Tragedy at Tree of Life

At 10:00 am on Saturday, October 27, 2018, a gunman opened fire during a shabbat service at Squirrel Hill’s Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. After several people barricaded inside the building and called the authorities, the shooter fired at police officers upon their arrival after he was detained in 2 confrontations. 11 people are now dead while 6 others were injured, including 4 police officers. Identified as 46-year-old Robert Bowers who carried an assault rifle and 3 semi-automatic handguns, he is now in custody and could be charged with a hate crime as soon as possible. Pittsburgh’s top FBI official said, “this is the most horrific crime scene I’ve seen in 22 years with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.” So far, the authorities haven’t yet confirmed any information on the perpetrator’s motive. Since initial eyewitness accounts can turn out to be wrong as the investigation unfolds. Though KDKA has reported that eyewitnesses heard the shooter shout, “All Jews must die” before firing during the morning shabbat service. Still, the shooting may have been the deadliest attack on Jewish people on American soil.

According to preliminary reports, Robert Bowers was an avowed anti-Semite with a number of posts on the far-right social networking site Gab. There, he blamed Jews for among other things, mass migration and climate change. Posts that appeared authored by Bowers include one written about an hour before the shooting stating, “I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics. I’m going in.”

The Tree of Life shooting comes amid a steady increase in anti-Semitic incidents and hate crimes since the 2016 campaign and Donald Trump’s inauguration. And it represents a further intensification of the resurgence of toxic and at times, violent Anti-Semitism during this time. According to the FBI, in 2016, hate crimes had increased 5% since 2015, and 10% since 2014. And out of the 1,273 hate crimes for which FBI found religious hatred as a motivation which is 20% of the total, half were against Jews. In the last year for which complete data was available, the Anti-Defamation League found there have been 1,986 reported incidents in the United States that year, including acts of vandalism and physical violence. That figure was a 57% increase from 2016, which itself has seen a 35% uptick from 2015. The 2016-17 surge was the highest increase on-record since the ADL began reporting on them in 1979. As the 2016 presidential campaign reached fever pitch, over 800 journalists received a staggering 19,000 anti-Semitic messages on Twitter. During events like the 2017 Unite the Right in Charlottesville, Virginia, right-wing extremists openly recited Nazi slogans and carried Nazi paraphernalia.

Incendiary rhetoric has remained intense throughout 2018. Verbal attacks against liberal Jewish philanthropist George Soros whose political activities have become subject to far-right conspiracy theories, have reached fever pitch. In fact, just this month Donald Trump publicly blamed Soros for funding the activist opposition to now-Supreme Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination who’s been accused of multiple sexual assault allegations. More recently, Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz and Campbell’s Soup executive vice president Kelly Johnson blamed Soros for financially supporting the Honduran migrant caravan making its way to the US border, accusing him of being in control of migrants and refugees. Soros was among the recipients of a series of mailed pipe bombs sent to prominent left-wing media outlets and politicians, including the Clintons and the Obamas.

Now I don’t know much about George Soros except he’s a rich old Jewish liberal with lots of money. However, tune into Fox News, and you’ll find plenty of right-wing conspiracy theorists claim that he’s the devil incarnate or the head of the Illuminati or New World Order. Yet, despite that I know full well he can’t be as nearly as terrible as conservative nutjobs make him out to be, rhetoric against Soros reflects a wider trend in anti-Semitic discourse: a conspiracy theory of imagined “globalists” secretly pulling the puppet-strings of the capitalist world order that’s been a populist rhetorical mainstay since at least the European not-so-Enlightenment in the 18th century. According to the Washington Post, Soros’ “name has become a synonym for a well-worn anti-Semitic canard: the idea that Jews are malevolent fomenters of social dissent, agitators slyly funding and masterminding protest, seeking to undermine a white, Christian social order.” Should the Tree of Life’s shooter’s anti-Semitic motivations be confirmed, it would be the culmination of a week of extraordinary right-wing violence.

Tree of Life’s neighborhood of Squirrel Hill is usually considered Pittsburgh’s de facto Jewish community center. While the Tree of Life synagogue represents a powerful symbol of Jewish life. And the recent shooting reflects another disturbing trend such as the degree to which places of worship have been targets for acts of possible domestic terrorism. From synagogues to Christian churches and Sikh temples, these places have increasingly become targets for extremist violence within the last decade. Many of these have been explicitly white supremacist or right-wing in nature, targeting perceived liberals, ethnic minorities, or women. In each case, these attacks have been designed to maximize emotional effect. Since they’re community hubs designed for children, adults, and the elderly. By targeting a house of worship, the attacker commits a powerful symbolic transgression of profaning a sacred and communal space. Attacking a place of worship isn’t just an attack on worshippers but attack on the community itself. Examples include:

2008: Jim David Adkisson opened fire at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville, Tennessee during a community theater production of Annie. He killed 2 and wounded 7 others. Citing Unitarian progressive policies, Adkisson later told police he did so because he believed the Democrats were “ruining” the United States and that all liberals should be killed. He pled guilty and is currently serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole.

2012: An avowed white supremacists and Army veteran Wade Michael Page attack a gurdwaras or Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. He killed 6 people and wounded 4 more before killing himself. A longtime member of the white power music scene, Page had been on federal investigators’ radar for years before committing this deadly act.

2015: White supremacist Dylann Roof murdered 9 members of the congregation along with the senior pastor at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Roof had written frequently and publicly about his desire to kill non-whites as he wrote in his prison journal, “I would like to make it crystal clear, I do not regret what I did. I am not sorry. I have not shed a tear for the innocent people I killed.” Since his 2017 conviction, Roof is currently on death row.

2017: Devin Patrick Kelley opened fire at First Baptist Church at Sutherland Springs, Texas, killing 26 in the deadliest church shooting in American history. Unlike the other perpetrators, Kelley didn’t have clearly defined political views or a specific agenda. But he did have a history of domestic violence which included fracturing his infant stepson’s skull in 2012. While the shooting precipitated by conflict with his mother-in-law who attended First Baptist. Kelley was killed during the attack.

Anyway, the massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue is another indication that we must acknowledge that homegrown, right-wing, domestic terrorism is huge problem in the United States. While the 2008 election of Barack Obama as well as 2007 and 2008 economic collapses have created fertile ground for hateful, right-wing extremism. Despite the outrage of the conservative news crowd over the prophetic 2009 Department of Homeland Security report, we’ve had extremists occupy federal land in Oregon, pipe bombs mailed to Democratic Party leaders, and commit mass shootings targeting minority groups. Sure Fox News will coddle their old white conservative viewers by assuring that they’re okay and that everything is fine with white conservative America as long as certain outgroups don’t get their way. Despite that the Republican Party has sold their souls to Donald Trump. While Trump continues to pander to right-wing extremists and white supremacists as well as inspire and incite violence at his rallies and tweets. And yet, when it comes to properly labeling domestic terrorism as terrorism, the right-wing conspiracy theory mad cable news network is hardly outside the mainstream. Since all 24-hour news are reluctant rattle the status quo cages too much. Since a cable news network needs you to keep watching and will make sure to keep you glued to your TV by not suggesting that the US is rife with right-wing extremist terror. Despite the fact it totally is. Why? For one, they don’t want to alienate conservative viewers who might meet such notions with an all-consuming outrage. At the same time, they don’t want to stir liberal viewers in to activism that goes far beyond watching TV. And in our current American landscape, TV news is king. There are certainly good-faith arguments against label this kind of violence terrorism which mostly have to do with waiting for the FBI to issue that label, or the fact that terrorism definitions usually involve some organized, radicalized sect than lone wolf operators inspired by YouTube, Fox News, or Trump.

However, homegrown, right-wing domestic terrorism isn’t going away any time soon. Donald Trump keeps using incendiary rhetoric encouraging violence against vulnerable people. Though he’d strongly condemn the Pittsburgh attack and anti-Semitism, Trump has failed to do so at other key points in his presidency, particularly the racist violence in Charlottesville last year. Besides, for week, Trump has been stocking fears about the migrant caravan, because his appeal to his supporters is based on fear of immigrants and racial minorities. And because he doesn’t take responsibility for anything, Trump blames the media for fueling political divisions and hate in America and for unfairly casting him as a contributor to the current situation. Despite that Trump has made extremist right-wing views more acceptable in the Republican Party. As long as Republicans keep backing Trump up and refuse to acknowledge the clear and present danger of right-wing extremism within the US, domestic terror incidents will only increase and intensify, especially since they won’t support gun control.

Which brings me to another point. If we want to prevent mass shootings and acts of terror in the United States, then we need to enact strict gun restrictions. Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf has enacted a measure to keep firearms out of the hands of known domestic abusers. After all, mass shooters usually had a history of domestic abuse so it’s a step in the right direction. But state and local gun restrictions can only go so far. After all, while Chicago may have strict gun laws, its rate of gun violence is high. Mostly because many of the guns used to commit crimes are coming from outside its borders. So federal action is sorely needed. For if we don’t enact sensible gun laws to keep firearms out of criminals’ hands, we will see more mass shootings in the future.

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None Dared Called It Terrorism

While the country was swept in the Supreme Court Justice media frenzy, Donald Trump issued pardons for two Oregon cattle ranchers whose conviction for setting fire to public lands became a rallying cry for militia groups in 2016, leading to a tense, days-long standoff with federal officials. On Tuesday July 12, 2018, Trump gave clemency to Dwight Lincoln Hammond Jr., and his son Steven, whose convictions and a court order that they return to prison, inspired the militia group standoff at Oregon’s Malheur Wildlife Refuge during January 2016. There is no doubt their pardon is Trump’s latest example using his pardon power as a cudgel in the culture war. After all, granting pardons or commuting sentences to figures waging partisan warfare or have become right-wing folk heroes.

In 2010, the Hammonds were convicted of setting 2 fires that burned on federal land. The father-son duo stated they set the fires to reduce the invasive sagebrush and juniper tree growth for wildfire prevention, thereby accelerating rangeland grasses for cattle feed. But a 2015 statement from the US Attorney’s Office read, “Witnesses at the trial, including a relative of the Hammonds, testified the arson occurred after Steven Hammond and his hunting party illegally slaughtered several deer on BLM property. Jurors were told that Steven Hammond handed out ‘Strike Anywhere’ matches with instructions that they be lit and dropped on the ground because they were going to ‘light the whole country on fire.’ One witnessed testified that he barely escaped the eight to ten foot high flames caused by the arson.” That fire consumed 139 acres of federal property and destroyed all evidence of game violations. As for the other fire Steven started in 2006, prosecutors stated that he set several back fires, violating a burn ban, to save his winter feed after lightning stated numerous fires nearby.

We should also note that the Hammonds had been fighting for the feds to get out of the land management business since the 1980s. The federal pursuit of these men followed years of permit violations and unauthorized fires, but they never accepted responsibility. Late in the 1980s, Dwight began trading barbs with the US Fish & Wildlife employees. Both father and son had previously been accused of making death threats against federal officials and were arrested in 1994 after trying to stop federal workers from fencing off a canal at Malheur. The elder Hammond had even reportedly “threatened to kill” the manager of the refuge that they used for their cows. As former US Attorney Dwight Holton told KGW News, “The Hammonds were serial arsonists who stole from United States taxpayers for years.”

Anyway, in 2012, since US District Michael R. Hogan said the mandated 5-year sentence under the 1996 Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, he sentenced the Dwight Hammond to 3 months and Steven a year. But because that was less than the mandatory minimum sentence federal law mandated, the federal government challenged the sentence. In 2015, an appellate court ruled that the Hammonds had been illegally sentenced and had to return to prison. Such decision sparked outcry among their local community and across the rural West, with critics slamming the federal government for their aggressive tactics. However, Oregon US Attorney, Billy Williams, justified the mandatory sentencing, saying they’re, “intended to be long enough to deter those like the Hammonds who disregard the law and place firefighters and others in jeopardy.” This sparked a flashpoint in the ongoing dispute between cattle ranchers and the federal government over land-use rights.

The Hammonds’ case became a rallying cry that kicked off a tense stand-off. In January 2016, armed anti-government militias and “patriot” groups seized Malheur Wildlife Refuge headquarters. To reflect their belief the federal government has only a limited right to own property within a state, they changed the refuge’s name to Harney County Resource Center.They stayed for more than 3 weeks with the standoff only ending after state troopers shot and killed one of the militia members and arrested 6 others. The Hammonds’ importance to the standoff was mostly symbolic. They may have initially welcomed the militia’s help, only to rejected it later and told the groups to go home. In addition, the groups occupying the Malheur Wildlife Refuge had broader disputes with the federal government about public land use than just the Hammonds’ case. Nonetheless, the case became a focal point for armed militias that violently occupied federal land in order to achieve their goals. Nonetheless, leaders Ammon and Ryan Bundy, (sons of the infamous Cliven Bundy of the Nevada standoff with feds over unpaid grazing fees) along with 5 other defendants were eventually acquitted of charges stemming from the takeover by a federal jury in Portland.

But it’s the latest example of Donald Trump using near-limitless presidential power in the service of a cause celebre for extreme segments of the right. While George W. Bush and Barack Obama relied on Office of Pardon Attorney recommendations that used a multi-step application process to determine whose cases get relief, Trump has bypassed all of that. Instead, he’s used his pardon power to commute the sentences of ideological fellow travelers such as prominent right-wing figures or folk heroes caught up in legal trouble. Before the Hammonds, it was conservative writer and conspiracy theory enthusiast, and troll Dinesh D’Souza who pleaded guilty in 2014 to violating campaign finance laws after falsely claiming he was targeted for political retribution. Before him, was Dick Cheney’s former Chief of Staff I. “Scooter” Libby who was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice for lying to the FBI during an investigation into who leaked the name of undercover CIA operative Valerie Plame. And before him, it was ex-Maricopa sheriff Joe Arpaio known for his cruelty to anyone he suspected as undocumented immigrants and was convicted of contempt of court.

Regardless of what you think about public land use or federal overreach, as Center for Western Priorities Executive Director Jennifer Rokala said the Hammond pardon sends a, “dangerous message to America’s park rangers, wildland firefighters, law enforcement officers, and public lands managers. President Trump, at the urging of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, has once again sided with lawless extremists who believe that public land does not belong to all Americans.” Oregon Wild’s Arran Robertson told the AP about the pardon’s darker impact, stating, “From the Bundys to logging and oil companies, special interests are working with the Trump administration to dismantle America’s public lands heritage, and this will be viewed as a victory in that effort.” Yet, the Hammond pardons come as some federal employees in the rural American West are nervous of what they say is a high likelihood more standoffs can break out. According to NPR’s Kirk Siegler, citing soil scientists, cattle range managers, and those staffing recreation sites, “It’s also not clear yet if other ranchers who graze their cattle on public lands might decide to openly defy federal laws, [with] the Hammonds being pardoned.”

Nonetheless, the matter of the Hammonds and the armed militia takeover of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge is one I find particularly disgraceful. It’s plain to see that the Hammonds clearly committed an act of domestic terrorism and for endangering lives in their arson crime. So, a 5-year mandatory minimum sentence for setting fire to federal land is hardly government overreach. Yet, somehow the District Court judge finds such a sentence too lengthy and harsh for two cattle ranchers who burned 139 acres of land to cover up an illegal deer hunt. As he noted, “would not meet any idea I have of justice, proportionality … it would be a sentence which would shock the conscience to me.” It just seems like the guy sympathized with them enough to let them off so easily. Despite that according to Think Progress, the prosecutors’ choice was rooted in the firefighters’ earnest belief that the Hammond ranchers have been indifferent to their lives at best and seeking to harm them at worst. In the wake of their pardon, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a briefing, “The Hammonds are devoted family men, respected contributors to their local community and have widespread support from their neighbors, local law enforcement and farmers and ranchers across the West.” She basically describes these guys like they’re some friendly neighborhood Though mandatory minimums have their share of critics all across the political spectrum, the Hammonds were serving a sentence that was established for terrorists which they undeniably were. Besides, there are plenty of other people languishing in prison under mandatory minimums for far lesser crimes. Yet, none of them get the kind of sympathy these men received by the media, the government, or the criminal justice system.

Then there’s the takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge by armed anti-government militia and “patriot” groups. Despite that these guys seized a wildlife refuge carrying weapons for political purposes, somehow the media referred their clear act of domestic terrorism as a “protest.” And yet, despite holding the place hostage for about 40 days until an armed standoff with federal authorities prior to arrests, the Bundy brothers who led this takeover and 5 walked free. Look, I have no problem with protesting about public lands and use rights though I do believe that this land was made for you and me and have no problem with the federal government setting aside lands for preservation of our national heritage. But once you bring loaded guns to threaten federal employees and take over a wildlife refuge, that’s terrorism. And yet, none called it terrorism. Despite that while the locals were sympathetic with the Hammonds’ plight, they weren’t interested in Ammon and Ryan Bundy’s takeover of a federal building. The fact the Hammond case was so connected to the Bundys makes their pardon seem like Donald Trump is signaling the noxious Nevada ranchers that it’s okay to seize and destroy public lands when someone has a beef with the feds. There are plenty of ways to lawfully address grievances. Domestic terrorism shouldn’t be one of them nor should be condoned, much less pardoned. Since that undermines Americans’ rights to our shared public lands and national parks.

Nonetheless, I can’t help but imagine how different the legal system and the media would perceive this circus if the Hammonds and the anti-government militia groups at Malheur weren’t white. I’m sure none of them would’ve received the sympathy or the positive recognition for their efforts. Hell, if the Hammonds were Hispanic, I’d bet any money that Judge Hogan would’ve sentenced them to at least the mandatory minimum with no outcry other than their sentence wasn’t harsh enough. And they’d certainly not receive a pardon from Donald Trump. In fact, he’d be ranting about them at his ego-stroking, hate-filled rallies and use them as an example to illustrate how Hispanics put America to shit with their crime and violence. In addition, if those anti-government militias and “patriot” groups were all Muslims, well, you can guess they wouldn’t have held onto the Malheur Wildlife Refuge for long. Mostly because the authorities would’ve called law enforcement at all levels akin to the Standing Rock protests until all the ranchers were cuffed and put into a truck to the jail. The media and the country would universally condemn them. A federal jury would convict them while a federal judge would hand them a sentence to make sure they’d never see the light of day again. If not, then perhaps give the jury an option of instilling the death penalty. I know that implying that race was a factor in how the Hammonds and the right-wing militia groups at Malheur were treated less harshly than other terror incidents may make people uncomfortable. Yet, I can’t ignore the fact that race has been a determining factor on why the country doesn’t seem to take right-wing and white supremacist terrorism much more seriously. Another reason has to do with that millions of white conservative Americans may share their principles to certain extents and don’t want to look in the metaphorical mirror whenever a right-wing terror event occurs or take that responsibility.

However, the Hammonds’ pardon deserves special attention and more media coverage than it got because it’s an extremely irresponsible one. Not just because Donald Trump granted them clemency on partisan grounds, but because it sets a dangerous message that threatens our national security and the lives of millions of Americans. In a time of rising hate crimes and right-wing terrorism, presidential pardons to domestic terrorists are among the last things America needs right now. By pardoning Dwight and Steven Hammond, Trump not only lets them out of jail but also that the fires they lit were perfectly acceptable. These pardons mark the first time anti-government militia groups opposing federal land laws have their issues validated at the federal level. Not to mention, they speak to the ways the Trump administration is emboldening the far-right patriot movement more generally. It’s as if Trump’s signaling the radical right not to worry about facing criminal charges. Southern Poverty Law Center reporter Ryan Lenz told The Daily Beast, “This is the latest in a long string of setbacks for federal efforts to bring anti-government extremists to justice for their actions. The militia movement sees this as further vindication and further proof that their cause is just.”

The worst implications of the Hammond pardons may have nothing to do with desecrating public lands with no consequence. The rise of right-wing extremist terrorism is a threat to national security that Donald Trump and millions of Americans don’t want to acknowledge or solve. And it doesn’t help that many of these white supremacists, right-wing terrorists, and extremists comprise of a key part of Trump’s base and count among his most ardent supporters. The Hammond pardons send a glaring message that he has their back in the White House. If any of them are facing federal convictions and sentencing, Trump will make sure they get off scot free to terrorize whatever facet of America they please. As long he could use his pardon power for terrorists to outrage liberals and inflame culture war tensions, then millions of Americans’ lives could be in danger to political violence. And there’s nothing they could do about it. Nonetheless, suppose his next pardon was the man who ran over Heather Heyer at Charlottesville and he goes free. After all, Trump once called the white supremacists responsible for the violence in Charlottesville, “very fine people.” I’m sure a pardon for some of those guys will be around the corner should they have legal troubles. As former Colorado National Monument superintendent Joan Anzelmo tweeted on the matter: “This is so very wrong. No one is safe from felons with friends in high places. Terrible. Dangerous. Wrong.”

The Threat of White Supremacy in Law Enforcement

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In 2006, the FBI issued a bulletin detailing the threat of white supremacists infiltrating police in order to disrupt investigations against fellow members and recruit other white nationalists. It was released during a scandalous period for many law enforcement agencies throughout the country, including a Neo-Nazi gang formed by members of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department who harassed black and Latino communities. Similar investigations revealed officers and entire agencies with hate group ties in Illinois, Ohio, and Texas. The FBI identified white supremacists in law enforcement as a concern because their access to both, “restricted areas vulnerable to sabotage” and elected officials or people who could be seen as “potential targets for violence.” Not to mention, such infiltration, “can lead to investigative breaches and can jeopardize the safety of law enforcement sources or personnel.” The report also warned of “goat skins,” which are hate groups who don’t overtly display their beliefs to “blend into society and covertly advance white supremacist causes.” And in at least one case, the FBI learned of a skinhead group encouraging ghost skins seeking employment with law enforcement agencies to warn crews of any investigations.

American policing has always had racial implications. The earliest form of organized law enforcement in the country can be traced to slave patrols that tracked down escaped slaves and overseers assigned to guard settler communities from Native Americans. In the centuries since, many law enforcement agencies have directly participated in antagonizing communities of color or provided a shield for others who did. But since the FBI’s 2006 report came out, little has changed. Though several agencies nationwide have launched internal investigations into personnel who may not be formal hate group members, but face allegations of racial misconduct. While social media has made it easier to expose white supremacists in law enforcement. Yet, none of the over 18,000 law enforcement agencies have established systems for vetting potential supremacist links, many of which have deep historical connections to racist ideologies.

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This is the cop who was caught with a Neo-Nazi tattoo at the Democratic National Convention. And he was sent to patrol a Black Lives Matter protest. See the problem here?

But since the FBI’s report, problems with white supremacists in law enforcement have surfaced since then. In 2013, the Southern Poverty Law Center exposed an Alabama officer as a member of the white nationalist League of the South after speaking at a national conference. In 2014, 2 Florida officers, including a deputy police chief, were fired after an FBI informant outed them as Klu Klux Klan members. In September 2015, a North Carolina police officer was fired after a picture of him giving the Nazi salute appeared on Facebook. That same year a Baton Rouge police officer resigned after being linked to racist text messages. Another instance has an Oklahoma sheriff resigned after his name was connected to a white supremacist website. And in August 2016, the Philadelphia Police Department launched an internal investigation after attendees at Black Lives Matter rally outside the Democratic National Convention spotted an officer in charge of crowd control with a Nazi emblem tattoo on his forearm and posted the image on Instagram.

With the rise of white supremacist violence during the Trump era, we need to treat this threat very seriously. Shortly after Barack Obama’s election to the presidency in 2008, a 2009 Department of Homeland Security study written in coordination with the FBI warned of a “resurgence” of right-wing extremism. The report noted, “Right-wing extremists have capitalized on the election of the first African-American president, and are focusing their efforts to recruit new members, mobilize existing supporters, and broaden their scope and appeal through propaganda.” Since then, white supremacist violence and right-wing terror has been on the rise along with the increased presence of the alt-right.

In November 2016, Donald Trump was elected to the presidency, a man endorsed and celebrated by the KKK since he’s been reluctant to disassociate himself from anyone espousing white supremacist views. In turn, he has appointed key administration advisers with ties to the radical right like Steve Bannon, Steve Miller, and Sebastian Gorka. His policy initiatives like revving up the nation’s deportation machine and curtailing civil rights enforcement thrilled white supremacists. Trump and his Attorney General Jeff Sessions have shown deference to law enforcement and retreated from federal oversight of police departments with a history of civil rights violations, brutality, and racial violence. As a result, the latest incarnation of white supremacy broke through the firewall that for decades kept overt racists largely out of the political and media mainstream. Reinvigorated white supremacists staged their largest rally in a decade at the demonstration in Charlottesville, Virginia, that left an anti-racist counter-protester dead and Trump equivocating over condemning racism. Former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke called the rally a “turning point” and vowed that white supremacists would “fulfill the promises of Donald Trump” to “take our country back.” White supremacists also stepped up their college campus recruiting drives. White nationalist leader Richard Spencer held a rally at the Lincoln Memorial and appeared at colleges. The Southern Poverty Law Center documented some 300 incidents of racist flyers distributed on over 200 college campuses.

Why should we worry about white supremacists in law enforcement?

In a country where 74% of extremist killings and attacks over the past decade were by right-wing extremists, particularly white supremacists, it’s a serious problem when police are among the terrorists. As Chicago’s John Marshall School of Law professor Samuel Jones told PBS in 2016, “Many people in these communities of color feel they have been the subject of police violence for decades. And when an officer engages in conduct that adds or enhances that divide, they are ultimately jeopardizing the integrity of their agencies and putting their fellow officers in danger.” Jones also told The Intercept in 2017, “When somebody holds a belief that indicates that they do not see all Americans are worthy of equal protection under the law, it compromises their ability to be a police officer.”

White supremacists come from all walks of life. They can be your neighbors, co-workers, employers, friends, and even relatives. They can be teachers, professors, cashiers, doctors, lawyers, clerics, drivers, waitstaff, accountants, firefighters, garbage collectors, mail carriers, programmers, and just about anyone else you can think of, including police. But if you have a white supremacist in a public service position like a teacher or cop, the problem isn’t that they subscribe to a radical belief system. Rather, it’s that their beliefs encourage bigoted and sometimes violent behavior that are inappropriate for anyone involved in public service, particularly those with authority over others. White supremacists also create a toxic work environment and poison relations with the public.

Many white supremacists maintain positions and jobs within mainstream society while acting with plausible deniability on behalf of their racist beliefs. They do this through paying “lip service” to normal diversity standards and playing what’s called “a dog and pony show” when it came time to public proclamations. But then acting every other regard as a white nationalist ideologue would: discriminating against minorities in their choices and actions, believing them to be innately inferior, presuming that liberals and Jews are conspiring to harm them, etc. You can see this kind of strategy on full display on Breitbart and Fox News.

If you have these white supremacists in positions of authority like law enforcement, it’s very scary notion for minorities, especially black people. Since police kill black people 2.5 more frequently than whites and unarmed black people at 5 times the rate of whites. The fact, white supremacist infiltration in law enforcement provides context to the scourge of racial police violence against black people which is often downplayed if not denied by segments of society and an administration endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police. While racism in the police is nothing new, the idea that white supremacists might be your friendly neighborhood police can add a layer of fear and distrust for communities of color.

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At a 2016 Neo-Nazi rally in Sacramento, California, the California Highway Patrol was found to aid the alt-right. They arrested 3 counter-protestors despite that the anti-fascist activists bore the brunt of the violence.

There is also evidence that police departments have asked for and accepted help from far-right protestors during tense rallies and counter-protests where violence isn’t infrequent. The relationship works both ways: Police get help and the alt-right demonstrators are seemingly put above the law in return. As a result, militia members working for alt-right events carry out policing activities with impunity under the gaze of actual law enforcement. In 2011, police bused Neo-Nazis to a rally in Trenton, New Jersey to maintain order. In 2014, Chattanooga cops arranged parking for white nationalists along with a route for them to march safely to a protest site. In June 2016, violence broke out at a Sacramento neo-Nazi rally between neo-Nazis and anti-fascist protestors at the California State Capitol. 10 people were injured, 5 of them stabbed. Despite footage showing that neo-Nazis were responsible for most of the violence, especially the stabbings, Sacramento police arrested 3 counter-protestors who were charged with felonies despite claiming self-defense. One was a Berkeley teacher and anti-fascist organizer named Yvette Felarca who was charged with assault and rioting after a neo-Nazi stabbed her and bludgeoned her in the head. Later court documents reveal that California police investigating the white nationalist event worked with white supremacists in to identify counter-protestors and sought the prosecution of activists with “anti-racist” beliefs. The records also showed police officers expressing sympathy with white supremacists and trying to protect a neo-Nazi organizer’s identity. In June 2017, police allowed members of a right-wing militia style group help police arrest anti-fascist activists at an alt-right event in Portland, Oregon. Former FBI agent and Brennan Center fellow Michael German told the Huffington Post, “That is extremely dangerous. To give these groups the idea that their violence is sanctioned by the state will make them far more violent and far more dangerous in the long run. Not to mention the failing to police these running street battles will encourage them to come to the next protest prepared.” On the other hand, the police weren’t so accommodating to peaceful, unarmed Black Lives Matter demonstrators protesting police brutality and racism in Baltimore or Ferguson, Missouri or nonviolent Standing Rock Indian activists in North Dakota who were trying to protect their water from the Dakota Access Pipeline. I mean police were in full riot gear with military equipment on all those occasions, especially at Standing Rock. Nor did they seem doing their jobs protecting counter-protestors in Charlottesville since they appeared to disappear when the violence got really ugly.

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By the way, in case you forget, here’s what police in North Dakota did to the Indian protestors trying to protect their land and water. Yeah, doesn’t seem like these cops care what happens to them.

But it’s not just people of color or left-wing protestors who have to worry about white supremacists in law enforcement. Right-wing extremists are systematically more anti-government/anti-cop than any other group. Since 1990 they have been responsible for 45 police killings. It also doesn’t help that law enforcement are more likely to encounter dangerous extremists than virtually any other segment of American society and those confrontations are, tragically, sometimes fatal. The fact white supremacists are often armed to the teeth during their alt-right rallies can be enough to put police in a state of fear and inability of what to do, especially in states with loose gun laws like the open-carry state of Virginia. But law enforcement doing nothing just enables these white supremacist whack jobs inflict violence. The lack of a police response to the Charlottesville violence in August 2017 led one chat user write that the Virginia State Police, “will be focused on antifa [anti-fascists] not us … especially if we kiss some ass with a few blue lives matter chants …. Be nice to cops and they will be nice to you.”

How long has white supremacy in law enforcement been a problem?

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You can guess that white supremacist cops had something to do with white people getting away with this during segregation. This was from the 1920s, by the way.

This has been around for a very long time. In fact, infiltrating law enforcement is considered a long-standings strategy for white supremacists, which has long influenced law enforcement agencies at the local and state levels. As former skinhead Christian Picciolini told 60 Minutes, “We encouraged people to get jobs in law enforcement, to go to the military and get training and to recruit there.” But it’s only in recent years that we fully acknowledged it as a problem. As sociologist Peter Simi told The Intercept, “If you look at the history of law enforcement in the United States, it is a history of white supremacy, to put it bluntly,” citing origins in the slave patrols of the 18th and 19th centuries. “More recently, just going back 50 years, law enforcement, particularly in the South, was filled with Klan members.” A KKK chapter and a county sheriff’s office were involved in the 1964 arrest, abduction, and murder of 3 civil rights workers named Andrew Goodman, James Chaney, and Michael Schwerner in Philadelphia, Mississippi. Though the FBI has acknowledged it has a problem in 2006, it has only been after a series of scandals involving local police and sheriff’s departments.

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The 1964 arrest, kidnapping, and murder of 3 Civil Rights activists in Mississippi was orchestrated by a Klu Klux Klan chapter and a county sheriff’s department. During the Civil Rights Movement, it wasn’t uncommon for local law enforcement in the South to belong to the Klu Klux Klan.

In 1991, a US District Court judge in Los Angeles found that members of a local sheriff’s department had formed a neo-Nazi gang and habitually terrorized black and Latino residents.

In 2008, a Chicago police detective and rumored KKK member John Burge was fired and prosecuted over charges relating to torture of at least 120 black men during his decades-long career. Burge notoriously referred to an electric shock device he used during interrogations as the “nigger box.”

In Cleveland, officials found that a number of police officers have scrawled “racist or Nazi graffiti” throughout their department’s locker rooms.

In Texas, 2 police officers were fired upon discovery they were Klansmen. One of them said he tried boosting the organization’s membership by giving an application to a fellow officer he thought shared his, “white, Christian, heterosexual values.”

How widespread is this problem?

It’s practically nationwide as you can see from my examples above. However, according to a report from the Root, this current infiltration has everything to do with the racist social climate, the Trump administration, and the long-standing history of racism amongst law enforcement and black people. Many law enforcement agencies have deep historical ties to racist ideologies. Since no centralized recruitment process or set of national standards exists for the 18,000 law enforcement, state and local police as well as sheriff’s departments present ample opportunities for white supremacists and other right-wing extremists looking to expand their power base.

Without available training for identifying and acting on extremist infiltration thanks to Napolitano’s actions over the right-wing fallout on the 2009 DHS report, groups like the Oath Keepers, the Peace Officers Association, the Three Percenters, and the Constitutional Sheriffs took advantage of the security vacuum to recruit and metastasize, like ISIS and Al Qaeda do in other parts of the world. These efforts in large part targeted active and retired law enforcement officers. Right-wing extremists don’t just recruit from the law enforcement community, they also infiltrate their ranks. As Picciolini told Fairfax Media, “Many people from my crew went on to be Chicago police officers, they went on to be prison guards, and they certainly took their ideology with them. A lot of people that I know ended up enlisting in the military to recruit [racists] and to get weapons and combat training.”

Why would white supremacists want to be cops?

The answer is simple, so they can get away with shit. It’s technically legal for a law enforcement officer to espouse hateful, racist views or belong to a hate group. And though it’s a federal crime to provide material support to a foreign terrorist group, there’s no such law supporting a white supremacist one. As an 2015 FBI counter-terrorism guide reads, “domestic terrorism investigations focused on militia extremists, white supremacist extremists, and sovereign citizen extremists often have identified active links to law enforcement officers.” A link to law enforcement gives white supremacists some legitimacy and leeway to do all the horrible things they want while still appearing respectable to the community. One white supremacist chat board user wrote, “Be me in my Criminal investigation class. We’re doing introductions and it gets to me. They ask me what kind of police officer I wanted to be and I responded with ‘Riot Police Officer.’ They asked why and I instantly responded with ‘I like curb stomping protestors who cause a riot.’ I think the professor likes me.”

Are cops prone to becoming white supremacists?

Yes, since non-radical police officers are common targets for white supremacist recruiters. As Picciolini told Democracy Now!, “Police officers and law enforcement officers and military people are constantly, every day, in difficult situations. And over time, people become jaded, especially after you’ve … worked in crime-ridden neighborhoods for 20 years, and you’ve had to deal with sometimes the worst of the worst people. Well, recruiters know this. Recruiters know that they become jaded, and they become prejudiced towards these people.” One white supremacist chat board user wrote, “I have several cops in my family, most white cops are sympathetic to us.” They added, “I’m not too worried about the cops as long as we act like whites …. Get to know more cops [in real life] No one hates niggers more than white cops.”

How many cops are white supremacists?

There aren’t many statistics, but we’re talking about a small number. But even though they’re outliers, they can inflict plenty of damage in their wake. But fortunately, white supremacy in the police force isn’t as much of a problem as it used to be. Mostly because white supremacy and racism has become significantly less acceptable in society in general. That doesn’t mean we have problems with either in the police. Because we certainly do.

If the FBI and DHS knew about white supremacy in law enforcement for years, why don’t we hear it addressed?

The FBI and DHS had. But federal investigators have been reluctant to publicly address the growing threat of right-wing extremists or point out the movement’s longstanding strategy of infiltrating the law enforcement community. Since the 2009 DHS report was released just ahead of the nationwide Tea Party protests, it caused an uproar among conservatives who were particularly pissed over the suggestion that veterans might be implicated and how the report seemed to depict the range of right-wing groups. Faced with mounting criticism, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano disavowed the document and apologized to veterans. Despite that this document was researched, compiled, and written by officials in the George W. Bush administration. And despite that the document singled out “disgruntled military veterans” as targets of recruitment by right-wing extremists to “exploit their skills and knowledge derived from military training and combat.” Because the military has long been a hotbed for white supremacist recruiting activity and many well-known white supremacist terrorists were former servicemen like some of the alt-right leaders in Charlottesville. The agency’s unit investigating right-wing extremism was largely dismantled and the reports lead investigator was pushed out. Heidi Berich from the SPLC told The Intercept, “They stopped doing intel on that, and that was that. The FBI in theory investigates right-wing terrorism and right-wing extremism, but they have limited resources. The loss of that unit was a loss for a lot of people who did this kind of work.”

It’s widely said that the backlash following the 2009 DHS report hindered further action against the growing white supremacist threat and that it was largely ignored because the issue was so politically controversial. Samuel Jones told The Intercept, “I believe that because that report was so denounced by conservatives, it sort of closed the door on whatever the FBI may have been considering doing with respect to combating infiltration of law enforcement by white supremacists. Because after the 2006 FBI report, we simply cannot find anything by local law enforcement or the federal government that addresses this issue.” Chapman University sociologist Peter Simi agreed, “The report underscores the problem of even discussing this issue. It underscores how difficult this issue is to get any traction on, because a lot of people don’t want to discuss this, let alone actually do something about it.”

DT Analytics’s Daryl Johnson was the lead researcher on the DHS report told The Intercept, “Federal law enforcement agencies in general — the FBI, the Marshals, the ATF — are aware that extremists have infiltrated state and local law enforcement agencies and that there are people in law enforcement agencies that may be sympathetic to these groups.” And according to him, the problem has since gotten “a lot more troublesome.” Because local police departments don’t seem to do anything to address the issue. “There’s not even any training now to make state and local police aware of these groups and how they could infiltrate their ranks.” As Samuel Jones told The Intercept, “For some reason, we have stepped away from the threat of domestic terrorism and right-wing extremism. The only way we can reconcile this kind of behavior is if we accept the possibility that the ideology that permeates white nationalists and white supremacists is something that many in our federal and law enforcement communities understand and may be in sympathy with.”

How do we combat the problem of white supremacists in law enforcement?

Stricter screenings for bias and white supremacist ties is a start. After a series of investigations uncovered substantial numbers of extremists in the military, the Department of Defense moved to impose stricter screenings, including monitoring recruits’ tattoos for white supremacist symbols and discharged those found to espouse racist views. As the SPLC’s Beirich told The Intercept, “The military has completely reformed its process on this front. I don’t know why it wouldn’t be the same for police officers; we can’t have people with guns having crazy ideas or ideas that threaten certain populations.” However, the clean-cut khaki-wearing racists are less detectible as military recruits so having white supremacists in the military is still a very serious problem. An Army Times survey of 1,000 active-duty troops found that 1 in 4 respondents had witnessed concrete instances of white nationalism among fellow troops and around 5% wrote comments disparaging the poll’s methodology and complaining that groups like Black Lives Matter weren’t included as an example of encroaching extremist threat.
But reforming police is a lot harder than the military due to the way decentralized way thousands of police departments across the country operate, the historical affinity of certain police departments with the same racial ideologies espoused by extremists, and an even broader reluctance to do much about it. Seattle former police chief Norm Stamper told The Intercept, “There are police agencies throughout the South and beyond that come from that tradition. To think that that kind of thinking has dissolved somehow is myopic at best.” Though he admitted to firing officers expressing racist views, he added, “It’s not likely to happen in most police departments, because many of those departments come from a tradition of saying the officer is entitled to his or her opinions.”

First Amendment issues relating to freedoms of association and expression can also get in the way. Long as it’s for legal of activity, it’s technically legal for anyone in law enforcement or public office to join a hate group. But according to the 2006 FBI memo, the government can limit opportunities of members “when their memberships would interfere with their duties.” John Marshall School of Law’s Samuel Jones thinks it’s problematic. “I cannot imagine that the FBI today could issue a report concerning any kind of threat without people being alarmed and wanting immediate action,” he told PBS. “But in this case there seems to be almost an acceptance of it. The thought is ‘it’s just ideology and they have a right to believe this.’” Nonetheless, whether the First Amendment protects an officer’s right to express racist, white supremacist views or associate with organizations that endorse them remains a subject of debate. As Stamper told The Intercept, “You can fire someone. Whether the termination will stand up under review is the real question.”

Although police officers have been fired for expressing hateful views, they’re sometimes rehired by other departments as happens regularly when officers are accused of misconduct. But some officers have also challenged those dismissals in court. For instance, 18-year veteran of the Nebraska State Patrol Robert Henderson was fired when his Klan membership was discovered. He sued on First Amendment grounds and appealed all the way to the US Supreme Court, which declined to hear the case. In 2016, 14 San Francisco police officers were caught exchanging racist and homophobic texts including several references to “white power” and messages such as “all niggers must fucking hang.” Most of them remain on the force after an attempt to fire several of them was blocked by a judge, saying that the statute of limitations had expired.
Jones had been tracking similar incidents following the 2006 report and believes many more get buried the code of silence often dominating police departments. “All agencies, if they want to, can curtail this problem — the problem is that many do not.”

How are we combating the problem now?

According to the FBI Counter Terrorism Policy Guide, the FBI has the option to mark a watchlisted police officer as a “silent hit,” thus preventing queries to the National Crime Information Center from returning a record that identifies the officer as having been flagged as a known or suspected terrorist. The document states that a “specific, narrowly defined, and legitimate operational justification” must be given to mark a Known or Suspected Terrorist (KST) as a silent hit. The suspect’s membership or affiliation with law enforcement or military agency is one of the justifications listed, implying that extremist infiltration is enough of a concern that the FBI has built-in protocols to prevent domestic terror investigations from being obstructed by members of law enforcement. However, the counterterrorism guide doesn’t specify the conditions under which the FBI will notify local law enforcement whose members may be under surveillance as silent hits. A former agent who specialized in domestic terror investigations told The Intercept that such alerts are handled on a, “case-by-case basis,” adding, “Typically, if someone in the police department is suspect, unless it’s an extreme case of leadership, professional courtesy requires some sort of notification.”

What can we do about white supremacists in law enforcement?

If you think a police officer in your local neighborhood is a white supremacist, say something about it by either posting a picture or video on social media. If you can trust them, you might want to discuss it with your local and state police department. You can also notify the feds or the Southern Poverty Law Center. Here’s a link:

https://www.splcenter.org/what-we-do/fighting-hate/law-enforcement-resources

If you’re a law enforcement officer and want to do something about white supremacists in your community, I believe the Southern Law Center has you covered. But if you know a colleague associated with white supremacy, either tell your superior, notify the feds, or the SLPC.

But more importantly, we need to address white supremacist violence as a serious problem in this country and need to demand better ways to prevent it and combat it. Rooting out white supremacists in the police force through better screenings should be a major priority. Yet, more importantly we need to demand our law enforcement treat white supremacists at demonstrations as the security risks and danger they are, especially in the mainstream. Unless police are properly trained to handle hate crimes, white supremacists, and right-wing terror, then white supremacists will have little reason to fear the authorities, especially if their fellow members are on the force.

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The Disturbing Trend

Charlottesville didn’t prop up out of nowhere. The United States has a serious problem with systematic racism in our culture and society which should surprise no one. After all, the US was built on slavery, colonialism, Native American genocide, and white supremacy. Though we liken white supremacy as a fringe ideology only embraced by extremists, it remains firmly established as a cultural value that white people don’t want to acknowledge. Whenever there’s progress in achieving racial equality such as in outlawing slavery and civil rights, there’s always a fierce white resentment and backlash at every turn. Even today, calling out a white person’s racist behavior, beliefs, or any racial injustice will result in vicious defensive retaliation. Sometimes it might lead to whites developing a reverse racism persecution complex. Sometimes it might lead to blaming minorities for their problems beyond their control due to a steady diet of racist dog whistles they accept as mere facts of life. And sometimes it might lead to mainstream culture ignoring systemic problems disproportionately affecting minority communities as well as denying a possible national crisis. I understand white people would rather not talk about racism since they benefit from their white privilege whether they’re willing to admit it or not. But at the same time, many don’t see a problem with adopting disparaging views on minorities and immigrants. Nevertheless, while acknowledging systematic white supremacy in our nation can be extremely difficult for a white American to address, identifying and denouncing white supremacist terrorism shouldn’t be. In fact, it’s the easiest anti-racist thing a white person can do since it’s white supremacy in its most blatant and ugliest form.

And yet, Donald Trump still struggled to condemn the white supremacist attacks on Charlottesville, preferring to blame the violence on “many sides” instead on the white nationalists most responsible for it. However, Trump’s lackluster remarks aren’t surprising since white supremacists comprise a key part of his base he sees no problem pandering to them. He’s also had a ridiculously long and consistent history of racist behavior ranging from discriminatory rental practices during the 1970s, calling for the Central Park Five’s execution and still believing their nonexistent guilt, disparaging Native American casino owners during a congressional hearing in a series of ads, and promoting baseless Obama conspiracy theories like birtherism. Bigoted statements and actions feature heavily in Trump’s public life and career and were critical to his political rise to the presidency. As president, he’s kept up with the vulgar racist rhetoric as well as enacted inherently racist and xenophobic policies. But for a man known for viciously attacking people he doesn’t like, his responses to white supremacy have often been vague, indifferent, and uncharacteristic like he doesn’t really mean what he’s said. Trump may claim he’s “the least racist person that you’ve ever encountered” but his bigotry isn’t just mere political opportunism but a real element in his personality, character, and career. The fact Trump could win the presidency running a campaign catering to hostile sexism and racial resentment understates how widespread and insidious racism in America really is.

Another reason why Donald Trump struggled on Charlottesville is the fact he’s a self-absorbed prick who will do whatever it takes to come out on top as long as the consequences don’t affect him personally. He doesn’t care if he has to break rules, longstanding norms, or even laws to get what he wants. He doesn’t give a damn about the moral implications of his actions or any long-term damage he’s inflicted on the country. Others’ pain, suffering, or ruination don’t concern him. If Trump wanted to build a golf course on a stretch of land populated by forests and homes, he’d set fire to the whole place and let it burn to the ground if he knew he could get away with it. And it’s this unapologetic opportunism that makes him extremely dangerous. Why? Because while racism is a systematic and pervasive influence in our society, most politicians wouldn’t dare resort to virulent racist stereotypes at rallies or pander to white supremacists. Trump has no such moral compunctions. If horrific racist rhetoric and pandering to white supremacists attract voters, then Trump will keep at it regardless of how it affects America. White supremacists comprise a key part of his base and he will do absolutely anything to retain their support. He doesn’t care if it arouses their worst impulses and emboldens them to inflict violence on other Americans. It doesn’t matter to him if he undermines American values and legitimizes white nationalism. It doesn’t concern him if pandering to white supremacists leaves millions of Americans living in fear for their lives. Nor does he give a damn if it threatens other Americans’ rights to life, liberty, or the pursuit of happiness. What makes Trump particularly dangerous on matters of race isn’t just that he harbors highly racist views, but his willingness to capitalize on the building white backlash for his own personal gain without any thought of repercussions.

Donald Trump’s impromptu press conference after Charlottesville demonstrates where his sympathies truly lie. Despite reading a prepared statement like someone in a hostage situation, he doesn’t particularly feel that white nationalists were responsible for the violence that killed Heather Heyer and injured dozens. Rather he blames both sides for it, alleging that the counter-protesters and marchers bore equal responsibility. He thinks the “alt-left” charged at marchers with clubs (despite that the marchers projected a military presence and initiated most of the confrontations). He referred to a torchlit march with people performing Nazi salutes, chanting, “Sieg heil!,” and assaulting counter-protestors as a good example of people “very quietly protesting.” He believes the violence distracted from the “Unite the Right” rally’s aim to defend a Robert E. Lee statue (despite that they really marched to protect white America from the so-called scourge of “diversity” and not at all peacefully either). In all, made explicit all the darkest undertones of his gallingly weak statement on, “many sides.” He muddied the waters by what happened in Charlottesville over that weekend as well as softened his judgement on the march itself. To Trump, what happened in Charlottesville was simply a “disruption” between two factions of equal empirical and moral culpability (even though it wasn’t).

But what really disturbs me isn’t that Donald Trump is a flagrant racist but how his remarks on Charlottesville will influence his supporters. In the past, both Democrat and Republican presidents have denounced white supremacy when it wasn’t acceptable even if it didn’t politically benefit them. Because regardless of how messy our racial politics could get, most Americans agree that white supremacists and political violence shouldn’t be legitimized. A presidential denunciation on white supremacy isn’t just an affirmation on American values and ideals of “all men are created equal,” it also keeps our nation safe by relegating white supremacists to the extremist fringe. The fact Trump failed to clearly, consistently, and unequivocally condemn the white supremacist violence in Charlottesville not only undermines American values, but puts people in serious danger. His calling it a “disruption” is very irresponsible which brings comfort to any Trump supporter convinced there wouldn’t be any problems in America if “thugs” didn’t start them. When he said that removing Lee’s statue is “changing history and culture,” he not only echoes those believing the Confederacy as part of their Southern “heritage,” but also white nationalists’ fears of “diversity” and “political correctness” erasing both America’s past and future. When he compared Robert E. Lee to George Washington, he thrills those believing the Confederacy as morally right to secede from the United States and that slavery horrors are overblown at best. When Trump insisted that the torchlit march was the quiet and peaceful protest it certainly wasn’t, he’s not just wrong. But he in every way legitimized the ideologies these marchers expressed as good and orderly. As we can see, white supremacists have given him plenty of praise him, continue to enthusiastically support him, and commit hate crimes in his name. Research shows that even implied rhetorical support from mainstream political leaders can encourage violence from radical groups. A radical group’s elements draw major strength from any kind of mainstream legitimation. As political scientist Paul Staniland told Vox, “that kind of rhetoric can provide political cover to non-state armed groups to act in ways that are really dangerous. They can just say ‘Look, we’re just doing what the president or the leader says is acceptable.’” Had Trump credibly condemned white supremacy, white supremacists would’ve had more difficulty to sell themselves for potential followers and activists as a viable political movement. When extremist groups feel like they have mainstream support, they’re more likely to attract volunteers, organize new rallies, and stage more violent attacks.

Since Donald Trump was elected, white supremacists have started recruiting more openly and it’s possible his hardcore supporters are inclined to view them more positively than they did before. After all, Trump essentially told his supporters they should have some respect and pay attention to these tiki torch wielding white nationalists. Now that these white supremacists feel like Trump’s legitimized them, they’re planning a whole other wave of activity Hate crimes have also been on the rise since legitimizing white supremacy just makes them more likely to happen. However, the worst impact Donald Trump’s remarks on Charlottesville isn’t just emboldening white supremacists. Despite that Republicans on Capitol Hill rushed to disagree with Trump blaming “both sides” for the violence, Republican voters don’t seem too upset. In fact, according to a recent CBS poll, two-thirds of Republicans approve of his handling of Charlottesville. Meanwhile, his approval ratings usually bounce between the high 30s and low 40s while he retains 80% of his party’s support. Now I know most Trump voters aren’t white nationalists or completely horrible people (unlike their man in the White House). But the fact that Trump’s explicit racism and pandering to white supremacists weren’t dealbreakers for them illustrates that they’re at least racist enough to vote for him. And the violence that might result from Trump’s decision to give white supremacists a voice was a risk they were willing to take. It’s clear many of them agreed with at least some of what Trump had to say about Hispanics, blacks, Muslims, immigrants, etc. White resentment and cultural anxiety won Trump the White House while the Republican establishment has embraced him as their leader. But what’s especially worrisome is how his presidency made explicit racism more socially acceptable. Trump constantly dog whistles, uses dehumanizing language against, and stokes fears of minorities and outsiders. To say disparaging things and be rewarded for them sends a powerful sign that gives license to others to forgo norms of interpersonal civility and kindness. Since Trump’s election, school bullying against marginalized students has been on the rise with incidents including verbal harassment, use of derogatory and racial slurs, graffiti, assault on teachers and students, property damage, fights, violent threats, and displays involving swastikas, Nazi salutes, groping, and Confederate flags. Workplace bullying has also been on the rise. Aside from the breakdowns in civility, Trump’s influence might lead Republicans to tolerate more racist rhetoric or become more racist. It doesn’t help that the media does a phenomenally shitty job covering right-wing terrorism that many conservative Republicans don’t believe it’s even a problem. And as polls shows, many white Americans have become more racist in recent years. And to make matters worse, Trump won the white millennial vote, a key membership demographic for white supremacist radicalization.

At the same time, Donald Trump has never offered any form of reassurance to the millions of Americans living in fear of a resurgent white supremacism since before he was sworn in. At best, he’s told them their fear is their problem like it’s an obstacle to overcome. At worst, he’s told them that they provoked lethal violence against themselves. And that there wasn’t anything wrong going on at the Charlottesville rally until some people came “charging with clubs.” Trump may have briefly offered a gesture of protection to Americans worrying he’s encouraging hate and violence. But he’s rendered that gesture as nothing but a “fuck you” to those who now feel abandoned while offering all but ease to the marchers. White supremacists are a national security threat responsible for more attacks on US soil than ISIS which have increased within the last several years. In June the Anti-Defamation League reported that more than half of active Klu Klux Klan chapters formed within the last 3 years, and instability within the groups meant most were short-lived. The Southern Poverty Law Center showed there are 917 active hate groups in the US. Trump has decided to cut funding to curb white supremacist terror, appointed alt-righters to the White House, and basically pandered to white nationalists. So he’s made it perfectly clear that his administration will not do anything to protect vulnerable Americans from white supremacist terror. All the while he dog whistles, dehumanizes them, and stokes fears in his base. Thus, hate crimes will continue to rise while millions of Americans have no national leader who’ll protect them.

It’s very likely there will be further clashes like Charlottesville in the near future. But what form it takes greatly depends on police and politicians’ reactions. If authorities try to crack down on this and prevent these kinds of clashes, the likelihood of violence will be reduced. Research suggests that when mainstream elites are willing to at least not explicitly condemn violent fringe actors, they’re more capable of effectively mobilizing within the police system. As a result, they’re less likely to expect the cops to crack down as hard on them as they attempt to establish links within the ruling establishment to encourage a greater levels of mobilization. A study from the early 20th century showed how sanction and support from US officials influenced lynching. Lynch mobs were more likely to kill if they had support from political leaders and less likely if mainstream leaders spoke out against them. Judging by how the police handled Charlottesville and reports of law enforcement being affiliated with white supremacist groups, it doesn’t look encouraging across the country. Republicans on Capitol Hill haven’t done anything to crack down on white supremacist terror. Until our politicians, law enforcement, and the media start taking white supremacy as a serious threat and, we should expect another terror attack like Charlottesville. And that time could be sooner than we think.

The Tiki Torches of White Supremacy in Charlottesville

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On Friday night August 11, 2017, a group of 100 white nationalists marched onto the University of Virginia campus in Charlottesville, Virginia. The marchers carried tiki torches, chanted Nazi slogans like “Sieg heil” and “blood and soil,” and gave Nazi salutes. They also chanted other slogans like “White Lives Matter,” “You will not replace us,” and alluded to the white-nationalist idea that diversity as “white genocide.” This march was a vigil for the larger planned, “Unite the Right” rally for Saturday to protest a Robert E. Lee statue removal in a local park. Alt-Right leaders were scheduled to speak before an audience comprising hundreds of far-right activists. During the rally, a fight broke out when demonstrators (nearly all white and male) surrounded some counter-protestors peacefully grouped around a statue of Thomas Jefferson in the middle of the campus. A local activist told the Guardian, “They completely surrounded us and wouldn’t let us out.” Counter-protestors reported being pepper sprayed. The police eventually intervened, declaring an “unlawful assembly” and separating the groups. But the violence persisted well into the next morning with a series of confrontations. The groups beat each other with flagpoles and bats, chanted slogans, and used chemical sprays on each other. Some even reported being doused in raw sewage. At least two people were treated for serious but non-threatening emergencies from the fights by 10:30 a.m. Police deployed tear gas against the crowd shortly before 11:30. And by noon, the group of alt-right nationalists grew to include neo-Nazis, the Klu Klux Klan, and a heavily armed militia. Police dispersed the rally minutes after its scheduled start at and were in full riot gear to clear the area. But the violence didn’t die down. As some counter-protestors started to leave, a silver Dodge Challenger plowed through them. A 32-year-old woman was killed while nine others were injured as the car fled the scene. A helicopter crash near the protests killed two police officers while twenty-five others were also treated for injuries.

As you can recall, the alt-right is a movement that strongly rejects “diversity,” “political correctness, and identity politics as well as disturbingly engages in white nationalist, fascist, and Nazi rhetoric and regalia. And I’m sure it’s clear that they’re not using white nationalist tropes just to be “ironic” as some alt-righters claim. Because you don’t just wear a swastika to a “Unite the Right” rally with irony. Nevertheless, the alt right is a key part of a broader cultural backlash that helped elect Donald Trump to the presidency. Many white Americans felt that they’re losing their ground to nonwhites or that America is losing its identity. And many believe that political, economic, and media elites are either uninterested in defending their heritage or actively trying to eradicate it. Of course, such concepts are the result of white people feeling nostalgic for an America that never existed. Members of the alt right number among Trump’s staunchest supporters with members of his administration among its ranks like Stephen Miller, Sebastian Gorka, and Steve Bannon. Thanks to Trump’s election, the alt right’s leaders have become increasingly willing to dabble in white nationalist rhetoric and tropes while trying to avoid being accused of white nationalism themselves. Sure they didn’t start out explicitly aligning themselves with white supremacists but racist rhetoric has always been a hallmark of the movement even during the 2016 Election. But Trump’s election has emboldened the alt right to come out of the white nationalist closet and show the world the kind of racist shits they actually are. Trump’s election has made racist rhetoric more acceptable among his supporters who feel they don’t need to conceal their contempt for the kinds of people they don’t like. Yet, it has also led to a resurgence of right-wing extremism with hate incidents on the rise.

But why Charlottesville? Well, many cities in the South still have public spaces and monuments celebrating key Confederate figures. Many of these weren’t erected until the 20th century with the rise of the Civil Rights Movement and Jim Crow laws coming under attack. Thus, it is clear these landmarks weren’t created to celebrate Southern “heritage” but to remind black people of their subservience to whites. In other words, the Lee statue exists in the city as a symbol of white supremacy and racism. After all, Lee’s devotion to white supremacy outshone his loyalty to his country embodying the white nationalist ethos. Since the 2015 Emmanuel AME Church shooting, there’s been a renewed push to remove Confederate monuments and rename streets and squares named after them. But wherever these campaigns succeeded, there’s often been backlash from white Southern conservatives who consider the Confederacy as part of their “heritage” and outright white nationalists. In Charlottesville, the target was a statue of Robert E. Lee in a park called Lee Park. As City Council members pointed out, Lee had no connection to Charlottesville and his commemoration was just an indirect way to celebrate the Confederacy. The city council later voted to sell the statue and rename the park as Emancipation Park (even though it’s currently still in place). This decision made the Charlottesville a target for far-right activism and shows of strength along with those keen to stand up to them and demonstrate that their ideas weren’t welcome. On July 8, 30 Klu Klux Klan members held a small rally in the city though hundreds of counter-protestors outnumbered them.

Which brings us to today. “Alt-Right” luminaries planned a large “Unite the Right” rally for Saturday. While originally intended to attract a broad coalition of “patriot” groups, it had become increasingly Nazified, some refused to sign on. Instead, explicitly fascist and white supremacist groups like the National Socialist Movement, the Klu Klux Klan, and Neo-Nazis got on board, which reflected the march’s Nazified tone. Hundreds of protestors descended upon Charlottesville for the rally which Vox called, “a belated coming-out party for an emboldened white nationalist movement in the United States.” Speakers included some alt-right personalities who’ve flirted most openly with white nationalism and self-identified white nationalists like Richard Spencer. Yet, the arc of the “Unite the Right” rally from a demonstration to bring conservative groups together to protest a controversial statue removal to a “Nazified” rally for “the pro-white movement of America,” reflects what’s been happening to the alt right as a whole.

Numerous public officials of both parties have condemned the violence along with the white supremacists who perpetuated it. However, Donald Trump tweeted 14 hours after the clashes began with, “We ALL must be united and condemn all that hate stands for. There is no place for this kind of violence in America. Lets come together as one!” He later released a statement condemning the violence “in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides.” He didn’t explicitly identify who was to blame and only used the vaguest possible terms. Trump’s response to Charlottesville is notable. After all, he didn’t wait for 14 hours to denounce Islamist terror outside the US. Nor did he let his vacation get in the way of threatening war with North Korea. Yet, Trump refused to actively condemn the white nationalists responsible for the initial violence, most of the violence and disorder, and the most serious violence in Charlottesville in the strongest possible terms. His refusal provides a misleading account of what happened as well as erroneously implies that both rally goers and counter-protestors were equally to blame. Such implication leaves it wide open for Trump supporters to assume “the left” started it. His remarks suggest that the “hate and division” are equally distributed and that the counter-protestors seeking to stand up to the rallygoers are every bit as hateful. His calling for the “swift restoration of law and order,” implies that the real problem is disrespect for police. But all Trumps statements regarding Charlottesville encourage his supporters to misinterpret the events as anyone else’s fault but the white nationalists themselves.

In context, Trump’s response to the violence in Charlottesville is an insult to Americans who’ve felt unsafe since his election and whose acknowledgement of their fears has been tepid at best. What he’s said that “many sides” must put aside their own prejudices just as much as anyone else and come together as Americans and everything will be all right. But Trump’s unwillingness to understand the rise of the “alt right,” overt racism, and street violence as anything other than a need for “both sides do it” leads him to say things that may signal white supremacists that he’s on their side, inadvertently or otherwise. When Trump calls for Americans to unite because “We love our country. We love our God. We love our flag. We’re proud of our country. We’re proud of who we are,” he’s using the same language these people use to justify trying to “protect” American “identity” from their non-white and non-Christian countrymen. When he declares “we must cherish our history” in response to a rally initially convened to protest a Robert E. Lee statue removal, he sure sounds like he’s siding with the very white supremacists wanting to keep it. Such remarks would come across as deliberate dog whistles in a more deliberate president. We all know Trump loves his base that he’s very careful about doing anything that could upset them. He also acts as if there’s any connection between the “alt-right” and Nazis. Then there’s the fact he has known white nationalists in his administration like Steve Bannon, Sebastian Gorka, and Stephen Miller. Any case where white supremacists engage in unprovoked violence against the left would do just that. Yet, it’s not clear whether Trump is deliberately sending signals to the alt-right that he’s still on their team or that thought that much about it. And that’s exactly the problem. In the last six months of his presidency, Trump has shown less concern for governing on behalf of “the haters and losers” who didn’t support him than any president in recent memory (which would include most Americans in general). Nor does he seem to care about the white supremacist threat to US citizens to understand or name it. It’s an ideology history buffs like myself are very familiar with in American history that has been used to justify slavery, segregation, lynching, hate crimes, and terrorism. And it’s one threatening not only extremist violence but American democracy as well.

It is precisely on moments like Charlottesville that an American president should speak directly on behalf of the American creed, Americans rejecting tribalism and seeking pluralism, and the idea that alt-right nationalism is antiethical to the American idea itself. At a moment when the US needs its leadership to take a unified stand against hatred, Trump’s refusal to call radical white terrorism for what it is might mark the lowest point of his presidency to date. Nevertheless, it’s not unexpected in a man like Donald Trump. Trump has a long history of racism and doesn’t see any problem with white nationalists openly supporting him or working in the White House. Nor does he see anything wrong with promoting inherently racist and xenophobic policies or running a racist, xenophobic campaign that energized the radical right. Whenever Trump has a chance to condemn white supremacists, he’s clearly and repeatedly refused to denounce them in terms that would alienate them. In fact, he continues pandering to them which very unlike what he does with nearly any people or group he dislikes (which he isn’t shy about condemning on Twitter to sabotaging their lives). His election further emboldened these white supremacists who see him as their champion. The day after Trump’s election, hate incidents soared with many carried out in his name. David Duke’s response to Charlottesville clearly reflects this noting, “This represents a turning point for the people of this country. We are determined to take our country back. We are going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump. That’s what we believed in. That’s why we voted for Donald Trump, because he said he’s going to take our country back.” Seven months into his presidency, Trump has fostered an environment in which people who might’ve been ashamed of their shameful beliefs are now utterly unafraid to show their faces in broad daylight. And as long as white supremacists feel they can no longer hide their hate and bigotry, expect more domestic terror incidents like Charlottesville and other hate crimes.

While much of the country is confused on how the violence in Charlottesville came to be, the answer is blatantly obvious. What happened in Emancipation Park and the streets of Charlottesville didn’t just suddenly spring forth all by itself. White supremacy runs deeper than rogues in hooded robes and has always influenced politics and political violence. White supremacist policy and rhetoric is still being fostered and widely enabled. And it doesn’t take long for such mere sentiments erupt into of overt violence. When white supremacy turns violent America is less safe, especially for people of color and religious minorities. Now I know that not everyone who voted for Donald Trump is an unapologetic racist who’d gleefully march alongside fellow Neo-Nazis and Klansmen in the White Pride parade. But all Trump voters who saw him speak, heard his inflammatory rhetoric, believed in his vision for the future knew exactly what they were aligning themselves with. For millions of Americans, the fact their candidate unashamedly pandered to voters by appealing to the most despicable impulses among us wasn’t a deal-breaker. And the violence possibly resulting from Trump’s decision to give these white supremacists a voice was a risk they were willing to take. Yet, white supremacy can and will flourish when given fuel. History has shown from Reconstruction to the Civil Rights Movement that such transformations can spread like wildfire relatively fast and destroy decades of progress in flashes. All that white racial resentment toward minorities that propelled Trump to the presidency was just that. It may be easier to see white supremacists as people wearing white robes with cone hoods and swastika arm bands then a group of white men (along with some white women) with tiki torches, bad haircuts, wrinkled khakis, and a love of memes camping out in a park. Yet, keep in mind that even the most feared white supremacists during Jim Crow were just regular white men transformed from their lives as politicians, farmers, mechanics, and layabouts by sheer ideological power. White supremacist movements could often considered as “fringe” and marginal until they weren’t. So if you think that a bunch of young white guys with tiki torches aren’t capable of blood-curdling horror that destroyed countless black families, I honestly urge you to reconsider.

Nazis and White Nationalists by Another Name: Why We Need to Talk About the Alt-Right

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Now I always try to respect other people’s opinions as best they can even if I don’t agree with them. And in this day in age, I have to put up with a lot of people in my life spouting crazy ideas that seem to contradict with all kinds of factual information such as climate change. However, there is a one kind of ideology in American society with a considerable political presence we shouldn’t tolerate under any circumstance. But now that Donald Trump is president, it’s a movement we can’t ignore for it’s one that poses a grave and present danger in our country as we speak. We need to talk about the Alt-Right.

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Make no mistake. The Alt-Right is a far-right set of extremist ideologies, individuals, and groups whose core belief that “white identity” is under siege by multicultural forces using “political correctness” and “social justice” to undermine white people and “their” civilization. The Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League see the Alt-Right as a white nationalist hate movement for this reason. And the fact Trump has Alt-Righters on his team at the White House like Steve Bannon should trouble you.

Considered by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an extremist ideology, the Alt-Right is a set of far-right ideologies, groups, and individuals whose core belief is that “white identity” is under attack by multicultural forces using “political correctness” and “social justice” to undermine white people and “their” civilization. Known for heavy social media use and online memes, Alt-Righters reject mainstream American conservatism, skew young white men, and embrace white ethno-nationalism as a fundamental value. The Alt-Right has no formal organization and it’s not clear whether it can be considered a movement while occupying on the extreme ideological fringes of American conservativism. Given the nebulous nature of anonymous online communities such as websites like 4chan and 8chan, we’re not entirely sure who these people are and what motivates them. We also don’t know how much people write on these sites is serious or is intended to stir trouble. However, what we do know is that alt-righters use websites like Twitter and Brietbart to convey their message, post offensive memes, as well as harass people who disagree with them. Legions of anonymous Twitter users have used the hashtag #AltRight to proliferate their ideas, sometimes successfully pushing them into the mainstream. But more importantly, we know that they comprise of Donald Trump’s most steadfast supporters as well as played a pivotal role in bringing him to power. Now that former Brietbart CEO Steve Bannon has a high position of influence in Trump’s White House have made the Alt Right a major political force. Regardless what your political beliefs are, the fact a major Alt-Righter now occupies a major position of power should scare you. It’s perfectly clear the Alt-Right is a hate movement as exemplified by its founder Richard Spencer who’s often been accused of centering it on white nationalism to whitewash overt racism, white supremacism, and Neo-Nazism as well as frequently quoted from Nazi propaganda and spoke critically of the Jewish people. And it’s even scarier that the Alt-Right isn’t the kind of white nationalist movement that wears white hoods or swastikas. But one that sells white supremacy by trying to appeal to mainstream youth through a radicalization process involving skilled manipulation and pop culture. In short, they tend to be today’s Nazis by another name.

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Mainstream conservatism always had a racist streak in America since our country was built on institutional racism. And the GOP doesn’t shy away from employing subtle racist rhetoric and stereotypes in their political campaigns such as this Willie Horton ad against Michael Dukakis in 1988. However, Republicans usually try to go to great pains not to look racist and love having minorities in their party so it can look diverse during convention time.

So where did the Alt-Right come from? It’s hard to say. Though the term was coined by leading alt-righter Richard Spencer while its members have a well-known online presence, its extremist white nationalist views have deep roots in American history because racism and nativism don’t really go away once they’re no longer acceptable. Nevertheless, mainstream American conservatism has always had a racist streak because our country was built on institutional racism as well as a suspicion on immigrants who don’t fit the WASP ideal. The Republican Party has often used racist dog whistles to win rural whites over for decades and have been very successful at it as you can see thanks to the Southern Strategy designed to convert Southern Democrats who left the party when LBJ signed a series of civil rights policies. And along with appealing to the Christian Right’s version of “traditional values,” racist dog whistles would continue to win more converts in the Rustbelt and the rest of white rural America ever since thanks to Reaganism and Fox News. However, while they often appeal to racist sensibilities in their rhetoric, it’s often in a subtle way that’s made to look somewhat acceptable toward white people who might not notice it. For instance, the “undeserving poor” usually pertain to poor black and Hispanic people. “Illegal immigrants” usually pertain to Hispanics, particularly Mexicans who are also seem to be poor border crossers to drop anchor babies in order to stay in the country. And “terrorists” usually refers to Islamic extremists in the Middle East who are often stereotyped as such. However, despite that mainstream conservatism has a lot of racist undertones, most white conservatives are only racist due to being from environments where almost everyone is like them and having limited exposure to diversity that much of what they believe about people seemingly different from them is shaped by what they see in the media. But these conservatives see no problem with people in those minorities aren’t poor, live like them, and embrace their message, mainstream conservatives accept them as model Americans. And they’re willing to grandstand them to prove that they’re not the racists you might think they are.

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The Alt-Right rejects mainstream conservatism mainly for not sufficiently supporting racism and anti-Semitism or don’t advocate for white people’s interests as a group. They often use the term “cuckservative” to castigate Republicans as unmanly white men who support globalism and liberal ideas as well as imply that they let black men sleep with their wives. And yes, the Alt-Right is full of white supremacists.

This is not the case with the Alt-Right. In fact, those identifying with the Alt-Right regard mainstream conservatives as weak and impotent, largely because they don’t sufficiently support racism and anti-Semitism or don’t advocate for white people’s interests as a group. They frequently disparage the conservative movement by using the derogatory term of “cuckservative” which is a combination of “conservative” and “cuckold.” And it’s a term mostly used to castigate Republican politicians they see as traitors to their people as well as selling out conservatives with their support for globalism and liberal ideas. It has a racist undertone implying that establishment conservatives are like unmanly white men who allow black men to sleep with their wives. Though not everyone who identifies with the Alt-Right is a white supremacist according to the Anti-Defamation League, the designation itself usually applies to white nationalism because most of them certainly are as “white identity” is central to what they all have in common. And however they define themselves, Alt-Righters reject egalitarianism, democracy, universalism, and multiculturalism.

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While the Alt-Right usually recruits its members with its large online presence, they may hold press conferences and other public events at Washington D.C. Here featured is National Policy Institute head Richard Spencer.

What’s even more troubling is that the Alt-Right movement is growing at an alarming rate due to including a number of white people espousing racist and anti-Semitic beliefs as well as a loud presence online. There are also a growing number of small white supremacist enterprises including think tanks like the National Policy Institute, online publications like Radix, Brietbart, American Renaissance, and The Right Stuff, and publishing houses like Washington Summit Publishers and Counter Currents Publishing. Most of what they produced are white supremacist and anti-Semitic literature as well as promote unsubstantiated conspiracy theories many of their members believe. And if Trump’s ascent to the presidency tells us, their political influence is on the rise. Outside the Internet, Richard Spencer reserves the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. at least twice a year for a coat-and-tie gathering of his followers who regularly use false names or refuse to identify themselves for fear of being labeled as racists. Topics and themes can vary. In 2015 it was, “Beyond Conservatism” and capitalized on the strength of the virulently racist “cuckservative” meme. In 2016, it was “Identity Politics” and mostly focused on Trump’s presidential campaign and its continued success with featured speakers addressing a different facet of Trump’s influence on politics and Americans culture which they saw as an implicit white backlash against present-day politics as well as Trump creating a political space where the Alt-Right to grow.

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The Alt-Right typically recruits its members online with a marketing strategy that avoids using the word race as well as conjure rebel and anti-establishment imagery that appeals to youth. For instance, its use of Pepe the Frog as a meme is among these.They also tend to talk about preserving European-American identity under the guise of multiculturalism. And thus begins the process of Alt-Right radicalization.

Since their agenda often seeks to insert white supremacy in conservative conversations that have largely deliberately excluded them in recent decades, they have a rather savvy media strategy behind them. For instance, the term Alt-Right is short for “Alternative Right” which is a conscious attempt by these people to stake out part of the conservative spectrum and claim they deserve a voice in conservative conversations. Though many argue their real objective is to challenge and dismantle mainstream conservatism as well as legitimize racism. The phrase “Alternative Right” explicitly avoids using the word “race” as well as conjures up rebel and anti-establishment figures which are often attractive to youth. Breitbart’s Milo Yiannopoulos painted the movement as “born out of the youthful, subversive, underground edges of the internet,” and that the Neo-Nazis in its ranks are unrepresentative. They’re also likely to use terms like “culture” to substitute more lightning rod terms such as “race” or promote “Western Civilization” as a code word for white culture or identity. Alt-Righters don’t make explicit references to white nationalism that they may believe in, they’re more inclined to talk about preserving European-American identity under a guise of multiculturalism in order to recruit his followers. This orchestrates a path toward radicalization in which seemingly normal people are intoxicated with extremist ideology and possibly molded into terrorists. A lot of extremist groups have recruited their members by exploiting their vulnerabilities with narratives of strength and warmth as well as simultaneously emphasizing with those alienated and disaffected while also promising power and belonging through righteous violence against their so-called oppressors. You can easily see a demonstration of this radicalization process in the movie Fight Club.

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The Alt-Right is notorious for its ruthless trolls who serve as orators and activists in the movement. Methods include inflammatory comments, doxing, and bombarding social media accounts with slur filled and photoshopped art. Though this statement on Brock Turner’s rape victim is incredibly offensive, this is just mild in their milieu. Because they can be downright hateful and often relentless as their victims suffer under their online harassment. Many Alt-Righters have been banned from social media for hate speech.

The Alt-Right is notorious for its ruthless trolls who serve as orators and activists to the movement. Brietbart’s Milo Yiannopoulos was instrumental in the online harassment campaign against women in the electronic gamer world known as Gamergate. Yiannopoulos was also banned from Twitter for inciting a racist pile-up on Saturday Night Live’s Leslie Jones. Let’s just say his reception at Berkeley was very well deserved despite now that he now has a book contract with Simon and Schuster. Other trolls have bombarded Twitter and e-mail accounts with slur filled and photoshopped art. There are also doxers who release personal information onto the Internet in order harass their victims. Though the Alt-Right didn’t invent these tactics, but the trolling during the 2016 election reached a sadistic pitch. Journalists opposing Trump received photos of themselves and sometimes their children dead or in gas chambers. This was especially the case if they were Jewish or had a Jewish surname with a signature punctuation marking Jewish names with “echoes” or triple parentheses like (((this))). Though the alt-right trolls may initially seem as annoying, they can be downright hateful and inflict a high degree of damage by issuing offensive slurs, threats, doxing, and other forms of intimidation. And they are often relentless as their victims suffer with a force they can’t argue with. At the same time they also stage propaganda campaigns organized around hashtags like #WhiteGenocide (referencing a myth that white people are being subjected to an orchestrated eradication campaign), #ISaluteWhitePeople, #BoycottStarWarsVII (in order to protest the black actor cast in a lead role), #NROrevolt (because the mainstream conservative National Review vehemently opposed Donald Trump in the GOP primary). Some Twitter accounts even depict hate symbols like swastikas and other Neo-Nazi insignia. It’s gotten so bad that several online outlets, including Twitter have suspended alt-right accounts while Reddit removed its alt-right page completely. Richard Spencer got kicked off of social media for hate speech.

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The Alt-Right sees Donald Trump as their hero due to railing against “political correctness,” Muslims, immigrants, Mexicans, Chinese, and others during his presidential campaign and were among his most enthusiastic supporters. Thanks to Trump, the Alt-Right was elevated into the mainstream and now has a key role in influencing national policy with Steve Bannon working at the White House. However, whether you’re Democrat or a Republican, Bannon’s place in the Trump administration should worry you.

As you may see, the Alt-Right sees Donald Trump as their hero since he regularly railed against “political correctness,” Muslims, immigrants, Mexicans, Chinese, and others during his presidential campaign. In return, they’ve worked hard to affix the Alt Right brand to Trump through hashtags and memes as well as become his most enthusiastic supporters. To their glee, Trump has had former Brietbart CEO Steve Bannon to run his campaign as well as be his chief counselor in the White House. Such actions have elevated the Alt-Right into a position of enormous power that they see Trump as a way to get their ideas out there. And the fact Trump cares more about his own delusional vanity and unfettered opportunism as well as his supporters’ loyalty more than concepts like ethics and common sense or decency makes him a perfect vessel indeed. It also helps that Trump managed to secure a presidential victory by calling the government corrupt, assailing the Republican establishment, flouting almost every rule of political etiquette racial or otherwise, and that he did little to put the public at ease with the matter. Now most Alt-Righters don’t see Trump as a rabid white nationalist, but his racist rhetoric has gotten them happily on board since he helps their cause in more ways they could ever dream of. He even has former Brietbart CEO Steve Bannon as one of his closest advisers, which should seriously worry you.

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Before he worked in Trump’s campaign, Steve Bannon was the CEO of Brietbart which he turned into the platform of the Alt-Right. Though he’s denied it’s racist, his white nationalist views often echo those of his devotees. As one of Trump’s closest advisers, he’s proven to be very influential in his campaign as well as in his presidency. And it poses a very serious problem since he is a very vile man.

Though Steve Bannon has denied that the Alt-Right is inherently racist, evidence says otherwise. His tenure at Brietbart itself transformed what once was a regular conservative website into the go-to platform for the Alt-Right plunging into the ugliest dregs of conservatism while praising white nationalist groups as an “eclectic mix of renegades.” In short, it was under Bannon that Brietbart became notorious for pushing white ethno-nationalism as a legitimate response to political correctness while its comment section turned into a white supremacist meme maker cesspool. And it’s clear Bannon’s views often echo those of his devotees. He called Islam “a political ideology” and Sharia law “like Nazism, fascism, and communism.” On his Sirius XM radio show, he praised noted Islamophobe Pamela Geller whom he described as, “one of the leading experts in the country, if not the world,” on Islam. The Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled Geller’s American Freedom Defense Initiative as an Anti-Muslim hate group. And he even endorsed House Speaker Paul Ryan’s primary challenger, businessman Paul Nehlen who floated the idea of deporting all Muslims from the US. On the front of minorities, Bannon credited now Attorney General Jeff Sessions with laying “this populist nationalist” groundwork. Sessions has suggested that civil rights advocacy groups were “un-American” and “Communist-inspired” and his racist views prevented his appointment to a federal judgeship in the 1980s. In a lengthy July post, Bannon attacked the “Left” for engaging in “a plot to take down America” by focusing on police shootings of African Americans. He went on arguing that the Dallas cops were killed by a “by a #BlackLivesMatter-type activist-turned-sniper.” He also accused the media of an Orwellian “bait-and-switch as reporters and their Democratic allies and mentors seek to twist the subject from topics they don’t like to discuss—murderers with evil motives—to topics they do like to discuss, such as gun control.” And he added, “[H]ere’s a thought: What if the people getting shot by the cops did things to deserve it? There are, after all, in this world, some people who are naturally aggressive and violent.” Since Bannon took over Brietbart the site took a rabidly anti-immigrant tone, often hyping reports of immigrant crimes with tabloid like headlines and attacking Republicans favoring immigration reform. Bannon is even a noted anti-Semite who refused to send his daughters to a certain private school because he thought too many Jews went there and were raised to be whiny brats. Former Brietbart editor Ben Shapiro received a torrent of anti-Semitic tweets after announcing the birth of his second child. One read, “Into the gas chamber with all 4 of you,” while another depicted his family as lampshades. Former Brietbart critic Bethany Mandel was harassed on Twitter for months being called names like, “slimy Jewess” and told that she deserved the oven. We should also note that Bannon has been married 3 times as well as been charged with domestic violence, battery, and dissuading a witness. And that his second wife only dropped the charges due to threats made by Bannon and his lawyer. Brietbart staffers who resisted its transformation into this pro-Trump, alt-right hub eventually resigned in protest with several jumping ship after then-Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski manhandled reporter Michelle Fields (with the site siding with Lewandowski and staffers being told not to question his account). Former staffers who called out Brietbart for their ugly ways received a shitload of retaliation. It should be noted that Bannon is a very bad guy who shouldn’t be in such a powerful position at the White House. And as far as the Alt-Right is concerned, Bannon is their man in the Trump administration, as vile he certainly is.

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As one of Trump’s most trusted advisers at the White House, Steve Bannon plays a key role in shaping his national policies that will hostile to immigrants and minorities. Bannon was certainly behind Trump’s Muslim ban as well as his counter-terrorism policy to focus only on Muslims. Not to mention, Bannon probably recommended Jeff Sessions as Attorney General since he admires the man.

So what does having Bannon in the White House mean for the United States under a Trump presidency? Well, since Bannon has Trump’s ear and has been elevated to his National Security Council, we can expect a presidency that will be hostile to minorities and immigrants. We shouldn’t be surprised that Bannon was behind the appointment of Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions who’s a steadfast opponent of civil rights that he was denounced by Coretta Scott King during his federal judge hearing in the 1980s. Or that Bannon’s fingerprints were all over the Muslim travel ban executive order Trump signed a week into his term. Or that Bannon was a key adviser on Trump’s counter-terrorism policy that the government-run program Countering Violent Extremism will solely focus on Islamic terrorism while downgrading the scrutiny of right-wing radicals as well as sever ties with community groups and educational programs that counter-message violent ideologies. Not to mention, the Trump administration wants to build a massive border wall as wells as crack down on sanctuary cities who refuse to cooperate with ICE 100% of the time. Such measures aren’t what’s best for the US and won’t keep Americans safe. In fact, they may put risk putting more American lives in danger as well as trample on people’s rights in the process. Banning Muslim refugees from entering the country gives Islamic terror groups another reason to hate us as well as angers our Muslim allies in the international community. Having Sessions as US Attorney General will be a massive setback for civil rights that will make a Department of Justice one defending great injustices as far as minorities, immigrants, women, the poor, and LGBT communities are concerned. Not only that, but Sessions will let Trump use the DOJ as a political tool for the White House which will let him leverage the federal government’s major law enforcement arm for political gain. for immigration, well, Trump’s wall will certainly not keep undocumented immigrants out and will only amount to a massive waste of taxpayer money. Forcing municipalities to cooperate with ICE will deteriorate relations between immigrant communities and local law enforcement, lead to an increase of civil rights violations, make local governments pursue actions going against their interests, drain local resources and economies without reimbursements, and make localities increasingly vulnerable to liability costs.

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We should understand that a counter-terrorism policy focusing solely on Islamic terror is bad national security policy that won’t keep Americans safe. As of 2017, radical right-wing extremists have committed more attacks and killed more Americans than their jihadist counterparts. And they’ve been seen as a growing threat since the Bush Administration. The fact we have a white nationalist as Trump’s trusted adviser means that there will be no right-wing extremist terror policy in the next 4-8 years. Expect this domestic terrorist problem to get worst since Trump’s victory led to a spike in hate crimes.

However, it’s Trump’s Bannon-inspired terror policy that really worries me. Why? Because a terror policy focusing solely on Islamic terror is simply bad national security. And the fact it includes a Muslim ban only makes it worse. How do I know this? I may not be a national security expert, but I am aware that cultural profiling has never kept Americans safe from terrorism. Because the terrorists posing a bigger threat to America aren’t radical Muslims from the Middle East, but the homegrown white supremacist and anti-government militants of the radical right who may often seem like the guy next door. As of 2017, far right extremists have committed more attacks and killed more Americans than their jihadist extremist counterparts since 9/11. And they’ve been considered a growing threat by US intelligence agencies since the Bush administration while the FBI has reported that white supremacists have infiltrated American law enforcement. The fact we have a known white nationalist at Trump’s right hand means that there will be no radical right counter-terror policy anytime soon in the next 4-8 years. But ignoring the terror problem will not make it go away. In fact, if anything, you can expect our right wing terror problem to get worse since the Trump administration’s hostility toward minorities and immigrants might embolden these anti-government and white supremacist thugs to commit atrocities. This isn’t helped at all that there was a spike of hate crimes immediately following Trump’s election to the presidency while right-wing terror incidents continue to regularly unfold. Or that alt-right platforms like Brietbart may have inspired several radical right terror incidents. We know networks like Fox News had as well as sites like Alex Jones’s conspiracy theory-laden Infowars as well as the neo-Nazi Daily Stormer. And this isn’t helped that right-wing terrorism often gets little media attention in the national spotlight. But when a president decided to ignore the growing threat of right-wing extremist terror, it only bolsters and legitimizes violent white extremism which can make millions of Americans vulnerable to deadly terror attacks. To cut ties with community groups and educational programs working to rehabilitate extremists will not deter any extremism within their communities.

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The Alt-Right may not yet engage in violence as we know it, that doesn’t mean they don’t encourage it. Right-wing terror attacks are rarely orchestrated by lone wolves. Trump’s campaign and election victory have normalized hate and conspiracy theories fueling the Alt-Right into the mainstream and dramatically increasing its visibility. And its growing online presence in social media and increased radicalization shows a dangerous trend. Should the Alt-Right become a force of full-terrorism, don’t expect Trump’s White House to intervene.

Right-wing terror attacks are hardly incidents orchestrated by lone wolves. In fact, many of these so-called “lone wolf” terrorists had direct ties to white nationalist movements. Though the Alt-Right may yet not engage in violence as we know it, they do provide vindication for other radical right wing groups who also strongly support Trump and have committed violent acts against other Americans. Trump’s campaign and election victory has normalized the hate and conspiracy theories fueling the Alt-Right into the political mainstream and dramatically elevating its visibility. And as president with Bannon at his side, it’s very likely Trump will put some of their ideas into national action. Its growing online presence in social media shows that the white nationalist movement is increasing in size and radicalization indicates a much more dangerous trend. And with its vulnerable population, extremist ideology, and capacity for violence, the Alt-Right provides a breeding ground for terrorism. Communities infected by the Alt-Right are fertile ground where extremism can and has taken root. The Alt-Right isn’t going anywhere and as their numbers grow, they’ll seem increasingly inclined to violent rhetoric and radicalized ideology. And it will only be a matter of time before more charismatic and ruthless leaders replace the old order, harness this increased capacity for violence, and elevate the radicalized Alt-Right from a marginalized hate group of Internet trolls to a force of full-blown terrorism. If that happens within a very short time, don’t expect the Trump administration to do anything to address the problem other than label the infiltrators as mentally unstable lone wolves if the attacks receive widespread media attention. Trump has absolutely no interest in combating right-wing extremists as such measures would offend mainstream conservative sensibilities and alienate the radical right extremists who so enthusiastically and vocally supported him. When Trump announced he was to scale back efforts combating right-wing extremism, Daily Stormer editor Andrew Anglin responded, Donald Trump is setting us free. This is absolutely a signal of favor to us. We are not a threat to America, we are American patriots trying to save this country. It is also a slap in the face to the kikes of the SPLC and the ADL who pushed for us to be classified along with actual Islamic terrorists as a way to legally justify outrageous abuses against us by the federal government.” A site called Infostormer replied, “This measure would be the first step to us going fully mainstream, and beginning the process of entering the government in full-force without the fear of being attacked, financially-assailed, and intimidated into silence by the nefarious Jews.” These praises of white nationalist celebration aren’t what you’d want to hear about a president’s counter-terror policy.

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The 1995 Oklahoma City bombing was the most devastating domestic terror attack in US history which killed 168 and injured over 600. Timothy McVeigh may have engineered this mass slaughter with Terry Nichols, he was deeply influenced by the white supremacist movement and the anti-government wing of the radical right. Now with right-wing extremism on the rise, if the US government doesn’t crack down on right-wing terror, expect another attack like this.

Right-wing and white supremacist terrorism has happened before in America and has killed people. On April 19, 1995, a 7,000-pound truck bomb made of ammonium nitrate fertilizer and nitromethane racing fuel and packed into 13 plastic barrels, ripped through the heart of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 and injuring over 600. In what was the deadliest terror incident in American history, this mass slaughter was engineered by Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols who were steeped in radical right conspiracy theories and white-hot fury over Ruby Ridge and the Waco Siege. Well before Oklahoma City, McVeigh had already got the idea of using a truck bomb to blow up a government building from the infamous novel 1978 novel The Turner Diaries which depicts a violent revolution in the US leading to the overthrow of the federal government, nuclear war, and eventually a race war with Jews, gays, and non-whites exterminated. It has also become according to the Anti-Defamation League, “probably the most widely-read book among far-right extremists; many [of them] have cited it as the inspiration behind their terrorist organizing and activity” and has sold over 500,000 copies as of 2000. About a decade earlier, the book had also inspired Aryan Nations regular Robert Jay Matthews into forming The Order which received widespread attention for its role in the 1984 murder of Denver radio talk show host Alan Berg. After Oklahoma City, because it was no longer sufficient for many right-wing terrorists to strike a political significant target and instead aimed for higher body counts. One of these terror plots was a 1997 attempt by three Klu Klux Klan members to bomb a natural gas plant outside Ft. Worth, Texas which would’ve killed as many as 30,000 people had the local Klan leader not gotten cold feet and contacted the FBI. The most recent of these plots was a 2016 attempt by a group called “The Crusaders” to blow up a housing complex that was home to Somali immigrants and a mosque. The fact the FBI reports that white supremacists and other domestic extremists maintain an active presence in US police departments and other law enforcement agencies is particularly troubling. State and local police as well as sheriff’s departments present ample opportunities for right-wing extremists looking to expand their power base. To have an Alt-Righter like Steve Bannon as a chief strategist to a president would be their idea of winning the jackpot. To have extremists in positions of power will only undermine counter-terror efforts as well as abuse their power to victimize the people they’re sworn to protect. In recent years, law enforcement links to right-wing extremist groups have only gotten a lot more troublesome. If the federal government doesn’t step in and crack down on right-wing extremism, we may very well experience another Oklahoma City or worse.

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In the early morning of January 31, 2017, a mosque in Victoria, Texas was destroyed by fire. The authorities ruled it as an arson and the suspect is still at large. But it wouldn’t surprise me if Islamophobia had a part to play since it’s very prominent in American society. In any case, ethnic and religious minority houses of worship tend to be prime targets for right-wing terrorists. If white conservatives continue to deny that right-wing extremism is a problem, then expect more scenes like this.

Nevertheless, while the Alt-Right may be a new to the right-wing extremism scene with its social media recruitment strategy, but their white nationalist beliefs and radicalization methods are not and have been embraced by right-wing extremists long before they were around. Downplaying the right-wing extremist threat won’t make it go away as well as put US national security significantly more at risk. For a president to have Alt-Righters as important advisers in his government only compromise US national security even further. In order to keep America safe from terrorists, our national security policies shouldn’t be about protecting white conservatives’ emotional security and making the Pentagon their safe space. When lives are at stake, we can’t ignore the reality of evil just to protect their tender illusions. Today discussing the threat of right-wing terrorism remains politically controversial that when the Department of Homeland Security addressed the issue in 2009, there was considerable conservative backlash. I know many white Americans don’t want to discuss it and some may even be personally insulted by the term “right-wing terrorism” or “right-wing extremism” and think it applies to them despite that there’s no reason they should be. But there comes a time when we have to tell the public what they don’t want to hear. Because ignoring the very real problem of right-wing extremist terror only exacerbates it, especially if millions of Americans vote for a man who’s refused to disassociate himself from his white supremacist supporters. The failure of right-leaning legislators, pundits, and intellectuals to take a clear stand against the Alt-Right along with other right-wing extremists for the benefit of all carries too high a price not only in American lives and national security, but also in our character since they pose an existential threat to our fundamental values such as pluralism, tolerance, and equality that form the basis of a liberal democracy. Americans can’t afford to keep right-wing extremism off-notice and if the White House doesn’t make it clear in opposing their kind of violence, then Trump’s lenience on right-wing terrorism further solidifies the administration as being on the side of white supremacy. Thus, it must be up to us American citizens to make that threat known and inspire political pressure because for millions of people’s lives and well-being may depend on it.

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The National Security Threat of Domestic Terrorism (Depicted by the News Media)

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When Americans think about terrorism, they usually imagine 9/11 and other attacks perpetuated by people who aren’t from this country and who aren’t like us. Groups like Al Qaida and ISIS usually come to mind. Yet, while foreign terrorist attacks like 9/11 are enough to make us frightened and willing to send troops to Afghanistan, there’s a national security threat more pressing that most people don’t pay much attention to. It’s called domestic terrorism which refer to terror acts carried out by US citizens or permanent residents on US soil. Domestic terrorists have committed 80% of attacks since 9/11 and killed more Americans on US soil than their foreign counterparts. Under current US law enforcement, the USA PATRIOT ACT defines acts as domestic terrorism those in which:

  • involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State;
  • appear to be intended –
    1. to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;
    2. to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion;
    3. to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping;
  • occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.
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Accurately referred to as “America’s Favorite Domestic Terrorist,” legendary abolitionist John Brown has become a highly controversial figure both for his anti-slavery ideology as well as his violent tactics. But he perfectly illustrates why Americans may have a hard time recognizing domestic terror even in their American history books.

But when it comes to identifying domestic terrorism in contemporary culture, a lot of Americans struggled since the perpetrators may look like them and may share ideas that they kind of agree with. A good case in point is American abolitionist John Brown who’s known for participating in Bleeding Kansas and trying to overthrow the institution of slavery through staging an unsuccessful raid on Harper’s Ferry in 1859 that killed 7 and injured 10. Brown’s raid on a government arsenal in present day West Virginia clearly fit USA PATRIOT ACT’s definition of domestic terrorism. Brown’s raid involved acts dangerous to human life that violated US and state criminal laws, were clearly intended to intimidate civilians and influence government policy, and definitely occurred on US soil. The fact he believed himself an instrument of God’s wrath in punishing men for the sin of slavery certainly proves that his extremist beliefs had a religious dimension. But since Brown’s motivation behind his attack on Harper’s Ferry was to overthrow the institution of slavery, well, he’s rarely seen as such even by modern day academics. Mostly because Americans agree that slavery was a very terrible sin and the fact it divided the country as well as took 4 year civil war to outlaw it. So in hindsight, Brown’s idea of destroying the institution of slavery through violence isn’t really that crazy (though to a point). And it’s mainly because of Brown’s abolitionist views no matter how extreme they were that he’s often seen as a heroic martyr and visionary to many people. Nevertheless, Brown’s actions prior to the American Civil War and the tactics he chose still make him a very controversial figure today. But Brown’s life and our perception of him illustrate why a lot Americans have difficulty identifying acts of terror by our fellow countrymen in the nation. This is a problem as I explain in this post in FAQ and list format.

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This is a photoshopped picture that advocates gun control. However, it also illustrates the problem the media has with identifying domestic terrorist attacks.

If law enforcement has a clear definition on what domestic terrorism is, why is the term used so subjectively as a media and political term?

It’s mainly because when it comes to domestic terrorism, law enforcement and the mainstream media live in two different realities and have very different motivations for identifying what constitutes one. And the latter usually has more influence on the American people. Since American law enforcement’s main priority is ensuring public safety, their criteria for identifying terrorists acts is based on criteria defined in the USA PATRIOT ACT. So when it comes to defining domestic terrorism, all law enforcement care about is whether the act was criminal and endangered human lives, whether it was intended to promote a political agenda through coercion or intimidation, and whether it was committed by someone who lived in the US on US soil. That’s it. By contrast, the media defines domestic terrorism quite differently through the following criteria:

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One of the most significant factors in how the media determines whether a violent attack is domestic terrorism is the suspect’s identity. If they’re Muslim, chances are that they’ll be labeled as a terrorist is very high.

  1. Perpetrator’s Race and Cultural Identity – If the perpetrator is a Muslim American, their chances of being seen as a domestic terrorist are extremely high regardless of motivation. If it’s a non-Muslim white American with a conventional name, their chances of being seen as a domestic terrorist are usually dependent on other factors. As for the likelihood of non-Muslim blacks and Hispanics perpetrators, it’s very hard to say since both groups are often associated with criminal stereotypes though neither are widely perceived as terrorists.
  2. Perpetrator’s Motivation– Any American Muslim perpetrator who commits an act of terror in the name of Islam will be automatically be labeled a terrorist in the media as well as linked to foreign Islamic terrorist groups like Al-Qaida or the Islamic State. Black and Hispanic perpetrators will only be identified as such if they’re connected to known terrorist groups or embrace an extremist ideology. But when it comes to non-Muslim white terrorists, it can vary considerably depending on their motivation. White violence against women, racial and religious groups, LGBT people, disabled people, and immigrants will usually be seen as hate crimes at best but not always and not without controversy (if the incident is covered at all). Yet, many hate crimes usually qualify under the USA PATRIOT ACT’s definition of domestic terrorism anyway. Anti-abortion and ecological extremists are less likely to be seen as domestic terrorists since a lot of people hold anti-abortion and environmentalist views. So like John Brown, labeling them as such is controversial though they’ll certainly be seen as nuts regardless political ideology. Then you have the anti-government perpetrators whose acts of terror may cause controversy if ever labeled domestic terrorism. This is especially the case when you’re talking about right-wing extremists or the open carry crowd (though open carry may be legal in some states, carrying a gun in public is an act of intimidation and coercion so it qualifies).
  3. Nature of the Attack– In the media, the nature of the attack matters considerably such as the method and body count. Perpetrators who stage bombings that kill lots of people will most likely be seen as domestic terrorists. So would any attacks that involve hijacking, bioweapons, mass poisoning, hostage taking, chemical weapons, kidnapping, and property destruction. Shootings may depend on whether the perpetrator is either Muslim or clearly committing a hate crime. At any rate, they have to involve violence and/or fatalities. Despite causing hundreds of millions in property damage and having a sheer volume of crimes, eco-terrorists aren’t really seen as such since a lot of their crimes don’t get people killed. Same goes for left-wing Communist and anarchist terrorists. Merely using guns to intimidate people based on political ideology may not be labeled as domestic terrorism when it clearly is. Cyberterrorism may get some attention even though it’s not considered such while paper terrorism doesn’t get much attention at all.
  4. Location– Attacks that take place in major cities are more likely to be labeled as domestic terrorism than ones in less urban areas, especially if they take place near places of great significance. In some ways, this makes sense but also ignores a lot of other terror incidents that take place around the country.
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Meanwhile, if the perpetrators in question are white, right-wing, and stage a heavily armed takeover of a national wildlife refuge in Oregon, you might expect headlines like this. Since AP is held to very high journalistic standards, this headline tweet is appalling. These guys aren’t peaceful protesters. They have guns with them and they took over a national wildlife refuge in order to intimidate people and influence government conduct. It’s domestic terrorism, plain and simple.

If you watch TV news, you might get the impression the media is more likely to label a violent incident as domestic terrorism based on a biased set of criteria which gives Americans the impression that terrorists tend to be Islamic extremists. When in reality, Muslim terrorist attacks aren’t a very big threat to national security, even after 9/11. Why the media decide does this:

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Contrary to what you might be accustomed to on the news, anti-government, racist, and other nonjihadist extremist killed nearly twice as many people as those by Islamic jihadist since 9/11. Many Americans don’t realize this, especially if they’re on a steady diet of Fox News. Maybe that’s because most nonjihadist terrorists are white.

  1. Desire to Avoid Controversy– Domestic terrorism is a loaded word. And while the mainstream media likes sensational news stories, they also take great aims to avoid offending people. This is particularly true when a terror incident involves right-wing extremists since a lot of mainstream media outlets are owned by large corporate conglomerates. Some like Fox News even have a right-wing ideology. That’s not to say leftist terrorists exist since they certainly do since Occupy Wall Street might qualify since they have a long list of property crimes, rampant drug use, rape, murder, and assaults. But when Janet Napolitano brought up the threat of right-wing domestic terrorism in 2009, Republicans were furious.
  2. Public’s Unwillingness to Identify with Terrorists– Like I said about terrorists, people are more comfortable to label a terrorist act as such if the perpetrator is different from them. And since a lot of people don’t know anyone who’s Muslim, Muslim perpetrators are more likely to be seen as terrorists than their non-Muslim counterparts. But when a terror incident involves white supremacists and other right-wing extremists, a lot of conservative politicians hesitate to declare it as such. Many of them even downplay dangers posed by right-wing extremism altogether. This is especially when Fox News glorifies a Nevada rancher who engaged in an armed standoff against the feds over grazing rights and a bunch of armed men for occupying a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon and the fact the current GOP presidential nominee has been endorsed by white supremacists. When it comes to right-wing domestic terrorism, most conservatives are like Draco Malfoy. Sure they may be totally comfortable having racist, xenophobic, homophobic, sexist, and anti-government views. And yes, they may not be happy with the political and cultural landscape these days as well as nostalgize about a past that never was. But like Draco Malfoy on Muggle-borns, most of these conservatives are neither extreme in their viewpoints nor are willing to resort to violent terrorist acts for them. On the other end, I may believe that this country should do more to protect the environment and stop climate change but that doesn’t mean I’m willing to bomb an animal testing facility because that’s crazy. But when someone commits an act of violence on behalf of their political agenda, it makes a lot of people who may share that perpetrator’s view to some extent very uncomfortable and reluctant to address it as an act of terror. So they don’t.
  3. Sensationalism– We should understand that sensationalism sells and the media does everything it could to exploit violent terror incidents. The more violent it is and the nuttier the perpetrators seem, the more attention it will get and more ratings the media outlet will have. This is especially be the case if the perpetrator is Muslim.
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According to a local law enforcement survey the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security, anti-government terrorism was seen as the top terrorist threat in their jurisdictions. And that percentage is far more than those who listed anything relating to Islamic terrorist threats. The media doesn’t really pay attention to this because most anti-government terrorists are white.

Unfortunately, the way the news covers domestic terror attacks has very negative repercussions in the country. Now it’s one thing to call a mass shooting in San Bernardino and at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando as domestic terrorism. Same goes for the Boston Marathon bombings. But it’s another when both these attacks are seen as acts of domestic terrorism while the mass shootings at Pittsburgh, Tucson, and Charleston are not. Rather as far as the media was concerned, these were attacks made by violently mentally ill white men. Sure it was an accurate assessment, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. For one, the man who fired an AK-47 at 5 cops in Pittsburgh was a white supremacist who believed Jews secretly ran everything and that Obama wanted to take away his guns. But as far as the media is concerned, he was just a crazy nutjob who killed 3 cops after his mom called police over a domestic dispute concerning a dog peeing on the carpet. Second, the Tucson shooter who tried to assassinate Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was a conspiracy theorist who believed in a New World Order to brainwash people. Third, the shooter who killed 9 people at the Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston was a white supremacist who donned a pro-apartheid jacket on his Facebook page, had a Confederate flag license plate, told racist jokes, advocated segregation, and went on a racist rant on how blacks are raping white women and taking over the world. Furthermore, he specifically chose to fire upon blacks at the church due to its long association with civil rights activism. Yet, these terror incidents were reported. Most aren’t covered by major news outlets at all. Negative repercussions of inadequate and sloppy coverage of domestic terrorism include:

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The heavy attention on Islamic terrorism in the US media outlets had perpetuated rise and acceptability of Islamophobia as well as led to American Muslims being targets of everything from harassment to outright deadly violence. Featured here are American Muslims Yousef Abu-Salha, his brother-in-law Deah Barakat, and his sisters Yusor and Razan. Save for the Yousef, three people would later become victims of an anti-Muslim hate crime in a Chapel Hill condominium by one of their former white neighbors who was banned from the building. The man basically broke into Deah and Yusor’s condo and killed them and Razan in cold blood. Yousef would later say, “It’s a shame that you turn on a major news channel and you see a news story about ISIS and then they’ll cover our story and they do an okay job, but immediately after it will be another story about these radical groups. I think it sends US citizens a bad message that these Muslims are all the same.”

  1. Legitimizes Discrimination– The media’s coverage of Islamic terrorism since 9/11 in the US and abroad has contributed so much to Islamophobia that Muslims in American pop culture have been nastily stereotyped as fanatical Islamic terrorists who hate our country and our western values. Each terror attack since then have been filtered by the media and consumed by the public as wrongdoings of Muslims around the world. Muslims have been further vilified and dehumanized in Hollywood movies like American Sniper. Because of this, American Muslims, Middle Easterners, and South Asians have become acceptable targets for profiling, oppression, and even terrorist attacks. For many Americans, just looking like a Muslim makes them an automatic terror suspect by default as well as someone to be feared. This is a major reason why welcoming Syrian refugees in the US has been so controversial even though it shouldn’t. Around the country, mosques have been fired on, defaced, or burned. Muslims have been shot and killed execution style in their living rooms, fatally stabbed on their way home as well as been beaten in their stores, schools, and on the streets. They’ve also been kicked out of planes, egged outside Walmart, scorched with hot coffee in a park, shot in cabs, and punched while pushing their children in strollers. They’ve had clothes set on fired and their children bullied in school. They’ve been threatened by neighbors who’d burn down their house if they didn’t move away as well as had their cemeteries vandalized and Quran desecrated. They’ve been fired for wearing hijabs and for praying. A Muslim congressman has received death threats. In Irving, Texas, heavily armed right-wing gunmen blocked entrance of a mosque and held banners reading, “we are the solution to Islamic terrorism.” Other armed anti-Islam demonstrations and “Muslim-free” businesses raise deep concerns. Civil and human rights advocates are challenging the use of “domestic terrorism” believing that it’s doled out in a racially-discriminatory manner that merely exacerbates hate they and law enforcement are trying to prevent. Exacerbating hate on a group of people who just happen to have the same religion as terrorists is not a solution to Islamic terrorism and just makes it worse. The fact that 55% of Americans hold an unfavorable view of Islam makes Islamophobia not just the biggest threat to American religious freedom, but also a potential threat to national security since Muslim communities play a crucial role in alerting law enforcement to terrorist threats.
  2. Does Not Represent Reality– While the American public rightfully sees Islamic terrorists as a threat to safety, the reality of terrorism exists in all forms and that terrorists come from all racial and cultural backgrounds as well as embraced a wide range of extremist political and religious ideologies. For law enforcement officials, the biggest terrorist threats aren’t jihadists. Rather it’s far right wing extremists that have carried out well over half of the deadliest US terrorist attacks since 9/11, committing 93% of all extremist murders in the last 10 years. Most of their extremism is homegrown as well as pose a very real danger to this nation’s character such as pluralism, tolerance, and equality, which form the basis of a liberal democracy. Though jihadist terrorism is often reported on the news, the US has seen very little violent extremism by Muslims. On the other hand, white supremacists are among the most lethal since they’ve committed 83% of all right-wing extremist murders and 77% of all extremist killings in the past decade as well as were involved in 52% of shootings with police. They also regularly engage in various terrorist plots, acts, and conspiracies as well as other traditional forms of crime. Anti-government extremists, right-wing militias, and sovereign citizens are among the most common. But no matter what their ideology, right-wing extremists are also more numerous, cover a larger geographic range, and are more likely to live in your neighborhood. Not representing these groups in the media as the terrorists they are that we should condemn is very irresponsible, even if the station is Fox News.
  3. Promotes Cultural Profiling– How the media has reported domestic terrorism can also lead to real but ineffective policies that have resulted in cultural profiling, particularly of Muslims and people suspected of being one. Those charged with plotting terrorism for the Islamic State faced more severe charges than militia members, “sovereign citizens,” and other anti-government extremist who’ve been prosecuted for similar activity (even though many more terrorist attacks in the US are carried out by non-Muslims). After 9/11, many American Muslims, South Asians, and those of Middle Eastern descent found themselves being subject to harsher security checks as well as are more likely to be on a no fly list or subject to surveillance. As a result, trust between law enforcement and Muslims has been strained. In recent years, anti-Islam bills became laws in 10 states. Florida and Tennessee passed laws revising the way they approve textbooks for classroom use as a direct result of anti-Islam campaigns. Don’t get me wrong, Islamic terrorists do exist in this country and do pose a threat to national security. But profiling Muslims as suspected terrorists by default is never excusable since the vast majority of them are regular people like us who just want to live their lives in peace and mind their own business.
  4. Fails to Hold Public Figures Accountable for Their Rhetoric– The media is a huge influence in the American public but we should be aware what many public figures may say could be taken out of context by some nutjob who’d use it in a terror attack. It’s been widely suggested that political rhetoric may play a role in fueling hate crimes, especially since Donald Trump started running for president as well as said very hateful things about almost every demographic imaginable. But since he started running and calling on Muslim bans, anti-Muslim hate crimes dramatically increased to its highest levels since the aftermath of 9/11. It doesn’t help that Trump has been endorsed by white supremacist organizations whom he’s consistently failed to denounce. A lot of what’s said on Fox News has probably led to a lot of terror attacks and it doesn’t help that they have glorified anti-government terrorists like Cliven Bundy as heroes as well as inspired many nutcases to do horrible things that have killed people. Not to mention, a lot of conservative special interest groups have said similar things as well as many Republican politicians. I know there are liberal groups and Democrats who might inspire some degree of terror violence. But I single out conservatives since right-wing terrorism has become much more of a problem in recent years, according to terror experts and government organizations.And yes a lot of these radical right-wing extremists consume conservative media outlets like Fox News.
  5. Ignores Very Real Threats– While Muslim terrorism in the news stirs fear and hatred for even the most ordinary Muslim Americans, the far more serious threat of the radical right has received relatively little attention. But bring that fact up in front of Republican politicians, expect outrage and even offense as an attack to demonize the right. The media seems to be just as deft to these threats, especially if it’s Fox News. Such response leads to downplay to take such threats as seriously as they should be by the public. Radical Right-Wing terrorists present a more deadly threat given their affinity for hoarding weapons and explosives. Not paying attention to these terrorists has consequences such as emboldening these people to carry out mass casualty attacks. Americans are much more likely to live near a white supremacist or anti-government sovereign citizen than a jihadist (A nearby town in my area had its own Klu Klux Klan chapter). When we’re talking about racial and religious minorities, living near a radical right-wing terrorist can put them in very real danger.
  6. Compromises Public Safety for Vulnerable Populations– Whenever domestic terror incidents aren’t reported and treated as the heinous acts they are, people are left very vulnerable to attacks. This was very apparent in the South during segregation when countless African Americans were subject to lynchings as a way to control black communities and retain white supremacy. During the Civil Rights Movement, African Americans and other activists were frequent targets of white supremacist violence. Though white supremacy is no longer as acceptable as it was, the hateful ideology and violence hasn’t gone away. Recent incidents including a white supremacist firing on Black Lives Matter activists in Minneapolis, a NAACP building bombing in Colorado, and a black church shooting in Charleston. In every terror attack involving Muslims since 9/11, hate crimes against Muslims in America have become alarmingly high. A study from Georgetown University has reported 174 incidents of anti-Muslim violence from 2015 consisting of 12 murders, 29 physical assaults, 50 threats against people and institutions, 54 acts of vandalism, 8 arsons, and 9 shootings or bombings. Contrary to what the media might say, Muslims are far more likely to become terror victims than terror perpetrators. However, Muslims and blacks aren’t the only group in the country vulnerable to domestic terrorism in the nation even by white supremacists. White supremacist groups also target immigrants, minorities, Jews, LGBT people, and sometimes Christians. Targets for anti-government and sovereign citizens are law enforcement and other authority figures. Still, not recognizing clearly politically motivated attacks by non-Muslim perpetrators leaves many Americans especially vulnerable.
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It is no secret that now GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump has been endorsed by the Klu Klux Klan over his racist remarks on Mexicans, blacks, immigrants, and Muslims. However, Trump hasn’t distanced himself from this white supremacist terrorist organization which has a long history of violence against blacks since its formation during Reconstruction. If a presidential candidate from a major party can’t denounce a terrorist endorsement, then that person isn’t fit to be president. Seriously, the KKK are beyond deplorable.

As you can see the state of how the news media depicts domestic terrorism is appalling. Excessive coverage of one group of terrorists has led to disproportionate fear, suspicion, and unjust discrimination against a religious minority and other others. But significant less attention of a far more serious homegrown terrorist threat has gone under the media radar and has neither been sufficiently challenged by our political culture nor law enforcement. Not only this disproportionate rate of media coverage lead to increased profiling and discrimination, it also makes the US less safe as a whole. Furthermore, it makes public figures less likely to take responsibility for their rhetoric that could inspire many of these nutjobs to commit heinous acts. Now while the government may be slow to act on domestic terrorism, the media doesn’t have to. In fact, if the media just got it together and report domestic terrorist attacks in a way they should, then it might actually encourage leaders to come up with policies combating it. After all, people didn’t take lynchings as serious acts of terrorism meant to intimidate black people during segregation in the South until Ida B. Wells investigated them in the 1890s and began an anti-lynching campaign to spread awareness about the atrocity. Today she is turning in her grave. If the news media should cover domestic terrorism correctly, then it must be depicted in a way that’s represents the reality. By that I mean showing that domestic terrorism can take many forms, be motivated by different ideologies, and committed by people of many different backgrounds. And that all these domestic terrorists should be treated as a national security threat to be taken seriously.

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Here we come to a bunch of heavily armed open-carry activists “protesting” at a mosque in Phoenix against “Islamic Radicalism.” In reality, they’re just a bunch of armed terrorists who are using their guns to intimidate the Muslims who worship there. This isn’t peaceful protesting, it’s domestic terrorism and should be treated that way. This should neither be tolerated nor encouraged by anyone. It’s utterly disgraceful anyone there with a gun wasn’t arrested. Because the country needs to know that armed protest rallies are never ever acceptable.