Tuesday, November 22, 2016

No, We Can Never Just Ignore Them Away

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 12, 2016

When Obama Was Elected: An Outpouring of Hate in 2008

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then there were the arsons.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 11, 2016

The Press and Donald Trump's Army of Haters

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Trump Took Hate Groups Mainstream

Friday, October 14, 2016

Donald Trump and His Alt-Right Army of Execrables

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 10, 2016

Montana Republicans Warmly Embrace a White Nationalist's Legislative Candidacy

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

[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Taylor Rose, Citizens Informer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 03, 2016

Angry Idaho 'Patriots' Leave 3% Group En Masse Over Leader's Alleged Mishandling of Funds

Brandon Curtiss leads a counter-protest against refugees in Idaho.

[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

As he has emerged over the past couple of years as the leading figure in Idaho’s antigovernment movement, Brandon Curtiss has cultivated a straight-talking, square-dealing public image with both the public and the followers of his 3% of Idaho organization.
Brandon Curtiss (second from left) and Eric 'EJ' Parker (right) in happier times, protesting the Bureau of Land Management in Medford, Ore., in April 2015.

That image, however, collapsed like this week when a large and prominent group of his followers – including his former vice president and longtime cohort in the organization, Eric “EJ” Parker – announced their resignations from 3% of Idaho. The group of 36 members were angered over his reported misappropriation of funds raised to help the defense of four Idahoans, notably Parker himself, by federal authorities over their respective roles in two federal lands standoffs led by Cliven Bundy and his two sons in Nevada and Oregon.

According to the Idaho Statesman, some of the members were able to gain access to the PayPal website page and bank accounts for the organization’s “Freedom Fest” concert, held as a fund-raiser for four “political prisoners” – Parker, 32, of Hailey, Steve Arthur Stewart, 36, of Hailey, O. Scott Drexler, 44, of Challis and Todd Engel, 48, of Boundary County – arrested on charges related to the Nevada standoff in April 2014 in Bunkerville, Nev. What they discovered was a steady outflow of funds from the account for Curtiss’ personal use, including:
  • “Rollin Smoke Diesel” parts for a pickup that allow owners to customize their trucks so they belch large amounts of black smoke, a popular fad with right-wing activists who oppose global-warming activism.
  • A camping reservation.
  • Gas and food at a truck stop in Nevada.
  • A car wash.
  • Payment for a storage unit.
  • Payment for online personal-investigation services.
  • A Walmart purchase.
  • An iTunes download.
Already before the $2,475 in funds from the concert were deposited, the account was overdrawn some $567, mostly from Curtiss’ personal use, which was immediately withdrawn. When one former member observed this and objected to Curtiss, according to the Statesman, she was dismissed from the organization.

“Many of us, in one way or another have worked toward, contributed to, donated for, and sacrificed our time, hope, energy, and resources to help these men in their hour of need,” wrote the departing members in an official statement. “It is with heavy hearts that we, the undersigned, do solemnly testify to you that we believe that substantial portions of these gifts have been grievously misused within the Idaho III% organization. We do not put forth this accusation lightly, or without due diligence and proper deliberation ad nauseum.”

3% of Idaho issued a statement Thursday calling the revelations a "smear campaign" and asserting that a promised audit of the group's finances would demonstrate that funds were not mishandled. It also claimed that the group had raised much more money for the prisoners than what had been raised at the concert, and that those funds had been spent on their defense.
Curtiss, left, and Parker, center, with Sugar Pine Mine co-owner Rick Barclay, expressing their view of the mainstream press.

Curtiss has been nothing if not imaginative in building 3% of Idaho into the state’s leading “Patriot” group, with a membership he claims has reached over 1,000. They joined arms with antigovernment Oath Keepers to participate in a protest and attempted armed standoff with federal authorities at the Sugar Pine Mine near Grants Pass, Ore., in the spring of 2015, and did similarly with another mine protest in Montana later that summer and fall. His “Threepers” also showed up with Oath Keepers to stand guard outside military recruiting offices in Idaho, and became heavily embroiled in the controversy in the Twin Falls area over Muslim refugee resettlement, leading a large protest against the refugees in November 2015. They then showed up to protest an even larger rally supporting the refugees later that month.
But Curtiss became an even more significant figure in January 2016 when he helped organize a protest in Burns, Ore., against the imminent incarceration of two local ranchers, which afterward morphed into the armed takeover of the nearby Malheur National Wildlife Refuge by Ammon and Ryan Bundy and their cohort of several dozen militiamen. While his 3% group did not endorse the takeover or participate in it directly, Curtiss later led a contingent of armed militiamen back to Burns to briefly act as “a buffer” between the standoff participants and federal authorities, but returned to Idaho after less than a week.

When four of their fellow Patriots, including Parker, were arrested in federal sweeps after the Malheur standoff ended, Curtiss’ group organized a mass protest of the arrests on the Statehouse steps in Boise, which was later followed by concert fund-raising event in Twin Falls. Parker made a national name for himself by being photographed aiming a sniper rifle in the direction of the federal agents and other law enforcement officers who were attempting to execute a federal court order directing the Bureau of Land Management to round up Bundy’s cattle in Bunkerville, and has been charged in connection with that.

However, clouds of concern had already begun to hover over Curtiss for his dubious business dealings. After an interview in the Oregonian raised questions about his property management and real estate business in Meridian, the Statesman uncovered a long history of personal bankruptcies and questionable business dealings. Curtiss, it emerged, had already filed twice for bankruptcy, first in 2001 and then again in 2009. After returning from Burns, he filed for bankruptcy a third time, having racked up $235,000 in debt since 2009.

Then, earlier this month, the Statesman reported that Curtiss had been fined $7,200 by an Ada County judge for having failed to carry workers’ compensation insurance for his employees. The state police, it reported, also was opening an investigation into claims from 17 of Curtiss’ clients that he owed them money.

Curtiss, who had since moved from Meridian to Fruitland, told the Statesman in an email that he had shut down his business. “We are in the process of winding down and will make all efforts to fulfill any outstanding obligations,” he wrote.          

The latest financial eruption around Curtiss, however, has created a wave of disappointment among his former followers.

“What bothers everyone the most is seeing how much money was spent in such a reckless manner, when it was supposed to go to our political prisoners. These four families are fighting a battle against the government and have now been betrayed,” a former member told the Statesman.

However, at the Facebook page of Curtiss’ girlfriend, Brooke Agresta, there was a post warning that anyone disseminating the group’s bank information would face legal consequences, citing Idaho Code: “Anyone, and I mean anyone, in possession of or intentionally handing out bank statements, PayPal statements, or that has accessed any accounts of another person or organization in relation to the Idaho 3% will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

The Statesman noted, though, that the relevant portions of the law cited in the post do not support her claim.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Donald Trump's 12 Worst Moments in the First Debate

There was a moment in Monday's presidential debate that has been mostly overlooked in the postmortem commentary that, in my mind, really irrevocably defined the race. Once we saw it, we couldn't unsee it.

It came about two-thirds of the way through the affair, when Trump actually suggested on national TV that the United States threaten to abrogate its solemn mutual-defense treaties in order to maybe get a better deal or blackmail money out of them:

TRUMP: Nuclear is the single greatest threat. Just to go down the list, we defend Japan, we defend Germany, we defend South Korea, we defend Saudi Arabia, we defend countries. They do not pay us. But they should be paying us, because we are providing tremendous service and we’re losing a fortune. That’s why we’re losing — we’re losing — we lose on everything. I say, who makes these — we lose on everything. All I said, that it’s very possible that if they don’t pay a fair share, because this isn’t 40 years ago where we could do what we’re doing. We can’t defend Japan, a behemoth, selling us cars by the million...

HOLT: We need to move on.
TRUMP: Well, wait, but it’s very important. All I said was, they may have to defend themselves or they have to help us out. We’re a country that owes $20 trillion. They have to help us out.
When Clinton had her turn, she took a moment and looked directly into the camera and reassured those same allies Trump had just threatened:
CLINTON: Well, let me — let me start by saying, words matter. Words matter when you run for president. And they really matter when you are president. And I want to reassure our allies in Japan and South Korea and elsewhere that we have mutual defense treaties and we will honor them.

It is essential that America’s word be good. And so I know that this campaign has caused some questioning and worries on the part of many leaders across the globe. I’ve talked with a number of them. But I want to — on behalf of myself, and I think on behalf of a majority of the American people, say that, you know, our word is good.
In that moment, we saw a real President of the United States, standing clear and strong and steady. Clinton became, in that moment, more than the globe-trotting Secretary of State she has been, and became the President she was born to be, for all of us to see.

Trump, in contrast, stood revealed as the shambling clown he has never stopped being, the bizarre existential threat to democracy that Republicans have cooked up for American voters this year. For having done so, they deserve eternal banishment from our politics.

 Monday was a bad night overall for Trump. I came up with a video detailing the 12 worst moments that sent his dumpster fire of a campaign careering off into the abyss -- including his sneering assurance that avoiding paying any federal taxes "makes me smart" and his word-salad defense of the "birther" advocacy that set the foundation for his presidential run. Capped off, of course, with his bragadocious and bootylicious boast that of course he had the superior temperament to be president: "A winning temperament."

And all the rest of us saw was a loser.

Enjoy. I think you'll see a campaign going up in eternal flames here.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

At Trump Events, Conspiracist-Devised ‘Hillary For Prison’ Chant Becomes an Obsessive Theme

The veins on the man’s neck bulged. “She belongs in prison!” he screamed at the counter-protesters at Donald Trump’s campaign rally in Everett, Wash., as he waded in among them.

“She’s a crook! And I have every right to stand here and speak my mind! The First Amendment is being trashed right in front of your eyes! And you’re voting for Hillary! You people are nuts!”

It was a sentiment heard not just commonly at the rally, but obsessively. “Hillary For Prison!” people waiting in the lines would shout at passersby – far more often than any shouts heralding Trump himself. T-shirts bearing that epithet were wildly popular.

Another man, holding aloft a “Hillary For Prison 2016” sign, ran along the line of rally-goers that snaked for blocks through downtown Everett, shouting: “This is what Donald Trump is going to do for us! He’ll put Hillary in prison!”

Very few of them, however, seemed aware that the idea of marching Clinton off to jail for her alleged crimes – the details of which varied, depending on who you talked to, though most of the rally-goers seemed affixed to the idea that she had committed some felony involving her email accounts – originated with the conspiracist far right, particularly the conspiracy mill operated by radio host Alex Jones and his Infowars operation.

However, the “Hillary belongs in prison” idea long ago had migrated to mainstream right-wing media such as Fox News, and the theme has been specifically encouraged by Trump himself and his campaign for several months now, producing chants such as the one heard Tuesday night in Everett’s XFinity Arena, with about 10,000 people partaking: “Lock her up! Lock her up! Lock her up!”

Trump himself encouraged it, offering the crowd a bizarre mis-rendition of Clinton’s handling of her email accounts: "The only way to learn the full depth of her public corruption is to read the 33,000 emails that she deleted. They're gone!"

The chants of “Lock her up!” followed.

"Not only deleted, folks,” Trump then continued, “this was after she was subpoenaed by Congress. And not only that, she bleached – which somebody said they'd never even heard of – in a very expensive fashion, used chemicals so that nobody will ever be able to see them. Who does this?"

[It’s not clear what kind of chemical process Trump was referring to, since chemicals have nothing to do with email deletion; it’s likely, as Karoli Kuns at Crooks and Liars noted, that he was confused about how a software program Clinton used to wipe her hard drives called BleachBit, actually works, but there are no chemicals involved.]

This is not particularly new for Trump. The “Lock her up!” chants were heard first at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July, and since then, the crowds at Trump rallies have seemingly become obsessed with the idea. That and the “Hillary for Prison!” chant can be heard with much greater regularity than anything resembling “Go Trump!”

Trump himself has actively encouraged it, at one point telling a crowd in California: “Hillary Clinton has to go to jail. She has to go to jail. I said that. She’s guilty as hell.”

That act in itself is viewed by many political observers to have created a new benchmark in American politics, and not a good one. The liberal blogger Heather “Digby” Parton described Trump’s incessant “Hillary in jail” jokes as “normalizing banana republic politics,” adding that “his relentless pounding by a presidential candidate about Clinton for being some sort of criminal is really unprecedented. We've certainly heard such things from protesters and pundits over the years. But I've never heard a candidate say it or suggest to his followers that he would jail his opponent if he wins.”

She’s not alone in that assessment. “It is extraordinary,” said Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics. “I can remember supporters of George McGovern calling Nixon and Kissinger ‘war criminals’ – but that talk was never encouraged by McGovern. During Watergate, ‘Jail to the Chief’ became a theme on signs and T-shirts and in chants, but again, this was not a campaign.”

The “Hillary For Prison” idea was first generated in August of 2015 by Jones at his Infowars program, leaping upon reports in leading news organizations that Clinton was facing legal difficulties over the handling of her email accounts. Jones and his fellow conspiracy theorists anointed themselves judge, jury, and executioners, declaring Clinton guilty of felony criminal misconduct even before the FBI was able to conduct its investigation.

Eventually, Jones began selling “Hillary for Prison” T-shirts at his website, and they became a best-selling item. He also led chants outside the Republican Convention in Cleveland – and soon the same chant, along with “Lock her up!”, were heard inside the convention hall.

Three different “scandals” have been suggested by different Trump backers as ostensible causes of the Democratic nominee’s deserved imprisonment:

  • n  The email scandal that Trump himself references in his speeches, even though it has been clear from the outset that the factual foundations for any criminal charges were dubious at best. The eventual FBI investigation (after which the Justice Department cleared her of charges) and report made it clear, as Kevin Drum at Mother Jones observes, that Clinton may at worst have exhibited questionable judgment, but otherwise the FBI’s report “is pretty much an almost complete exoneration of Hillary Clinton.”  
  • n  The so-called “Benghazi scandal,” in which her critics blamed her, as Secretary of State, for the deaths of U.S. personnel in Libya during a terrorist attack on a diplomatic outpost. An eventual House investigation of the matter similarly cleared Clinton of any wrongdoing, though it did uncover the later email allegations.
  • n  The dealings of the Clinton Foundation, which some Trump supporters, including conspiracist pundit Wayne Allyn Root, have claimed constitute “a hanging, treasonous act.” (Root also suggested that Clinton was blackmailing FBI Director James Comey.) Allegations about the foundation’s work, long the target of the anti-Clinton Judicial Watch, recently got a boost from a credulous report by the Associated Press that itself became the focus of considerable criticism by other journalists

None of these scandals – as with all of the many other scandals whipped up by her critics and political opponents that have targeted the former First Lady, U.S. Senator, and Secretary of State over the past 20 years and more – have ever effectively demonstrated that Clinton engaged in any kind of criminal wrongdoing, especially not the kind that could result in conviction and imprisonment.

Yet the rallygoers at Trump events have been unequivocal in joining their candidate’s assurance that Clinton is “guilty as hell” – of something. And the idea has spread so thoroughly that there was even a Fourth of July parade float in rural Iowa this summer featuring a Hillary Clinton mock-up behind prison bars.

And sometimes the talk borders on even uglier ends for Clinton than mere prison.
“Online, the talk from some Trump backers is much worse than jail for Hillary Clinton,” observed Sabato. “I've found some horrible comments in my Twitter feed to that end. I think the candidate and some of his more extreme followers encourage each other's worst instincts.”

The key role played by conspiracy-mongers like Jones and others in fueling radical and violent talk and eventually behavior in their followers has always been well-documented, and that is the real issue raised by Trump’s embrace of the theme.

“The kind of conspiracism pushed by Alex Jones and his ilk is not harmless,” says Mark Potok, Senior Fellow for the Southern Poverty Law Center. “It names specific enemies and, in effect, promotes violence against those enemies.

“When rhetoric gets this extreme, it’s a recipe and also an excuse for violence. The fact that a major-party nominee like Trump would essentially endorse the furious tirades of his friend Jones is just astounding.”