Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Harassing the harassers

I've been contemplating the activities of the folks organizing the SWARM the Minutemen campaign, which is essentially a legal harassment campaign against the Minutemen. It poses something of a thorny ethical issue.

I briefly mentioned the campaign awhile back without endorsing it, noting that tactics like these seem somewhat questionable when it comes to effective change. Among them, as you can see from perusing the suggestions for action section of their site, are such tactics as bombarding them with faxes, e-mails, letters, and phone calls, as well as showing up at border-patrol sites and making lots of noise.

Now, some of my commenters have called this "terrorism," which reveals how little they understand that phenomenon: terrorism always involves crimes committed with a terrorist intent, and these are neither crimes nor are they terroristic. Every individual has the right to place such faxes, phone calls, e-mails, and letters, so long as they are not threatening in nature.

Still, I've always been an advocate of constructive engagement and more positive approaches to dealing with these problem. Harassment campaigns seem not only futile in the long run, but counterproductive in terms of holding the moral high ground. I've never approved of shouting down or interrupting and heckling haters, and I strongly disapprove of pie-throwing (I think it's battery).

However, I was struck by a couple of statements on their Website, including a spot-on description of the nature of the Minutemen:
The MinuteMen are a non-governmental group of people vowing to patrol the US/Mexico border with guns in order to stop migrant people from crossing the border. They represent an intensification of the trend of violence towards migrant people and people of color that has increased since 9/11/2001. While they claim that they are not violent, their very use and display of deadly weapons is a violent act in itself. How can guns be used to detain people without being violent? Already there have been numerous reports of people being forced to lie on the ground by the MinuteMen and being forced to have their pictures taken with MinuteMen volunteers, recalling Abu Ghraib style dehumanization.

Even more striking to me was their "Group Statement":
While the MinuteMen publicly claim to be non-violent, we here at SWARM know a different face of the MinuteMen. We've received numerous death threats and threats of violence filled with racial slurs. We plan to publicly release these soon to let everyone know the exact kind of hatred the MinuteMen are acting as a lightning rod for, attracting it and focusing it towards migrant people.

Just as important though, the MinuteMen are a clear result of the violent, us-versus-them mentality promoted by the Bush administration.

We are intervening into and dancing with the communication systems of the MinuteMen because along with the physical violence they are creating, they are extremely conscious of the violent power their messages have and they had any measure of success thanks to the complicity [of] the corporate media. Their communications are a critical part of their mission to send a message to legislators that more militarization of the border is necessary. Their images and words can't be separated from the violence of their guns, and both must be stopped.

I've been saying all along that the Minutemen represent a kind of right-wing extremism whose purpose is not, as Lou Dobbs and Michelle Malkin have asserted, to give voice to legitimate concerns about immigration, but rather to harass and intimidate Latino immigrants, legal and illegal. Their innate nature is violent, not civic, and their successful adoption of the mantle of mainstream media and governmental approval has presented the white supremacists who form the core of their support their first real foothold of official support in years.

It is not an exaggeration, either, to claim that racists and other extremists indeed are the core of the Minutemen's support. While the project no doubt has attracted some people of good will with genuine concerns about immigration -- and not just about filthy Latinos bringing crime to their fair havens -- the activist, working ranks of footsoldiers are riddled throughout with Aryan Nations members, supporters of the Klan, and vicious anti-Semites.

If you're looking for evidence of this, you need look no further than the comments on the boards for this blog. We've been infested lately with a regular hodgepodge of extremists, particularly those writing in defense of the Minutemen -- outright white supremacists whose response has not been to deny their presence or the fact that the project is a full manifestation of their agenda. To the contrary; they have argued, essentially: "Yeah? So what?"

The most verbose and straightforward of these commenters has been a fellow calling himself Border Ruffian, who has identified himself as a participant of Billy Roper's anti-immigrant White Revolution work in the South. (Roper is a former National Alliance leader, and Border Ruffian has exhibited a thorough acquaintance with and affinity for that group's ideology.)

One of his earliest posts came, predictably, in defense of the Minutemen:
The US Government is Overthrowing the People and Electing a new one through Immigration.

Illegal immigrants aren't "ordinary citizens" by any definition.

Californians voted Si to Prop 209 and Prop 187, and they will vote for border control every time.

In an avalanche, every beautiful snowflake pleads not guilty.

The only solution to hunger is birth control.

He then followed that up by declaring:
Good riddance to the Republican Party. There is no more Right Wing or Left Wing, but only the Jew-Wing of Amerikwa.

And then topped it off with this:
I am opposed to the Iraq war too, but no amount of protesting in front of the White House is going to stop that.

However, the Minutemen have lit a fire under the politicians.

I remember when it was possible to make a decent living in America. No more, thanks to the match made in Hell between the multiculists Left and the plutocratic Right.

There's plenty of 401c tax exempt organizations representing Asian, Latino, African American and Jewish people.

But what organizations represent the interests of White Gentiles? Dr. William Pierce tried to found a Church of Cosmotheism, but it was denied 401c status. Matt Hales Church of the Creator was sued out of existence on a ridiculous "trademark" case -- the Te Ta Ma foundation is an ADL connected fraud that trademarked the name for the sole purpose of attacking Hale's organization. This happens to no other church in the world.

But Whites are in fact waking up, and realizing that in a multicultural, multiracial nation, they better get organized to fight for THEIR INTERESTS, because everyone else is feeding off of the dying carcass of White America. Whites are demonized as the villains of history, while every other race is made out to be a bunch of noble, angelic victims.

Had enough, Whitey? What if America was controlled by Americans instead of by Jews?

Then he was joined by a fellow named Observer, who apparently is a young Seattleite living in the Capitol Hill area, who first wrote in to spew anti-gay hatred when I posted on the demise of a bill to include gays and lesbians in an anti-discrimination bill in the Washington Legislature. Over many subsequent posts, Observer has made clear his antipathy to multiculturalism as well as a certain affinity for anti-Semitic and racist beliefs, not to mention a predilection for crude stereotypes.

This was on display again when Observer chimed in to support Border Ruffian by proceeding to blame a recent local murder (committed by an apparent illegal alien) on illegal immigration. (Funny, that: Didja ever notice how guys like Observer never seem to want to blame serial killers like Gary Ridgway on the presence of white factory workers?)

Border Ruffian chimed in with numerous other racist rants, including one in which he insisted that he and his compatriots were fighting for a "white living space". ("And we are going to get it, whether you like it or not.") His terminology, it should be noted, replicates Hitler's demands for "Lebensraum."

Observer caps it off with this rejoinder to one of my Jewish readers:
I am loyal to my people, just like you. The only difference is that you, evidently, would resent me for that, and I would admire loyalty (also known as patriotism) in another people. That is a serious character flaw on your part, and it shows a deficit of tolerance. Or perhaps it is simply an ethno-cultural distinction, which from my ethno-cultural perspective shows your culture to be flawed, and morally lacking.

Please inform me whether we Christians of European descent, from your Jewish perspective, are entitled to the same feelings of loyalty toward our own people that Jews are. I would ask you to be honest; would that be a futile request?

As for your assumption that I live in a "white-trash hell," that is a reflection of your own prejudice, hatred and intolerance for my people. I am happiest amongst my people. I love them just as they are. My anger is not that I must live with my people, but that they are treated poorly and spat upon by the likes of you and Neiwert.

Rather than wanting to leave them and ridicule them as your wife does, I want their condition to be bettered. You people, on the other hand, have nothing but hatred and blackness in your hearts when you think of us. You prove it over and over again. That is why my people are beginning to see what you call "liberalism" as a hate-cult dedicated to our destruction. Neiwert, that morally flawless individual, is doing his best to further this perception.

The funny thing about this is, I think "my people" are pretty much the same people as Observer's version. I come from a lower middle class family, and we had more than our share of immediate family who were classic white-trash trailer-park dwellers. I worked my way through college by hauling irrigation pipe on farms, working as a welder in a farm-machinery plant, and doing road construction (mostly chip-seal operations), which was the line of work my mother's family was in. As you can imagine, I tend to view "go back to your trailer park" responses rather dimly.

Still, nothing makes me angrier than seeing working-class people suffer, as they seem to do in places like Idaho, where the right has been in control for decades now. The most disturbing feature of this is the way it is self-inflicted; conservatives wrap themselves in these people's "values" in a way that convinces them they're operating on behalf of their best interests, when policy after policy demonstrates exactly the opposite.

To me, the real slap in the face is seeing the good will of working-class people being used, manipulated cynically for alterior purposes: for profit, for political gain, for spreading divisiveness and ill will. Xenophobia (racial, religious, and otherwise) has been fanned for generations to make scapegoats to cover the real root of the problems that plague the working class -- namely, economics and class.

Working-class whites are in this fight not against other races, but with working-class blacks and Asians and Latinos. Jews, Muslims, and gay people aren't their enemies. Their real enemies are the snakes who come hissing lies into their ears to make them blame their black and Jewish and gay neighbors for what's wrong with the world. I've seen the havoc these snakes can wreak among families and communities, and it can be devastating.

The right of the past two decades, as a clear tool of the wealthy class, has been about widening those divisions, in a kind of divide-and-conquer strategy that, sadly, has succeeded too well. And now the real extremists of the right are pouncing, eager to take the reins as so-called "mainstream conservatives" relinquish them.

We're being warned that immigration is going to be Republicans' big re-election issue in 2006, which means we're going to be seeing a lot more of this. A lot more Nazis coming out of the woodwork, emboldened by the realization of their longtime hopes and dreams. They see the political momentum heading their way -- and so far, they may be right.

Which makes me wonder how liberals are going to respond, particularly on immigration and the way the right seems intent on linking immigration to crime. So far, I haven't detected much of a glimmer.

At some point, progressives need to stand up to the Minutemen and what they represent, recognizing them for the potent threat they are about to become. It can't be nicey-nice, either; take a gander through Border Ruffian's ruminations here and it becomes clear what we're dealing with.

These aren't people you can negotiate with or engage constructively (though people like Observer, it should be noted, are not as far gone as dedicated racists like Ruffian); they only view your decency as a kind of weakness. The best you can do, really, is shove their fists back in their faces. It's the only language they understand or respect.

So, you folks at SWARM: Go get 'em. Do your best, as long as you keep it legal. Swamp their operations. It may not be effective in terms of stopping them, but it at least reminds them that there are many thousands of their fellow citizens who do not support or approve of their "project."

Because you're right. There's no point in playing nice with Nazis. And someone needs to start shoving back on those fists somewhere.

No comments: