that their audience was, for the most part, studiously ignoring anything they had to say, and was more intent on dancing and playing music than taking after their sorry asses. And this clearly deflated them.

Finally, it provided an opportunity for the various diversity-oriented interest groups drawn out by the Nazis to get together, network, and actually form working coalitions that likely will prove effective in organizing the Olympia community against the lapping waves of right-wing extremism.
I look back on that rally with extreme fondness. Not only was it the most striking defeat I've ever seen dealt to neo-Nazis, it was also one of the most empowering events for the participants I've ever witnessed. People were laughing and smiling and positively glowing as they left the place. Because they knew they had accomplished something that day beyond just hurling empty epithets. I vowed never to forget that lesson.

Let's not punch Nazis, people. That's playing into their hands.

Let's mock them instead. Laugh at them. Make fun of them. Nothing makes their little penises shrivel right up like abject humiliation. Nothing gets their quivering little insecurities flaring into an inchoate roar that reveals their inner Psychopathic Asshole Who Scares the Fuck Out of Everybody like being the object of well-earned derisive guffaws. Just think of how Alec Baldwin sends Lord Cheetomort into paroxysms of unrequited wrath.

I'm not an organizer. But I have seen what works. If someone would be kind enough to tip off those organizers, that would be awesome.

It sure would be great to see Milo confronted by a clown brigade, and Jason Chaffetz confronted by audiences wearing Groucho masks who mass mooned him.

That would make the news too. And get everybody -- except their victims -- laughing. At this stage of things, that is truly the best possible national medicine.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Alt-Right Event in Seattle Devolves Into Chaos and Violence Outside, Truth-Twisting Inside

The Pepe banner comes out.

[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

It was a scene ripe for violence last Friday night in Red Square on the University of Washington campus in Seattle: Several hundred fans of the racist "Alt-Right" figure Milo Yiannopoulos outside the hall where he was to speak, waiting to be let in, confronted by a much larger crowd of counter-protesters, chanting anti-Trump and anti-fascist slogans, including an organized pack of masked, black-clad anarchists.
Eventually, violence did strike. An antifascist protester was shot during one of the many small melees that broke out during the evening. Police said a 34-year-old man was seriously wounded by the gunfire and was in critical condition at a local hospital after undergoing surgery.
A man earlier identified as a “person of interest” in the case – described by the Seattle Times as an Asian man in a black leather coat with a maroon shirt underneath – turned himself in to police later and was arrested along with a man who accompanied him to the station. Both were later released without charges.
Afterwards, Yiannopoulos and Breitbart News, where he is a celebrity editor, attempted to cast his supporters as the martyrlike victims in the shooting. However, Hatewatch’s eyewitness version of events is precisely the reverse: The shooter was a Trump-supporting man who had been acting as a provocateur in the crowd all night, while the victim was an anti-fascist liberal who had been acting as a peacekeeper in the moments before he was shot.
Yiannopolous event invites chaos, violence.
The chaos outside Kane Hall was directed at Yiannopoulos – the Breitbart tech editor and Alt-Right provocateur who ended his nationwide “Dangerous Faggot” speaking tour in Seattle – and his admirers who lined up outside to hear him, many bedecked in red Donald Trump “Make America Great Again.”
Yiannopoulos' talk – at the invitation of the school’s College Republicans chapter – had created a controversy beforehand, with many critics questioning the university’s decision to permit hate speech on campus. UW officials were firm in their decision, defending it as a First Amendment matter.
Would-be attendees lined up to wait for the doors to the event to open, an even larger crowd of about a thousand counter-protesters showed up to greet them. The shouts, chants, and angry behavior clearly discomfited many Trump fans, but early on, they responded by singing the National Anthem and chanting “Trump! Trump! Trump!” and “USA! USA! USA!”
When the doors to the event opened, the counter-protesters quickly moved to block any further entrance to the event. Press reports indicated that several hundred managed to make it in – the Times estimated about half of the auditorium’s lower bowl, which holds some 530 seats, was full. However, the remaining crowd with tickets to the event remained stuck outside.
Eventually, the verbal exchanges that began taking place in increasingly denser conditions became physical shoves, and then punches. One young Trump supporter made the mistake of directly approaching a phalanx of masked anarchist “Black Bloc” protesters and was punched in the mouth and hit in the face with a blue paint ball. He was later rescued by his father. 
More Trump supporters began showing their anger and frustration at being unable to get inside – many of them remaining in a long, exposed line – by shoving their tormentors and flipping them off as they chanted. Eventually, one of them unfurled a banner featuring Pepe the Frog – an Alt-Right mascot widely understood as a symbol of hate. They began chanting, “Pepe! Pepe! Pepe!”

The eventual shooting victim is seen peacefully interceding in a near-melee moments before he is shot.
Around that scene, a handful of melees began breaking out. A Hatewatch reporter was assaulted from behind by a black-clad anarchist who kicked his recording device away, while angry anti-fascists began tussling with Alt-Right fans in the area. It was amid that chaos that one of the Trump fans pulled a gun and shot one of the anti-fascists – a tall man with a black leather jacket who had been acting to intercede as a peacekeeper – with a single shot that many people in the vicinity did not even hear.
Upon being told that a protester had been shot, the Times reported, Yiannopoulos briefly stopped his talk to confirm the news, and then continued, telling the crowd: “If we don’t continue, they have won.”
“If I stopped my event now, we are sending a clear message that they can stop our events by killing people. I am not prepared to do that," Yiannopoulos said
His mostly youthful audience eagerly congratulate themselves.
Outside, the shooting galvanized the protesters, who increased their ferocity. Most of the remaining Yiannopoulos fans began clearing out. The protest crowd outside remained for most of the talk and lingered well afterward, so police wound up escorting most of the audience outside via a tunnel that exited through a nearby parking garage.
According to the Times, the man accused of the shooting told police that he fired the gun in self-defense and claimed that the man he shot was a “white supremacist.” However, friends of the victim (who remains officially unidentified) contest that characterization, saying he was a liberal anti-fascist sympathizer.
In the video recorded by Hatewatch in the moments before the shooting, the shooting victim can be seen interceding in a dispute by placing his body as a buffer between opposing factions in the crowd. (8:16-8:24 in the above video.) 
Yiannopoulos’ pronouncement at the speech clearly attempted to cast the Alt-Right as victims of the shooting. Breitbart News, where Yiannopoulos is the tech editor and chief provocateur, reported the shooting as having been perpetrated by the anti-fascist protesters. That was clearly not the case.
One of Milo’s young fans, bedecked in furs and sunglasses, afterward gave an interview – posted by Yiannopoulos – conveying that similarly confused mischaracterization of the events outside.
“He decided to let the show go on despite somebody being shot, and compared it almost to a spoiled child, showing them what’s OK. Pretty much saying it’s OK to kill people, if you are willing. ... because that would shut down our events," the fan said. "I mean, it was amazing, because it was almost like a movie, everyone stood up and clapped in accordance. It was really exciting to see that. It’s one of the best things of Milo’s I’ve ever heard, actually.”