Peter Beinart writes: Antifa activists are sincere. They genuinely believe that their actions protect vulnerable people from harm. Cornel West claims they did so in Charlottesville. But for all of antifa’s supposed anti-authoritarianism, there’s something fundamentally authoritarian about its claim that its activists—who no one elected—can decide whose views are too odious to be publicly expressed. That kind of undemocratic, illegitimate power corrupts. It leads to what happened this April in Portland, Oregon, where antifa activists threatened to disrupt the city’s Rose Festival parade if people wearing “red maga hats” marched alongside the local Republican Party. Because of antifa, Republican officials in Portland claim they can’t even conduct voter registration in the city without being physically threatened or harassed.
So, yes, antifa is not a figment of the conservative imagination. It’s a moral problem that liberals need to confront.
But saying it’s a problem is vastly different than implying, as Trump did, that it’s a problem equal to white supremacism. Using the phrase “alt-left” suggests a moral equivalence that simply doesn’t exist.
For starters, while antifa perpetrates violence, it doesn’t perpetrate it on anything like the scale that white nationalists do. It’s no coincidence that it was a Nazi sympathizer—and not an antifa activist—who committed murder in Charlottesville. According to the Anti-Defamation League, right-wing extremists committed 74 percent of the 372 politically motivated murders recorded in the United States between 2007 and 2016. Left-wing extremists committed less than 2 percent. [Continue reading…]
The attack in Charlottesville, Virginia, in which a man named James Alex Fields Jr. used his Dodge Challenger as a weapon against a crowd of protesters, underscores the growing violence of America’s far-right wing.
According to reports, Fields was a active member of an online far-right community. Like many other far-right activists, he believes that he represents a wider ideological community, even though he acted alone.
My 15 years experience of studying violent extremism in Western societies has taught me that dealing effectively with far-right violence requires treating its manifestations as domestic terrorism.
In the wake of the Charlottesville attack, the Department of Justice announced it would launch a federal investigation:
“…that kind of violence, committed for seeming political ends, is the very definition of domestic terrorism.”
This acknowledgment may signal that a growing domestic menace may finally get the attention it deserves. While attacks by outsider Jihadist groups will probably continue, domestic terrorism still deserves more attention than it’s getting.
Siva Vaidhyanathan writes: “Should we go downtown?” my wife asked over breakfast on Thursday. “Remember, after the election, when we said we would stand with our neighbors when they were threatened? Are we being true to our commitments?”
For weeks, we had read reports from white supremacist groups that they were coming here by the hundreds or thousands to start a fight. They promised to come armed. The racist Daily Stormer website has been calling 2017 the “Summer of Hate,” and Charlottesville would be ground zero.
How should we respond? All summer, we and the other residents of this college town have been discussing our choices across tables, on Facebook, on local radio shows, in church groups and at community meetings.
We could join many of our neighbors for teach-ins at the university, discussing racial history, prospects for diversity and paths toward justice. The University of Virginia had arranged a slate of public programs to give people a safe place to convene, commune and debate while armed, angry white supremacists invaded our downtown, just a mile and a half from the university.
Or we could join thousands of our neighbors who had pledged to confront the Nazis, risking broken bones, pepper-sprayed eyes, arrest or worse. We had friends and neighbors on both sides of this choice. And we saw virtue in both actions.
One school of thought says we should deny these extremists attention, as if attention were the oxygen that feeds their flaming torches. The other calls for direct confrontation: Show them they are unwelcome, outnumbered, and that the community is bravely united in disgust.
Denying hate groups attention might work if everyone agreed to do so. But as long as television cameras — or even just regular people streaming on Facebook Live and posting to YouTube — were going to witness the events, and as long as others were committed to confronting the white supremacists, there would be oxygen.
Plus, as we had learned from previous such assaults on our community, the hate groups were not just after attention. They wanted conflict. They came to hear the sound of flesh being struck, bones being broken. So the idea of denying them attention seemed less significant as the event drew closer. Still, there were compelling reasons to avoid confrontation.
“They will have guns,” I said to my wife. “That’s the defining issue for me.” She agreed. The fact that we have a child who is committed to social justice and curious about politics tipped the balance. For her sake, we could not risk putting ourselves in danger, especially when we had an opportunity to enrich her experience with peaceful community engagement.
I now believe we made the wrong choice. [Continue reading…]
Foreign Policy reports: The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security in May warned that white supremacist groups had already carried out more attacks than any other domestic extremist group over the past 16 years and were likely to carry out more attacks over the next year, according to an intelligence bulletin obtained by Foreign Policy.
Even as President Donald Trump continues to resist calling out white supremacists for violence, federal law enforcement has made clear that it sees these types of domestic extremists as a severe threat. The report, dated May 10, says the FBI and DHS believe that members of the white supremacist movement “likely will continue to pose a threat of lethal violence over the next year.”
The “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, which attracted hundreds of white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and other members of the so-called alt-right, sparked violent clashes over the weekend. A woman, Heather Heyer, was killed by a car that drove into a crowd of people protesting the rally.
James Alex Fields Jr., the driver of the vehicle that struck Heyer, was arrested and charged with second-degree murder.
Since the outbreak of violence over the weekend, President Trump has been heavily criticized for not condemning racist groups. “We must remember this truth: No matter our color, creed, religion or political party, we are ALL AMERICANS FIRST,” he tweeted.
The FBI, on the other hand, has already concluded that white supremacists, including neo-Nazi supporters and members of the Ku Klux Klan, are in fact responsible for the lion’s share of violent attacks among domestic extremist groups. White supremacists “were responsible for 49 homicides in 26 attacks from 2000 to 2016 … more than any other domestic extremist movement,” reads the joint intelligence bulletin. [Continue reading…]
Joshua Zeitz writes: These people are not from here,” Rep. Thomas Garrett affirmed in the wake of an American Nazi and Klan rally that descended into smoke and violence in his Virginia congressional district on Saturday. “It blows my mind that this many racist bigots actually exist in this country.” White supremacists, he continued, do not reflect “who we are as Americans.”
It’s a little surprising that Garrett is surprised. Even as he spoke, a photograph circulated of the congressman meeting recently with Jason Kessler, a white supremacist from Charlottesville who organized the rally. The purpose of the meeting, Garrett’s office insisted, was unrelated to yesterday’s rally; the two men discussed a range of issues, including President Donald Trump’s anti-terrorism and immigration restriction initiatives.
To be fair, Garrett might not perceive the tight spectrum that runs between between racialist policies and white supremacist violence. He may also genuinely believe that aggrieved white men marching in lock step by torchlight do not reflect “who we are as Americans.” Indeed, many public figures on both the left and right—people like Sally Yates, Tim Kaine and Ana Navarro, whose anti-racist and anti-fascist credentials are unimpeachable—echoed this well-meaning sentiment.
But as the historian and New Yorker staff writer Jelani Cobb observed, “The biggest indictment of the way we teach American history is that people can look at #Charlottesville and say ‘This is not who we are.’” It is part of the myth of American Exceptionalism that blood and soil movements like Nazism are foreign to the United States—that jackbooted fascism of the variety that infects democratic institutions is an invasive weed that can be easily plucked out of our national garden.
To affirm that this is not who we are, one has to erase the history of American race relations from our very recent, collective past. [Continue reading…]
But Trump’s choice of words — and the silence that preceded them — are being cheered by at least a few groups of people: neo-Nazis and white nationalists.
On the Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi website, updates about Saturday’s events unfolded quickly, as hundreds of mostly young, white men who had gathered in Charlottesville to stage a rally to “take America back” clashed with counterprotesters.
“WE HAVE AN ARMY!” the website posted to a live blog shortly after 11 a.m., along with photos of people carrying Confederate flags and neo-Nazi paraphernalia. “THIS IS THE BEGINNING OF A WAR!” [Continue reading…]
The New York Times reports: President Trump is rarely reluctant to express his opinion, but he is often seized by caution when addressing the violence and vitriol of white nationalists, neo-Nazis and alt-right activists, some of whom are his supporters.
After days of genially bombastic interactions with the news media on North Korea and the shortcomings of congressional Republicans, Mr. Trump on Saturday condemned the bloody protests in Charlottesville, Va., in what critics in both parties saw as muted, equivocal terms.
During a brief and uncomfortable address to reporters at his golf resort in Bedminster, N.J., he called for an end to the violence. But he was the only national political figure to spread blame for the “hatred, bigotry and violence” that resulted in the death of one person to “many sides.”
For the most part, Republican leaders and other allies have kept quiet over several months about Mr. Trump’s outbursts and angry Twitter posts. But recently they have stopped averting their gazes and on Saturday a handful criticized his reaction to Charlottesville as insufficient.
“Mr. President — we must call evil by its name,” tweeted Senator Cory Gardner, Republican from Colorado, who oversees the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the campaign arm of the Senate Republicans.
“These were white supremacists and this was domestic terrorism,” he added, a description several of his colleagues used.
Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor and the father of the White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, did not dispute Mr. Trump’s comments directly, but he called the behavior of white nationalists in Charlottesville “evil.”
Democrats have suggested that Mr. Trump is simply unwilling to alienate the segment of his white electoral base that embraces bigotry. [Continue reading…]
Cheri Jacobus writes: President Trump is not known for holding back his rage and venom when he’s angered or feels threatened, or for struggling to “counter punch.” Typically, the easily triggered leader of the free world, his finger seemingly perpetually poised in hover position over the nuclear button, uses a cannon when a BB gun will do. But, curiously, he seems to lose his voice and his nerve when it comes to taking on Russian President Vladmir Putin for intervening in U.S. elections, or the white nationalists and Nazis — domestic terrorists — who marched with torches in Charlottesville, Va.
Notice whom Trump tiptoes around to understand to whom he feels beholden.
It’s becoming increasingly harder to deny that Trump’s actions and words make it appear as if he’s reluctant to cross a benefactor or those who comprise a disturbingly influential portion of what we must, if we are to be intellectually honest, accept and admit is his base.
His tepid, tardy response to the shameful group of Americans (and it hurts to call them Americans) was stunning, coming on the heels of his knee-jerk “fire and fury” threat to North Korea’s Kim Jong Un after yet another missile test — and his equally reckless, violent follow-up threats about military action.
The gentler, vaguer “diplomatic” language used by Trump on alt-right white nationalists proudly using the Nazi salute and sporting swastikas is chilling. He didn’t name them or even blame them, in fact said “hatred, bigotry and violence” had been going on “for a long, long time” and came from “many sides.”
It was reminiscent of candidate Trump in Feburary 2016 finding it difficult to denounce former KKK leader David Duke for telling his followers it would be “treason to your heritage” to vote for anyone but Trump. He told CNN’s Jake Tapper he simply didn’t know enough about Duke and the KKK to condemn them.
In Charlottesville, Duke said on camera that the white supremacists were marching on behalf of President Trump, and that they viewed this as fulfilling the promises of Trump’s candidacy.
Trump gave him legitimacy by placing the KKK, Nazis and other white supremacists on par with, well, everyone else.
He’s “normalizing” them. [Continue reading…]
— Oren Segal (@orensegal) August 13, 2017
Trump’s unwillingness to single out white supremacists for explicit condemnation does nothing less than signal to them that he remains a fascist-friendly president — and have no doubt, these are self-declared fascists.
This is how Vanguard America articulates its vision of “American Fascism” in its “Vanguard Manifesto”:
A Nation For Our People – An America based on the immutable truths of Blood and Soil. A multicultural nation is no nation at all, but a collection of smaller ethnic nations ruled over by an overbearing tyrannical state. Our America is to be a nation exclusively for the White American peoples who out of the barren hills, empty plains, and vast mountains forged the most powerful nation to ever have existed. Vanguard America stands indomitably opposed to the tyranny of globalism and capitalism, a system under which nations are stripped of their heritage and their people are turned into nothing more than units of cheap, expendable labor. Vanguard America, and our nationalist allies across the Western world, see a world of nations ruled by their own people, for their own people.
The Trace reports: Energized by Donald Trump’s coarsely confrontational nationalism, the armed right-wing fringe is doing more than stepping out of the shadows in 2017. Detachments of armed men in fatigues have become fixtures at liberal protests, forming the vanguard of what’s become known in some quarters as the “counter-resistance.”
Now, in a smattering of states with histories of right-wing extremism, chapters of groups like the Oath Keepers and Three Percenters may be emerging as even more direct political players, providing security for local pro-Trump politicians and Republican organizations. In one case, a Three Percenter was found to be employed on a state lawmaker’s staff.
When self-designated patriot groups first emerged during the early ‘90s, they identified as enemies of the “New World Order” heralded by George H.W. Bush, and tended to oppose the government, regardless of which party was in power. But experts say that the recent activity of some militia members could be evidence of a greater shift in political allegiances.
“You can’t be anti-government if your guy has the top job,” said Mark Pitcavage, who researches far-right extremism for the Anti-Defamation League.
With right-wing extremists who venerate the president looking for new enemies, some state and local politicians who are remaking partisanship in Trump’s image may see militias as a way to tighten their grip on power. The brash political style and “America First” agenda ushered into the Republican Party by Trump appeals to people in the militia movement, drawing them toward the political mainstream, said Amy Cooter, a sociologist at Vanderbilt University. Just as important, Cooter said, groups like the Three Percenters are eager for confrontation with anti-Trump liberals, who are themselves taking to the streets. “On the local level, some Republicans appear to be tapping into that agenda.” [Continue reading…]
Newsweek reports: Would you go to war against your fellow Americans to show your support for President Donald Trump? For the last several months, that’s exactly what broadcaster Alex Jones—a favorite of the president—has been calling for.
In his radio show, on YouTube and on his Infowars website, Jones—who never met a conspiracy theory he didn’t like and who has pushed the notion that Sandy Hook was faked—has been announcing that the United States is on the verge of a bloody second civil war. Like the radio DJs in Rwanda, Jones has been egging on his conservative listeners and viewers—an estimated 2.7 million people monthly—to kill more liberal fellow citizens over their political differences.
Jones is hardly alone in promoting this scary, emerging narrative on the right. The theme gained momentum after the shooting at the congressional baseball game last month. The day before the attack, on June 13, right wing broadcaster Michael Savage, host of syndicated show The Savage Nation, warned that “there’s going to be a civil war” because of “what this left-wing is becoming in this country.” After the baseball field shooting the next day, he said that he “know[s] what’s coming, and it’s going to get worse.” Savage also said of the shooting that “this blood is on [Democrats’] hands.”
After the shooting, Newt Gingrich opined on Fox that “we are in a clear-cut cultural civil war.” Former GOP speechwriter Pat Buchanan wrote that the appointment of a special prosecutor and political street clashes presage a “deep state media coup” and that the nation is “approaching something of a civil war,” and it’s time for Trump to “burn down the Bastille.”
But few commentators can match the relentless hysteria and reach of Jones. His recent YouTube video titles telegraph the tone: “Get Ready For CIVIL WAR!” and “First Shots Fired in Second US Civil War! What Will You Do?” and “Will Trump Stop Democrats’ Plan for Violent Civil War?”
Jones’s followers have already turned broadcaster words into violent action. Last year, Edgar Maddison Welch drove from North Carolina to Washington, D.C., to fire on a pizza restaurant Jones had been saying was a front for Democratic pedophiles and Satanists. Court records indicate he had been talking to his friends about Jones’s theories before he went on his mission. In 2014, a right-wing couple, self-described Infowars fans Jerad and Amanda Miller from Indiana, killed two police officers after posting screeds on Infowars. Jones later theorized that the shooting was a false flag intended to discredit the right. [Continue reading…]
Tom Jacobs writes: President Donald Trump probably would not have been elected if not for the overwhelming support he enjoyed from evangelical Christians. This continues to puzzle and frustrate his opponents, who ask why they voted for a man whose campaign was largely based on hatred and vilification.
It argues genuine piety can be a catalyst for compassion. But the shared rituals that create a cohesive congregation “may also produce hatred of others”—especially among those who lack deeply felt spiritual beliefs.
“Our data suggest that the social activities which accompany religion drive the hostility towards other groups, rather than the quality of one’s belief or the degree of devotion,” a research team led by Rod Lynch of the University of Missouri writes in the journal Evolutionary Psychological Science.
Building on research that dates back to the 1960s, Lynch and his colleagues remind us that religious people come in two varieties: true believers, and those who embrace a faith tradition as a way of fulfilling some secular need, such as peace of mind or connection to a community.
This distinction between “intrinsic” and “extrinsic” religiosity was laid out by the influential psychologist Gordon Allport in the 1960s, who reported ethnic prejudice was associated only with the latter. Much later research found this to also be true of homophobia. [Continue reading…]
BuzzFeed reports: By the time Anna Ahlberg arrived at the shelter, the only evidence that remained of the blast was a pool of blood that had melted through the snow in the parking lot.
The makeshift shelter was a rundown concrete motel on a lonely road off the highway running into Gothenburg, Sweden’s second-largest city. It housed people who had come to Sweden seeking asylum, but had been ordered to leave the country. Ahlberg, the director of the local migration agency, rushed to the scene about an hour after the explosion went off on the afternoon of January 5. By the time she arrived, the only person injured had been taken away in an ambulance. He was a janitor who’d been peppered with shrapnel and had both legs broken in the blast.
Ahlberg spent a long hour sitting in the back of a police car waiting for a bomb squad to clear the building before they’d allow her inside to reassure the roughly 60 asylum seekers on lockdown. She clung to the hope that the explosion was caused by a firework, or by a propane canister that one of the residents had been using to fuel a camp stove in their room.
“I didn’t want to think that it was meant to harm any person, that it was just an accident or bad luck,” Ahlberg told BuzzFeed News during an interview in Gothenburg in March.
But Ahlberg’s worst fears were confirmed a week later when investigators revealed that the people behind the blast were members of Sweden’s largest Nazi organization, the Nordic Resistance Movement.
They had found DNA samples on fragments of a bomb and the bicycle it had been strapped to that matched a 23-year-old named Viktor Melin. Melin was the leader of the group’s Gothenburg cell, and prosecutors ultimately brought charges against him and two other members, 20-year-old Anton Thulin and 50-year-old Jimmy Jonasson. The explosive matched devices used in two other attacks that winter: one that exploded in November outside the gathering spot of a left-wing organization without injuring anyone, and another that was discovered before it could go off at a residence for refugees in late January.
This was not the first time Ahlberg had seen one of her facilities vandalized. Two others in her jurisdiction had been damaged just before they were due to open in 2015. Scores of facilities were torched that year, part of the backlash that met the 160,000 asylum seekers who came to Sweden at the height of the EU refugee crisis. But the incident in the parking lot was the first time Ahlberg had heard of a bombing — and someone was nearly killed.
As the case headed to trial six months later, prosecutors dropped a bombshell. The perpetrators weren’t simply inspired by events at home, according to court filings reviewed by BuzzFeed News. Prosecutors presented evidence that two of the men had traveled to Russia, where they trained with paramilitaries who had fought alongside Russian separatists in Eastern Ukraine.
The evidence prosecutors laid out to the judge could have far-reaching consequences throughout Europe. They showed how a largely forgotten war hundreds of miles away that has claimed thousands of lives had emboldened fringe nationalists deep inside the EU and built networks into Russia.
Security analysts worry that the Ukraine conflict fueled a transformation of right-wing extremist groups across the West. [Continue reading…]
The Guardian reports: Foreign funding for extremism in Britain primarily comes from Saudi Arabia, but the UK government should set up a public inquiry into all Gulf funding sources, a report has said.
The report by the Henry Jackson Society also calls for the government to consider requiring UK religious institutions, including mosques, to be required to reveal sources of overseas funding.
The findings come as Theresa May faces pressure to publish the government’s own report into foreign funding of terrorism. The Home Office-led report was completed six months ago, and No 10 says ministers are still deciding whether to publish. MPs nervous of upsetting strategic relations in the Gulf have also decided not to publish a separate Foreign Office strategy paper on the region. [Continue reading…]
Lois Beckett reports: When the men in black walked into her restaurant one Friday morning and sat at the round table in the corner, Brittany Porter knew exactly what they were.
Pale, skittish, aggressively tattooed, they wore black T-shirts with a cryptic white logo over their hearts. One had a razor inked along his left jaw and two SS lightning bolts dripping next to his eye like a double set of tears. One wore a handgun on his hip.
Porter went to the table, smiled and asked what they wanted. It was just after 8am. Two of the neo-Nazis ordered chicken nuggets.
On Facebook the night before, Porter read about the group of racists who were coming to eastern Kentucky to hold a rally. They had chosen an economically struggling stretch of coal country with a population that was 98% white and that had voted 80% for Trump. In their propaganda videos, the neo-Nazi leaders had talked about the scourge of drug addiction in Pike County.
At 30, Porter knew Pike County’s problems. She herself was a recovered addict, as was her friend Chrissy Wooton, another waitress at the restaurant. Neither of them trusted either political party. Wooton, whose husband is a coal miner, had voted for Trump. Porter had not.
Together, they discussed whether they should start the day by accidentally pouring coffee into the neo-Nazis’ laps.
The neo-Nazis were on their way to Whitesburg, Kentucky, where they had secured a private piece of land in the woods to hold a weekend summit with a coalition of other white nationalist groups. At the table, there were several members of the Traditionalist Workers party, including Jason, a sallow musician in a black-metal punk band who left New York City to move to a mostly white community in Indiana; Scott, who had recently been kicked out of an Irish pub in Kentucky for celebrating Hitler’s birthday; and Gabe, diffident and a little shy, with long eyelashes and the white power tattoos on his cheek.
Porter and Wooton watched from distance, swooping in now and then to refill the coffee cups. But they were too curious to stay quiet. Porter said people on Facebook “were talking a bunch of crap”. They were saying that the group was the Ku Klux Klan.
The event the men were attending did, in fact, have KKK members on the list of potential guests. But the men at the table laughed and grinned. They were a political party, Matthew Heimbach, the group’s 26-year-old leader, explained gently. “Our motto is faith, family and folk,” he said. Heimbach was the most famous man at the table: the one who was being sued for shoving and shouting at a young black protester at a Donald Trump campaign rally last March, and who had recently filed legal papers saying that Trump, who had reacted to the protesters by shouting “Get ‘em out of here!”, should be held responsible for his behavior. [Continue reading…]
Peter Maass writes: Steve Bannon, who is no stranger to controversy, faced a torrent of reproval when it was revealed not long ago that he had praised a detestable novel envisioning France invaded by an armada of brown-skinned migrants from India. The French novel is called “The Camp of the Saints,” and Bannon recommended it on several occasions when he was executive chairman of Breitbart News, to justify what he perceived as a mortal threat that whites face from immigration.
The book, published in the 1970s, had existed for decades as an obscure cornerstone of the utmost fringes of white racism. The Indian children in the novel were referred to as “little monsters,” and the adults were described as sexual maniacs who filled their ships with “rivers of sperm, streaming over bodies, oozing between breasts, and buttocks, and thighs, and lips, and fingers.” The novel ended with hundreds of thousands of them taking over France and, by extension, the West. When it came out in the United States, Kirkus Reviews noted that “the publishers are presenting ‘The Camp of the Saints’ as a major event, and it probably is, in much the same sense that Mein Kampf was a major event.”
Bannon, now a senior adviser to President Donald Trump, made his glowing comments during radio programs he hosted in 2015 and 2016. But his comments were brief and in passing. The most enthusiastic endorsement of the book from anyone at Breitbart, and certainly the longest endorsement, came from a young reporter who wrote a gushing 4,000-word article that said “all around the world, events seem to be lining up with the predictions of the book.” The article, which neglected to mention that “The Camp of the Saints” is widely regarded as utterly racist, merely described it as controversial, and made conspiratorial parallels between its fictional characters and Pope Francis, Marco Rubio, and even Glenn Beck.
The Breitbart reporter was Julia Hahn, a Bannon protégé who followed him into the White House as a special assistant to President Trump. Bannon and other alt-right figures in the West Wing, including Sebastian Gorka, have received enormous amounts of criticism for espousing ideas that are seen as racist or ridiculous. Gorka is reported to be leaving the White House, and there have been reports that Bannon might be edged out, too. But Hahn has gotten almost no notice for writing what appears to be the longest and most laudatory article about “The Camp of the Saints” that has appeared in the American media in recent years. The few in-depth stories about her getting a job at the White House have mostly focused on her lashing criticism of Paul Ryan, the House speaker whose conservative positions on immigration were far too permissive for Bannon, Hahn, and the rest of Breitbart. [Continue reading…]
Natasha Lennard reports: According to reports in mainstream news outlets like CNN, the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post, Saturday saw pro-Trump demonstrators clash with anti-Trump protesters in Berkeley, California, while more placid “Tax Day” marches took place around the country calling on the president to release his tax returns. The news stories offer largely the same account and framing as that given by the LA Times: “hundreds of pro-Trump demonstrators and counter-protesters clashed Saturday at a ‘Patriots Day’ rally… Both groups threw rocks and sticks at each other and used a large trash bin as a battering ram… Twenty-one people were arrested… Eleven people were injured.”
All of this did happen. But such accounts missed the most crucial aspects of what was at stake in the Berkeley clashes, and thus fail to explain why there were aggressive altercations at all. To frame Saturday’s events as a fight between supporters of the president and his denouncers roundly misses the key tensions undergirding the confrontation: that of anti-fascists versus white nationalists.
— Mack Shelle (@MackShelle) April 16, 2017
This is not to say that each or even the majority, of the hundreds of pro-Trump attendees sympathize with the Venn Diagram of white supremacist, alt-right, anti-Semitic and neo-Nazi groups which intersect with the president’s broader support base. But as firsthand testimonies, numerous images and videos shared on social media can attest, explicitly racist groups and individuals were present in force, some having traveled from out of state to attend. Equally, the masked, black clad anti-fascist protesters did not amass in Berkeley to confront a gathering of people who just happened to vote for Trump. Their presence followed calls to action, which had named the specific far right and neo-Nazi alliances that were planning to attend, and indeed helped organize, the “Patriots Day” rally. The violence from both the far left and far right rested on a fulcrum that, while emphasized in the Trump era, far predates his presidency; anti-fascists have long met white supremacists with force in the streets. [Continue reading…]
The New York Times reports: Head bowed in reverence, Robert Svec gently placed a bouquet of blood-red flowers at the foot of the only known statue of Jozef Tiso, Slovakia’s wartime fascist leader, in a weedy monument park known as the Pantheon of Slovak Historical Figures.
For years, Mr. Svec’s neo-fascist cultural organization, the Slovak Revival Movement, was a tiny fringe group. But now his crowds are growing, as 200 people recently gathered with him to celebrate the country’s fascist past and call fascist-era greetings — “Na Straz!” or “On the guard!” Mr. Svec is so emboldened that he is transforming his movement into a political party, with plans to run for Parliament.
“You are ours, and we will forever be yours,” Mr. Svec said at the foot of the statue, having declared this as the Year of Jozef Tiso, dedicated to rehabilitating the image of the former priest and Nazi collaborator, who was hanged as a war criminal in 1947.
Once in the shadows, Europe’s neo-fascists are stepping back out, more than three-quarters of a century after Nazi boots stormed through Central Europe, and two decades since a neo-Nazi resurgence of skinheads and white supremacists unsettled the transition to democracy. In Slovakia, neo-fascists are winning regional offices and taking seats in the multiparty Parliament they hope to replace with strongman rule. [Continue reading…]
The Washington Post reports: In a half-lit basement on a side street in St. Petersburg, 18 men holding reproduction Makarov pistols were fumbling through an exercise, racking the slides, taking aim and firing. Click, click, click, click, click. Repeat.
Denis Gariev, the instructor, called out to pause the training.
He was not about to air his political views, an ethnic nationalism so raw that he is far to the right of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
He was about to rail against a society that had gone soft.
“Nowadays everyone tells the boys starting in kindergarten, ‘Don’t act so aggressive, be smarter,’ ” he said in a mocking baby voice. “And we turn into these unaggressive vegetables.”
Gariev aims to restore the aggression.
“By and large, we are learning how to kill,” he told his charges, who had come to the “Reserve” military-patriotic club for a one-week paramilitary course called “Partisan.”
“We hope that it will never happen to us and we’ll never harm a living creature. But if we have to, then we should be ready.”
The “cadets” listening to Gariev were largely white-collar and self-employed workers from cities across Russia, men motivated less by an ideology than by the siege mentality that has surged here since the wars in Ukraine and Syria and a conviction that the modern Russian man should be combat-ready. [Continue reading…]